Arlaud Vendange Day 10, Wednesday 12th September 2018
By now it was definite that we’d finish Thursday, although how far into Thursday, and what was left to do, weren’t clear. There was also an odd mention of a post finish Paulee celebration (but not ‘that kind of paulee were one bring’s one’s own wine – just a party with food & drink provided by Arlaud). But, as I hadn’t attended one of those for a few years – 2017’s ‘helpfully’ took place at a Chambolle restaurant circa 2 weeks after my return to the UK – and prior to that there wasn’t one for a few years, I wasn’t ‘getting my hopes up’ although, curiously, in a brief conversation, Cyprien had smilingly hinted at a surprise for me after the vendange had concluded – or at least that’s what I thought he said without remotely having a clue what he meant !
For today, Day 10, we turned out to have a full Hautes-Cotes day. I suppose if I was a lazy so and so, or was by now bored & tired with my ‘diary’, then I could take an easy option and just say ‘Hautes-Cotes’ all day and add the pictures – but that wouldn’t be ‘on’ would it 😉 ? There are plenty of pics so it will be over to Editor Nanson to make his ‘picks of the pics’.
The Hautes-Cotes chez Arlaud might be divided neatly into two distinct elements:- 1) the owned, high trained, short but steeply sloped Chardonnay site, below/on the way to Arcenant; and 2) the quite large, negoce, plot of Pinot Noir on a plateau, high above Vosne, the nearest human habitation of note the hamlet(s) of Concouer-Corboin which, in addition to viticulture, seem to specialise in blackcurrant growing, presumably for cassis etc, and maybe other fruits.
Our first destination, sensibly, as its both the furthest away and does not take long at all to ‘do’ was the Chardonnay site. This is reached for you geography buffs by taking the D25 from those dratted (much scope here for a ruder word or two) traffic light cross roads on the north side of Nuits – in my circa 2 weeks on the Cote I must have passed through this junction innumerable times and never once ‘managed’ to ‘get the traffic lights on ‘green’. Moving out of Nuits, having passed the Intermarche supermarket, one enters a green, wooded, valley of the Le Meuzin river, passing the La Gentilhommiere hotel before one comes to, and passes through, the village of Meuilley. I really like the look of Meuilley, albeit I’ve only ever seen it in limited scope from vendange transport, but it strikes me as the sort of place, if I were to ever have a place in France (I wish), which would suit me well. There’s some very nice looking, older, property. Meuilley is also home to the redoubtable Jean-Pierre Feral, long time, 70+ vendangeur, and my regular van front seat companion. Today, though, given our travel, J-PF would join us in his Citroen once we arrived. From Meuilley we continue on the D25 vers Arcenant, until we arrive/stop at a large, grassy area on a sweeping bend before Arcenant (another village I’d look to properly look at – Aurelien Verdet is an occupant here who’s wines I know a little of and who’s cuverie I’d like to visit). Leaving the vehicles on the grassy area we cross the road and take a path/rough track upwards to the right with vines commencing immediately, high trained Pinot Noir. We continue up this track for maybe a quarter of a mile before coming to the Arlaud plot of, also high trained, Chardonnay. I’ve never counted how many rows Arlaud have here but there must be perhaps 5 or 6. The vines are planted up/down slope which is notably steep. The gaps between the rows are very wide, why I’m not sure, more than wide enough for a vineyard tractor (though too steep for one of those me thinks), probably wide enough for 2, possibly 3, such machines. Being high trained means picking is something of a joy compared to the Cote’s low vines and little serious bending is required. We work these vines normally two vendangeurs to a row, but either side, so one has to be careful unless between you it might be you agree to individually work different sections between posts. In this case I was paired with always highly enthusiastic 17 yr old youngster, Ugo, but as we had enough bodies, the sole, very pleasant Japanese guy (never knew his name, shame on me – in one photo from here with white top, blue neckerchief, grey pants) on the team also joined us. I really like this plot, the vines always seem highly productive in terms of Chardonnay grape volumes, this year no exception. The wine I’ve had in differing vintages has always been very much enjoyed (I must get some !) but is not, as far as I’m aware, imported to the UK – a sad omission, someone’s ‘missing a trick’ imho. What is utterly essential, as seemingly always key in picking white grapes properly, is thorough leaf stripping to make sure no fruit is missed. Its ‘easy’ to pick the big bunches, naturally less so with smaller one’s, when leaf growth is exuberant. It was quite a chilly morning here as we left Morey and arrived on the site but as the sun got going it was just glorious. The rolling, lush green, topography and view over to Arcenant all quite picturesque, with a pleasant, satisfied feeling of accomplishment stroll back to the transport (see photo captioned ‘picturesque walk etc). So, all quite smartly over & done with, and off we go to what will, somewhat differently, occupy us for the rest of the day.
From the grassy sward roadside below Arcenant we drop back down the D25 until it’s ‘back on itself’ turn off/junction with the D109 just by the roadside, interesting looking, Restaurant Le Meuzinc. The D109 initially climbs steeply uphill until levelling out somewhat heading to Concoeur but before we arrive there, we go right, taking a narrower twisty road with a couple more turns onto a track until we come to the expansive, plateau area, crossed by large electricity pylons. On our right are the innumerable area of vines, to our left a large rough grassed area (see ‘team rest’ photos) which goes into the distance. If one were to continue up the track and down the far side of the plateau/ escarpment one would come to Nuits or Vosne. The lower edge of the plateau is shielded by trees/hedge as is the ‘top’ boundary we initially work our way up to which has a lovely, small, house in the top right corner (looking up site from bottom left). The site slopes gently upwards from the bottom corner where we arrive to the top boundary, also wooded, before the ground drops away on the far side. Beyond the top edge, and through the hedge to the left, is another large area of high trained vines. I’ve no idea who’s these are (maybe multiple ownership) but I’ve often, in previous years, seen this worked/cut by the ‘dreaded’ harvesting machine(s). In terms of machines I’d hardly seen any this year so far, literally only one or two, and those on the main roads, but Bill told me he’d seen many more than I. One of my memories from 2017 was being shocked to witness a harvesting machine picking next to us one morning in Chambolle Bussieres, not least as it was working for Raphet, with Gerard Raphet observing. So much for the domaine claiming, or at least the North Berkeley Imports site claim, ‘Harvest is done by hand’ – well, not for the above site, last year, at least.
Initially, we ‘tooled up’ (buckets, secateurs etc) and Climent commenced allocating us our individual rows. Speedy, always Crocs footwear & pink bandana wearing, Laetitia had the first, outside, row which was shorter, as angled to the track boundary, with me next, full length row, and Cedric inside next to me. We were about to start, indeed I recall I might have picked a bunch or two, before we were called to a halt, told to leave buckets at the start of one’s row, and assemble for the drinks/casse croute break – made sense but why we’d been about to set off I’m not sure – maybe Climent had initially forgotten the break ! Since leaving the near Arcenant Chard site and arriving here the temperature had climbed, and to some extent continued to do so, but whilst by now an utterly glorious day on this plateau, it never got ridiculously hot as around Morey and there was the occasional gentle, most welcome, breeze. I’ve seen some very ‘varied’ weather up here over the years since we first came here in 2013, memory particularly always to remain ‘scarred’ by the horrors of Oct 2013’s late harvest freezing cold and wet, to say nothing of the extensive rot, but 2018 is absolutely the best visit ever – everything ‘just right’. The grapes were as clean as ever and plenty of volume, again if not just to 2107 level. Indeed, it seemed, as we progressed, getting much further up the rows (away from the trucks until the latter were moved to plot top edge), that the porteurs were struggling to ‘keep up’. Laetitia finished her shorter row in good time, although I was slightly chuffed she hadn’t left me too far way behind, and I was ‘up’ on Cedric and feeling good/going well. Laetitia moved into the top of my row and worked down towards me, such that we eventually met. By then I’d come to an enforced stop as my bucket was full to overflowing, if not way over full. I managed to pick a few more vines by adding to the by now adjacent/approaching Laetitia’s bucket before the inevitable – her’s became as full as mine leaving us both ‘stopped’, as was Cedric, & having to wait a few minutes to be relieved of our burdens by easy going porteur, Jackie’, he of the extravagant, well manicured, twirl ending moustache.
We continued methodically working the rows, helping others we might finish before, up until lunch. There was quite a lot of aerial activity up here on this day of both the natural and ‘man made’ varieties. I think we must have been maybe directly above, or on the flight path to, the aerodrome near Nuits (think I’m right in saying there is one ?). That aerodrome though would not have catered for the French Air Force jets that overflew. The most spectacular was a formation of five such jets that, if not an actual aerobatic team, certainly looked/flew like one, coming over very low, late morning, slidingly inter changing formation positions in ultra slick fashion as they did so. Jaw droppingly impressive. Individually almost as impressive, maybe more so in noise and speed, were the couple of delta winged (Mirage ?) fighter/fighter bomber jets that also came over singly at different points. The first one must have been travelling at ‘some’ speed as initially I looked towards the noise, failed to spot anything, then looking right realised the actual jet was way further on, disappearing rapidly into the distance going north. A number of light planes also flew low over during the day together with a large, noisy, very low helicopter in the afternoon. Lunch, the full monte of entrée, main and dessert, was ‘al fresco’, being brought to us in the outside caterers sealed (for keeping warm) boxes, by Cyprien in his Volvo along with drinks, cutlery, etc etc. Made sense as to return to Morey for lunch & come back would have cost a lot of time. Wife, Carole, also arrived with the three youngest pre school age children. I can’t now, for the life of me, remember what we ate. Was a relaxed affair with individuals sat on upturned fruit cases, buckets, or in open vehicle doors/rears. Having eaten I initially had a wander, first going along the plot edge (we lunched at the top, the vans having been brought up) to the top southern corner to have a look at a lovely small house I’ve always admired/coveted which sits there. Must just be a superb place to live, if remote, and maybe not a bundle of laughs in the winter (more of that below). I didn’t want to get too close and be too nosey but its an ace property. All was so still here as well, my colleagues some way from me, just birdsong and breeze in the foliage behind me. Lovely ! Retracing my steps back past the team and vehicles I took a right, thinking I would progress beyond our boundary and maybe look over the escarpment edge to any views down on Nuits/Vosne. More vines were on my left, shrubs and thickets on my right. It was getting a lot hotter ! I went some distance without coming to the vista I anticipated, the ground not dropping away as quickly as I thought it might but, wary of picking re-commencing with me stranded, thought it best I get back quickly just in case. I had no need to fear as everyone was still in post lunch relaxing mode. As I turned back onto our site I noted a green post box set back from the track on my left, not quite in the bushes. I was quite surprised, if not quite taken aback, to note the names on the box, which was clearly for the house above, were Denis Berthaut (of the eponymous Fixin domaine), his wife, and charming daughter Amelie who, of course, has now followed her father as the Domaine Berthaut winemaker and seems to be making quite a name for herself. I have some of her 2013 wines (Fixin, Gevrey, Vosne) bought EP, as yet untried. Getting back to the vehicles, I saw a pair of some sort of raptor (birds of prey) coming towards the vines from the north, seemingly quartering the ground for prey but, seeing us, they moved away amongst the pylons and disappeared. I came to Cyprien and Carole and mentioned noting the Berthaut ‘presence’. Cyprien explained to me the house is for summer occupation as it only has gas bottle, and small wind turbine, energy, plus of course he cited winter weather and access as ‘out of season’ issues. All very interesting. With the team still lazing about I noted Herve was cleaning all the team secateurs in a couple of buckets so gave him a hand. As we finished washing them he counted them from bucket to bucket, arriving at a total of 30 – the one he was looking for. He’s always been appropriately very keen on accounting for the secateurs. Was interesting for me to be aware we were now a team of c30, still quite sizeable, and adequate for what we were doing, if some way off the peak number of 47 (listed anyway) at vendange start.
Eventually we re-commenced the afternoon ‘shift’. A word, mentioned in past years, but for any new readers, about the ground on this site. It’s the normal/usual type earth interspersed with small rocks/stones from the bottom edge of the plot where we started but, as one progresses up the rows, the stones/rocks become progressively more prevalent and larger, such that by the top edge of the plot the ground is covered by very large rocks and flat stones which can be difficult to walk on, and worse to kneel on ! I’ve not walked amongst Chateuneuf-du-Pape’s galet vineyards but am guessing the top section of ‘our site might be vaguely similar. The afternoon continued with solid graft. The rows are long here. In addition to the full team circa mid-afternoon drinks break either the porteurs, Herve or Climent moved amongst us with water vessel and plastic cups for quick drinks. And so to late afternoon which would have finished unremarkably except, for your’s truly, with another porteur ‘clash’. Am not wishing to wrongly give any impression I’m picking fights here & there but if something’s palpably wrong and working against the greater team good I’m not just going to rollover and accept it. In this instance, I’d finished my last full row quite well and as usual used my own initiative, or was directed, to help others. Initially I helped finish a couple of rows that were almost done. I then volunteered myself to Climent who pointed me to 3 or 4 rows adjacent where the pickers were quite a shocking distance up the rows, some way from finishing. The guys here were not the quickest and it wasn’t necessarily a surprise to see one or two of them understandably ‘lagging’ nearing the end of the afternoon and in long rows. I made my way up one row to join the individual therein and started at the next piquet (stake post) from where he was. I’d noted, with a little inward disquiet, as I’d walked up the row that the common denominator for this lagging group was their porteur. This was a big, local, guy – a regular annual porteur by the name of Cyril. I think it would be fair to say that probably even Cyril’s family, friends & associates would not credit him as a gentleman of ‘finesse’. I’d long noted his lack of mechanical sympathy, if only with vehicles, it being notable that whilst he often drove a truck aggressively from domaine start in the morning to whatever our first site might be, he was never then called upon to drive between sites and cuverie, but then became a porteur. I’ve never seen him cut grapes and doubt he ever would which is ok if he’s first class in his chosen area. It didn’t take me long to grasp just what might have been impacting this ‘lagging’ group to impinge on performance/efficiency. After about the 4th or 5th quasi bullying demand from Cyril to me (and others around me) that I empty my far from full bucket, such was his demanding frequency, often when I was on my knees, or might have just dropped to my knees, that I ‘snapped’ and in the best limited French I could muster sort of gave a shocked Cyril a ‘piece of my mind’. He responded with something unintelligible to me, not with anger, but by then I was picking again and ignored him. Within a couple of minutes, seemingly from a pathetically tale telling Cyril going straight to him, Climent arrived on the scene. Fair shout to Climent, his first words to me were “Did I want another porteur”? The answer to that was “No, not necessarily but, hang on, we need to talk……….” as here was the chance for the moral high ground, then and for the future if necessary. Abandoning picking for the moment, with the guys around me standing & listening, and in my best mix of French & English (it helped Climent has some English) I avoided undue personalising but, genuinely stressing and coming from the team efficiency and best working practice angles, I outlined to Climent (whom I think had ‘got it’ already) that it was no coincidence the guys around me were behind and needed help, and that a large influencing factor thereto was the ridiculously inefficient, bogging down way, that Cyril had ‘brought to proceedings’ by constantly seeking not full bucket emptying at far too regular intervals, and in so doing constantly having the guys up and down. Only as I now type this, as didn’t occur to me at the time, am I now realising there was more than likely ‘method in Cyril’s madness’ in that, doubtless once he had a part filled case, he could troll off to the truck and have a rest, drink & smoke before coming back & causing more discord/slowing down. To digress slightly here, Cyril was one of just a couple of guys who’s embraced vaping, something personally I abhor more than smoking. Cyril’s vape (correct term ?) of choice was something with a particularly obnoxious, sickly sweet, odour which I seriously objected to having clouds of blown in my vicinity, albeit this was nothing to do with the current spat & I never mentioned it. Back to the issue, I guess the guys who’s buckets he was insisting on emptying didn’t realise the collective ‘disruption’, as in one or two cases first year participants, or otherwise not realising what was going on. Coming new to the scene I quickly did and wasn’t for taking lying (or kneeling) down ! The discussion between self and Climent concluded with his nodding, not disagreeing, but leaving us to continue with not just Cyril who stationed himself in the row farthest from me (!) but with another porteur or two of the more sympathique variety, one of whom winked to me. Climent also rounded up the by now resting, nattering, rest of the team and applied them to work from the bottom of the rows we were struggling in such that the efforts of the whole team soon wrapped things up in a suitably peaceful environment. There were no interested or intrigued questions to me as we walked back to the vehicles, nor was I avoided, hence I’m quite sure the collective knew what had gone on and were in total support or doubtless I’d have been in for different treatment ! Vendange politics eh 😉 ? There can be a lot more to ‘this game’ than just a bucket & secateurs ! As a postscript I heard nothing more, be it from Herve as we left the site (and he’d have surely mentioned if I were in the wrong, nor afterwards from Cyprien, and most intriguingly the next day Cyril seemed to go out of his way to pleasantly greet, and even high five, me !!! Definitely a moral victory but all wholly unnecessary in the first instance.
And so we left the Hautes-Cotes plateau for another year, but I’d definitely seen it at its ‘best’ this year, and in a wholly different, more positive, light than any previous year. It had been just glorious. Our route back to Morey was wholly different to the one we came in by but of course we’d come thro Nuits & to the Chard site initially. Coming off the site, past all the blackcurrant cultivation (which must have irrigation judging by the flexible hosepiping along the rows of bushes) we turned north on the D109 with Concoeur off to our left and headed towards Corboin but taking a right at a crossroads and heading on down into Vosne-Romanee still on the D109. This is an interesting drive as leave the wooded slopes behind & emerge into the Vosne vineyards. The road initially passes between ‘Les Barreaux’ and ‘La Combe Brulee’ before passing through ‘Aux Brulees’ (ummm makes me thinks of the Rene Engel version – sadly no longer !) with some nifty, posh stone walling in these sites, then sweeps right now between ‘Les Suchots’ to the left and initially ‘Les Richebourgs’ to the right before also on this side coming to Romanee St-Vivant. Then into the village on the north side, past various well known vigneron name properties, Herve also pointing me to the premises of DRC before we headed to, and left onto, the RN74 and so back to Morey for bucket/secateurs cleaning, own gear cleaning, and a reviving biere or two from the Pub d’Arlaud. I don’t think it was this evening, but maybe 2/3 before but, after cleaning duties I’d been heading for my room which direction had taken me towards the entrance gates and noted a BMW X6 in our gateway (shared with the old Raphet premises). The driver called towards me that he was looking for the Arlaud premises with my confirming he was in the right place. By way of further explanation he told me he had a beer delivery! Honestly have to say I’ve never seen beer in bulk (here 6 x small metal barrels) delivered by a BMW X6 !! I helped his reversing all the way to the top of the yard (the passage way for vehicles to the open yard from the road is a bit tight and narrow) where the relaxing guys enjoying their late afternoon beers were more than happy to help the BMW driver unload. Needless to say he was from the company who’d supplied all the beer dispensing equipment and liquid itself. Curiously he didn’t want to take any empty barrels but left them for a later date. Our beer supplies were assured to the end of the vendange – well done whoever ordered the additional supplies !! Reckon it would be fair to say no one was missing previous years end of day red or white wine !
The above was more or less ‘it’ for the day but I had another evening appointment in Beaune so, getting changed and presentable, I headed off leaving the other lodgers to their liquid refreshments and pending evening meal. My soirees to Beaune involved a little personal responsibility which came with the keys to the roadside huge, metal, front gates. These are always locked at night and wall side attached metal bars put in situ, with a pair of inner gates also shut, one of which has a reinforcing bar to the passage way wall . I’d learnt in a previous year, thro bitter experience of being locked out late at night, due to ‘someone’ who’d been deputed to leave locking the gates until I returned forgetting me (!), that it was vital I had the keys. On that historic occasion I’d only got in by making so much noise, including car horn, to waken someone to let me in, that I’d probably woken most of Morey – but the undesirable alternative then would have been (trying to) sleep in the car on the Morey car park !! Herve was always happy for me to take a set (of the very large keys) trusting me to do the necessary. This was fine, the only ‘issue’ being the lock was a complete ‘so and so’, badly in need, I think, of lubrication. I struggled on every occasion with locking the gates from the inside and always for some reason could only lock via reaching through the bars and locking from the outside. On this night I’d expected, as the norm, everyone to be in bed, but was surprised to see a few of the guys still in the refectory entrance playing cards & drinking beers. Joining them briefly with no intention of staying I quickly realised domaine full timer, Cedric, a Dijon resident and boyfriend/partner of sweet Japanese, Kaito, was present (which he ordinarily certainly would not have been by this time). Its not uncommon for some of the domaine full time guys to join us for evening dinner but they disappear to their homes thereafter. Clearly Cedric hadn’t and, worse, he was ‘rocking’ and rather ‘worse for wear’ – I could only assume too many beers !!! He was the only one of the group, all of whom were ready for bed as I walked up and about to disperse, who was so ‘well oiled’ but clearly he was (absolutely) in no fit state to drive his Toyota Auris hybrid back to Dijon and thus needed a bed – which he asked me for there and then !!! Why me for heaven’s sake ???? Not only did he ask me for a bed & state himself he could not drive (he had trouble standing suitably straight & upright !) but, whilst I was taking in this state of affairs, he took out his phone, rang Kaito, then passed me his phone & asked me to speak to her – great, thanks a lot !!! Why me 2??? Needless to say Kaito (thank heaven her English is pretty good) was as surprised to have me on her partner’s phone as I was to be thrust into speaking to her in such circumstances. I’m pretty sure, I’m quick like this 😉, that she was far from ‘best pleased’ at Cedric’s absence from Dijon and why but, bless her, she took it well (with me anyway) and seemingly at least relieved that the ‘responsible Englishman’ would look after her well oiled partner. Next ‘problem’ was finding the wobbling, speech slurring, Cedric a spare bed as I could not immediately think there was a spare anywhere, be it in the gate house or the other atelier rooms myself and the other lodgers occupied. Fair to say desperation was coming to mind but, doing my best to try and not wake anyone, looking in the other front room on the landing before mine, I was hugely relieved to see just one spare bed. This, I’m sure, ordinarily belonged to one of the four young guys from Brittany but as he clearly wasn’t occupying it, and seemingly would not (I’d locked up after all), I took a chance and guided the inebriated Cedric to it for sleeping off/overnight purposes.
And on that bizarre note I quickly got myself into bed to end a very full Day 10 – one day to go !
Marko de Morey 29th September 2018