Arlaud Vendange Day 2, Sunday 25th Sept 2016
Similar morning start to Saturday, one or two new faces presenting documents, some others from the day before not turned up. New faces included the most extraordinary looking character I think I’ve ever seen vendange time. Turned out to be a girl (I wasn’t sure honestly) with the most inappropriate, (bizarrely) ‘floaty’, ‘outfit’ for a day in the vines and an incredible blonde ‘beehive’ type outfit – a true apparition.
Vines wise this was a totally Aligote flat lands morning experience. We started nearer Morey than Roncevie but beyond that & even nearer to the train lines, passing several lovely looking ‘virgin’ pieces of earth ready for planting with whatever, super looking soil though. The plot we arrived at, vans parked under a very attractive large tree, was not one I could ever recall from my previous years thus I wondered if rented, or maybe machined in past years. Machines are generally an absolute “ No no” for Arlaud as wholly against the much valued certified organic/bio status. The vines were atypically dripping wet from over night but I’d learnt my lesson quickly from Saturday a.m. and wore waterproof over trousers. The sun was rising behind us for an ethereal atmosphere as Herve gave a lecture to the newbies on how to pick Aligote, and the essential need for vandalistic leaf stripping beforehand to reveal the ‘hidden’ fruit for then cutting. Gloves, or a left one in my case, utterly essential. If one ignores a leaf you can guarantee a bunch of grapes behind it. Here I had ‘love himself’, “aren’t I great, fantastic, girls look at me supa cool dude” Thierry as my porteur – conceited idiot. Just stood there, fagging it for the most part, preening himself in his 60’s style, throwback from ‘Grease’, baseball bomber jacket – get a life monsieur. Total opposite of fantastic, rough edged if great bloke, porteur Claude (see later).
Mixed results here, vines clearly frosted badly, and nothing remotely like the weight of fruit Aligote routinely produced in past years. What there was though was nice, much care required to make sure none missed. I rattled up my first row, having always enjoyed picking whites. We moved south a plot or three, passing a bold cock pheasant chancing his ‘luck’, to do our second plot quickly via doubling up to the few rows before moving onto familiar Aligote territory on the Chambolle side of Morey below the RN74. Here, to my utter amazement, we had a coffee break ! Unheard of a la Arlaud but welcome, father in law chef arriving with flasks, biscuits and No 2 Cyprien & Carole daughter, the lively, fun, Jeunesse. Pleasant interlude before we attacked this latest plot of long rows towards the main road. For me this was superb as in my row I had longtime regular porteur, Claude, who was missing Saturday. Claude is a bear of a bloke, but super cheerful, despite surviving a bad illness of some sort which saw him absent a year and losing a load of weight (he had it to then lose !). What rules him apart from ALL the rest of the (mostly lazy in my experience) porteurs is his sympathetic nature to the coupers, manifest whole heartedly in the Aligote, in being prepared to, most efficiently, leaf strip without being asked. This was worth loads to me and, between us, we stormed up the row we were in, ending up way ahead of anyone else – hugely satisfying to me as the anglais outsider. Brilliant.
Resting after lunch, I overheard mention between Herve and Damian, the latter clearly being groomed as 63 yrs old Herve’s in the vines leadership succession (have my personal doubts as, whilst I have no problem with nice guy likeable Damian, having patched up our 2015 differences) I’m not at all sure he has the gravitas or ‘drive’/authority for vineyard team management) of a team split for the afternoon, and Echezeaux. I asked Herve if I could be included for the Echezeaux (Les Treux) team so off we went, just a few of us. Some more activity noted around Vougeot and Vosne which Cyprien had mentioned at lunch (Mugneret-Gibourg and others he mentioned seeing on his parcelled checking travels) but we arrived at our few rows with no activity around us. Some really nice looking grapes here, very nice, but not many of them compared to previous years. Here Damian gave me a lecture (unnecessarily in front of all – singling me out as being English ?) on putting my Bucket under the bunches being snipped to avoid, as if, single grapes hitting the deck. I said nothing, but took tacit support from my porteurs knowing ‘looks’ and brief supporting words après. The owner of these en meteyage vines was present throughout, hovering. We had a brief conversation post picking where he was clearly intrigued/amused at my English vendangeur presence, asking all the usual questions about where in England I am from, how many vendanges I’ve worked, etc etc. We agreed about the positive looking quality but he bemoaned (assume he gets paid by the caisse) the lower than in the past volume (to be the recurring theme of the vendange I wonder ?).
What followed was ridiculously horrible ! Passing two lots of separate gendarmes teams before and after the Vougeot roundabout, stopping drivers for a) speeding and b) drink testing we arrived at a new to me, ‘wrong’ side of the road plot below Chambolle, with Cyprien present ahead of us in his Volvo V50. He confirmed to me this is a constituent of his negoce Bourgogne Oka. But what a farce cum disaster. If one wanted any further evidence of frost effect here it was. Incredible, hardly any grapes at all, really at all, many vines with none. Dishearteningly tedious, soul destroying, under a broiling sun, which left me hardly able to speak so thirsty was I and with no water (go figure) in our accompanying truck as usual. Initially I wondered why pay us to ‘do’ this waste of time plot rather than just machine what little there was but, without asking anyone, it occurred to me later that to machine would be against everything bio/organic which the domaine so values.
We moved on to join the rest of the crew, resting in a break and, thank god, with plenty of carafed water, in Roncevie to jut finish the few rows o/s from Monday. These we knocked off in short order for a c.5p.m. early finish but not before Herve called the team around him below the RN74 to announce Monday would be a no work, rest, day and we’d re-commence Tuesday. Caused some consternation for the locals, the younger one’s particularly. Almost unheard of for me – think we had a rest day (fatigue and forecast bad weather 2014) in 2014, the only other day off I can recall in 7 years.
Went to the cuverie evening, after bucket cleaning & getting changed out of filthy, sticky, attire with a view to despatching early missives to Bill but confess got distracted by catching up on early emails as well as essentially sports results, including my dear to ma coeur Liverpool FC’s 5-1 thrashing of Hull FC, as well as being much amused by waste of space, W Rooney’s long overdue dropping by MUFC’s (aka the Scum) Moaninho – priceless . Lost track of time, partly by laptop’s clock being an unaltered hour behind UK time but finisihed with a pleasant tasting interlude in the cuverie tasting room hosted by vendange stageur, Arthur (?) Salvadori from his family Jura domaine. We had an Iscardi (no vintage labelled) Dolcetto d’Alba (pleasant but not for me) and a much better, hugely interesting and atypically oxidative 2009 Savagnin Cotes du Dura. And so back to the village, evening meal, and very tired early night. Appropriate to mention during the day I learnt the 2016 Roncevie total production was circa only 20% of a ‘normal’ year – terrible but can totally believe on what I’ve seen to date. We’ll see re the premier and GC’s to come.