Why Big Red Diary?

a vendangeur’s (pictoral) tale… (part six)

We finished lunchtime, praise be the lord, after another testing episode – it was so cold first thing back on that damn Haut Cotes de Nuit plateau, with a claggy mist exacerbating the cold, that my jacket had ice on the left arm (honestly) and you can imagine what one’s hands felt like – yes, blocks of ice. Really bad. Herve was shamed into a mid break before we turned back for a second pass with coffee and croissants supplied – sun out by then. Absolutely without a shadow of doubt THE most testing vendange one can imagine with a legacy of ailments for your’s truly who’s semi crippled. Cyprien agreed with me earlier this p.m the grapes from here were depressingly bad with rot, although deceptively looked good at the start . This is another new, first time for this year, terroir where Cyprien told me he had not had the ability to manage the vineyard how he’d have wished and that it was way too prolific. Flippin freezin again now sat typing here at the back of the cuverie and my RSI’d right arm is going bonkers – really painful. Hey ho !

seguin-manuel grows…


Domaine Seguin-Manuel gets a toehold in the Côte de Nuits

Domaine Seguin-Manuel takes over a 1,8-hectare vineyard in Vosne-Romanée « Aux Communes ». Hand harvested on October 3-4, the grapes coming from these old vines are showing a high quality potential.

The estate now covers a total area of 8,5 hectares. Initially located in Savigny-lès-Beaune, Domaine Seguin-Manuel has been farming several new plots in Beaune, Pommard, Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet since its acquisition by Thibaut Marion in 2004. In the process of certification, all the vineyards are organically grown.

« This new plot in Vosne-Romanée makes it possible for us to get a toehold in an iconic village of the Côte de Nuits. It contributes to the control of our supplies of sought-after appellations wines and strengthens the artisan dimension of our winery».

Seguin-Manuel produce 80 000 bottles a year and export 70% of them in some thirty countries.

Thibaut Marion


a vendangeur’s (pictoral) tale… (part cinq)

a vendangeur’s (pictoral) tale… (part 4)

Our intrepid vendangeur is now battling a little RSI, the cold, the wet…

burgundy 2013 harvest – thursday 10th october…

One week’s work!

After finishing last night, we tasted the juice from the Corton-Charlemagne we triaged on Tuesday – dark golden, almost viscous and really quite lovely for sweet grape juice ;-) An average ex-domaine price for Corton-Charlemagne is ~€50 (without tax) so the domaine would have to increase its price to €250 to make the normal return – it’s not going to happen is it…(?) Then we visited another producer who was just beginning to add a ‘traditional’ 0.5%. I thought it quite funny that it should be unrefined ‘organic’ sugar – but why not :)

I left Beaune this evening as I arrived 8 days ago – bathed in sunlight – that was rather improbable given how the day started. Sometime before 6:00am there was quite heavy rain, not for long, but wet enough, fortunately we were precipitation-less until at least 09:30 thereafter. I spared a thought for those pickers out in the cold, wet and wind this morning – including ours – and that was before it really did start raining again!

We ‘manned’ the triage table early because there were Santenay villages grapes to triage that we didn’t get around to the night before, a 21:45pm finish was quite late enough, thank-you ;-) It was palpably colder today, probably not much more than 10°, but by 09:00 there was a sneaky wind too, and damn cold it was – by 10:00 I’d added a fourth layer of clothing – dancing by the triage table had little to do with the quality of the grapes, or the selection from the team iPod! For an hour or so, rain returned to accompany the sorting. The grapes were pretty awful it must be said – the ripeness and taste were mainly fine enough, but again there had been little resembling triage at the vines – I could only describe some of what was cut as resembling turds – I flinched even to pick them up from the triage table (yuk!) Occasional cases of ‘fruit’ seemed to contain turds and unripe fruit in equal measure, yet others seemed fine enough – we earned our crusts triaging today – I even had to stop the table once while we sorted what was before us – I haven’t done that since 2004…

2-WP_20131010_002Lunch was über-welcome by 12:45, a French dish resembling Shepherd’s Pie, to accompany we started with Cloudy Bay 2006 Pinot, then (finally) the La Tâche 2000, we were then tempted by an 04 Latricières (had to look very hard for the P, only faintly spotted it, quite fleetingly too), a 1997 Volnay Pitures and a 1976 Volnay Champans – a tough last lunch – and that’s without mentioning the starter, the cheese and (of-course!) the tarte aux chocolat…

Back to the table; more Santenay – will it ever end? At least we were seeing a better average quality of fruit, despite the occasional turd! Finally the Santenay was finished after nearly 5.5 hours of triage – medals should have been awarded – but let’s be fair, we were awarded a pain-au-chocolat with a coffee at 10:30 :) Next up came grapes that I’d been looking forward to – the (traditional) Facebook grapes from Maranges from the Monday. These were also no saints, as there was a little rot here too, but we were able to make the trie at a minimum of 3x faster than before. They tasted nice too.

Finally I had to leave, at least for this week – I couldn’t stand any more Van Morrison. Maybe more next week?

a vendangeur’s (pictoral) tale… (part 3)

burgundy 2013 harvest – wednesday 9th october…

An antidote to all those perfect Facebook bunches that take so long to find. NB. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Domaine ;-)

We are building up to a crescendo of action here, and it’s hard to believe I’ve been here a week already – tomorrow will be my last day…

We started with more Vosne-Romanée villages this morning – the same, pretty fruit as yesterday – I pulled out an extra case of whole clusters so, overall we did 1/3 of the cuvée with stems – lovely, fruit and really tasty. Next was some Lavaux St.Jacques; times are getting harder and harder – despite expecting enough fruit for three barrels, we got barely enough for two. Some new negociants are actually driving the price spiral that many end-customers are complaining about – paying way more than the going rate, but finally, all the prices are averaged by the BIVB to calculate the ‘going rate’ for grapes, so as you can imagine, just one new buyer who is prepared to pay 40% more for fruit means we will all be paying more next year! Still, the fruit from Lavaux was good stuff – some rot but easily triaged and we did some whole clusters too – the grapes tasted completely different to the Vosne, thicker, with almost crunchy skins too!

2-WP_20131009_003Lunch, what can I tell you about lunch(?) Well, we ‘played away’ for wine, but I think I can say for everyone, that we felt completely stuffed afterwards – I suppose it was luck that no grapes were scheduled before 16:00 – personally, I managed a little ‘down-time’ to recover from our repast!

At just after 16:00 hrs, our Santenay Clos Rousseau came in waves of trucks – the pickers clearly had a joke at our expense as there was absolutely no sign of selection at the vines – a whole lot of hard triage to be done – rot mainly, hardly any unripe stuff. Such was the triage that our table had to run quite slowly – still at least 4 pallets of fruit remained after 8:00pm, and with the hired hand looking bleary-eyed, the pallets were consigned to the back of the refrigerated truck – we will tackle those at 08:00 hrs tomorrow – but a ton more stuff is expected – I’ll feel sad leaving the team at 17:00 hrs tomorrow, but places to go, people to see… ;-)

a vendangeur’s (pictoral) tale… (part deux)

Panting arrival here straight from cleaning myself up with Charmes after lunch and then to finish the afternoon, Mazoyeres – but some day 2 pics:

Les tres rapid couper belles Sandrine and Sophie-001
Les tres rapid couper belles Sandrine and Sophie
These two ladies are the fastest I think I’ve worked with. No idea how they are so quick – I haven’t had time to watch (they are accurate as well).

burgundy 2013 harvest – tuesday 8th october…

The day started with the pickers in Corton-Charlemagne – 07:30 sharp!

This plot had seen plenty of hail, though there was mercifully something still left on the vines. Quantifying ‘something’ is less fun though; this plot normally delivers about 5 barrels, today there’s been enough picked for about 1 barrel – and we still had to do triage at the home domaine. Although the grapes looked scruffy, the advantage of whites is that the skins are in contact with the juice for only a couple of hours (+/-) so we concentrated on removing obvious chunks of rot – actually not that much – and picking out the small dried grapes that will do nothing in the press. As you can see from the image below, the configuration of the setup changes for the whites as there’s no destemmer, the triaged grapes go up the ‘giraffe’ and drop directly into the pneumatic press.

The Corton-Charlemagne is delivered:

Lunch was a nice surprise so I decided to open the 79 Corton-Charlemagne to celebrate today’s grapes and the birthyear of a fellow vendangeur ;-)

Lunch behind us, we attacked Marsannay Les Longerois, good grapes, not too much rot but plenty of under-ripe bunches to discard. Then there was the Vosne-Romanée; really lovely robust clusters, such that we went for 30% whole clusters for the fermentation. Possibly cleaner fruit, even than our Gevrey Les Crais, but not quite as pretty! Next-up, Le Roi Chambertin ;-) As you may not note from the image, not the prettiest grapes, but as I learned in my first (04) harvest, the optical impression is not everything – these were clearly the tastiest grapes of the day, but we had to work hard on triage as the skins were rather fragile and there was some rot too.

We finished the day with more of the Marsannay – it made sense to insert the Chambertin as looked a bit more fragile. Hmm, finished triage and it is only 20:30 – I guess there’s some clean-up now though…

burgundy 2013 harvest – monday 7th october…

I know that Dujac were bringing in their Gevrey-Combottes and Bonnes-Mares today, and saw Bonneau du Martray bringing in their pinot noir yesterday – we had originally planned no grapes in the morning, but given the optimistic weather forecast at the weekend, even the afternoon’s grapes were put back one day – now the forecast is steadily colder and maybe sleet on Thursday / Friday – oops!

We have very busy days Tuesday-Thursday – hopefully we will get it all done – but with some late nights I expect! Today we tasted the 2012s in the cellar and made a tour of some still to be picked appellations.

No grapes meant I could take stock of what we have in the cuverie so-far: The maturities of both colours are quite decent, with 0.5-1.0° more potential alcohol than the 2011s, and the pHs seem in a good place with about 3.15-3.3 to be seen and a good (normal!) balance of tartaric and malic acid, colour seems to be extracting quite easily from the reds too. Of-course all of this is pre-fermentation, only after the fermentations can we say a little more – remember nobody got as excited as I did about 2010, until after the fermentations…

For fauna followers, there has been virtually nothing to report so-far; two snails, two caterpillars, two stink bugs and a (dead) wasp on the triage table – nothing else except a few displaced ants on my legs!

Lunch was a 2012 Chablis Bougros and Cathiards 1997 Malconsorts – I’m sure that we’ll find something for tonight too – we will need sustenance for the next 3+ days!

burgundy 2013 harvest – sunday 6th october…

Well despite the last clear hours of the day on Saturday, Sunday morning was grey, with a little drizzle.

Sunday was a day without grapes for the home domaine, so I’d planned for a group of us to go to Hotel Montrachet for breakfast – simply the best surroundings, food and price in the Côte d’Or for breakfast I think – unfortunately a couple of our number had to work (poor Mark de Morey and Jon Wyand…). Still, David Clark joined me and two (high class) stageurs for a leisurely, almost brunch (by the time we finished!). David hasn’t yet harvested what were his grapes in Morey and Vosne, but will be helping Yann Charlopin in the next days. Post-brunch we made a 2CV tour through the vines back to Beaune – a few isolated groups of harvesters were spotted among the rows.

After the conspicuous consumption of the last days, not just the morning, I decided to break out the running shoes and took a trip to Aloxe and back. I popped in at Domaine Dublère where they had just finished lunch – Blair was catching (an apparently well-earned) 40 winks so I didn’t disturb him. Next stop-off was in Aloxe where I caught up with Michael and Fiona Ragg at Mischief & Mayhem; their Aloxe-Corton was still on the vine (and looking very nice) but they were planning to cut on Tuesday – probably the same day they would also harvest their small plot of Savigny-lès-Beaune Les Gravains – apparently spared from the hail, but I didn’t see that. Feeling more worthy (if leg-weary) I was back in Beaune for a shower and a snooze.

In the early evening, just as the sun was firing its first and last beams of the day onto the hill of Corton, we visited Domaine Marius Delarche in Pernand. Etienne Delarche is running the show and I tasted some lovely wine – I must pay another visit sometime – they have about 12 cuvées, amongst which I tasted lovely 09s from Pernand Sous Fretile, Pernand Ile des Vergelesses and Corton Renardes. We finished with a glass of 2012 Corton-Charlemagne – some really lovely wines from this 8 hectare estate (2 ha in Grand Cru), but they are largely pre-sold…

So then there was dinner with multiple wines and an extra helping of the excellent Beef Bourguignone – frankly, now I was no-longer feeling so worthy!

a vendangeur’s (pictoral) tale…

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