Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Six Tuesday 8th Sept 2020
In summary this was a day of Bourgogne ‘a go go’ – with a gossip twist as to when the end of the full vendange might come for us. A vendange might sound a compelling adventure (maybe not !), with superb opportunities to get ‘close up & personal’ with lots of famous name premier and grand cru terroirs. It can be I guess but there’s also the seriously mundane to ‘endure’ e.g Bourgogne terroirs and aligoté to go with pinot. For us this day of ‘slog’ started with a first thing vehicle ride, again north, to a little way beyond the Vougeot/Flagey-Echezeaux roundabout, to opposite were the D122e heads up into Chambolle. Here we turned east off the main road into what I call the flatlands which culminate against the Dijon-Beaune railway. Nothing notable or remarkable here. We made 2/3 passes of different, extensive, pinot vines in warm sunshine, with usual break for casse-croute. At one point mid-morning a quite lengthy walk ensued between plots which, for your’s truly (who’d stupidly forgotten to take his corti-steroid medication that morning – not actually prescribed for my hip but useful in deadening the discomfort) was causing serious limping ‘grief’ when one of the trucks hove to alongside me on the track. Alongside highly likeable driver Gerard, was ‘in the vines’ boss Gerald. The latter motioned to me, initially prompting, uncharitable as it turned out, thoughts on my part I was to be told off for something, or be told I was heading in the wrong direction or similar. Instead Gerald, who’d obviously, to his credit, noted my plight in limping any distance, was calling me to step up into the truck cab for what turned out to be a serious ‘lift’ around the plot to its other side. Very handy, as to traverse the full distance on foot would have been a real tester, the rising morning temperature an added issue. At the end of my truck ride we waited for the straggling on foot groups to collectively make their way to us. My team, once they arrived, were directed to move down the rows to the ends to pick their way back, to meet another team who’d pick towards them. I started to follow my colleagues but Gerald called me back, again ‘saving’ me any randonnee. Instead he allocated me to a row (doubled up) with the team who were to pick towards mine. All pretty considerate of him, causing me to regard him in a much more favourable light than hitherto, particularly 2019 ! I didn’t consider myself as ‘stricken’/incapacitated as it might have appeared & didn’t really have any great problem holding my own at the vines in actually picking. Mobility over a distance was an issue though so any ‘taxi ride’ was a bonus. After this latest pinot plot we moved only another short distance in the same area to what turned out to be lengthy rows of Aligote which took us to lunch. Picking Aligote or Chardonnay after Pinot can be quite different. Naturally, the Pinot bunches tend to stand out unless a vine is particularly heavily foliaged but, and notably in bright sunshine, Aligote & Chardonnay grapes unless sizeable, weighty bunches can be seriously hard to spot. Enthusiastic leaf stripping and studious care is essential to ensure quite decent sized bunches aren’t missed. It seems to be if there’s a temptation to leave some leaves, or not look behind them then one can almost ‘guarantee’ grapes will be missed. I do enjoy picking white grapes though as a change – can’t really explain why.
Post lunch, quite different landscapes, but more Bourgogne. The afternoon continued what for me was a theme of the vendange this year i.e whilst broadly we went to the same areas/plots as we did in 2019 not all was the same in that particular plots we went to last year we didn’t this e.g in Fixin as above; and conversely this year we went to plots we hadn’t in 2019, perhaps the first example here the Bourgogne Rouge we did after Vougeot. The latter aspect was particularly apparent this afternoon with a degree of the former ! I can’t quite remember now with passage of time the order of plot picking (usually my photos are a reminder/prompter) but we certainly attended one’s I’d never seen before – all on the far side of the railway. Initially, we took a right just going out of the village to the north, opposite the D109 as leads into the village. This took us into rolling countryside with areas of trees/copse, interspersed with vines and fields. All quite interesting as I’d no idea vines existed in such a location. We also at some stage picked two sites near the railway, a new one from our initial sortie away from the village, the vineyard track very close indeed to the railway fence at one point, passing a large signal box, the other a well remembered from 2019 plot past industrial units reached from some way down the Route de Boncourt le Bois which is almost opposite Restaurant La Toute Petite Auberge on the main road. Our afternoon finished with a large plot of Aligote bordering (non village side) the RN974 as it climbs out of Vosne. We made more than one pass through these Aligote vines in two areas, walking between both. A very tiring afternoon, notably warm throughout & even into the evening, for a fatigued your’s truly at least who’s hip was by the close giving me hell. At some point late in the afternoon or maybe early evening I’d overheard gossip of a finish on Thursday (Day 8) which didn’t surprise as suggesting a timescale akin to 2019s. So, we were getting there, with what turned out to be venturing into the Hautes-Cotes to come to see us to a conclusion. I think it was the evening of either Days 5 or 6 which saw a bit more of a late night drinking (wine) session than usual when I inadvertently caused some consternation amongst those staying up later. After consumption of the usual sorts of bottles with our evening meal and immediately afterwards, and when I’d moved away from the group slightly to work on my laptop photo downloading, re-sizing, captioning etc, at some stage Gerald & Hubert decided an additional bottle or bottles were needed. I was aware from 2019 that as longstanding regulars, and bosses below the Noellat family, G & H could have access to the keys to the underground cellar (our usual bottles came from the above ground buildings; specifically the room to the rear of the garage I believe, which also houses the bottling line). On this occasion they disappeared and triumphally returned brandishing a 2002 Vosne 1er Les Suchots – a serious bottle, much more so (serious) particularly in age terms than I’d ever seen broached before. This was opened with much fanfare & shared around. This didn’t sit easily with me at all though, in fact made me particularly uneasy. If Alain Noellat had made it available there’d have been no hanging back on my part but, as it was, I politely declined when I was offered a pour. This resulted in a bit of a minor furore as all present were surprised at my refusal, probably as they all knew I liked my wines. I was challenged & somewhat put on the spot were, and in attempting to explain myself, the language barrier didn’t help & matters got a little ‘confused’. I could clearly tell I was being told it was fine to open the bottle, and Gerald & Hubert were entrusted with the cellar keys, all so far so good BUT a top premier cru, and a 2002, the likes of which we’d definitely not seen before (in 2019 or this year) were all too much for me. I sensed I might not, at that moment, have been too popular, or maybe they were all just baffled by me, but my conscience was clear, remained so, and in any event I’d drunk enough as my head told me the following morning !
As above, to come the Hautes-Cotes and, as a counterpoint to my Morey nightmare, one of the most fabulous morning’s picking experiences I’d had in my vendange career.