Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Four, Sunday 6th Sept 2020
The first part of the afternoon of this day was one of the most downright difficult & unpleasant picking experiences I’ve had in Burgundy in 13 harvests. Passage of time has done nothing to alter my view. The Lord certainly wasn’t smiling down at me, that’s for sure.
But before we get to the horror element there was the morning to meander through. The day again started off sunny but then, hallelujah, became cooler with some cloud – ideal working conditions for your’s truly. The morning was entirely Chambolle which was fine ! We worked our way unremarkably through 4 plots in all. There was an element of finishing rows not completed previously as well as new elements. Perhaps the most interesting plot was one on the way out of the village, can’t be sure now where this was but it was adjacent to the road (D122) and sat below a private property which was at right angles to the road, with another semi derelict property opposite. It was the building opposite that provided the interest for me as its eaves were ‘home’ to the nests of both swallows and house martins. The birds were pretty busy, a joy to watch, one or two ‘demanding’ youngsters sat on the roadside overhead wires becoming very flutteringly demanding when any parent came near. Watching this my thoughts were ‘you’d better get a move on and start fending for yourselves’ as surely migration wouldn’t be too far away. In addition to the swallows and martins I noted another bird flying around, a bit larger and not as ‘svelte’ but didn’t recognise and couldn’t identify that species. Our final pre-lunch Chambolle plot after the ‘bird’ one required two passes then so to lunch, Chambolle finished for another year. On the way out of the village, across the road from the Boursot premises, just before the road forks two ways into the upper village, we passed a very large, sprawling, oak tree with plaque at its base referring to its age & when planted. I would come back to have a closer look at this post vendange on one of my two days ‘me time’ before returning to England. Seeing the Boursot premises reminded me of Bill’s referencing the domaine & I resolved to add it to my days off visit list.
I only took 9 photos this day, simply as we were so busy and quick, and with the afternoon so demanding, I simply didn’t have the opportunities. The first 5 were affected by the settings issues referred to previously & it was only post-lunch as we disembarked the vehicles at Morey that I cursingly & belatedly noticed the awry settings dials. Lunch though today was another tasty one. Ouefs Mimosas weren’t something I had before but very tasty. Followed by that ‘ole staple’ boeuf bourguignon which never disappoints. In addition to the Badoit & Vittel waters our wines at lunch were commonly, as white:- either Aligote or Savigny 2017 Village Blanc; red Hautes-Cotes de Nuit Rouge.
Morey-St-Denis ! Always good to be back in dear Morey, always to have a special place in my heart after 9 years working here. As usual we ‘circled’ around to get to our destination, the ‘corner’ element of vines between Hubert Lignier’s RN74 premises and the road up into Morey from the traffic lights, from the southbound carriageway. This circling (driving almost a square or rectangle) involved heading up towards the village before turning right into Rue de Tres Girard, past Cecile Tremblay’s cuverie, and the Hotel, then through the Tres Girard vines until turning right again back down onto the RN74 in the right direction/correct side of the road, right again onto the latter then dropping off down a little ramp onto the track which goes up to a large private property behind impressive Leylandii. To the right side of the above property and above it the vines are MSD 1er cru Les Sorbes but the lower element to the road is the village classification, Les Sionnieres. As an aside, whilst it occurs to me, Alain Noellat told me one evening that the domaine’s MSD plots came from/with his marriage to Isabel. Sometimes I’ll manoeuvre myself when we’re being set up to start rows if I can see a preferred row but here I was lagging a bit behind the others getting my knee pads & gloves on, & adjusting the camera settings such that Hubert directed me to the remaining outside row adjacent to the track we were parked on, Philippe on my inside.
What followed was incredibly difficult and exhausting. From the first vine get go I just could not believe the extent of vine foliage I was looking at. I could have done with a machete rather than my secateurs which seemed almost painfully inadequate sizing up the task. Gritting my teeth I attempted to get going with any sort of method/rhythm. If the foliage wasn’t enough when one did manage to ‘hack’ one’s way through to where any grapes might be then more often than not, peculiarly for this row, many of the seemingly small bunches were hanging particularly low, just above the ground. The bunches certainly were not ‘presenting’ as one commonly/ideally finds. Trying to stay on my feet such was impossible really so I had little option but to drop to my knees where I largely remained for most of the row, other than when having to stand for bucket emptying or to lean over to cut grapes on the other side of the vine. Quite quickly, and absolutely not something I was used to, I began to fall behind the others. Not a great deal initially but by the time we’d been ‘at it’ a while and some way up the rows, the distance between me and most of the others was significant, depressing, and growing. To someone used to being ‘up there’, if not setting the picking pace this was a shock to the system. The only saving grace, if there was one, was that Philippe on my immediate inside was having similar issues to myself, if not as grim, and was roughly half way between myself and the others. He was intermittently cursing and sympathising with me. Every vine seemed a new battle with its own challenges. I can hardly believe now I’m typing this but, trust me, this was grim and as difficult as grape picking might get – in my experience at least. Jean-Claude was also sympathetic, coming back to me now and then with bottles of water to at least give me regular hydration. Thank goodness it was cloudy ! Eventually I was saved, probably no more than half way up my designated row, by the others having completed their rows coming to my aid en masse. With a number of ‘attackers’ it still seemed to take a while to complete the row by which time I was almost exhausted and nearly out on my feet, staggering out of the row onto the track, breathing heavily.
After a short rest our sub team moved a little higher, and to the right, to pick some more village rows which, thank heaven, whilst still bearing a weight of foliage, were much more ‘normal’. We continued here until a halt was called just after 17.00 hrs. Such a finish time, whilst the norm at Noellat, was not something I’d been used to at Arlaud were we commonly worked until near 18.00 hrs. For this ageing individual the earlier finish was most welcome !
The rest provided by the mini bus journey back to Vosne was just what I needed. The evening was interesting though as, to my surprise, my travails in the Morey Village was a subject of debate/ discussion (all sympathetic), including with Alain & Sophie Noellat hence word somehow must have made its way to the cuverie. Fame at last although not ideal ! I enjoyed my aperitif beer and later our evening wines more than usual that night before sleeping soundly. If there was a ‘sting in the tail’ from the Morey experience I believe that was for my ‘creaking’ hip as, if not on Day 5, by Day 6 I was struggling quite badly in moving any distance – picking at the vine wasn’t too much of an issue though.
To come, with no photos for Days 5 & 6, and the latter to a certain extent being unremarkable/ ordinaire in terroir terms at lease, I’ll combine my next instalment to cover both.