The high point of the agricultural year in our part of France is the vendage, the grape harvest. Other than a few olive trees, not much else is grown. So from late August into September it’s not uncommon to be woken up at 4 o’clock in the morning by the sound of heavy machinery in the fields round us. The grapes are best harvested when temperatures at their lowest, and the days when they were picked by back-breaking hand labour are now largely absent, at least round here. The harvesting is done by monstrous machines which nevertheless are capable of an extraordinary delicacy. Almost all vineyards now are laid out with a mathematical precision that allows their use. (It’s something of a mystery where these machines go for the remaining 11 months of the year.)
One widely commented phenomenon this year is that it’s going to be an unusual grape harvest. Quantity is very definitely down (the worst since 1945 according to Le Figaro), although quality, at least round here, is supposed to be good. The harvest has also been unusually early, by up to two weeks in the south of France. (Interestingly enough, there is an almost uninterrupted record of the start of the vendage from 1370 (!) to the present day in Burgundy). There seems to be general agreement that the much earlier date this year does reflect increasing temperatures, presumably to do with climate change.
Climate change was one of a number of topics discussed at the conference “Creation Care and the Gospel” held at Courmettes at the beginning of this month, organised by the Lausanne Movement and the World Evangelical Alliance in partnership with A Rocha. We didn’t go for the whole event, but Chris Wright, the Old Testament scholar and International Ministries Director of the Langham Partnership, gave an excellent public lecture on the Monday on “The Uniqueness of Christ”, which we did attend.
On the Tuesday, Chris led his walk around the western part of the domain, pointing out the remarkable archaeology, natural history and geology. It was a particularly large group (at least 40 people) and, as usual, was well received. It’s good to see Courmettes being used for conferences like this, something that is very much part of the long-term vision for the site.