- The Lafarge method of hand destemming:
This morning Domaine Lafarge – that’s Michel (‘Lafarge Senior’ who made his first harvest in 1950) Frederic (whose first harvest was in 1979), Frederic’s wife Chantal Lafarge and their daughter Clothilde – harvested the grapes of their Volnay 1er Cru and monopole Clos du Château des Ducs.
It wasn’t just their normal harvest – that will happen over the next days, but today they decided to harvest these particular grapes in front of plenty of visitors, with the help of a horse, celebrating their 19th vintage as biodynamic producers. Here was also a fascinating chance to see their hand-destemming of the grapes (above). Michel said his grandfather had done it exactly the same way; ‘so not with whole clustrers?’ was the obvious question – “Well, you have to understand that they rarely got the same ripeness that we have today…” was his response.
Why celebrating their 19th vintage? “Well” Frederic says, “It wasn’t really the best start to any vintage, but it has finished well, we simply couldn’t have had better grapes than we see in the Clos this year, and the yields are correct. We decided that this was something to celebrate” That was reinforced my Michel “The grapes are not ‘almost perfect’ they really are perfect – as you can see and taste – but then it’s the Clos du Château des Ducs!” he said with a shrug. This monopole, shielded by its walls plus the houses of the village (above) did escape the frost, but the Lafarge’s have no magic wand, so it’s a different story in their villages vines on the flat of the land, and also some of their Volnay 1ers, such as Caillerets, lost much of their production. But here, today, was something to be very proud of.
As an aside I asked Frederic where he’d hidden the normal residents of this clos – his chickens: “Ah, they are on holiday” – the beach? I asked “Almost! Auxey-Duresses! You know that each year we have to give them a holiday from the clos, because as soon as the grapes start to change colour, they start to make their own harvest!”
And whilst I had Frederic to hand, I asked about his harvest in Beaujolais: “Oh, I think it looks very promising. We started yesterday with our Côte de Brouilly, but we haven’t yet decided what grapes to do next!”
Many of the great and the good of Volnay came to stand by the Lafarge’s side today, including Francois Duvivier and Guillaume d’Angerville of Domaine Marquis d’Angerville – and Guillaume swept past me so fast on his bicycle in Volnay that I had no chance to raise my camera! – Patrick Landanger and Francois Bitouzet too. d’Angerville will start their vintage tomorrow in Fremiets (and others), whereas Bitouzet-Prieur harvested all of their Taillepieds this morning.
I suspect these bottles of 2016 Clos du Château des Ducs will be perfect mementos, the treasures of a difficult vintage…