ARLAUD VENDANGE – Day 4 (pm), Thurs 18th Sept 2014
Bonjour, tout le monde, sorry for the delayed re-appearance of notes, thoughts etc from Morey – we’ve been working like slaves and, despite best intentions any number of times, my journalistic desires (if one can call it that) have just had to take a ‘back seat’ to working, eating, sleeping (if one can with fellow room incumbent snoring, cat affectionately headbutting you awake at 3 a.m, or hand/arm crippling you, as all have featured – one and three every night), keeping clean, keeping one’s gear clean, etc etc etc. There is literally very little time to one’s self and when that occurs one is in bed or thinking you need to be !
I’ve already covered off what happened chez Arlaud day 4 morning in day 3’s ‘war and peace’ (Bill’s words not mine but was good of him not to edit – he probably didn’t have time / could not be a…d !). The related photos to what follows have already also been posted by Bill so what follows is just a ‘little’ supporting text. The real ‘fun’ action of Day 4 came in the afternoon when we sallied off to Vosne (yippee !) and had a ‘negoce’ afternoon similar to that as occurred in 2013 for the first time when Cyprien Arlaud deployed his newish negoce licence in full on intent. The afternoon’s exertions this year, and boy where they initially (exertions !), began at a Vougeot side roadside plot of Vosne Village (close by where David Clark had his Vosne Village before he sadly sold up – if you are reading this David hope you are good – you are thought of often, especially at the mo). The Vosne roadside vines produced grapes that were shockers with rot in 2013 but this year they are light years improved such its hard to believe they are from the same plot – there is some rot this year but in context nominal I’d say, and as everywhere you go it seems, you have these big butch bunches of grapes filling buckets and porteur’s cases in no time. It was ferociously hot again here and to say your’s truly was perspiring freely is really a gross misuse of ‘freely’ ! Several times on this vendange I’ve had very naughty fantasising thoughts what I might do for several cold lagers – just wait until I get home !
We moved on from the first roadside plot the short distance to ‘the other’ Vosne Village plot (that is besides Aux Reas – more of that another day) which is a block with its lower edge to the road, one of its longer sides to the tree lined avenue (where the war memorial is) leading into Vosne itself. The plot goes about half way up the distance to the village from the road. Good grief it was hot still. We beavered away, bit more rot here, but I was coupering well (one seems to have definite good and bad days) and finished my first allocated row in snappy fashion before the majority of the main gang (a rare event for this not getting any younger 57 yr old) . Herve moved me to another row over to the outside which brought me close up to my bete noir ! This is one Xavier (surname unknown). This, and I’m sorry but this is all true, unprepossessing skinny young male is not an attractive specimen in any way, and dresses and behaves as he looks. How about wearing the same grubby polo shirt, disgusting looking ‘fashion’ shorts, and scruffy trainers every day ??? One might think, ‘well, he probably washes them all overnight’ – I don’t think so !!! He and his ‘friends’, there are a gang of about 4 of them, endeared themselves to me on the first lunch when in our dining refectoire (the old US Army field hospital building) they grabbed the best seats on table 1, closest to the food (!), the table traditionally every year the preserve of the older, regular, team members and Herve as le boss. It soon became apparent why they had plonked themselves down where they had as, after demolishing their first helpings with a total lack of anything akin to table manners, they had the damn cheek (well, I thought it was, never having seen this in 5 years) to go back for seconds !!! And probably would have had thirds if they felt they could get away with it. Let me say there’s no way I’d want seconds so no envy etc there – I’ve stopped having cheese and dessert & limited my lunch wine intake so as not to adversely affect afternoon vineyard performance ! I was only also amazed the incredibly nice Beatrice, normal role the Arlaud office lady – for this vendange in charge of lunch dishing up/clearing up afterwards – let the ‘tribe’ have seconds but she did although she later mentioned to me another day she was fully aware of what was going on and in control !
Back to the incredible Xavier at Vosne. I’d already decided previously another day, that whilst we can’t all be blessed, and humbly admitting I wasn’t the quickest once upon a time, that he has to be the worst and most devious couper I’ve had the misfortune to come across in 7 years. On, I think, day 2 having doubtless recognised his cutting limitations (or lack of desire for anything akin to graft) he tried his hand at being a porteur . How that had come about amazed me at the time as cut out to be a porteur Xavier clearly was not – suffice to say that didn’t last long, thank god ! Anyway, back to Xavier at Vosne, and cutting a long story short, I could not believe what I was seeing. Kid you all not, he must have taken c10 minutes phaffing about with one vine, some of that time taken up by being ducked below it, doubtless to avoid being seen ! How, through the vendange, Herve didn’t sack this guy was totally beyond me but that afternoon in Vosne just left me seething at what the lazy so and so was getting away with – as ultimately we all end up doing what he should.
Badly needed, well earned rest required and much slopping of water drinks at the end of the Village exertions before the routine cry of ‘en vehicule’. Off we went up into and through the streets of Vosne, weaving left from the centre place, and around other domaines vehicles and equipment in the narrow back streets, up past ‘La Grande Rue’ on our left (brought back sad thoughts of the unfortunate/untimely death of M Lamarche in the last year), ‘Romanee-Conti’ and ‘La Romanee’ on our right, to a spot now high up on the road near ‘Aux Reignots’ where we disembarked and grabbed buckets and secateurs to the superbly located and, for me, endlessly fascinating Vosne 1er cru ‘Les Petits Monts’.
The vines from which Arlaud buy the grapes here are on the far side and top part of the plot and, unlike most others, are trained across slope rather than more conventional up and down. The rows are tight together, and with a steepish slope, one needs to keep an eye one’s bucket is level and have a secure footing – for the latter I found to wedge one foot against the base of a vine behind you, with the other foot upslope just under the vines being picked gave a secure ‘platform’. We were doubled up two to a row leapfrogging each other and soon seemed to have completed the the cut. The ground was dry underfoot and, yes, the grapes looked fantastic, rot free, and so was the quantity such that we were struggling for cases/porteurs to take the amount we were pulling off the vines. Amazing compared to 2013 when nothing like the quantity and some indifferent quality. Happy days ! Just a bit of time to admire the incredible vistas of Vosne below, and up and down the Cote – amazing on a clear day – and snap a few photos. No sign this year of my smiley photo subject of 2013, Henri Audiffred, who’s premises though I had noted as we entered Vosne. At this stage it was well on into the afternoon hence I just assumed we’d have a restful drive back to Morey, possibly cut some village or Bourgogne and that would be ‘it’ for the day. Err, not quite, I’d forgotten something ! My excuse here is that I’d not been involved in the plot in question in 2013 as then we’d been split and I’d ‘done’ Bonnes-Mares. From Petit-Monts we dropped back downhill then took the road north between Romanee-Conti & Romanee St-Vivant, past a very well (i.e expensively !) dressed mature lady getting back into her expensive looking Mercedes-Benz estate (she did not look like a tourist albeit I didn’t recognise her !), then onward past Les Richebourgs to the left, RSV part two to the right, before a slight right hand ‘dogleg’ through Vosne ‘1er ‘Les Suchots’, pulling up at somewhere entirely new to me ! Puzzled, above me was a sort of Combe. Where was this ?!?! Question asked – doh, Echezeaux GC Les Treux !!! I’d forgotten all about this ! Wow, my first ever work in a V-R related GC. And what vines, goodness me did these look old – turned out average age c70 years old – tres vieilles vignes ??? Bill’s already published a grapes on vine photo – entirely representative – gawd, I want some of the wine from here when its released (if I can afford it !!!). An amazing end to a varied, interesting, exciting in parts, and hard working day – maybe not quite at the wow factor of Day 3 but not far from it and, together, just the best two collective days without a doubt of my seven years vendange experience. Not all vendange work can be so amaze balls (no protests, this is a proper phrase included in the Oxford English Dictionary I’ve been dying to use for ages although not suited to my usual banking day job !) as I’ll outline in coming days but I’ll take what we’ve done so far as some sort of experience to live long in the memory.