Vougeot lower grapes case on lorry
Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Two, Friday 4th Sept 2020
Am actually, typing this 17th Sept, back at home in the UK having left Burgundy very early last Sunday. Apologies for the delay since my last missive but various distractions, needs etc getting home & not been feeling too great the last couple of days – albeit no Covid symptoms ! Now, that I’m both at home, and in ‘enforced’ quarantine until the 27th I should be able to accelerate my ‘output’ to fully cover the vendange, and what turned out to be a very pleasant couple of days ‘me time’ afterwards.
But, for now, our Noellat vendange second day continued to follow a similar pattern to 2019s. A delight to have the room to myself and be able to ‘spread out’ my stuff, but in disciplined fashion I made sure I made my bed each morning. Normal start on the Noellat premises ‘forecourt’, grabbing a coffee from the machine in the large room we dined in last year, then waiting for everyone to arrive. Routine sees the team leader chauffeurs taken first thing to the cuverie on the RN 74 where the mini buses are parked overnight to then return in said vehicles to collect the rest of us and gear. A new feature for this year for each vehicle & sub team (4) is a cool box containing bottles of water (Vittel & Badoit) and bottles of white wine for both casse-croute lubrication and other lubrication thro the day. Into the vehicles are also loaded the porteur’s pannier and the requisite number of buckets we need. We’d been allocated our secateurs at the Day One ‘initiation’, with responsibility to retain these through the vendange and hand in at final day completion. Woe betide anyone losing their tool ! For myself, my personal equipment includes camera (the tough, robust, Canon G16 I’ve had now since 2012), gloves (gardening type although I also had rubber gloves with me but didn’t use those), and my invaluable knee pads. I’m quite in awe of those who don’t wear gloves and also long surprised more of my colleagues don’t use knee pads – but maybe I spend more time on my knees !
This vendange became notable for me with the settled weather – this morning was no exception. No great chill even first thing and, whilst initially an extra layer or two’s clothing might be judicious, once ‘hard at it’ one soon needed to get down to just tee shirt or the one top. So, 7.30 a.m. and off we go ! Not ‘that’ early as my 9 years at Domaine Arlaud always saw Herve Arlaud determined that we’d be in the vines before 7.30, invariably before any other domaine.
Destination Vougeot, this year to start with the bottom section of the two parcels Noellat have here (2019 we started with the top section). Vehicles parked on the widish section of verge where the road from the village joins the RN74 (see photo if Bill includes). Entry to the Clos was, if memory serves, via the Faiveley gate. My second layer jumper was removed in the first row as it was already becoming hot, hot, hot with no breeze at all to speak of. Grapes looking pretty good, my grabbed photos maybe not doing overall justice. It was post Vougeot later that a theory formed in my mind that for this dry and hot year maybe those lower lying terroirs, and/or with heavier, more water retentive soils, would benefit notably to lighter earth terroirs. There was no shortage of grape volume in this lower part of Vougeot. Casse-croute break, just inside the wall, followed completion of the lower section Vougeot picking before embarking en vehicule to loop around the southern section through the edge of Grand Echezeaux to enter the upper part of the Clos through gap in the wall onto track which takes one ultimately to the buildings. From our mini bus as we skirted along the wall pre-entry I was shocked to see a static Harvesting Machine with support van on the other side of the wall in the Clos. I never thought I’d see a Harvesting Machine in a grand cru – maybe I’m naïve. I’ve no idea who might have been employing it – my Landrieu-Lussigny & Pitiot Climats & Lieux-Dits ‘bible’ listing over 60 producers presenting a harvest Clos de Vougeot declaration for in 2011. If I had to have a guess though, and hope I’m not doing the gentleman a disservice, my suspicion would fall on Gerard Raphet as I’d seen him using a Harvesting Machine in Chambolle Bussieres a few years ago, surprised then, when (hand) picking close by for Arlaud.
Picking the upper section parcel of Vougeot passed without incident or note. Grapes not as abundant though as in the lower section.
Once out of Vougeot we travelled only a relatively short distance south before, probably below/opposite Vosne Chalandins or Aux Ormes, heading off towards the railway line, coming initially right to the fence before heading maybe half way back towards the main road before disembarking to tackle a parcel ( 2 passes made) of Bourgogne Rouge (or similar designation) which would take us up to and into lunchtime. This BR parcel was notable for what was to be repeated elsewhere namely a material weight of foliage (leaves etc). I did wonder if the canopy had been kept ‘heavy’ particularly to shield the crop from the sun but never established if the case. Whatever, it was akin to tackling a jungle, in addition to which the weight/volume of grapes was substantial. Everywhere was very dry. I definitely hadn’t come to this plot in 2019 or anywhere near to it so it was ‘new’. Just before we finished here my colleague, Patrick, in the next row called my attention to something at the top of a vine along the top wire. This was a small, wild wasps nest with a few wasps buzzing on it. A first for me in 13 harvests (see photo). Fatigued by the ‘war’ in battling through the above our team was the last back for lunch ! Menu for lunch & dinner is as per the photo but a pretty good lunch !
A late return for lunch saw a later p.m start and thus shorter afternoon session which was solely Nuits-St-Georges Aux Boudots who’s northern boundary is, of course, Aux Malconsorts. Boudots had made a deep (positive !) impression on me in 2019. Topography, terroir and ambience were really nice such that this swiftly became a favourite personal site joining such as Clos St Denis and Vosne Petit-Monts. We must, as a full team, have been split as my photos show only two mini buses rather than four. Where the others went I didn’t establish although I now suspect maybe a plot of Nuit-St-Georges Village as when we tackled other parcels of NSG Village on Day 3 such did not include all of those we’d ‘done’ in 2019. Boudots required two passes, one upslope and one down, punctuated by a lengthy drinks break as the afternoon was extremely hot with my scribbling that evening ‘thirsty like never before’ !!! I was developing a serious liking for Badoit sparkling water, and amusing my fellow team members by calling it ‘Badoit Grand Cru l’eau’.
Post Boudots back to the domaine for the evening rituals:- gear cleaning, shower time (then for me), photo downloading/editing (ideally with a beer), before evening meal & so to bed. Meal this evening had, unusually, Croque-Monsieur for the main course which seemed a bit of a cop out for our talented chef but a good Croque it was too. One of my fellow lodgers, big a regular for a few years, is highly likeable Thibault, a youngish, always cheerful, big guy. Thibault has a prodigious appetite such that he’s always offered 2nd or 3rd helpings by the likes of Madam Noellat and I’ve never known him refuse. Where he puts his nosh goodness only knows !! On this occasion I reckon he must have eaten at least 4 Croques if not more ! We had a fun debate this harvest when I asked Thibault, with others present, if he’d ever seen the American TV program, Man Versus Food. Turned out he had & was much amused at my suggestion he might be the star of a French version !
And so to bed before Day 3 with an Echezeaux conundrum.