ARLAUD VENDANGE – Day 3, Weds 17th Sept 2014
(And a brief reprise to Sunday)
Typing this in the somnolent day 4 lunch break (i.e it’s the 18th today I know, I’m behind, but you try all this) when all I want to do is lie out and snooze like my fellow vendangeurs after a full lunch.
A just lovely morning again, if v hard work. The weather has been just beautiful this a.m. Once the sun got to work the early morning overcast disappeared quickly but just a bit more than a whispering breeze made life tolerable as we slaved away. Life’s good !
I’m supposed to be covering day 3, and M.Raphet on last Sunday afternoon, having run out of time last evening to send Bill more than just photos but may as well cover day 4 morning whilst fresh in the mind. We started by being personally selected into two groups. My small grouping, 13 strong including moi, and retired Colonel de l’Armee (honestly) Rene, the truck driver, went with domaine employee, Damian, a new guy to me this year, studious & friendly, but oddly an ex Bordeaux wine school pupil, to a parcel of Chambolle Village. All straight forward, nice grapes, no rot (at all), and once done and a chance for team photo taken, we set off back to rejoin the main group who were tackling a further high up section (across from Latricieres) of Charmes-Chambertin. We pile, in like the relieving cavalry from a western, to help finish off the rows in course. We then tackled some new rows as a full team, of really, really butch, lovely big bunches of grapes (sorry, it’s just an incredible norm). Water elevenses (well 10.30) after that, chance for a few photos then en vehicule (love the in vehicle rests !) weaving through the vines to what turned out to be a section of Mazoyeres down to the road. We were two to a row, always preferable for me (depending on my companion) with my colleague starting from the road upwards, me down slope. Now the bunches of grapes here were just an absolute joy to cut. They were generally large, uniform, well hung (for snipping easily I mean – no tittering at the back!) hence one could really get into a rhythm, little or nothing fiddly, interrupted only by having to very regularly empty the bucket into a porteur’s case. Not really a great morning to be a porteur, they were working really hard (dare I say for a change in some cases !). Lunch soon came around, with a self satisfied feeling of a morning’s work well done in almost idyllic circumstances. Am I enjoying this vendange like no other ! If only they were all like this. Have I said that per usual I’m the only English language speaker/Brit ? The way I like it ! Day 4 photos will be sent to Bill, all being well, tomorrow, the 19th with added account of a superb afternoon including a first time working in a particular GC for me – clue is starts with an E !
Sunday p.m – The former Domaine Jean Raphet premises are just off the Morey centre piece a vers Gevrey and next door to the Arlaud vendange accommodation. Guess I first got to know M Raphet Senior (assume he’s Jean but am not sure) to say ‘Bonjour, Ca va’ to etc etc from my first Arlaud vendange in 2008. He’s long retired I think and seemingly just potters about, as retired Burgundian vignerons do, with flat cap seemingly permanently attached to his head at a jaunty angle. My first ‘proper’ brush with him will live long in the memory & I think I mentioned it in a previous year’s Bill published piece. That ‘event’ was after the 2011 Arlaud vendange Paulee when, amazingly, he invited me and another into his home at c 10.30 in the morning for what turned out to be a degustation and a half. Stupidly we went, seemed rude not to, the only snag being my head already felt like the top was then coming off from the previous evening/night’s proceedings – as did my companion’s. We survived, exchanging pleasantries, whilst sampling various Morey treasures, some task ! Back to Sunday, as I was unloading my stuff he called me into his yard and we went through to his tasting room again – I think he was just bored and welcomed the chance for a chat etc and some company. I was happy to oblige as I like him a lot, and liked things a lot more when he got out a Raphet 2000 Clos de Vougeot. This was a ‘wow’ wine, really, felt like the best Burgundy I’d had this year but the occasion could have got to me ! It certainly had an amazing nose with secondary aromas/profile and was a silky, moreish, very long delight in the thirsty bouche. Conversation was a little stilted as he has no English at all and my French is limited, especially the way M Raphet talks ! We covered a few things like French politics (as you do), the weather (as you do), last year’s harvest travails, and he told me he retired after 40/50 years (forgotten exactly but think the latter) as a vigneron. His son I think now makes the wines in premises at the rear of the Morey Boucherie. Time flew with M Raphet, lubricated by the Vougeot (goodness it was good) until we’d drunk it all ! Am sure he plyed me with more than he had but eventually I got up to go asking him on a whim if I could have the empty bottle as a memento and could he autograph it for me – which he did. At this point he then reached for another (full bottle !) and pressed it on me despite my protestations, genuine (!), that I couldn’t possibly, or should pay him for it – which he would not hear of ! So, I staggered outside (bear in mind I d’d driven from NW England overnight to be met in the shared entrance by Herve Arlaud who took one look at me, the bottles, and M Raphet and burst out laughing – rather rude I thought lol . And the vendange was only starting Monday (when once again my head was bouncing a little) !
Day 3. Good heavens, this waaaas something else, without any doubt AT ALL, THE BEST DAY or part thereof I’ve experienced, in this my now 7th vendange to date (ok, I’m a beginner compared to BN !). Its very hard to explain really why it was JUST so fabulous but it was. We started first thing in Clos St Denis. The sun came up as we worked the plot – one I’ve just always loved more than any other, can’t explain why – just a personal feeling thing. I’ve got a photo that I think has turned out rather well re the sun. Once again it was warm, everywere’s very dry underfoot which is good. I reckon we all enjoyed CSD, the grapes were (sorry!) just once again really stunning. I’ve never seen grapes like these in my Arlaud days to date. The old vines in CSD usually struggle for any sort of quantity, and what there is often small berries, millerandage etc etc. Not this year – it was a grape fest !
Onwards, could it get better ? There’s something about Bonnes Mares which has a special reverence for the Arlaud vendangeurs every year, even if the team changes a lot bar the regulars. It really seems to mean something to the locals, most of whom I guess will never own or drink a bottle ! This was another tremendous vineyard visit. Very much like CSD in terms of grapes to the usual and how (pics attached) – no rot. To complete the morning we moved in a rather circuitous route through the vines to Morey 1er Ruchots – another personal favourite, both terroir and wine. At a track junction we made way for a tractor and trailer. Driver looked familiar – indeed, Christophe Roumier. Think this is a man in love with his tractors as almost every time I see him it seems he’s in a tractor seat. Sure enough when we got to Ruchots and dismounted there were the Roumier team hard at it in Clos de la Bussiere. At first I thought, touchingly, the Roumier team had their children with them but only later did I realise, when I saw the crocodile of primary school age children, avec teacher, exiting Bussiere back towards Morey, that I must have been looking at a school field trip to experience the vendange – nice ! Boy, was it hot coming up to lunch in Ruchots. Its usually at least a bit damp in there, relatively low lying as it below road level, but it was remarkably pleasant under foot. Its also usually an escargot reserve and sure enough I saw one or two large examples.We didn’t finish before lunch so retreated and were joined back at base, unusually, by the triage team up for a joint lunch. Yet again, re Ruchots, I’ve got to say the grapes were just incredible to what I’ve known in four different years (2008, 2010, 2011, 2013). Both in quality, next to no rot that I saw, and once again , the remarkable quantity. Seems Morey at least is blessed in 2014. I also wondered to what extent Cyprien’s biodynamique drive of the last few years has paid off big time this year as a contributor. Can’t recall if I’ve mentioned before but the wild flowers, and the rose bushes at the head of vine rows, are all remarkable – not something I can ever recall being aware of before (or maybe its just me this year). I’ve also noticed plenty of insects; spiders particularly (not to excess though !), and just the odd coccinelle, plus caterpillar.
After the morning’s heady brilliance of sites and the produce from them the afternoon passed in a relatively low key manner. We came back and finished Ruchots, heat beating down on us still, then spent the rest of the afternoon doing firstly some Chambolle Village (Morey side) and then finishing c 18.00 hrs doing some Morey Village below the RN74, from my ‘Climats & Lieux Dits’ Atlas, this was ‘Les Cognees’ although Arlaud don’t bottle as such. This was, and I’m really sorry to sound like a stuck record repetitive, remarkable also. Its not far from Bourgogne Roncevie, and low lying, one can usually anticipate rot as a given. Not this year ! The grapes from here were just a joy to pick – really wonderful fruit.
Evening brought more fun and pleasure. Cyprien, his wife Carol (Carole ?), and their three young daughters joined us for the evening meal. Also present, as a considerable, if nice, shock to me (as in not expecting to see her for a moment), was Madame Phylloxera, my 2011 vendange best friend, Anissa B invited for dinner by Herve (the madame bit a joke name I gave her as she so amused me in how she pronounced the P word) . More of Anissa in a mo but Cyprien and I got talking, from me just how fantastically special the morning had been. To my surprise he effusively agreed, becoming almost animated which is v rare for his normally quiet, reflective, deep thinking usual self. Vigneron and his British vendangeur were at one in adoring what our morning’s experience of CSD, Bonnes-Mares, and Morey Ruchots had been. He gave me, without blinking, verbally some numbers of yield averages for recent past years, and then yields for the above sites for this year (INSERT IF CAN GET AGAIN) . Anissa had been working for the last few years in the Paris shop, Lavinia, as a sommelier but told me she was passing through her parents Chambolle home en route to a new sales role with some Languedoc/ Provence negociant. We reminisced happily over all that amused us both in 2011 and events such as the tasting we went to, post vendange, with the always great value Alex Gambal (must call post vendange this year).
And so to bed after a wondrous day. What could Day 4 bring ? Well, maybe not quite so amazing but pretty good – to be continued !!!