Arlaud Vendange Day Three – 5th Sept 2018.
Day three dawned bright & sunny again, or it did when the sun came up ! My days actually start in pitch darkness at around 5.30 – 6.00 a.m illuminated only by the outside yard light(s). In deference to the other two companions of my room, one of whom will moan/grumble at the slightest aspect, I get up and post any shower/wash will dress etc using the torch of my mobile phone and taking clothes etc onto the exterior landing outside the room. A degree of prior night pre-planning is a major plus re everything I want for the next morning and placing so easily comes to hand. Once dressed & ready, collecting knee pads, gloves, water bottles, camera etc breakfast for me is a cereal cum fruit cum chocolate breakfast bar with the black coffee. I don’t have the appetite for the elaborate large piece of baguette smeared with chunks of butter, confiture(s) and/or cheese. Quite how some of my companions put this stuff away, especially now we have casse croute later, is quite impressive & beyond me ! The other longstanding habit of the others is to drink their coffee from a bowl with milk added, seemingly so they dip their baguette creation in the milky coffee – presumably for softening purposes.
And so to our first ‘appointment’ of the day, not too far to travel (we never seem to go far first thing, any distances seem to be ‘saved’ for after lunch), to Chambolle 1er cru Sentiers. This completes our ‘sweep’ of the three Arlaud premier crus and will be our last visit to Chambolle terroirs this harvest. Always very hard for me to work out just where Sentiers ends and Morey 1er Ruchots begins. We came to Sentiers via part way down the road down from the village to the RN74 but turning right into the street where Dujac are located, then out into the vines and round a couple of large edge of village properties surrounded by a wall which continues past Roumier’s Clos de la Bussieres. I mention the above as coming to Dujac, who’s vendange (starting before I arrived on the Cote) has concluded, and as we approached the property, a white Toyota Prius with Jacques Seysses at the wheel was reversing out into the street and despite Herve Arlaud sounding our van horn long & hard, the Toyota initially seemed to continue for a near miss.
Setting to in Sentiers the grapes were looking as good as usual so far although, having seen a few sites now, I’m coming to the conclusion that volumes, whilst ok, aren’t just what they have been in better past years (subsequently confirmed to me by Cyprien who describes this year volume was as like 2014 & perhaps average). I’m not seeing, in my rows anyway, the number of very large, pendulous grape bunches I’ve seen in past years – the largest, most productive vines I’ll come to in a later note (as well as the most difficult vines to deal with – not the same ones). Whilst head down in my row I heard a lot of hilarity and shouted stuff backwards & forwards between individuals. Looking up this related to much banter between Herve Arlaud and, making another appearance, David Duband who was with two of his guys several rows away nearer to the village.
Finishing Sentiers we just ‘shuffled’ along below the wall with road to Chambolle above to Ruchots for our first ‘pass’ here back down to Clos de la Bussieres. Some pretty nice grapes here (Ruchots), good to see from a terroir who’s resultant wines are firmly one of my favourites, year in year out. Quite longish rows here hence can be quite tiring unless doubled up. Critically adjudging/ benchmarking my own cutting performance so far I’d say I’m doing ok, not quite up there with the first division speed merchants (mostly ladies), but not far behind and much quicker with accuracy than others – good !
After the first row we ‘broke’ for the now established break by the Clos de la Bussieres wall. Roumier’s team were also having a break here just inside the wall of the Clos but no sign of the boss. Break time here saw an irritating ‘incident’ of a type I’ve come across in past year but not for a while. This (and I’m not bothered at all if she subsequently read this – but doubt she will) involved Estelle, a masculine looking Belgian’lady’. She’s a staying resident in the house by the gate but chose this break to start ‘having a go’ to the other vendangeurs around her/me as to Herve’s instructions over the yard exterior light and whether it should be on/off at night. On my first night (the Sunday of arrival) Herve had asked me to attend to various ‘housekeeping’ aspects for the night, doubtless as he knew I would know the ‘necessary’ – I did. Such involved making sure the outer gates to the property were locked, the inner gates closed but not locked, the hot water was turned off, and – he was quite clear to me here – the yard light be turned off. Anyway Madame Estelle had made an issue the second night to me, whilst I’d been passing her sat on steps having a fag, that henceforth the light be left on, implying I’d been wrong to turn it off the night before. I’d simply shrugged and indicated I’d done as told but doubtless with many more folk now in residence it did not surprise me Herve might now wish the light to stay on. She chose the Ruchots break to sound forth to those around her as to my implied ‘incompetence’ re the light and also seemed to imply this related to my being English. Fair to say this did NOT impress me one jot hence I responded with some anger and icy disdain, in short making clear what I thought of her & her troublemaking pot stirring, before walking off back to my row. An unpleasant individual who I’d ‘cross swords’ with some days later when, for some reason, ludicrously she was given a short stint as a porteur & needed to be put in her place as to trying to bully the picker.
Ruchots concluded without more ado up to lunch, some more impressive fruit evident in my row on the second pass. The high temperatures and degree of humidity continued to prompt significant perspiring ! By now the bucket washing gang had settled into a fine routine, making ‘light’ & efficient work of cleaning up to c40 buckets. One of my colleagues here questioned why on earth Arlaud had chosen to buy all white buckets. I laughed, responding maybe they got a discount, but also pointed out the colour at least showed all the dirt, marks etc & as such made thorough cleaning ‘easier’.
Nice lunch here today. Quality pieces of pork in nice sauce with sweet potato. Pretty yum !
Post lunch a very short move to Morey 1er Millandes, even closer to our old domaine buildings than Clos de la Roche. Start point was the roadside just past Odoul Coquard’s premises. We’d passed the latter a few times so far and I’d been surprised to see no activity and all quiet. I’d asked Herve as we drove past previously if OC had finished their vendange (a la Dujac, Lambrays etc) but he’d startled me considerably by advising they hadn’t yet started. I’d been finding ‘our’ grapes as very clearly ripe so to find a domaine quite similar to our’s as not commenced was a surprise. I like Millandes, as I do Blanchards, as the vine training, fruit set and fruit presentation without too much leafage all lend to ‘clean’ picking. Can’t recall now but believe we may have had two passes here.
From Millandes to one of my absolute faves, the always to me totally uplifting Clos St Denis (CSD). Since we started going to Vosne Petit-Monts (details of that in 2018 to come shortly) CSD has had a competitor for the ultimate place in my heart/head but I still feel CSD ‘is the one’. I suppose the wines might be an influence for now as I’ve been lucky enough to drink a few CSD’s in my time, and own some more, but whilst I’ve been buying the Vosne more pro-actively in recent years I cannot actually recall having drunk a bottle (be it mine or that of AN Other). CSD maybe looks pretty ‘ordinary’ and/or much like any other vineyard/terroir from the bottom edge road but for me it becomes special with the altitude as one ascends the plot & becomes just a magical, gorgeous place when one reaches the top of Arlaud’s plot. The vista is stunning either side and across the plain below. It always seem so eerily quiet. That one is standing in one of the great Grand Crus, and might be about to pick/cut these special grapes adds to the aura. I’ve joked in recent times, but have been semi-serious, that I might ask for my ashes to be scattered in CSD but maybe that might be a problem biodynamically ! Anyway, no time for musing, the afternoon was pushing on, as hot as ever, will it ever cool, and we had to start heading down to meet the rest of the gang working their way up. Real mix of grapes here as always, some nice supa clean bunches, no mega large one’s, but also (as is also a feature of Bonnes-Mares, CdlR & Gevrey Combottes) those thin, spindly, millerandage berries. I think we just about won the race to cover the most ground but we were heading down hill rather than climbing.
Another weary, if satisfying, end of the day with not far back to base at all and just the usual cleaning before the now regular biere at our very local bar – what an inspired idea that has been (must find out who’s claiming the credit) – every domaine harvest team should have one (their own on tap cold beer supply) !!!
To come in Day 4’s expose a little conundrum:- when is rained off without rain ?
Marko de Morey 11th Sept 2018