A few words on other matters before getting into Friday’s picking activities et al.
One of the many things I have quickly come to love here is the view across the steep sided valley in which Pernand sits on one side – on the right heading up towards Echevronne. Domaine D-F is probably circa half way up the village or more but, sat in the courtyard, as I can be with spare moments, looking straight across, in one’s eye line is the wonderfully named terroir of “Sous le bois de Noel et ses Belles Filles” (Under the Wood of Noel and his beautiful daughters – not sure who the Noel was by the way) . Think that’s the full name (without checking). The vines plunge steeply down from below the well wooded dense top part of the hill. Off the top of my head Domaine Remi Rollin sell a very reasonably priced example (rouge). Recall the 2005 en primeur, not yet tasted as still in bond / storage, cost GBP 100 from Justerini’s in the UK (no association other than occasional customer).
Beer o’clock – eh ??? This term amused me no end and is great in what it represents. The cuverie staff under Monsieur Bernard’s genial and benevolent but serious leadership (he’s 70 but fully involved & bright as a tick – a lovely man) have an early morning cuverie wine break (honestly) and also again in the evening, before putting the triage table away, have another wine break – usually with something more than decent e.g a Corton-Charlemagne featured one evening when I was lucky enough to be there. Into this ‘well oiled’ working routine Aussie stagiste, Kirsten, told M. Bernard about the Aussie winery practice of afternoon “beer o’clock”. This was seized on as a great idea and is now adopted, as a French idea of course (!), about 4 p.m using likes of Kronenbourg. Superbe !!!
A few words on the domaine layout in Pernand. I have already mentioned the house, courtyard, bureau etc in Rue Rameau-Lamarosse but what I hadn’t appreciated, until asking M Bernard one day to show me the barrel cellar below the cuverie was how the whole, from cuverie to house, ‘knitted’ together down the hillside within the village. The cuverie (very modern, air conditioned / temperature controlled, very well equipped, has stainless everything and lots of it) is accessed (other than on foot coming up through the very large and private house garden) by entering the tasting room / ‘cellar door shop’ at the back of the courtyard. If one goes through the tasting room this opens out materially to a substantial bottle store of umpteen metal cages. M Bernard told me one day there were about 80,000 bottles held – wow !!! To the right of the bottle store are stairs which lead up to the floor above which is the sizable barrel cellar (can’t recall exactly but recollect might be up to 300 barrels). To the right hand side of the barrel cellar is another flight of stairs which lead into the back of the cuverie. At the front of the cuverie is a dropping circular loop of tarmac from the plateau above of car parking and garage / store for vans, tractors etc which access from a narrow street above. In essence one has, from the top street, the whole from garage / store, ramp to cuverie, then cuverie, barrel store, to bottle store / tasting room following the contour down the hillside to the domaine courtyard. Gravity operation is possible from cuverie, to barrel store, to bottle store.
Visitors to the domaine for tasting and purchase were regular, if low in number, but included Belgians, French, a family of 4 Brits and a couple of Americans.
A word on the vintage thus far. I know full well it’s very early days indeed but simply report what I see and hear. Our vendange has been conducted from start to finish (am typing this now post conclusion) in probably perfect weather – very hot in parts and dry throughout. It actually started spitting with rain during the afternoon of the 15th after we finished the domaine’s vendange that lunchtime in Corton En Charlemagne. The grape quality, red and white, has been fantastic. This was my 3rd vendange (2006 Chassagne-Montrachet, 2008 Morey-St-Denis and this one). The only rot I recall seeing this time was a quite modest amount in Corton Pougets. Hence grape quality is excellent. Early on, and in my experience the Burgundians are careful and not prone to getting carried away, talk of a really classy vintage emerged. This continued and translated to comparisons with both 1999 and, incroyable, 2005 on a regular basis. With the 2008 vintage to sell in early 2010 one can’t imagine the UK wine trade will want to hear such sentiments. That said I believe 2008 itself will be good and I, for one, will be looking to buy reds from Arlaud and others. I believe 2008 whites may be similar to 2007 or better with plenty of acidity. We’ll see I guess. Those domaines who waited in 2009 will have had the rain from Thurs 17th to contend with.
Right, to the Friday 11th action. Think it was the previous night a few of us post dinner spent a convivial evening with other domaine vendangeurs at Pernand’s only bar – “La Grappe de Pernand”. We despatched numerous jugs of Amstel at my expense to leave some fragility the following morning as we moved to our first site. This was the gorgeous hill top terroir of, for me, the much anticipated ‘Sous Fretille’ blanc. Have no idea if I could find this again from the winding route through woods on rough tracks – even looking at maps back in the UK. Nevertheless lovely terroir but we soon seemed to have the quality Chardonnay stripped and moved on to Corton Pougets. We had a little rest before starting this which we ultimately did in 2 or 2 and a half passes. Tiffin, one of the youngsters, and an Arsenal fan / shirt wearer, actually had a snooze in a dry field drain alongside the road – see photos to follow. It was a bit chilly here, not for me though with my Lowe Alpine base layer and thick t shirt over so I readily agreed to lend my fleece to my fellow van front seat occupant, Lauren, an intelligent trainee maritime lawyer from Paris – ‘veteran’ of a few vendanges and trusted “older sister” type to the 14 & 9 yr old Gruere-Dubreuil daughters; Clementime & Autance. A little rot in Pougets, nothing major, but stand out compared to the generally perfect quality thus far. Part way through and having got back to the road from one pass we were watched, photographed etc by a group of older people in 2 minibuses. Getting into conversation with them turned out they were Swedish tourists. One of them was particularly intrigued by our rates of pay which he quizzed me on, ultimately following me half way down a row to check our hourly euro rate as I grappled with a particular vine ! From here we moved to what was either Aloxe of Pernand village to take us up to lunch and a welcome break. I had, on a last minute whim, brought a bottle of wine with me which I gave to Christine D-F on arrival. This was a Cloudy Bay 2003 Chardonnay. Broached at lunchtime and shared around would be fair to say it didnt show well against the straight D-F Bourgogne Chard or Aligote (vin blanc nature) which was our regular tipple. The New Zealander seemed blowsy, heavy and very over oaked – being kind to say a food wine. Quite took me by surprise – a real victory for the old world.
Post lunch we took the road out alongside the wonderful old church (with it’s superb on the hour / half hour clock) towards Magny-Les-Villers to the site of P-V Villages Les Clous just off the road. Another lovely piece of terroir. Very hot here and a tester after lunch with some gradient. More lovely grapes. I love picking quality Chardonnay – tis what I started with in 2006 in Chassagne and have since always preferred to Pinot and found easier. Very essential need to be a flailing hooligan in leaf stripping though to avoid missing decent bunches. From here we changed tack completely passing through the village of Aloxe-Corton to tackle premier cru A-X Les Vercots. Afternoon concluded with either Pernand or A-X village (or could indeed have been P-V 1er cru Les Fichots) back towards Pernand not far from Corton-Charlemagne.
On most afternoons rather than rushing back to the communal house for beer, gin, fags etc it was my habit to go to the cuverie and mingle – check out the triage table, use the jetwasher to clean my boots or Merrrells, or clean cases and buckets – always something to do. I think it was this day that Kirsten got me up on the gantry around the stainless steel tanks of settling Pinot holding a heavy pipe for remontage (pumping over). This was fine for a while until we came to unhook at which point and by accident, casually holding the pipe whilst Kirsten unhooked down below, I inadvertently sprayed myself all down my left side from head to foot – not my fault but all rather damp !! Was always worth being around the cuverie team around 6 p.m for an early evening drink of something tasty from M.Bernard.
Day 5 to follow with altitude, gradient in Savigny; comment on the mighty Liverpool FC in comparison to some rubbish Manchester team; a move onto Corton Charlemagne; punching the cap down; and a very special evening dinner with special wines.