Arlaud Vendange Day Six – Saturday, 8th Sept 2018
A largely Gevrey day here (excluding the already done first day Combottes).
Morning started a little chilly with our return to finish Morey’s Aux Cheseaux from the previous evening. Our team numbers were enhanced by weekend availability which, for me, happily included my good Japanese friend from 2017, Ako, and husband, Arnaud (Lippe), who’s a top bloke and ‘petrol head’. Arnaud’s aunt, also a Lippe, has a small domaine in Brochon which I believe she has only taken on in the last few years (two ?) but does not yet commercialise any wines, just selling either grapes or juice (can’t recall which). I was much amused to see Ako was wearing the same pair of black rubber gloves I’d given her in 2017, then taking pity on her lack of protection. Ako & Arnaud had not been able to extract themselves from their ‘day jobs’ this year to work other than the weekend but told me they were keen to participate, not least as they are buying a new Dijon apartment in the coming weeks, for which vendange wages would be useful for decorating materials etc.
Starting Aux Cheseaux, curiously, seemingly as no more than a coincidence, Climent allocated me the same row as I’d been in before and as one of the outside one’s it was a little shorter than those in the main block. No doubling up here so plenty to go at. I was well used now to what I was seeing grapes wise, very clean for the most part, easy for the triagers, and volume ok, if not at 2017 levels. Can’t recall if I’ve mentioned previously but later in the vendange in conversation with a relaxed & wholly unstressed Cyprien he told me he was seeing this vintage thus far as comparable with 2014’s. I’ve also accidentally found one of his weaknesses – fruit drop sweets !!! When talking to him I proffered a sweet from a few in my pocket (originally from a bag in the car bought for the long drive, along with a bag of wine gums). Cyp took the sweet with alacrity such that an amused me dug in my pocket and put the rest on his desk. I suggested maybe share with his children then quickly corrected myself, suggesting sweets not a good idea for young teeth – parentally he agreed ! Back to the subject of Aux Cheseaux, the previous evening, initially over our post day beers, and then over the evening meal, I’d listened to much chatter, without fully being able to grasp/participate, relating to Aux Cheseaux & Echezeaux which my colleagues seemed to be confused over ! Ultimately, clarity and an end to the debates, was provided by Herve Arlaud. Not everyone amongst us knows their terroirs ! Its interesting to what extent, or little extent, the French and my co-workers, know their wines but, bless them, most if not all of us can’t afford the prices of the wines we are contributing to. The terroir which does seem to invoke the most awe/respect is always Bonnes-Mares – quite why I’m not sure/have never yet asked why that might be. I also encountered some more healthy bunches of ‘white’ grapes in my second cut of Aux Cheseaux.
Finishing my row I helped out with completing two to three more rows such that we eventually wrapped up Aux Cheseaux before circa 10.00 a.m. and moved to a plot of Gevrey Village known, checking my maps, (Mike Lange pls note 😉) as Les Seuvrées which lies just below the RN74, and between Arlaud’s Morey (Village) En Seuvrey and Roncevie. We had the usual break here before tackling the Gevrey, no fruit photos taken, which took us ‘neatly’ up to lunch.
Post lunch a convoy journey to Gevrey itself for the other contributor (see domaine website) to Arlaud’s Gevrey Village cuvee, La Justice. The entry to this site always amuses me as incongruous, to me anyway. Take the Avenue de la Gare from the RN74 traffic lights past Domaine Marc Roy and Domaine Phillipe Rossignol until taking a left into the grounds of two apartment blocks near the premises of Agir Technologies SA, skirt around the furthest back apartment block, and onto a track right in the vines. This was, doubtless due to the long, hot, summer a La Justice as I could not recall seeing in my previous 8 years coming here. It’s a site which can often have soft ground or, when its (been) raining, can be very muddy/boggy indeed. Leaf growth here has always been a feature and large, pendulous, bunches the norm. I can recall historic prodigious fruit such that one’s bucket can be filled almost with the ‘output’ of one vine. None of this was apparent this year though, quite the contrary, and ultimately if one site reflected the summer and the baking hot sun on the day then La Justice. The ground was dry and dusty like I’d not seen here before. Whilst the majority of the vines had reasonable foliage there were any number, in my row at least, that had leaves that were distinctly crispy and frazzled, a few vines with hardly any leaves at all and shrivelled, burnt, grapes. There was absolutely no need for the serious leaf stripping per vine to get at the fruit and I didn’t see what I was looking at as a result of the domaine’s June leaf stripping. Anyway, I was selected in a group to go, in our individual rows, halfway across the vineyard and start there. Suited me and as a bonus I had Monsieur Belfort as my preferred porteur. We will come to his music dans les vignes in another day’s output ! It was hot !! I was ‘perspiring’ freely, sweat running into my eyes, down my nose and dripping off other parts of my head such that if I shook my head it was almost akin to a dog shaking itself coming out of water. Battling on, we (the halfway across starters) were ‘caught’ before we completed our rows by the rest of the gang who’d started behind us – I guess they’d doubled up and finished what they had done before us as we hadn’t ‘hung about’, far from it. The full team soon saw the remaining parts of rows completed although I went back to help Maxime some way behind who seemed to have been abandoned.
The exit from La Justice for us is from the side we finish on, from a vineyard track onto the Chemin du Saule, then past the Mazoyeres Plant Hire company premises, back to the RN74 via a roundabout. Our vehicles are moved across to the far side of the vineyard to be waiting for us when we finish. A badly needed water and rest break was taken by the deserted gated/wire fenced premises of the Cote D’Or Services Techniques Departementaux with impressive radio mast before we embarked en vehicule for our final destination of the day.
That destination turned out to be our first of several visits to come to Roncevie. I was glad we only had part of the afternoon left as 5 ha of Roncevie can be, and is, a real hard slog (for me anyway). Don’t get me wrong – I 100% agree with Mike de L from his response to my Day 5 ramblings on the quality and affordability of Arlaud’s Bourgogne Roncevie, have bought & enjoyed it for years and don’t disrespect the Roncevie vines at all but taking up to two days to pick it’s a hard place to be ! We started this year furthest away from the road by the edge of the woods. This section was the one that was very badly frosted indeed during the severe winter weather of 2009/10 with a considerable number of mature vines killed, necessitating much re-planting. The new vines from that re-planting are now, at last, very much into their stride in terms of growth and fruit return. They were a pain in the proverbial to deal with from year 3 on as they hadn’t fully developed and initial fruit was very small and hard to pick. Then there was post frost 2016 which, whilst we made the usual pass through this section, saw a ridiculously sparse fruit ‘return’. I suppose Roncevie isn’t quite the finished wine it was before the 2009/10 devastation but it remains a very tasty Bourgogne indeed & we are only ‘talking’ a part of it, I’d have to guess but maybe one fifth (if that), that was impacted – the rest has all the mature vines it has always had. On our left as we walk down to the edge of the wood to commence picking back up towards the road there’s another area of shrubs, trees, grass, cut & piled timber etc all as a form of island in the ‘sea of vines’. In this area there are a few huts and low buildings, some of which are dog kennels with wire meshed pens. I always feel a bit sorry for the canine occupants here, being generally fond of dogs, as they seem, doubtless deliberately (see below re noise !), to be kept ‘isolated’ far from the village. There are a goodly number of dogs in the several kennels, all of a hunting variety e.g hounds, spaniels, beagles and a terrier or two etc. When they hear & see us I guess they perhaps think they are about to be fed, watered or maybe taken hunting. The cacophony of barking & baying which ensues, particularly from the hound species, is quite something and relentlessly kept up all the while we are there.
On the subject of noise I should, lest I forget, mention more noise which became apparent early on from the start of our vendange and has continued, sporadically, daily and throughout the days from early morning to late afternoon. This noise is gunfire and emanates from the forested areas above and to the side of Monts Luisants and above Combottes/Latricieres/Chambertin. When I first heard the shooting, without then realising the scale of what was to continue, I just assumed some particularly keen chasseurs (hunters) were pursuing their sport. Chatting to some of my colleagues I mentioned my assumption of hunting sangliers (wild boar) but hadn’t bargained for the response. What I was told was that what we were hearing was professional pursuit, not just of wild boar but also wild goats ! Apparently, the goats have developed a liking for the vines and become some sort of real nuisance. The shooting was described as driving them away from the vines – whether this meant shooting to scare/drive them away up and over the hills, or whether it meant killing them I never figured out but the scale of the gunfire over many days was quite something and seemed to be more than just shotguns.
So, the first sortie into Roncevie, took us to ‘close of play’ – we would return ( a few times !). Bucket cleaning was taking an interesting form. The dry ground meant the exterior of the buckets were not requiring ‘serious’ cleaning as when the ground is wet or muddy but what was an issue was the ripeness of the grapes meaning the insides of the buckets were getting very sticky indeed. A sweep with a strong hosepipe jet wasn’t enough but filling each bucket with a modest amount of water was necessary, with that water then to be worked around the bucket sides with a brush before rinsing again with the hose. It was taking 5 of us some time to clean the not inconsequential number of buckets before beer reward.
And so to Day 7, more Roncevie, and an unexpected, in the vines, lunchtime ‘experience’.
Marko de Morey (written 20/9/2018)