Day 1 – 6am…
Arlaud Vendange Day One – Mon, 3rd Sept 2018
Actually should have been a post travelling, prelude, day of rest BUT, atypically Arlaud, was a full on day from the outset – read on !
For this, my 9th Arlaud (11th vendange en totale, including my first 2006 Duc de Magenta, Chassagne formative experience & delightful 2009 side track to Dubreuil-Fontaine’s Pernand) I guess the true start is leaving my NW England home for the c670 mile drive, initially to Dover for le bateau sur la Manche, then onwards from Calais to sleepy Morey-St-Denis. Bitter experience of the UK motorway network has taught me night time driving is absolutely the only way to go for sanity, speed etc (allowing for the odd night time partial section of motorway closure) and in recent times I’m indebted to my good friend Dr David Strange for introducing me to the strongest expresso for keeping me in the wide awake club (no other yuk energy drinks here) & fatigue at bay – at least initially. Weather to France was very good, the ferry disembarking me 10 mins early at 9.00 a.m. French time – a good start. Two break stops later at those quieter French autoroute Aires saw me drift into Morey Centre at approx. 15.30. Only downside to the travelling the hot sun beaming on to my side of the car with attendant temperatures. I only occasionally used the aircon to keep at bay, not desirous of hitting the fuel consumption too hard with full on aircon. Temp coming off the ferry was 12 centigrade but had risen to 23 by Morey with blue sky and bits of white cloud. I came to Morey latterly via Gevrey-Chambertin and the Route des Grand Crus. Very little activity indeed noted dans les vignes , in fact almost none, until I came to a vendange team at the Clos de la Roche road side almost into Morey. This was Eric Rousseau’s team. I stopped for a chat. He advised they’d started the day before (Saturday, the 2nd) and he was very happy with the picking results to date i.e grape quality & volume.
So to Morey and the Arlaud property yard. No surprise to see the hired minibuses & vans quietly ready & waiting but did seem more than normal – 2 x ageing, better days, Mercedes Sprinters plus a nearly new looking Renault Traffic and similarly a VW Caravelle TDI. Plus the usual 2 x flat bed double cab trucks for hauling cases to the cuverie. The other notable eye catcher was an amazing ‘structure’ of several washing sinks, all with taps, sat in a heavy weight wooden frame, the whole hooked up to the outside tap we usually see a hose attached to for bucket washing – all would be revealed to the purpose ! Into the refectoire, my/the team’s annual vendange eating, meeting, resting place. Greeting me smilingly two generations of famille Arlaud, pere Herve and Cyprien. After usual pleasantries Cyprien explained there would be c47 vendangeurs, with up to 17 staying en residence – not seen the latter before at that number. He went further, saying his strategy was to complete the harvest as quickly as possible, blitzing it in a few days with lots of folk – hum !!! The outside sink washing set up was aimed at keeping your mucky local harvest workforce from the always less than salubrious permanent washing arrangements (they would be banned from other than the toilets) which would be reserved for us staying over sleepers.
The other quite incredible ‘thing’ in the covered entry to, the itself totally smartened up & reorganised, refectory & which took some taking in was an upright large relatively new looking barrel surrounded by several high back bar style chairs. Across the way against the wall on a table was a beer dispensing pump thing connected to one of several metal barriers on the floor – in essence a fully set ‘pub’/bar d’Arlaud for the post work thirsty vendangeurs. This, whilst a very nice, thoughtful touch – to become well tested by all, including your writer, gobsmacked me in some respects as this is a domaine where, only in the last 2/3 years have we been getting morning coffee and afternoon water breaks (honestly !). Thus to now have the bar/pub was an eye opener in more ways than one. A slightly amusing postscript to this came a few days later when Cyprien smilingly asked me what I thought of the bar. I indicated solid approval but asked if he’d undertaken careful selection of the chosen beer (some kind of lager type)i.e had a beer tasting. He grinned, replying he liked the first one – so chose that. Works for me !
The beer facility did see the end of the post daily vendange historic drinks of wine, white or red, and cassis. In fact, several days in hereafter I have yet to see any vin blanc (aligoté) at lunch or evening meal times. Makes me wonder what has become of the blanc – an absence of the frosted 2016 would be understandable but not the 2017. I’ll ask !
So, I was introduced to my normal, in the past just for myself room, and asked to select a bed from 3 in the front chamber and 4 behind. I went for the corner one in the front with attendant fire place and unused ex-army camp bed adjacent to I could spread myself out with my gear. For now, I was alone but before the day was out would be joined by two guys from Belfort who chose the back chamber of ‘our’ rooms and affable Remy who joined me.
Oh, I’ve forgotten to mention that I’d been advised on arrival we would actually start on the vines the following day notwithstanding all previous advices had been commencement Tues, 4th Sept – NOT the 3rd. We would however be a limited crew of between 15-20.
I did not linger for the evening, having a Beaune evening invitation for wine & pizza so, arming myself with gate keys to get back in, I headed for a very touristy busy Beaune for a pleasant interlude before return to a much needed bed/sleep having been ‘up’ for c 24 hours.
The morning of Monday, 3rd Sept dawned relatively warm & dry. M Raphet’s vegetable patch next door from the Arlaud yard was immaculate as ever as the sun came up. I looked forward to seeing the super gardener, retired, ageing vigneron himself in the coming days. We assembled in limited numbers, good to see many ‘old’, familiar faces who, as ever, greeted me warmly. Some new faces including two new to me this year Japanese, one male, one female, both quickly endearing themselves to me not just as pleasant individuals but needing no ‘encouragement’ to proactively join myself & domaine worker, Cedric, at lunchtime & evening buckets and secateurs cleaning. So, after Cyprien turning up, and calling a bottom of yard ‘team’ meeting (not seen that like before !) for the domaine people & some of the local vendangeurs, rest of us excluded (not worthy obviously 😊), we embarked in two of the vans and with one of the lorries headed for the flatlands just south of the village, railway side, but not ‘that’ far from the road. Here we worked two plots of what I initially took to be aligoté but actually was chardonnay – and nice looking decent quality chard at that. I like picking white grapes but its tricky as smaller bunches can be easily missed with suitable leaf stripping pre cutting a must. I was intrigued by this Chard as I’ve never seen it commercialised in my now nine years at the domaine, the only Chard I’m happily familiar with, as grapes or wine, being the past much enjoyed Hautes-Cotes Chardonnay from a site near Arcenant we would no doubt get to in time. I subsequently asked Cyprien about this flatlands Chard, thinking it might go for Cremant but instead he told me it has been kept for family purposes or sometimes sold in bulk.
We moved on from the Chard plots to what was described to me as jeune vignes Gevrey 1er Combottes. This was a head scratcher initially as I knew full well Combottes has the oldest vines of the domaine. I queried with Cyp if they had been doing some particular replanting, not bargaining for his reply:- “No (to the replanting – which is vine by vine as required), but ‘young vines’ covers those up to 25 years old” ! Whatever!
To take us up to lunch we ‘did’ Chambolle 1er Chatelots, one of my favourites, a small hollowed site, suitable for our reduced numbers – in fact we were over endowed with consequent rapid completion of task as normally the likes of Chatelots & Echezeaux are usually tackled by a small, hand picked, break away group (as last year). Not that many rows here & nothing to report other than the grapes looked very good & bunches pretty clean. I was noting how dry everywhere was, doubtless reflecting a similar, maybe warmer, summer than we’d had in the UK. But, whilst the likes of roadside verges, fields etc in the UK have reverted to green such is not the case here, quite the contrary. The vineyard soil was very dry indeed, feet movements to note kicking up dust. No ‘give’ in the ground for/when dropping to one’s knees for the trickier bunches.
As we took the Route des Grand Crus back to Morey almost immediately out of Chambolle we passed a BMW 1 series leading several vans/minibuses etc out of some Chambolle vines. I noted the driver as lovely lady Ghislaine Barthod hence assumed her team might be exiting Veroilles or similar. Oh, sorry, the Chatelots grapes were good. Not massive volume but never is from here for me but what there was looked super ‘clean’, no signs of issues with grapes in my row – easy triage I was thinking – when the hollowed nature of Arlaud’s Chatelots can see problems i.e totally frosted in 2016.
So, to c12.00 lunch and pre-eating the chore of secateurs and bucket cleaning for the committed few, amazing how the other vendangeurs ‘disappear’, can’t recall now what we eat but is always mostly good, although sometimes I might skip the starter or a main if a certain course doesn’t appeal. I did notice for this year that the cheese course has ‘disappeared’, the dessert is ‘just’ fruit, and red wine only – shame 😉.
At the usual post lunch/rest break 13.15 we go again and a nice one – Echezeaux. Only a few rows here but quite long. Without a doubt, for me the best grapes I’ve seen from here, Arlaud looking after the vines from 2013 inclusive and the result a fairly unequivocal advertisement for the biodynamique approach. But, boy was it hot here, to become a theme for me on an ongoing unpleasant daily basis. I’ve worked hot vendanges before, 2015 springs to mind, but I never recalled ‘perspiring’ so freely (dripping like a wet dog at times) as I’m doing this year. Maybe it is humidity, or maybe I’m going through some sort of change (lol), or maybe its some medication I’m on for PMR (promyalgia rheumatica) which started for me Dec 2107. As a non Morey GC Echezeaux is always notably interesting for me. Another domaine was working close by but not close enough to work out who it was. There was plenty of activity in Vougeot and Grands Echezeaux but none that I noted in Musigny or Amoureuses.
After Ech we cruised back to Morey and a first ‘go’ at Charmes-Chambertin, the older vines below a replanted section of Latricieres (Leroy’s ?) . The grape quality and volume here reflected the old vine nature, but again as good as seen in better years. I took one particular photo amongst a few (we’ll see if Bill publishes as he normally limits my inputs to 9 – fair enough) which is a close up of a bunch which suggests a yellow dot in the centre of the grapes. Cyprien was much taken by this photo particularly & I will send to him.
The afternoon/day concluded with something of a slog amongst Chambolle Village vines. Again solid quality/quantity, quite a bit of annoying leaf growth to circumvent. A finish of quiet satisfaction, albeit utter fatigue and being very hot ! The new Arlaud pub came into its own immediatemont, some initial delicious reviving pours being dispatched quickly. So to a shower, texts to home, evening meal all ahead of the official start morning on the 4th with influx of many more vendangeuers.
Marko de Morey (completed 6/9/2018).