Arlaud Vendange Day 9, Tuesday 11th September 2018
Was something of a relief to know Roncevie was finally behind us. I mused to myself over breakfast, and pre-departure, what we might have left (that I could think of), and as a result where we might be bound. A quick digressing word on the sunrises in this part of the world and, additionally, the night sky. With every morning thus far this vendange a largely clear one we had had some spectacular sunrises with the sky orange before the golden sun comes up over the far horizon. From our village yard premises the sun comes up over M.Raphet’s vegetable patch which, bless him, he attends to assiduously every day (even Sundays), coming from Gevrey in his little white van, always in shorts, and absolutely always with his flat cap on his head – I’ve never seen it off, only sometimes pushed back whilst he scratches his head for comfort or to ponder something. He’s a fantastic man for his age. One morning near the end of the vendange, maybe one after this one, there was some broken white cloud initially which saw a spectacular initial sky with the cloud shot through with orange colours. At night, every one I could recall also clear, and with little or no light pollution away from the likes of Dijon, the night sky and star formations are utterly fascinating with the latter standing out sharply. I’m no astronomer cum star gazer to my chagrin otherwise I’d be happily identifying formations – is one a saucepan ?
Departure, for us in our van at least, saw an unusual change to the norm in that Cyprien (not normally seen first thing, other than on opening vendange mornings, as he usually goes direct from home to the cuverie) jumped into the Mercedes driver’s seat to surprise myself and J-P Feral as the other regular front bench seat occupants. As we left Morey I grinned and suggested to Cyprien maybe a role reversal with father, Herve, which he smiled and acknowledged as correct with a nod. I didn’t probe further as to why but curiously we didn’t see Herve again until later that morning – maybe simply he just had something else on. Quite quickly it was apparent our destination and starting terroir was the RN74 roadside Vosne Village (negoce) plot a little along from the southern corner wall of Clos Vougeot and adjacent to what had been ex-vigneron, David Clark’s, Vosne vines. I’d love to know what David C is up to now since selling his domaine (to Yann Charlopin, son of Philip) – David, per chance you might read this please get in touch, sir !
It’s a little tricky to get the vehicles off the road here & with traffic whizzing past. I always wonder about any unseen impact of road fumes, detritus etc on the vines/grapes. Quite nice looking fruit again from these vines, and with dry ground under foot another plus, as this soil can be quite soggy when damp/wet. Fairly straightforward easy picking, the only stand out for me quite large bunches of white grapes from two or three vines – we take these as well, they aren’t dropped. I swear, see photo one vine had both ‘black’ and white grapes on the one vine which I’ve never seen before but maybe it was two vines and I didn’t look closely enough. I really must ask Cyprien or Herve what grape variety this white fruit is. The ‘agent’, a small black bearded man, of the vines owner turned up as usual to oversee matters and doubtless record the number of cases. We said a cheery ‘hello’ to each other as from 2013 he’s got to know this strange Englishman in the Arlaud team. Last year I discovered who is the owner of the Echezeaux, Petit-Monts and Vosne vines but am not at liberty to confirm whom this ‘big cheese’ in the Burgundy hierarchy is as I’m sure my days at Arlaud would be over if I divulged – so my lips & ’pen’ are ‘sealed’.
A small, break-away, group had split from us at the outset leaving Morey. They’d gone further on south, led by Damian, and tackled a few rows of vines from the roadside just as the road goes out of Vosne, rising uphill, after the houses and a restaurant – terroir known as Au-dessus de la Riviere, the rows going up and over the hill towards Aux Reas. I’d picked here in previous years, and the rows aren’t short, so wasn’t fussed at not going there. From our first plot we moved on to another which is bordered on one edge by the RN74 and on another by the Avenue du Monument leading into the village, with the premises of Domaine Robert Sirugue the first buildings one comes to at the top right of the Avenue. I’ve always liked this second plot and in previous years have twice managed to be first to finish my row here – no mean feat for an old man 😊 though I say it myself. However, my favoured location for speed is the outside row on the Avenue side, which has a number of gaps in the vines (all the rows do to some extent with re-planting but the outside has more). I tried to be first to get ‘my row’ but Speedy Gonzalez picker (bless her, she is quick), shy but sweet local lady Laetitia, an experienced vendangeur, was directed to it before I could get there with my ending up 5/6 rows in from the Avenue. I wasn’t feeling at my fastest either, it was getting too hot, but managed to finish my less favoured row respectably, maybe in the top 8 finishers, thereafter assisting two or three others to complete before we all ‘broke’ for casse croute, water and/or coffee, with Herve now having made a re-appearance, Cyprien disappearing, doubtless back to the cuverie. Post break we managed another pass of the vines then embarked the vehicles to move through Vosne to Aux Reas (maybe, looking at the map now, including Les Jacquines) with views to the west to a patchwork of vines along the rising slopes which must be NSG village and premier cru, & to the NW, Vosne terroirs. These other vineyards looked quite ‘busy’ judging from distance at the number of small groups of ubiquitous white vans and other vehicIes dotted about. I’m not sure what the area of negoce vines is here (Aux Reas) but it seems sizeable with longish rows. Good fruit again and very dry, dusty, ground underfoot. Completion here took us thankfully to lunch which I was glad came when it did as I really was feeling tired now and very hot. I was feeling every bit of 8.5 days graft, and the heat, being as far from frisky as some of the youngsters. I can imagine lots of folk might have romantic notions of the grape harvest, and working it, BUT I would caution consideration of ‘reality’. Basically, its agricultural labour, and its tough (and/or can be ‘worse’ than that). Long hours, all weathers (sunny & dry this year throughout but too hot !), lots of bending, getting up and down (hard on the knees), danger of self-inflicted cuts, dirt, sticky juice, potentially annoying colleagues etc etc. But, equally, lots of balancing positives, for me anyway, e.g being close to/at the start of the winemaking process, being ‘in’ the Burgundy vineyards (including Grand Cru one’s here), camaraderie, being paid for something one might really want/love to do, fed/watered/ accommodated, being in the open air (when its not raining !), variety of terroirs and, overall, the experience not ‘that many’ might have the opportunity for. There are issues coming to the fore with the historic manual picking but I’ll address those in a later piece.
Our afternoon was somewhat different to the Vosne ‘experience’. By now, Thursday, 13th September 2018, Day 11, was being openly discussed as being our final day. I reckoned we had the Hautes-Cotes to do (probably a full day) and then probably finishing off local ‘stuff’ e.g Arlaud have a polt of Gamay we hadn’t yet been to and I could picture some Bourgogne Rouge we hadn’t yet visited. So, end in ‘sight’ to a degree. Meanwhile this afternoon started with us leaving the village towards the main road cross roads traffic lights, crossing over and moving east of the mix of commercial and private properties ‘below the road’, then turning north along what I think is a road known as Chemin des Aires to a site (some way below Morey Les Crais) next to what I call a ‘grand maison’, a large private house with extensive grounds, wall etc which is the last before/bordering the vines. A quite impressive large, new build home was in course of construction opposite the ‘grand maison’. En route I was stunned to see what must be the relatively new (very new Bill ?) cuverie and premises of Domaine Raphet. This looked very impressive indeed, quite a sizeable building indeed, quite a bit of glass and large ‘Raphet’ lettering. Anyway, we pulled into our Bourgogne Rouge plot, adjacent to cut wood piles, the vehicles on open grass, and got ‘stuck in’. There aren’t that many rows here and we were enough in number to be spaced out 3 of us to each row. The modus operandii when doubling, or here, tripling up, is for the director (Climent in this case) to direct his individual workers to start specific rows, and then add another picker/pickers to that row, with the additional person(s) normally being directed to start either circa half way along or more commonly one, or a few, piquets (posts carrying the wires) along. As picking proceeds the individuals, completing their ‘section’ of vines in the row, will then ‘leapfrog’ their fellow row companions and go to (re-start at) the next piquet and so on/so forth until the end of the row is reached. With 3 per row here we moved quite quickly. This particular plot is, or can be, very low yielding and is another which can be susceptible to rain/wet but again was as dry as I’ve ever seen. The yields were ‘ok’, not pitiful as I have seen here, but not mega either. Quite a bit of millerandage grapes as well, another feature here.
We then moved across/south of Morey, still on the railway side of the RN74, to more Bourgogne Rouge which I couldn’t recollect having been too previously. The vines here are almost below Chambolle looking upslope, and must be nearly in the commune of Gilly-les-Citeaux. The rows here were long, going quite some way towards the railway line, if not to it, such that passing trains were very noticeable (freight and passenger). The line between Dijon – Beaune seems a very busy one with trains at quite frequent intervals. Nothing remarkable about this latest BR. I did wonder if the grapes go into the ‘& Arlaud’ Bourgogne ‘Oka’ and if, maybe, these aren’t domaine owned wines but maybe negoce. I can imagine these vines more than probably were badly frosted in 2016 as, if the Chambolle premier crus suffered (and did they – we didn’t go to them that year), then these very low lying vines would have had ‘no chance’.
A bit bizarrely after the above we went back again to the other side of Morey (quite why we hadn’t stayed that way from the first plot after lunch I’m not sure), still ‘below’ the main road and about 15.15 had a rest break then, looking up almost directly to Morey in the distance, tackled more Bourgogne Rouge for the rest of the afternoon until cessation of proceedings. Here, one of my photos, for amusement of us both when I took it, is of a very tall individual, bare chested on this occasion, being one of the first time at Arlaud two guys from Belfort, France – lodging, who shared the room behind mine with a youngster. I never knew the name of this chap but called him Monsieur Belfort & we got ‘on’ from the outset. He had some English which always helps ! He was clearly into the (muscular) ‘body beautiful’, or rather sculpted, and I think is probably a gym/weights fiend. I’m sure he was mixing/taking what were probably body building supplements at breakfast time. Build wise he was ideal as a porteur, incredibly so, as strong, very tall, with long legs. In fact, the way he got from one row of vines into the next, with incredible ease, flipping one leading leg over first like a mega hurdler was like nothing I’d seen before. Another of his occasional ‘party pieces’ was to very athletically indeed actually run, yes run (or at least jog), up and down the rows to/from the truck with fruit case on it’s carrying frame on his back, either full or empty. Quite amazing, especially in the heat we experienced. M.Belfort was an excellent porter. Not only was he quick, but he was sympathique/understanding of picking (his friend) did this, and endeared himself to me by doing leaf stripping in the row he was stood in of his own volition (rare for a porteur, trust me) whilst awaiting suitable moments to empty ‘his’ pickers buckets. Belfort was also remarkable for another facet – his music Soundbox, Beatbox, or whatever one calls a music speaker box. I’m not sure if he had music recorded on this device, or connected to it from his phone via Bluetooth, but I think he first carried the thing in Morey Ruchots. The battery life didn’t seem outstanding so the music broadcasts were somewhat infrequent (unless he couldn’t be bothered carrying it all the time) but when the music was playing/broadcast it was quite something. His music tastes were a bit eclectic but he certainly liked punk, but lots of forms of punk – he did tell me his favourite punk genre (up to this I’d no idea there were so many). However, he also liked heavy rock, and notably, Led Zeppelin. I gained a vast amount of ‘brownie points’ with him when I conversationally mentioned I’d seen Led Zep live in concert 3 or 4 times – he hasn’t, more’s the pity for him. The stand out songs I remember from his device were ‘Anarchy in the UK’ by The Sex Pistols and ‘Dazed & Confused’ by Led Zep (played many times) plus other Zeppelin tracks. There was one hilarious moment, if faintly ridiculous on my part but hey, when both Belfort and I broke from what we were doing to have a brief air guitar session dans les vignes to the particular amusement of those around us. I only saw him go bare chested the once, this day, doubtless a sign of the unrelenting heat, but I ‘snapped’ him and jokingly advised he’d be appearing on the internet and should possibly be ready to be inundated from female admirers. He was horrified, or tried to be, I don’t believe he was really !
So that was ‘it’ from Day 9. The next day we’d saunter up to the Hautes-Cotes & be there all day – more on that to come.
To close, a ‘footnote’. If anyone reading my random nonsense is keen on understanding some/all of the terroirs, locations etc then, other than internet maps, I reckon I can do no better than to mention a book which is certainly well used by me (I took it to the vendange with me and it’s a heavy beast), probably my most used Burgundy reference work, and I believe might also be a ‘bible’ for Bill as well. My version, the original, in French, is entitled ‘Climats et Lieux Dits des Grand Vignobles de Bourgogne, Atlas et Histoire des Noms de Lieux’, authors Marie-Helene Landrieu-Lussigny and Sylvain Pitiot (latter of Clos de Tart ‘fame’). An English version now exists and I would acquire one for myself and a friend from Beaune’s Athenaeum shop before returning to the UK. A superb book with excellent maps, not cheap but worth it for me. Disclaimer:- I’m just an owner/user with no connection to authors or publishers. I guess other books are available.
Marko de Morey 26th/27th September 2018