The mobile distillery has pitched up behind our French holiday home in Languedoc as it does every year. It’s like nothing you have seen before, a time machine that you expect to explode into orbit at any moment, the product of the mind of an eccentric professor following a supper of magic mushrooms? Perhaps I exaggerate slightly – but see for yourself.
The fruit that failed to make the harvest is gathered from the valley floor- apples, pears, grapes and plums – water is added courtesy of a hose to the tap in the churchyard, and following a secret, scientific process deep in the bowels of the time machine, a particularly potent moonshine is produced. You know this for a fact because all the villagers are rosy cheeked and never miserable.
We have looked on in amusement each year at what we thought could only be bootleg activity; it always seems to appear in the middle of the night. However, we have learned that the tradition of turning windfall fruit into something far more satisfying is a tradition that has been passed down the generations in this part of Languedoc, but can only be passed from father to son. More and more young people are failing to take up their birthright and so the tradition will finally die out, but for now it is a very colourful addition to our winter landscape in the foothills of the Pyrenees.