Monday, May 15, 2006

Wine bureaucracy

As a wine producer I am obliged to pay duty on each bottle that I sell. Thankfully in France this tax is a very reasonable 0.02 euros/bottle. Thus, for my entire 2004 harvest I will owe the government the grand sum of 17€. I would gladly write a check right now, but that is not how the system works…

No, the tax on each bottle is due at the instant that said bottle leaves my cellar. Now the wise folk down at the customs office appreciate that it is not very practical for me to drive 10km and pay 0.02€ on each occasion that I sell a bottle of wine. Instead I must keep a full account of all transactions and then visit the customs office before the 10th of each month to pay the total tax due. Still seems like a slightly cumbersome system to me, but I guess I’ll just have to live with it.

But wait there’s a problem here… I mean what would happen if I shipped some wine and then went bankrupt before paying my 0.02€… well the customs office would be out of pocket and they don’t like that at all. So before granting me the right to sell wine they require a guarantee from my bank that it will cover an unlimited amount of unpaid tax. Obtaining this guarantee involves completing an unbelievably complex form provided by the customs office and then having this completed form stamped by my bank. Of course the keeper of the stamp is a very important man who works in very, very tall building in Paris. So he takes 2 months and 86€ to stamp my form…

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I posted my freshly stamped form to the head customs office in Paris, secure in the knowledge that they would soon grant me the right to sell my wine. And today I receive a letter that reads…

Dear Sir,

In box 23.4a on page 12 of our very complex and unnecessary form you entered a tick when in fact you should have written the letter “C” as this guarantee pertains to wine. Please obtain, from us, a new form and start the whole darn process again.

They didn’t even enclose a new form! The letter does however have one of those very polite formal French endings where they pledge eternal devotion to the exalted recipient.

Please, please just let me write a check for 17€….

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Now that the vines have really started to grow, I select which shoots to keep and then remove the rest. Everyone agrees that this is the worst job of the viticultural year. 30 seconds per vine… and I have ~15000 vines. Best bit is that when you finally finish you get to start all over again because the damn vines have grown some more unwanted shoots! Why are the vines planted so low anyway? My back is sore.

Current score is 4200 down, 10800 to go.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

First ploughing of the year

Well, the first ploughing of the year is done. This year I’ve started with a very clever "active" plough that digs a furrow directly under the vines. A sensor detects each vine and retracts the plough just before it does damage. I’m pleased with the results, although it was pretty slow work – driving at 1.2kph. However, sitting on the tractor sure beats weeding with a hoe!

Friday, May 05, 2006


Hmm… perhaps I should do something about these weeds…

Thursday, May 04, 2006

No frost this year

Well Sunday morning came… 1.5ºC recorded in my courtyard and minimal damage in the vineyard. A few freeze-burned leaves right down at ground level, but nothing to worry about. However… we still have to get through "les saintes glaces" (Saint Mamert, Saint Pancrace and Saint Servais, otherwise known as the 11th 12th and 13th of May). Ask ANY Frenchman and you will be assured that there is ALWAYS a cold snap at les saintes glaces, after which there is never another frost. Of course, this dictum is valid for ALL of France regardless of latitude or altitude… perhaps I am too cynical. In any case, forecast for the 11th is sunny, max 22ºC min 12ºC…