Arlaud (Post) Vendange Conclusions, Friday 14th September 2018 – Sunday 16th September 2018
As my Paulee note concluded I slept a sleep of the very tired, up late, ageing vendangeur on Thurs night/Friday morning, shocking myself, as a normally very light sleeper, by only coming ‘to’ circa 7.00 a.m. to find practically all of the lodgers had already roused themselves and dispersed to whatever parts of France they hailed from. The one or two that remained were about to depart. Fairly quickly I found myself with the domaine premises to myself. The coffee machine had been turned off so I grubbed about and found some green tea bags so boiled a saucepan to make strong green tea – not a drink I’m familiar with but quite refreshing. There was plenty of leftover bread and fromage, a little of each sufficing for petit dejeuner. Pre vendange I had undertaken to pursue some wine finding ‘errands’/missions for Burgundy Report reader, arch terroirist and mate, Phil Eaves but codging over my breakfast, in a fatigued state, decided I could accomplish all that was necessary on the Saturday. I also had promised to bring a quantity of wine back to the UK for a long time friend, an associate of Dujac’s Jeremy Seysses from Oxford University days, who has wine cellared at Dujac. That task was also something I figured could be accomplished Saturday by prior contact with JS & calling by arrangement at Dujac (as I’d done similarly in the past 2 or 3 years).
Sprucing myself up for the day ahead, with a shower providing a suitable kick start, I decided to spend the day concentrating on both my diary words for Bill and downloading, resizing and captioning photos for onward email transmission. I spent the first part of the morning on such work alone in the refectory, enjoying the post vendange domaine premises solitude peace & quiet. Late morning I journeyed down to the cuverie, Morey Centre itself peaceful with no signs of activity from other domaines, to use the domaine wi-fi to send my work to Bill, from my usual spot at a bureau desk in the back hallway by the stairs to the cellar. The cuverie itself was a hive of cleanly activity from the permanent guys and packed more than I’d ever seen before by smaller tanks & barriques as well as the usual large tanks around the walls. A tremendously strong winery smell of yeast and fermenting alcohol filled the air. Outside the triage table had been cleaned & dismantled, ready to be packed away for another year and the vehicles (vans, mini buses and trucks) were being deep clean valeted prior to return to the hirers.
Working quietly away, without being aware of the time, I think I noticed quiet had descended beyond my hallway spot but thought little of it, just assuming the team had gone for lunch (which I wasn’t bothered about per se), either upstairs or more likely in the portakabins in the cuverie open space. I was jolted out of my quiet beavering though by Cyprien coming in and telling me to vacate and come to lunch ! Turned out he and Herve, as last to leave, hadn’t been aware of my presence until, leaving themselves, they noticed my car parked on the roadside verge outside the cuverie entrance. The team had gone up to the village for leftovers lunch and refreshment. Jumping into the rear of Cyprien’s Volvo SUV, Herve in the front, we went up to Morey Centre to join the cuverie team and Carole for refectory entrance lunch.
Post lunch immediately back to the cuverie to continue were I’d left off. Two snippets of info from here:- 1) one of the guys who shall remain anonymous had told me Cyprien had been asked to undertake the elevage of two barrels of Hospice de Beaune Mazis-Chambertin from the successful auction purchaser of said barrels – 2017 I assumed although didn’t check annee. Cyprien subsequently confirmed my enquiry in this respect without adding more detail. I assume any prospect of snagging a bottle or two will be remote/nil but intend to follow up on assuming I return in 2019; 2) Cyprien showed me some paperwork he was completing on his computer for the authorities, in this case for Bourgogne Roncevie, the point he was keen for me to see was alcohol level was an ideal 13% by volume which he professed himself, unsurprisingly, very happy with. Throughout the 2018 vendange he’s come across as the epitome of the satisfied & contented vigneron, rather at positive odds with the stressed individual of 2016 I hardly dare talk to.
I wasn’t long at the cuverie post lunch before commencing my Eaves missions with a trip to Vosne-Romanee to pursue two specifics for Phil. Before setting off for Vosne though I agreed with Office Administrator Beatrice that (conscious she does not work Saturdays) I would call back late in the afternoon to collect the Arlaud 2016 wines I’d ordered at the turn of the year, or rather those I’d been allocated. It might surprise, but notwithstanding working for the domaine for 9 years I do not get everything I ask for – not that I ask for a great deal (can’t afford to). For example, the last negoce Echezeaux I obtained was 2013’s, none since. Late in the afternoon was necessary as my order would require one of the domaine guys to ‘finish’ the bottles with labels & capsules then box up. My first Vosne call was to Domaine Gerard Mugneret looking for an NSG 1er cru Boudots which specifically interested Phil. At his office desk, in domaine polo shirt, Monsieur Mugneret was a curious mix of pleasantness and seemingly brusque difficult – but I did, after all, arrive ‘out of the blue’ without appointment – never ideal ! Bottom line was that I was, sort of, brusquely dismissed (although am not sure that was the intention, just the way it came across) with the not unreasonable, particularly for Nuits wines, explanation that difficult 2016 meant there was no wine to sell (inference being no back vintages were available either although I never got to ask that !).
Whilst in the vicinity though I could not resist popping into the Berthaut-Gerbet owned/operated Vosne caveau with resultant ‘hit’ to my credit card as therein I spied, and could not resist at seemingly reasonable (to UK) prices, Domaine Berthaut 2015 Vosne 1er Petit-Monts & Vosne 1er Suchots, 3 bottles of each, the Petit-Monts some €30 per bottle less than I was subsequently to pay for Cyprien’s ‘& Arlaud’ branded negoce 2016 Petit-Monts.
So, the Eaves first quest a failure, I moved around the village en voiture to Domaine Georges Noellat from whom Phil was wanting a Maison Maxime Cheurlin Noellat Beaune 1er Clos de la Mignotte. Looking for somewhere to park took me slowly past the domaine gates. What I saw decided visiting was just out of the question as the yard beyond the gates was almost filled with a triage table around which a considerable number of folk were ‘hard at it’. I simply decided an unannounced visit was out of the question and that this quest was for another day.
So, back to the Arlaud cuverie, for collection of ‘my’ wines (not all for me) & payment. Handily, all the wines were this year in flat pack sixes (Cremants aside) which was to considerably aid my subsequent Sunday morning packing of the car.
Memory fails me re the Friday evening. I may have journeyed one last time to Beaune to meet up with Bill for pizza and wine but am not sure if this wasn’t a previous evening (Weds) or, more likely, if I didn’t just spend Friday working on my laptop, eating leftovers and drinking a bottle of Aligote from my Paulee gift box.
Anyway, Saturday dawned and I was ready for my various other missions. These included:-
- Domaine Philippe Lebault, Dracy les Couches, for a bottle of Maranges 1er Les Loyeres (not Clos des Loyeres)
- Domaine Michelot, Meursault, for a Meursault 1er cru Poruzot
- Domaine Michel Delorme, Santenay, for a Santenay 1er Clos Rousseau Blanc
I’d researched all my visits whilst still in the UK and now further consulted maps etc, Dracy les Couches in particular a ‘new one’ to me, and quite some distance away. I resolved to go this furthest away point (Dracy) and work my way back, mindful also at some point I’d need to contact Jeremy at Dujac and agree a suitably convenient time to call there. Michelot was a particular ‘challenge’ as I’d tried there before in 2017 without success. My route to Dracy took me through Beaune, continuing on the D974 along the ‘classic’ tree lined stretch of road east of Pommard Centre, and on down past L’Hopital de Meursault. For another day I noted the Mikulski premises I’d not seen before, it being quite some time since I’d been on this road. Through Corpeau I continued on the D974bis, skirting Santenay, with the road then running for quite a while alongside a fantastic scenic stretch of canal which was quite enchanting. I’d never been down here before but thought the road and canal spectacular, a super area to live. Through St Gilles, still alongside the canal, I turned off right at Dennevy & headed across country, land rising all the while, through St Maurice-les-Couches, and onto Dracy, avoiding a roadside red squirrel who almost took the wrong decision to avoid the oncoming car. Domaine Lebault I found quite easily in the picturesque, if sleepy, village. Signs of the domaine’s vendange were evident as I asked if I could buy wine, the first lady I saw asking me to wait before another lady arrived to help me who turned out to be the partner of M. Lebault. Buying the required Maranges (3 bottles – I never have the ‘cheek’ to just ask for Phil’s single bottle) I also topped up with the domaine’s top white, a Mercurey Blanc. Great value here, nothing more than €12. In all visit cases I was at pains in initial conversation to make clear I was not looking for degustations of any range of wines because I had no time, knew what I wanted, and equally was conscious this was vendange time and any domaine would be busy enough.
A good start but distance travelled had eaten up time so I quickly headed out of Dracy and towards Santenay on the D1, turning off to Paris L’Hopital, and through some striking, hilly, Maranges vineyards (some harvesting machine activity noted) to the outskirts of Santenay Haut. Mentaal note made I’d like to return and explore those Maranges hills in more detail. Coming into Santenay I got lucky, seeing/taking a sign posted road into Santenay Haut which, as very good fortune would have it, led me directly to my next intended call, Domaine Michel Delorme. This was probably one of the highlights of my whole vendange trip. The street in which the Delorme gate/door was located was extremely narrow (another domaine premises were opposite but can’t now recall the name) but fortunately there was a sort of pull in for Delorme. I’d just made it here with reasonable time before any lunch time. I rang the bell/intercom which produced a cacophony of barking from more than one dog before a very pleasant sounding lady answered. This turned out to be Madame Delorme, owner/proprietor, who’s husband unfortunately died some years ago but she has continued the domaine, bless her. Not unreasonably she was ever so politely reluctant to permit entry without my having an appointment and, with my French as usual limited, the intercom conversation over a few minutes was tricky. I struggled with parts of what she was saying (only subsequently finding out she actually spoke excellent English !) but deduced she was suggesting/insisting I call back in the afternoon. This wasn’t an option for me hence it looked like I was going to have to abandon but chance comment from me that I only wanted to buy 3 bottles (of the Santenay Blanc Clos Rousseau) and wasn’t looking for any degustation literally ‘opened the door’ foro me, Madame obviously having a change of mind & presumably deciding any transaction would be swift. So, in I went to a very pleasant tasting room. I inadvertently ‘got’ on Madame Delorme’s ‘good side’ by seriously admiring a framed woollen cross stitch ‘picture’ of a vendange with various harvesting figures, having some ‘experience’ of cross stitch as my wife used to do this for a few years. Turned out Madame had done this herself so I was in ‘good books’. We briefly chatted about the vendange whilst she gathered and packed the bottles before I paid her and departed with profuse thanks. Lucky ! Madame handed me a tariff list of available wines. This was an eye opener, not least in range, but in the main a) for the incredibly reasonable prices; and b) that decent back vintages were available e.g 2014 whites (the bottles I acquired were 2014 which was a super bonus to prior expectation). I resolved I would return, next time with a prior appointment.
By now it was past 12.00 so any more calls would have to wait until after 14.00 hrs. With Michelot part 2 2018 my next target I left Santenay & headed for Meursault Centre Ville to get some lunch to take into the vines for a pleasant interlude. My route took me past the windmill outside Santenay, past Duc de Magenta & Chassagne Morgeot, then below Chassagne centre, were I noted the superb, work of art, stone cabotte style bus shelter (which Bill has subsequently photographed for Burgundy-Report. Then across the D906, past Montrachet, through the Puligny premier crus, on what I call the ‘high road’ to Meursault, with the Genevrieres hut prominent, before going right and into Meursault past Michelot and other domaines on that road before turning up into the busy sunny town centre, pavement cafes and restaurants well populated. Acquiring a baguette sandwich (poulet & crudites) plus a small tarte au thon, I then crossed to the Casino store for a bag of crisps and bottle of water. Wanting a quiet & picturesque spot I dropped out of the town past the Pierre Morey premises and up into the vines towards the Statue of St Christophe. I’m not quite sure how to describe, or where, I actually ended up but on a bend in the narrow track, after scaring myself dropping a wheel of my car into a road edge pot hole, on a grassed area with trees and shrubs for shade I parked up then walked to a wall on the edge of a plot of vines, looking down on Meursault, to eat my lunch. A glorious spot and lovely day. So tranquil, just faint hum of traffic from the town, only birdsong and breeze in the vines/trees. I reckon I must perhaps have been maybe sat above Les Chevalieres or maybe Les Rougeots but am far from sure. If someone can pick out my location from my photos (the one’s from here, plus one of Genevrieres, the only one’s I took all day as my schedule was so hectic) then I’d be glad to know, thanks. I saw no other human during my break until, getting back in the car, a young lady appeared on foot from the Auxey direction with lively Dalmatian dog & headed uphill.
Back through Meursault to just past Michelot, the car park opposite closed off for some reason, so I parked on the edge of the road/vines deciding I’d allow until circa 14.10 before making a move. I might as well not got out of the car !! Very strange state of affairs chez Michelot – no answer to ringing bell/intercom a couple of times but I was already intrigued by the ‘state’ of the property as every shutter was down & absolutely no sign of life from any buildings/outbuildings or yard. It was as if the domaine had not had any vendange, or as if any occupants had gone away on vacation. Very strange ! I guess famille Michelot could have been out for the day, or maybe just having a serious afternoon siesta but the whole place seemed most odd. Whatever, it was clear I’d failed again here, not for want of ‘trying’ but this one will also have to be for another day, and with an appointment – maybe then ‘3rd time lucky’ !
Michelot was my last call on Phil’s missions – other than acquiring the English edition of the Climats & Lieux-Dits book from Beaune’s ace Athenaeum store which I did on Sunday morning. I’d been successful from 2 of my 5 calls. Ok, but not great. Noellat was never going to happen timing wise and Mugneret was ‘just one of those’. Texting Jeremy S at Dujac to ask what suited him best for my call there I headed back north. I had an idea to call at Armelle & Jean-Michel Molin in Fixin where I’d had a really nice visit in either 2015/6, can’t now recall which. Their value, and previously excellent, Vieilles Vignes Aligote was my ‘target’ and maybe other bottles. En route JS replied to ask me to call after 17.00 hrs – fine by me. I was confident of Molin as I knew they have signage inviting visitors & degustations. However, parking by the Fixin bath house, and walking up to the domaine (phew, by now it was very warm again) I was to be disappointed. No response at all from the Molin premises. Opposite, behind a high wall, at a large property there was some sort of quite noisy cum lively party in full swing. Maybe a vendange finish celebration. I did wonder if that was where the Molins might be but made no difference. Back to Morey Centre. JS texted again to ask if I could defer to 18.00 hrs, no problem at all. I killed time until then back at the domaine premises before sauntering around to Dujac en voiture at the appointed time to be greeted initially by Jacques Seysses and not just the one, as before, loud shaggy dog but also by a young and exuberant larger hound, appeared to be a Hungarian Vizsla who just ran up then tore off again. JS appeared with the 3 cases of wine for the mutual UK friend which we swiftly loaded. Quick chat re our vendanges as JS was busy and had some cuverie work to get on with. I’d been intrigued as Dujac had started the week before I set off for Morey and finished as, or just before, I arrived. He seemed very satisfied with the Dujac timing although I just thought I detected the briefest hint they might have ‘gone’ a bit early – maybe I was wrong. I hadn’t necessarily expected one but was quite clear there was no chance of any repeat of the very nice barrel tasting with Dujac harvest interns I’d been party to on the same sort of visit the previous year. No gifted bottle for my ‘trouble’ but, again, was no expectation on my part.
Back to the tranquillity of the village premises now all mine alone. No beer unfortunately as equipment & liquid all removed – shame. More bread & cheese leftovers for supper plus a half of a 2016 Gevrey Cyprien had given me which was very tasty. And so to Saturday bed, prior to which I spent some little time doing most of my non wine packing and arranging my clothing etc ready for the next morning departure & return to England.
My timings for the Sunday all worked back from needing to be at the Calais cross channel ferry check in no later than circa 45 mins before 19.55 departure. Up in good time, stripped my bed, cleared the accommodation, and made myself more green tea for breakfast. Monsieur Raphet, already watering in his vegetable garden greeted me cheerily. Flying visit to the cuverie for a bit of wi-fi use to get off (email) my work from the Saturday then off to Beaune. Initial task to find a BP petrol station, their Ultimate Diesel my fuel of choice, which I did quite easily not too far out on the road to the autoroute. Back into Beaune, parking off the peripherique, and a walk into the centre to the bookshop. Job done & back to Morey. Car fully packed, much easier this year/more room with less wine then my last visit to the cuverie for ‘good byes’. Leisurely chat with Cyprien re this and that but, overall, he professed himself very happy/satisfied with the vendange timing and outcome in terms of fruit quality (very clean indeed in the main) and volume (good, if not quite 2017 level). His final comment was his concern for those late pickers, his telling me he’d been hearing locally of some bringing in Pinot at 14.5% alcohol. I grimaced, then grinned, suggesting such was akin to “Californian style Pinot ?” in response to which Cyprien also grinned and agreed.
And, dear friends/readers, bar my no alarms auto route drive to Calais, that was ‘it’ for my 2018 vendange – my eleventh in all. Thoughts ? As come to mind, randomly, in no order:-
the weather/the heat throughout as the hottest & humid I’ve known;
the time taken of 11 days (one half not working with the non rain Weds p.m) as the longest non rain protracted harvest for me I can recall;
the changed domaine practices (for the good) for vendangeurs benefit;
the problematic & testing no lunch last day;
the camaraderie (bar couple of daft porteur issues);
evenings socialising in Beaune – thank you muchly mine host;
the variety and number of terroir locations we went to, including some I’d never seen before;
the number of vendangeur lodgers – a bit of a shock as having a room to myself for years;
the Grand Cru sites and Vosne Petit-Monts, fabulous;
the fruit as never before can I recall so often being squirted in the eyes/face by grape juice when picking & from day one – must have been optimally ripe fruit indeed;
being glad I, just as well, got there two days before what had been advised as the ‘official start’;
the absence of IT problems ! ;
the Paulee and unexpected presentation.
Until 2019 (assuming health can hold up !). Thank you for reading, hope you might have enjoyed or found interesting, particularly any of you who might harbour a desire to work a vendange but might not have the opportunity, and last, but absolutely no means least, to Monsieur Nanson for accepting/welcoming my nonsense. Merci bien.
Marko de Morey 8th October 2018.