‘Mark de Morey’ was eventually found – not at the bottom of the destemmer, rather with a full inbox in his Blackberry – de rigeur for pickers this year you know! Trying to fix both that and his cherished camera slowed him down a little, but unbowed, here’s the continuation of his story…
Domaine Arlaud Diary
Monday 29th Sept
My notes, now, several days later, tell me we did Morey Les Blanchards premier cru this morning and afternoon we did Morey Les Milandes premier cru although has been suggested we did the latter yesterday – your writer now confused.com !! By checking the Morey map in Coates latest tome am sure doing ‘Blanchards’ morning was correct – supported by one or two photos taken, including a couple of my fellow vendangeurs (male) pisse dans les vignes ! Recall the grapes looked very healthy indeed – large pendulous, clean looking, bunches from Milandes.
My back was suffering by lunchtime, stretching out full length on the yard tarmac before setting out on the afternoon session affording some relief. Have been disappointed by the ‘performance’ of expensive gardening gloves bought in England to avoid the hand damage suffered in 06 at Magenta by then various attempts to cut my fingers off. The lining on the up market £5.99 gardening gloves has perished after one day and the left glove (wore only that one), leaving the right hand glove free for secateur grip, is rubbing badly on my hand & little finger, causing loss of skin in two places – doh !
Afternoon suggests we attacked Les Milandes but regrettably can’t recall much of this suggesting was probably just a slog up and down the rows and survival of the back until close of play !! Weather has again been good. Am surprised how quickly it seems to go dark after 7 pm compared to England.
We are settling into a well established routine now. Up at 6 a.m., rudimentary wash in our crude washroom / loos, breakfast (just black coffee for me) from 7 – 7.30 with the locals arriving at this time (much cordial greetings & more kissing of cheeks than I recall experiencing elsewhere in France before). Around / before 7.30 into les camions, our two hired Mini Buses (seats thoroughly covered in plastic sheeting & tape) , one Peugeot & one Renault, or the cabs of the two flat bed vans used for shuttling picked grapes from vineyard to cuverie, to wherever the day takes us, and off we then go with Herve Arlaud calling the names & setting us up along the rows, to pick ‘a gauche’ ou ‘a droit’, in organised Sergeant-Major fashion. Work until 12 lunch, then back to the Domaine en Morey centre for Bertille Arlaud’s latest culinary masterpiece – amazing what an appetite a hard morning’s picking gives one !!
Wine is on freeflow at lunch it seems – Aligote 2007 and/or Bourgogne Rouge Roncevie 07. My fellow vendangeurs call the white “vin blanc nature”. One needs to limit one’s consumption having regard to the afternoon’s exertions to be got through without break – try as I might I cannot get Herve to contemplate mid morning or mid afternoon tea / coffee breaks a la Magenta. One vineyard entreaty from me along these lines brought forth sardonic mock violin playing motions from Herve !!
‘Arret’ for the day is 6 pm or close to it at a natural break, into the vans and back to base were time for a winding down swift glass or two; cassis appears here, before the locals depart and us permanent residents clean the buckets and then clean ourselves up (time for a shower here) for evening dinner when we are joined by Romain and stagiste Peter from the cuverie – all very convivial. And so to bed. Result today in that thus far we have been braving lukewarm water in our ‘bathing’ facility but, eureka, someone found the thermostat today and hotter water now ‘on tap’ !
Tuesday 30th September
A good day. Started first thing in Gevrey Aux Combottes. Much focus on me, l’anglais, as I shaped up to attack my first row. I couldn’t figure out why I was the object of attention initially but then realised Herve & les autres were horrified at my apparent lack of warm attire on a sharply cold morning. I had adopted a habit of always leaving my Lowe Alpine fleece in the van to avoid dirt & grape juice. Otherwise, until adopting wet weather overgear later in the week, my habit had become wearing an old t-shirt over one of my more hi-tech modern fabric base layers. To my fellow vendangeurs in their motley warm gear it looked as if I was some sort of non feeling hero demonstrating a macho ability to not feel the cold !! With my French not up to explaining the qualities of Lowe Alpine, Berghaus or Rohan gear I played along, suggesting they were all wimpy & prompting Popeye / Andy Murray the tennis player arm muscle flexing from Herve on the straddle tractor at Marko’s ‘toughness’ !! All fairly hilarious for a few moments. Recall not being terribly impressed by the grape quality in Aux Combottes and that the vines / bunches, in my rows anyway, were b awkward to cut, hence not sorry to see the back of this site by lunchtime.
Afternoon took us south of the village and around the houses, past Dujac’s, to the (to me) very attractive Les Ruchots climat below Bonnes Mares. I really liked the terroir of Ruchots in terms of vines, vegetation between rows, slope etc. The grape quality here looked very good with tight, small, bunches. If a sign of good terroir, there were plenty of snails around here, on posts and on the ground. This prompted much interested enquiry from les vendangeurs at l’anglais’ culinary experience en francais. Initially I was baffled at what I was being asked – which turned out to be “had I ever had frogs legs” – answer :- Non, merci !!! We then moved on to a discourse on the culinary attractions of snails and how to eat them best – I refused to be persuaded they might be worth trying.
Unusual turn of events in the evening ! Monday night had seen one or two electrical problems in our ‘refecture’ , with Romain plunging us in and out of darkness whilst attacking the fusebox via the light of the torch on his mobile phone in response to some problems noticed by Bertille which seemed to centre on one of the coffee filter machine plug sockets. Whatever, on this, Tuesday evening, as we were about to sit down for dinner – no power or light at all !!! Shock horreur. Instead, food, drink, cutlery etc etc all put into crates and off we went to the cuverie across the Route National N 74. Upstairs there is a very posh boardroom cum tasting room cum whatever with a fine array of photographs and vineyard maps lining the walls. We all sat down to a much smarter more modern environment with a very pleasant evening had by all. One or two odd wines needing finishing off appeared, including an Italian Tirol Sauvignon Blanc (nice) and a red from the Languedoc (name escapes me), but was a 2003 from the August holiday of Romain & delightful girlfriend, Alix Voegli (Alix’s father has a small, 2.5 / 3 hectare domaine in Gevrey – all village).
Wednesday, 1st October
A Chambolle day today folks. Quick bit of finishing off in Les Ruchots first thing then quick change of scene moving away from Morey towards Chambolle-Musigny on it’s north side. Interesting views all around if one had time to look, from Bonnes Mares, Les Fuees, and above them Les Cras & Les Veroilles at the top of the slope, across Chambolle’s village rooftops and behind the Combe D’Orveau. Ah, bliss, aren’t I lucky to be here, seems a million miles away from my banking day job and le credit crunch.
During the morning we beavered away with nice looking grapes, on decent ground, in Les Noirots. Above us, some distance away, was another team from another domaine – my enquiry revealed it to be Domaine Dujac.
Apres lunch we returned to attack Les Sentiers. Not sure what came over us here, must have been lunch, but we seemed to simply fly up and down Les Sentiers initially at some sort of pace with everything working like clockwork between pickers, ‘en vide’, the two straddle tractors which moved with us holding the crates into which our bucket contents went, and the flat bed trucks waiting at the edge of the vineyards to take the tractors case content to the winery.
The discipline and precision by which we operated in small groups to empty our buckets was hugely impressive. None of the common arrangement of individuals carrying large panniers on their backs here. Anyone filling their bucket was at liberty to shout “en vide” (empty) at which point we lined up level with each other in our rows at 90 degrees to the tractor side and buckets passed one by one to the tractor driver with empties passing back to the outermost person first to get back on the job. Woe betide you if late lining up in the chain, dropping anything or generally disrupting the team !
The initial world record attempt pace eventually paid on your writer at least with the remainder of the afternoon, culminating in ‘village’ vines, being some sort of endurance test. With no idea why it didn’t occur to me earlier I had by now found a way to deal with what seemed like constant dry mouth / thirst – via the simple expedient of chewing the odd grape or two. Very refreshing !
Wednesday evening brought a very pleasant interlude. When we returned to Morey as usual, awaiting us in the refecture was Cyprien Arlaud (normally fully occupied at the cuverie) with his delightful two young daughters, ages c 3 & 4, and wife Carole. The reason for this was the occasion of the 65th birthday of Serge – one of our domaine permanent resident party of 6. Serge and his 3 friends were regular vendangeurs albeit, having been coming for years from the Nancy area of France, they filled roles in flat bed truck driving and cuverie yard work. Sege is a lovely guy, who had gone out of his way to help me from day one. They were also very keen hunters at home & regaled us with sanglier (wild boar) hunting stories. Our usual evening meal turned into a grander affair with presentation of an impressive bunch of wild flowers to him and a dust covered 1994 Jeroboam (I think – but very large bottle) of 1994 Hautes Cotes de Nuits Blanc (Chardonnay) – producer unknown. To add to the large format blanc which we consumed easily between us Herve Arlaud generously produced 2 bottles of domaine 1999 Charmes-Chambertin to further lubricate proceedings – which they did and lovely wine it was too. Deep colour, smooth, creamy, well balanced tannins, red & black fruits with very nice lick of acidity – a pointe ! Bertille’s chocolate cake, with butter icing dotted with jellied fruits as a face, completed a very nice night.
Thursday, 2nd October
A momentous day – turned out to be my favourite of the vendange (other than my free day at the end – Sunday). Why ? My first experience of Grand Crus. The first part of the morning was taken up with Morey Aux Cheseaux – initially I thought we were going back to Gevrey Aux Combottes. Nice grapes here and seemed quite clear that a favourite site for the Arlauds.
Once done here, moving towards late morning & thoughts of lunch, back into the minbuses we went towards Morey but with a loop back on a road higher up the slope to park looking up at Clos St Denis. What a glorious aspect – grand cru grapes here we come, with a little tingle of anticipation. Herve selected us individually in usual careful fashion – I must be getting better as I was an early ‘pick’ ! Half of us (approx 10), in a row each, he sent to the top of the slope to below a wall, with the others starting at the bottom whilst we then worked down towards them with Domaine full time worker, Didier, our bucket emptying support. Setting off to the top of what, at first sight, seemed a gentle slope with some enthusiasm, became something of a deep breath, puffing, slog, the angle of the slope misleading & being much more of a test than at first sight, a rest somewhat needed at the top. Lovely views from the top though made it all worthwhile & whilst very hard to describe in words it was just a simply wonderful terroir / aspect, with an almost ethereal peace. Sun, blue sky and odd white clouds, birdsong, insects and wild flowers / other abundant vegetation amongst the very healthy looking old vines all really gave one a lift and made the grape picking down slope towards our colleagues almost a real light hearted pleasure. The grapes themselves here much smaller than elsewhere & later that night over our evening meal Romain Arlaud & stagiste Peter enthused over the grape quality, concentrated juice & what might ultimately be in prospect – mental note to self :- look out for 2008 Arlaud Clos St Denis. Quite unsolicited Romain was keen to know what I thought of Clos St Denis – turned out the young Burgundian vigneron & enthusiast Vendangeur Anglais both seemed to love it in similar vein. A special moment.
All week my fellow vendangeurs had been talking in almost reverential, awed, hushed tones about Bonnes Mares with regular references to it. Thursday afternoon and here we are, in bright sunshine, after a superb lunch of boeuf bourguignon, climbing a low wall alongside the road from Morey with buckets & secateurs to stand on ‘hallowed ground’.
Arlaud have 0.20 ha of this grand cru. Didn’t seem to take us long to whip thro it. Grapes were a mix but generally small, tight bunches, not much to look at but I suspect probably good with concentrated juice. Had been some talk of oidium & problems in Bonnes Mares but it looked ok to me. Here, as in the other smaller & steeper plots we picked in, were the straddle tractors couldn’t go, the Domaine had 3 hired small tracked machines, like tracked motorised lawnmowers without the mowing bits, with handle bars on which were throttle, brake controls etc. To ‘sit’ on these small vehicles the Arlauds had fashioned wooden platforms to hold the plastic rectangular cases into which we tipped our buckets of grapes. First time I had seen these machines which I didn’t actually see anywhere else – they seemed ideally fit for purpose with size a snug fit in the rows.
Bonnes Mares was a lovely location in all with the aspect, the sunshine & happy bunch of vendangeurs.
From there we moved to Clos de la Roche which, regrettably – sorry, I really, now almost two weeks on, just cant remember much about – although I do have a vague recall the grapes were similar in appearance to those of Clos St Denis, and the vines part of a jungle almost of vegetation such that one felt one was clearing vegetation more than picking grapes ! From there we moved to a layby on the RN74 to finish the afternoon by wading into a part of Mazoyeres-Chambertin , adjacent to Gevrey Aux Echezeaux. Seemed a long afternoon. I was glad to finish for the day more than usually the case, with aching back, in addition to which by now my 51 year old knees were protesting almost more than my back. My right knee, having twinged on and off for years as a legacy of a collision with a squash court wall in my younger days, was a particular problem and had troubled me at night a couple of times. Thus, whilst hugely enjoying the experience I was to a degree relieved that suggestions were coming from my fellow vendangeurs that we would finish Saturday or Sunday.
At this point I have realised I have some how missed comment on maybe the funniest (as in humour) episode of the entire vendange for me and slotted in mention of a piece of Gevrey Villages we did at some point. This must have been, I think, Tuesday afternoon after Les Ruchots as the weather was very warm & sunny that afternoon – it deteriorated cooler as the week went on until major rain Friday p.m. (see later). Anyway, whichever afternoon it was we drove some way up to Gevrey & beyond, recall us passing La Justice. We turned right going north from the RN74, onto the ‘flat lands’, and passed through the modern housing almost to it’s extremity before turning into what at first sight seemed a modern apartment block car park. Herve Arlaud, drving my minibus took us thro the car park, a gap in the hedge & into a very large looking plot of vines extending some distance to industrial units some way off. I suggested the approach was some sort of “Route Touristique” which prompted much hilarity in the back of the minibus.
Once dismounted & tooled up Herve split us up sending myself & 5/6 others way up the site to a particular parcel on the outside at the top of the plot. The others stayed to start from were we dismounted. The ground underfoot was dry and very rocky with large off white / beige (calcaire / limestone ?) stones & rocks. Our small party set to unsupervised, with the vines heavy with large, pendulous, heavy bunches of grapes.
After some time, working hard on my outside row to make sure I didn’t fall behind as usual, I realised my neighbour, early 20’s Adrian Voegli (father Alain a vigneron in Gevrey, sister Alix the girlfriend of Romain Arlaud) was stood up from his vines, asking me a question. It took me 3 or 4 requests for him to repeat what he was asking me (my limited French the problem) before I realised he was, wholly out of the blue, asking me if I had seen the John Cleese film “A Fish called Wanda” !!! He was chuckling to himself in an endearing way presumably recalling the film. Rather lost for words myself, in more ways than one, I agreed I had seen it once & that “Oui, Monsieur Cleese un home tres amuse”. This prompted Adrian to then ask me something else. I really couldn’t again tell what he was saying at first until I had a flash of inspiration or inner recall at his 3rd or 4th repetition at which point I realised Adrian’s “Monti Piton” must be Monthy Python !!! A eureka moment ! Struggling myself as to what to say about the Pythons, Adrian helped me out by going further whilst laughing hysterically over a particular Python sketch; he referred to it as “Les Francais dans le keep”, or something like that, which I vaguely recalled might have involved the Middle Ages, or a period involving knights in chain mail & armour. If my recall was correct, and Adrian seemed to be describing the same, the Pythons had the French being besieged in a castle and one or both parties throwing all sorts at each other in lieu of proper ammunition. Anyone with a fuller knowledge of ‘Python’ please feel free to help me out here !!
To me this was all surreal – there I was in a sunny vineyard outside Gevrey, a volunteer, maybe slightly mad, English bank manager vendangeur, discussing in very limited fashion, dated British Film / TV humour !!!!
Anyway, Adrian, still chuckling to himself, bent back to his vines, as did I to mine with a very full bucket, whereupon one of the others, a couple of rows further away piped up. It was obvious at this point all our group had been listening to Adrian and myself. Our new participant entered the debate with the ‘killer’ line :- “Marko (my vendange nickname) – and what about Benni ‘Ill” i.e the late Benny Hill deceased he of the shocking long ago pop song, “Ernie the fastest milkman in the West” and smutty TV shows . This almost finished me off in hysterical humour terms and had me giggling the rest of the afternoon & the remainder of the vendange at the completely bizarre nature of ‘proceedings’. I merely acknowledged ‘Benni Ill’ without having to make any comment about female anatomy, and let my fellow vendangeurs discuss the finer points of Benny Hill’s humour for a few minutes whilst I reflected at what on earth did French TV show as regards British humour to prompt this completely bizarre few minutes !!!
Friday, 3rd October
Without knowing it at the time our next to last day. My back had been fairly grim the night before such that I was slightly worried at being fit for this morning but, whilst my knees were refusing to flex as they should, my back seemed almost good and almost as though it had ‘acclimatised’ & indeed soon loosened up as we set to with our morning’s efforts – Charmes Chambertin – our last grand cru which took us up to a slightly early lunchtime.
Arlaud has a goodly piece of this; 1.14 hectares. We parked the minibuses on the Route des Grand Crus north of Morey just past a slight up and down kink and across the road from Latricieres-Chambertin.
This was quite hard work – the rows were very long such that could hardly see an end and the bunches a mix to make picking a disjointed routine. Additionally, I had taken a pair of secateurs which I quickly discovered had been well blunted by the vendange thus far – they annoyed me no end ! We were clearly the first team out in the vines – no sign of anyone else when we started. After about half an hour from a glance up I noticed a series of vehicles slowly moving out of Morey on the ‘high road’ below Mont Luisants. They almost appeared in slow motion given the distance. This turned out to be Ponsot’s team according to Herve. A little later when we had worked our way back up our second long rows we had been joined on the opposite side of the road by quite a large team who’s transport included a full size single decker bus, 2 tractors with hopper trailers & a few cars and vans. This turned out to be Faiveley’s , picking Latricieres. Their main man came across to us , and with some friendly banter started eyeing up our stock of cases with a view to ‘borrowing’ as many as possible – which Herve Arlaud politely refused to allow !
Morning had been cold and cloudy, the sunshine of earlier in the week having disappeared. The afternoon saw us return once more to yet more Bourgogne Rouge in similar location initially, albeit further from the road, to were we had first started i.e north of Morey!!! All was a little disjointed for the first part of the afternoon as were being moved about tackling partly completed rows not finished when we had been here before and odd sections. It had baffled me for much of the week , as it did At Magenta in 06, how Herve knew which rows of vines were Arlaud’s until someone pointed out to me coloured plastic shrouds on wires to the end of row posts, or coloured paint splodges on posts.
The jumping about at least gave us a series of quick rest & water opportunities whilst we were being directed to each new piece of action and initially the sun came out on us although elsewhere up and down the Cote, particularly over Dijon, there were dark clouds & clearly rain.
Eventually, for the last part of the afternoon we minibused again to a new area of Bourgogne Rouge (and what turned out to be Blanc also for what was the next, final day – Saturday) south of Morey past were the final buildings finished, and not that far from Chambolle. Indeed one could look to the gash in the Cote behind Chambolle. We set to here but late in the afternoon I heard an exclamation and looked up to see heavy cloud not far south of us. There was just the start of clouds touching the top of the Cote hills opposite is. North to Dijon the sky was almost black.
We carried on but only minutes later I glanced up again to see the Cote behind Chambolle & Morey had disappeared in cloud now much lower ! Musing on this I felt the first spots of rain and then, to shouts all round, as the heavens opened with the temperature plummeting and the rain bouncing off the ground, we ran for the minibuses with partly full buckets as fast as we could go. I could not help but smile to see Herve, across the vineyard, astride his tractor unloading to one of the flatbed trucks, with cigarette as usual clamped between his lips, rain hammering down almost like a 17th / 18th century naval sea captain astride the deck of his ship going into battle in a storm. It was a damp collection of vendangeurs who sat in their steamed up minibuses for a good while allowing the storm to pass over whereupon we emptied our buckets and called it a day (or night !). Fortunately we all had our wet weather gear on but it was still a cold and wet experience such that I zipped up my fleece over my damp lightweight waterproof jacket until warmth was restored, aided by a couple of recuperative glasses of Kir back at base.
Saturday, 4th October
Some doubt at the outset this was our final day but such turned out to ultimately be the case & we eventually finished our 2008 vendange in mid afternoon, not far from were we started in a final few rows of Bourgogne Rouge close to the RN74. Told we had finished I ran for the minibus to retrieve my camera from the dash were I kept it so as to line up the ‘gang’ for several group photos at the finish.
Morning had started with BR north of Morey near were we had been rained off. We moved a couple of times around various plots and before lunch we moved into a small plot of Gamay and then into Aligote – our first raisins blanc. Immediately prior to lunch Cyprien Arlaud joined us with his wife and daughters, the two little girls enjoying joining grandpa Herve, on the straddle tractor for a while. Our number had also been boosted by Alix Voegli the day before and Saturday, with Peter, the German stagiste also picking with us on the final day.
Post lunch brought another amusing scenario. I was enjoying picking the white grapes, this taking me back to Magenta in 06 and the slightly different technique required with a different type of grape & stalk and with the essential need to properly leaf strip – more than the Pinot. Part way through a plot of Aligote the rain came again but with nothing like the strength of Friday’s storm. Everyone, bar l’anglais, ran for cover – either to trees and bushes around the plot, a few under one of the tractors, the rest to the minibuses some way off on the edge of the plot. Initially, with my head down, in a good rhythm and with jacket hood pulled up I didn’t realise they had all abandoned me & found myself on my own in a sea of vines and abandoned buckets ! Quite clear in my own mind it was a passing shower (although it lasted longer than I first anticipated ), not put off by a bit of rain and suitably dressed, I decided to carry on as I was and was also mindful I could put some distance between myself and the fastest so that when they returned I could either be triumphant by having finished my row or at least be well in front instead of struggling to keep up. It didn’t take long for shouts of concern to drift my way across the vineyard with pleas to abandon and take shelter in the minibus.
Laughing back, I reminded them I was English & suggested, by combination of shouted banter exchanges and body mime, that they were ‘soft’ and should get back out. This all caused great hilarity but it was clear when the rain stopped, and I was miles ahead in my row with 3 full buckets needing emptying, that the mad anglais had earned a fair degree of respect !
The finish was anticlimactic almost but a tired & happy bunch returned to Morey with the promise of an evening’s Paulee.
Back at base our ‘refecture’ was being ‘dressed’ for the ‘do’ with tressle tables and benches rearranged around the walls and culinary preparations by Bertille Arlaud and her mother in full swing.
Three of us as resident and local Daniel, to become infamous with me later, cleaned the very muddy & soil encrusted (from the rain) buckets and hosed down the yard which took some time.
Evening saw us all regroup, joined by the full team from the cuverie, all suitably cleaned & smartened up ourselves, for the Paulee. Cyprien Arlaud made a speech, most of which passed me by from my lack of French, under some ‘duress’ from friendly banter but pointed to the international nature of the 08 Arlaud vendange, asking us ‘strangers; Manuel (Portugal), Peter (Germany), Isabelle & Antonio (Gabon), Sophie (Belgium) and Mark, l’anglais, in turn to stand and take a bow !
After a suitable repast, and with Vins Rouge et Blanc in freeflow, dancing took over to an eclectic mix of CD’s ( I waited expectantly for Deep Purple’s Greatest Hits & what form of dancing we might then see) with Manuel , the quiet Portuguese, revealing himself to be quite an unforeseen star of the dance floor. He started proceedings by showing some nifty footwork with a laughing sister of Herve Arlaud, the pair joined by a large black lady who was equally adept and dragged up first Cyprien, to ribald amusement all round, and then a little incongruously, a laughing Carole (Mrs Cyprien).
Unfortunately for me I was sat next to a rather, and increasingly, excited Daniel, the 60yrs + retired former local school bus driver. Daniel had been notable throughout the vendange for full volume shouted & haranguing passages of speech in the vines – often it seemed about Nicolas Sarkozy & Carla Bruni (the latter seemed a constant topic of conversation throughout with the older male vendangeurs !) He got progressively more carried away from an early point as the evening wore on, causing more & more obvious concern to the family & some of us guests. Things threatened to get wholly out of hand when he said something completely out of order to a black African lady who I think threatened him with grevious bodily harm – and she was a well built lady . I managed to calm all this at the time wishing I was somewhere else (!) & for 15/20 minutes calmed him down so everyone around us relaxed getting a nod of thanks from Herve.
Unfortunately, the start of dancing saw him jump to his feet in excitement with a tricolour wig, his party piece apparently but, despite my having long before moved my wine glasses well away from between us, he knocked over his full glass of red wine which flooded towards me and into the laps of a couple of very annoyed girls.
The major impact of this was on my much treasured Sony Camera, a veteran of two vendages which, despite my horrified efforts to snatch it away, didn’t take well to infiltration by Bourgogne Rouge Roncevie 07 – as was entirely apparent the following morning when it gave up intermittent workings completely and is now not, apparently, economically repairable – grrrrr ! Disgusted by this, and seeing more aggro likely from Daniel, I decided on an early night before a free day Sunday ahead of my drive north Monday for that evening’s Zeebrugge – Hull ferry & home.
An amusing postscript to the Paulee came at around 4.00 a.m when a totally intoxicated, and very gigglingly, bouncing off the walls, drunk Adrian arrived in our room looking for a bed. With one of the other guys we made two attempts to get him on to a top bunk – the first hilariously seeing him get up but go head first down the other side between bed and wall with feet sticking up in the air. After a couple of minutes for him to extricate himself, and us to stop laughing, we got him into bed for restored quiet all round.
Sunday, 5th October
Morning dawned very cold with car windows iced over. Two of my fellow vendangeurs were on the 8.20 from Dijon train somewhere north. I got up with them for breakfast & then killed time before setting off for a day meandering down the Cote to ultimately call in and see what was what at Domaine De Duc du Magenta – my 2006 experience.
At the Arlaud cuverie I watched Herve and Romain busy themselves with pumping over (remontage) and had a general look around. Most of the tanks seemed full / in use, and covered with polythene sheets, including a large new oak foudre which contained Clos St Denis grapes with plenty of stalks.
The Minibuses and Flat bed trucks were to be cleaned fully inside & out ready for return to the hirers.
From Morey I wandered into Chambolle & took the car past Les Cras & Les Fuees up a steep track to Les Veroilles. Someone’s team were busy in Les Veroilles but I couldn’t establish who’s. Taking a few photos with difficulty as my camera gave up I drove through Chambolle past Musigny & La Combe D’Orveaux taking the road around the top / back of Vougeot ontoVosne. Here, meandered past the usual Grand Cru sites, tried to work out that bit of Malconsorts, encroaching into La Tache, which is the source Montille’s Malconsorts Cuvee Christiane and then took the increasingly steep track up past La Grande Rue & Les Gaudichots to Les Damaudes at the very top of the slope. Here I got into brief conversation with the patron of a picking team who nearly got their large van stuck – am sure he said they were from Domaine Olivier Gard from Aloxe but cant find mention of that in my books.
From here past & through the premier crus on the Vosne side into Nuits St Georges then onto the main road past Clos Arlot & Clos de la Marechale (activity therein) into Beaune.
Stopping at my favourite patisserie just thro the lights on the right turning off the Beaune peripherique for a pasty, quiche and coconut biscuit cake plus drink I meandered onto the D973 thro Pommard & Volnay into Meursault. Here I was too late to find the newsagents open for hopefully an English paper (had not seen TV or national paper for 8/9 days) and also found Patrick Javillier’s cave unsurprisingly closed for possible purchase of his super Oligocene and/ or more besides. Drifting out the back of Meursault in lovely sunshine I parked up in what I think was Les Chaumes des Perrierres & eat a blissful lunch with only vines, a couple of lizards, a wheeling buzzard above me for company with only the odd car or cyclist passing below me.
Onto, and into Chassagne past all the familiar places & vigneron’s plaques, including Niellon were I had a brilliant visit with Michel in August 06 (no degustation of grand crus though – only premier crus !), past Ramonet’s anonymous premises and down on to the road to Santenay for yards before turning off to Magenta’s buildings behind the Abbaye de Morgeot. All quiet here, no activity at all, with clear signs their vendange was over. The hovel accommodation from 06 now looks very smart, most of the way to a nice looking gite conversion, a very large pile of empty beer bottles (!) suggesting thirsty recent inhabitants !!
Entering the office was just in time to meet la Duchesse, Amelie MacMahon, as she was closing up and leaving, my 06 employer who initially greeted me as Monsieur before realising who I was to our joint amusement. La Duchesse was very positive about Magenta’s vendange suggesting enthusiastically that, after dry weather and drying winds immediately pre vendange, that her Chardonnay had come in looking very good and at an ideal average 12.5%. She had a new winemaking team for 08 hence the wines for this year could be interesting.
Taking my leave I used my VW Bora’s mountain goat tendencies to go up a track between team picking in Les Petits Clos and Les Grands Clos to Tete du Clos, Bois de Chassagne & La Romanee – a really beautiful, idyllic, spot and were a sparrowhawk made me jump diving into a clump of trees and bushes scattering various small birds.
Taking the high route past Clos Saint-Jean, La Chaumees & Les Chenevottes looking across to the St Aubin blanc premier crus I drove back through a quiet, sleepy, shuttered, seemingly as always, Puligny to Meursault then back the way I came past Volnay & Pommard. Back up the RN74 to Morey and a coffee with Sophie, la belge, in the refecture, and then a cobbled together meal of left overs, she and I the only one’s left.
Thinking about having a look around Gevrey, Herve Arlaud arrived and asked us if we wanted to go with him to visit the cuverie of his friends at Domaine Charlopin-Parizot in Gevrey. To visit a local vigneron with the vendange there still going in company of another local seemed a good idea to me.
This was fascinating ! Charlopin have a fair sized, modern, quite new (for this vendange ?) dark green industrial unit behind a modern cheese processors beyond Gevrey towards Dijon. They also recently acquired 5 hectares in Chablis – not common in my experience for a Cote D’Or operation to operate in Chablis. All was in full swing as we arrived with it going dark. The sorting table was just coming to and end of days operations but Chablis grapes were due that evening.
The scale & nature of the operation was incredible – much more like a modern industrial food processors in terms of building fit out, cleanliness etc etc.
Yann Charlopin, son of Phillipe, was at wine school with Romain Arlaud and father Phillippe also manages the Chateau de Pommard.
Was surprised to hear an Aussie accent – from a friendly, engaging, blonde bloke wearing snazzy white wellies (actually Tasmanian fishermen’s boots apparently – what do I know !) . This turned out to be Brian Franklin, of Apsley Gorge Winery, a Tasmanian Pinot & Chardonnay producer (UK Importer Justerini & Brooks) working the vendange at Charlopin. His Tasmanian operation has also just taken on the agencies to import Arlaud & Chateau de Pommard wines to Australia.
After an interesting evening that was my lot and the end of my 2008 vendange. The following morning I packed, said my goodbyes at the cuverie, had a last look at remontage and headed for Belgium for the UK.
A truly fantastic experience in every way. Very hard work indeed. I have no idea how my ageing back coped with the exertions but it did. Burgundy, the Cote, the people, the vineyards, the Arlaud family and the amazing brilliant characters that were my fellow vendangeurs all made for an incredible 9/10 days of escapism that was everything I would have wanted it to be and more besides. A great contrast to the equally enjoyable 2006 and Magenta at Chassagne-Montrachet . Have now done 2 vendanges, one Cotes de Beaune, mainly blanc, and one Cotes De Nuits, mainly rouges and with grand cru sites.
Tremendous, with sincere and grateful thanks to the Arlaud family and my amazing fellow vendangeurs.
Mark de Morey
More photos an notes to follow, thanks Mark…