Entries from 2020

marko’s harvest diary 11-Sep-20 – day 10 – the last post-script!

By Marko de Morey de la Vosne on November 09, 2020 #vintage 2020

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – (Postscript) Vendange Day 10, Saturday 12th Sept 2020

On this, my next to last morning, I awoke to eery quiet, alone in the domaine premises. I omitted to mention in my Day 9 record just how seriously hot & humid it had been that evening, particularly the humidity. Even without shifting numerous boxes of wine from car into garage I was extremely ‘warm’ & unpleasantly perspiring freely. All before getting ‘hot under the collar’ venting spleen and the rest on my credit card provider over the Friday afternoon nonsense. Before evening scoff and then bed I’d also managed, just, to get my car off the street and into the garage by moving the heavy sliding metal doors then squeezing in front of the domaine’s old blue Mercedes van.

Somewhat frustratingly this morning I couldn’t access the front of the domaine premises with all gates locked, and thus the coffee machine, so water had to suffice first thing. My plans for this, my last day, were thus:-

  • Visit the Noellat cuverie.
  • Return to Boursot in Chambolle, hope my card payment would work this time and collect wines.
  • Call, back in Vosne, at Domaine Robert Sirugue.
  • Roam up into the Hautes-Cotes with Domaine Cornu-Camus, Echevronne a must re-visit from 2019.
  • Call at Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine, Pernand.
  • Domaine Jean-Pierre Diconne, Auxey-Duresses.
  • Shop for my return home at the NSG Intermarche.
  • Early night for Sunday’s planned 4.00-5.00 a.m. car loading & departure for Calais & the UK.

Sounded like a (good) plan to me, reflecting also how well the day before (Friday) had gone, credit card shenanigans aside ! Once ready to go my first call, circa 8.30 a.m., was to the cuverie. There was a specific reason for this, relating to my wanting to access the internet at the domaine again, albeit I can’t for the life of me remember now why this was. Anyway, as I anticipated, Alain Noellat was busy, or about to be, in the supa clean & strongly yeasty smelling cuverie, with remontage as had been the case the same time, post vendange, in 2019. He got me a welcome coffee and advised Sophie would be along soon and would be able to let me into Rue de la Fontaine premises. All looked very good in terms of the fruit sitting in the various open topped steel tanks. One particular tank’s ‘overflow’ type pipe was slowly fizzing juice from the top back into the tank, but this was an outlier.

In time Sophie rocked up, as always in her supremely cheerful, uber positive, laughing kind of way – definitely someone who’s glass is always half (or more) full rather than half empty. I followed her smart, new for this year, powerful Mercedes SUV back to the domaine buildings & she let us both in through the remote control operated heavy gates then left me ‘to it’. Once I’d finished what I needed to do I exited, closing the gates, and dropped off the building key and gate remote back at the cuverie, expressed my grateful thanks for the vendange & said my goodbye’s before heading for Chambolle. There, I had the opportunity to say ‘hello’ to the whole lovely family including the youngest, next generation, young man who must be 4/5 yrs of age before heading into the caveau. Eureka, thank heaven my card payment went through this time so collecting the wines I said my goodbye’s and departed. As a very nice gesture I’d been gifted a very much appreciated bottle of the domaine’s 1998 Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru Les Chatelots. That premier cru was always one of my favourite sites, in its hollow near the village cemetery, when working for Domaine Arlaud. This also reminds me I’d been similarly been gifted a bottle the previous day by Lauriane Andre – a 2016 Savigny-les-Beaune 1er cru Les Vergelesses Blanc (might open that soon !). I’m always humbled by these generous gestures.

From Chambolle, rather than dropping back to the main road, I turned right below the village onto the road that takes one past Musigny/Amoureuses towards Vougeot, stopping the car a couple of times for photo opportunities, careful to dodge cyclists. Another glorious morning. I then continued through the vines in the same direction until coming to the t-junction facing Romanee Saint-Vivant Grand Cru. A left there took me curving into Vosne centre. I pulled up by the fabulous covered bus stop/shelter, initially to check if the Post Office was open (wasn’t), but then couldn’t resist photos of the bus shelter interior with its vineyard maps and extensive numbered list of Vosne domaines. Neat!

Then to Domaine Robert Sirugue, an oasis of quiet with ostensibly no one about until I met an affable, polite, Monsieur Sirugue Senior up a small wooden ladder, barrel tending, in the open doored cuverie to the rear of the house. Asking for Arnaud, M. Sirugue led me through a rabbit warren of doors and passage way at the rear of the cuverie until Arnaud emerged from another small room where he was tending to some other smaller tanks/barrels – these for the wines he & Sophie are making as a ‘side-line’ under their own names – micro negoce wines from Gevrey En Champs, Vosne Les Barreaux, and a Meursault. We sat down in another room for a very pleasant tasting of both Domaine Sirugue’s, and the couple’s micro negoce, wines (no Meursault though). I was amazed here to find how strong Arnaud’s English was as I’d never previously been aware of that at Noellat. We talked easily about ‘this and that’ – he’s a really nice guy. At one point we got onto who in Vosne was related, married etc to whom !! This, from Arnaud, a fount of knowledge & gossip, was amazing such that I ended up joking an extensive written family tree was required to keep track. I do remember particular mention of the wife (or girlfriend ?) of Pierre Duroche of Gevrey as ‘hailing’ from a Vosne family.

In putting together a wine order discussion also ensued around (the very problematic !) potential availability of Sirugue’s Grand Echezeaux ! Arnaud did hesitantly say, if I was really keen, he would see what he could do for me, maybe next year, in this respect but said average production was only c600 bottles a year, cost €180 a bottle ! Such was clearly going to be a huge problem so I thanked him but told him we should forget it. Instead, with my purchasing focus this year in the main being on lower end wines, I bought Domaine 6 packs of Aligote and PTG, both 2019 & €8 euros a bottle (!), a 6 pack of 2018 Bourgogne Rouge, 3 each of Vosne Village and Vosne 1er Petits-Monts, both 2018s, and finally 3 bottles of the Arnaud et Sophie Sirugue-Noellat 2018 Vosne-Romanee ‘Les Barreaux’. I was particularly pleased with the Petits-Monts, a raging bargain (in UK terms) €62 a bottle ! Arnaud offered to drop the wines off later that day, straight into the Noellat garage, whilst I continued roving about which was very handy for me. By now lunch was looking close, in fact Arnaud was being called for his, so I bade my goodbye’s and departed towards NSG and the Hautes-Cotes.

My route to the Hautes-Cotes was that ‘well worn’ one we’d followed during the vendange i.e the D8 through Chaux but rather than any diversion to vines or Villars-la-Faye I continued until reaching the D8’s cross roads with the D115 – roughly between Villars & Marey-le-Fussey. At the cross roads I continued over towards Marey but pulled into the car park of the Maison Aux Milles Truffes l’Or des Valois. This truffle retailer with café/restaurant in its semi isolated location I’d visited last year purchasing various truffle products for my truffle keen wife & daughter – confess truffles don’t ‘do’ a lot for me particularly. Place seemed quite busy judging by the number of parked vehicles but, not sure what might be required at home, I fired off a couple of quick texts. As well I did so as les femmes dans UK were ambivalent at any more truffe produits so I carried in into Marey which I just trickled through in observation mode. This is a village I’d like to vinously explore a lot more on another occasion as there seem any number of vignerons in the village – Michel Joannet & Thevenot le Brun look notably interesting. Anyway, my focus was elsewhere but for now we were in the 12.00-14.00 lunch period, albeit I’d again decided to forego any scoff, not having had the foresight, silly me, to acquire sandwiches or similar. From Marey, with no rush & time to kill, I drifted slowly to Fussey, then via Changey into Echevronne and a slow tour around the sleepy village passing the smart property of Jean Fery et Fils I’d successfully visited last year then checking out my forthcoming destination of Domaine Cornu-Camus. Retracing my route back past Jean Fery I took the Rue de Marey up & out of the village, past its cemetery, to a small triangle junction. A largish plot of vines was on my right, to my left an uncultivated field, on the edge of which I parked up, beyond which were more vines. I chilled here for a while enjoying the peace, quiet and bird song before setting off again slowly across country (lots of vines hereabouts & great views) to another sleepy hamlet, Magney-les Villers. After another slow tour around the centre here I found a small area to park up on, next to the church, across the road from the classic looking, small French town/village Mairie, with its flag, clock and ‘Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite’ words over the door. To my left I was highly intrigued, and not a little impressed, by what appeared to be a classic, vintage, British Royal Enfield** motorcycle, resplendent with red tank and gleaming chrome. Coincidentally I’d seen the same sort of bike (might have been the same one) outside the NSG Intermarche the previous evening. The same machine as I was looking at now ?

Time ticked slowly by, the only movement initially the emergence from a gap in the wall in front of the motorcycle, of an impressively furry, longish haired, local dark tabby cat. Pussy regarded me warily (fair enough !), with no intention of making friends (I love cats), even less of letting me anywhere near close, and moved off left around the corner. As I was considering a move a chap in a Peugeot arrived in the tight gap next to me so giving him room with acknowledged thanks back to me I reversed out & headed back out of the top of the village, passing the Naudin-Ferrand premises (noted for future reference), towards Echevronne, also noting between villages a harvesting machine in the near distance with attendant tractor & trailer. Back in Echevronne there was still time to kill to get towards cessation of the lunch period at 14.00 hrs so I decided to head on down to Pernand-Vergelesses, figuring by the time I got there it would be past 14.00 hrs or as near as, and I could call to see Christine at Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine before coming back to Echevronne. Unbeknowns to me though D-F are closed Saturday afternoons so that was a shame but I would have enough wine & opportunities.

Back to Echevronne and up past the cemetery I returned to my original field verge parking spot by the small triangle junction. I’d not been here more than a few minutes when the quiet was disturbed by the sound of machinery, it initially being difficult to tell where it was coming from. I soon found out as despite the extended lunch hour eventually two large blue New Holland harvesting machines (why, seemingly, are all these machines blue, pray ?) came across the field towards me from vines beyond and headed off. I was just digesting the sight of those and blow me another arrived to commence work on a plot of vines across the road from me. This was the same type New Holland SB60 as I’d just seen but interestingly (probably the same for the others but I hadn’t noticed) had stickers on each side identifying it to the Nuiton-Beaunoy Co-Operative (on the roundabout south of Beaune by the turning to Pommard). Alongside the driver/operator’s door was a young female, standing upright, holding on tight – presumably girlfriend/partner of the seated operator. Quite fascinating watching this machine close up even though I’ve seen one at close quarters before (3/4 years ago at vines adjacent to Domaine Arlaud’s HCDN Rough plot near Concoeur). I’m not sure, but my impression of this latest generation of harvester (it looked pretty new to me) was that it was a little more efficient/sympathetic to the vines than earlier examples. It didn’t seem to be giving the vines the extremely rough thrashing treatment I’ve noted in years before and, once it had passed, the vines looked in a very decent state. The Hautes-Cotes high trained vines must be ideal I guess for these harvesters than the vines on the Cote below.

I could have watched the machine from various angles for a while but enough time had now elapsed for me to drop back down and through the village to Domaine Cornu-Camus. I’d loved the wines I’d bought here in 2019, all long consumed with alacrity and much enjoyment (without also thinking about the keen prices !). Pulling into the domaine premises the two young boys I remembered from 2019 were careering about on their scooters in ubiquitous football shirts (FC Barcelona’s !). I was warmly greeted by Pierre Camus, a lovely now semi-retired, twinkingly eyed, flat cap vigneron. He seemed to recall me from 2019 & was touchingly solicitous of my hip related difficulty in getting out of the car from which we descended to the cellar. He explained his daughter, Lydia, & her husband Christophe Pertuzot, the latter a friendly bear of a guy (now I think the winemaker) were out for the afternoon. No matter, I was very happy to taste and spend time with Pierre. He seemed very content with their 2020 harvest, themes the same as I’d experienced and had found elsewhere i.e nice fruit, pretty much trouble free harvest, just volume down somewhat. Unfortunately, no HCDN Chardonnay (2018 sold out, 2019 to be bottled) and I already had my quota of Aligote from Philippe Chavy and Sirugue. I was happy to settle for 2 x 6 packs of the delicious Pernand 2018 Blanc (€14 a bottle) and a 6 pack of the very tasty 2018 CdN Villages (€13 a bottle). Pierre would have none of it when I went to pick up some of my purchases and, despite being of small stature himself, insisted on carrying all three 6 packs at once to my car, before we crossed the yard to the office for paperwork & payment. I asked about the large dog from 2019, conspicuous now by its absence, which had then been partly bandaged from some canine injury/problem. Pierre told me it had died – I couldn’t pick up adequately from what he said what the cause of its passing was & whether related to the 2019 problem. Sad, as it was a lovely dog, noisy but friendly, then with an obvious close bond with the family’s 2 young boys. Two visits here now. I adore this domaine, one which will be an ongoing fixture on my visit ‘list’.

Very happy with my Echevronne visit I figured I could make time, and afford in time, cost & car space, one more domaine visit before calling it ‘quits’ for 2020. I knew exactly where to go as well so back down the valley, past Pernand, into Beaune (or rather around it), and out towards Meursault but destination Auxey-Duresses and Domaine Jean-Pierre Diconne. As I approached Auxey I was passed by any number of Porsches heading the other way – presumably some owners club outing. Impressive ! Monsieur Diconne Senior didn’t seem to recognise me from my two previous visits here, not even when I tried to recall, with my limited vocabulary, the issue we’d had last year with the domaine’s inoperative card payment machine (not then my credit card provider !) which had necessitated my returning the following day with cash. No matter, my visit here was brief as I was only after a single 6 pack of the domaine’s delicious 2017 Auxey VV Blanc. Next time I pass this way I’ll aim for more wines from here !

Afternoon now moving on so back towards Beaune and its south side BP Service Station for a full tank top up of Ultimate Diesel to take me to Calais and beyond. Fully fuelled, back towards Vosne, but with another visit to the NSG Intermarche for homeward bound provisions – sandwiches, crisps, bottled water, bottles of Foire aux Vins crémant for madam, and tins of canard and cassoulet. Search as I might I couldn’t find any tins of gesiers unfortunately. What I did come across, on the far side of the store, away from the main wine selection were some other wines with my eyes drawn, irresistibly, to some William Fevre Chablis – and, result, it was 2014 – €14 a bottle. Would have been rude not to so 3 bottles added to my shopping.

Back in Vosne and into the Noellat garage for moi et voiture. I unpacked this day’s purchases then stood back and ‘took stock’ of what I had to get into the car for the return to the UK. I’d also noted Arnaud Sirugue, bless him, true to his word, had accessed the garage and left the wines I’d bought from him alongside my other purchases from Friday already there. Additionally, as a heart-warming nice touch, he’d also left a bottle of cassis with a felt tip pen scrawled message and smiley face emoji on one of the wine boxes explaining the cassis was made by his father and would go well with Aligote or Cremant ! Brilliant, what a guy. Car loading after multiple post vendange purchases and personal luggage has always been a challenge – sometimes particularly so !!! I remember one year in the yard at Arlaud where I had to have two or three attempts to ‘successfully’ shoehorn everything, with difficulty & ‘creatively’ into my then VW Bora work horse – much to Cyprien’s amusement at the time ! Having already sorted out my two luggage bags I set aside the clothes & footwear I would use for Sunday, with washbag etc, and then brought everything else e.g all bags, rucksack (with its books, papers, electricals etc), and footwear etc down into the garage from my upstairs room. I decided best to actually load the car just pre departure, knowing full well from past experience what a hot & sweaty exercise that might be, and rather than leave it standing packed overnight down on its suspension. I was glad, this year, I didn’t have to include any Dujac errand boxes as well as such could have been a tipping point issue !

So, light supper, finish of my beers, and an early night. Sunday morning just pre 4.00 a.m. saw me in the garage, with my loading jigsaw puzzle of wine boxes, luggage etc to how best fit into the car – thank goodness for having an estate & lowered rear seats ! All done without too much pain or difficulty but I was relieved I didn’t have more wine – beautifully judged 😊. Luggage on top of wine boxes and a car rug and couple of jackets over to cover from prying eyes behind the privacy glass. Remained only to strip my bed, have a shower, have a last check over/look around, exit & close/lock the garage doors, drop the key as arranged with Alain into the domaine post box, then at approx. 4.50 a.m., with it still dark, say goodbye to Vosne & head for the Autoroute at Nuits for Calais & home.

Hope my vendange word & photo diary might have amused and/or been of interest. Thanks to Bill for encouraging and publishing, and to the wonderful Famille Noellat, my fellow vendangeurs (in the main !), our chef and the other domaine staff who looked after us, and to those other super vignerons I met. I reckon we all survived Covid (I haven’t heard otherwise) for which I guess, for now, 2020 will be remembered. Back in the UK I did have raging sore throat and nasty cough for 2/3 weeks but was always sure it wasn’t Covid – as a test ultimately proved. Post my return from France UK quarantine I have had an X Ray at the local hospital, immediately after which my car ‘survived’ being rear ended on my way home, the X ray result confirming serious issues with my left hip (has deteriorated significantly since the vendange – oops !) for which I now await an orthopaedic consultation – likely outcome seemingly a hip replacement. We’ll see, but something needs to ‘give’ ! Whether I can get ‘sorted’, timing wise, for any 2021 vendange only timings will tell – for now I can’t contemplate a vendange (other than simply propped up at triage table maybe !) in present condition. But, I’m determined ! Merci.

Postscript:-

** Just recently saw this news item which suggests the motorcycle I saw in Magney-les-Villers might not have been the vintage classic I thought it was – hum !

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-54429714

the saturday saunter…

By billn on November 09, 2020 #travel pics

In the deep of the Berner Oberland, with magnificent, if misty, views of the mountains – a modest 10km walk in just under 2 hours…
A fabulous day out…

last friday, including the return of an old ‘friend’…

By billn on November 09, 2020 #travels in burgundy 2020

Catching up after a busy weekend, but here are, mainly, some Santenay photos from last Friday but also the last one is the return of an old ‘friend!’

Yes, erected only on Thursday, it looks like the police (or state) need the money – the traffic camera is back – after only 12 days since the last local exorcism!

my week so far…

By billn on November 05, 2020 #travels in burgundy 2020

The view to Chassagne from the hill above Montrachet
Today’s view to Chassagne from the hill above Montrachet

A bizarre week in the world – that’s for sure – but with some beautiful views, as above.

Since the end of last week, France is in lockdown – and the scale of infections seems to amply justify it – only essential work is allowed to continue.

It’s a stretch to describe wine-tasting and domaine visits as essential work – I’m with you here. But as my sole source of income, it’s essential to me, and seemingly for merchants (who can’t visit) who are desperate for tasting notes and producers who rely on getting notes in front of buyers, the (wine) industry in France does see this work as essential – and for that, I’m very thankful.

It will not surprise you that there’s much paperwork required to be out and about – justifications – this is administrative France, after-all. So far, in covid-compatible mode, including making my sandwiches every morning as there are no restaurants, I’ve been underway without any issue – so far! I’ve chosen a measure of discretion, I’m not flooding instagram with my (usual) pretty images (ha-ha!) but it’s important to underline that, for now, my work continues here.

Of course, if they close the borders between France & Switzerland, like they did earlier this year, then my visits will certainly be over for the foreseeable future…

marko’s harvest diary 11-Sep-20 – day 9 – post-script!

By Marko de Morey de la Vosne on November 03, 2020 #vintage 2020

Chassagne-Montrachet

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – (Post) Vendange Day 9, Friday 11th Sept 2020

The morning after the night before !

Whilst our working vendange was now over, as I’ve mentioned previously it has been my habit in recent years to look to stay on in Burgundy post vendange for 2/3 days ‘me time’, to make the most of actually being there. The early 2017 conclusion of my 40 years + banking career also meant there were no longer any ‘get back to work’ pressures to hinder me. Such brief ‘extra’ stay though, with my tight fistedness ruling out moving to any hotel at attendant cost, has required my employers allowing me to stay on in my accommodation subject of course to my feeding myself. Am pleased to say this has never been an issue at any of my four employers over the thirteen years. My principal focus in my ‘me time’ has been to visit vignerons, either one’s I’ve got to know well just to ‘catch up’, or to buy/collect wines for myself and one or two ‘mates’ back in the UK – this latter aspect was to be my initial focus this Friday but let’s not get ahead of one’s self !

All through the vendange I’d never needed an alarm clock, other than my own ‘built-in’ alarm ! I’d set my phone alarm for the morning of Day One but had awoken before it was due to go off and thereafter never bothered. This morning though, I slept in, only sleepily ‘coming to’ at circa 7.30 a.m. to hear various noises in the garage below and people moving noises in the corridor beyond our rooms. Rousing myself it didn’t take me long to work out that earlier risers had either left for home, or were in the process of doing so. In the garage Gerald, Hubert and others were valeting the hire vehicles ahead of their (the vehicles) being returned. The two occupants of the room next to me had packed, stripped their beds, and moved out. Isabel was at the sink at the top of the stairs doing her morning ablutions, and beyond her peeking into the communal dormitory revealed 4/5 of the 12 occupants to be comatose ‘away with the fairies’, with the others having left or about to. My plan for the day was to sort myself out, get on the internet for some necessary personal admin, and then set out on my travels for the day – to initially call at Domaine Francois Andre, Beaune, then Domaine Philippe Chavy, Puligny-Montrachet – both new to me. My ‘mission’ in visiting these two domaines in the first instance was to acquire very specific wines for longstanding friend and fellow Burgundy Report subscriber, Phil E. Between us we’ve come to call such visits as ‘foraging’, something I’ve done for a few years now at Phil’s behest with varying degrees of success or failure ! This year I was more confident of 100% success as for Domaine Andre there is the ‘Bill connection’, and re Philippe Chavy Phil E had already been in contact with the domaine for the 3 bottles he wanted from there so I was just collecting. I’ve valued Phil’s instructed tasks over the years as being very useful in my getting across the threshold at some domaines I might not have otherwise visited and giving me the opportunity on those calls to buy some bottles for myself at the same time. Another regular annual task in several past years has been to call at Domaine Dujac for another UK friend, who’s a longtime (from university) friend of Jeremy Seysses, and has cellared various wines (not just Dujac’s) at Dujac for years – various of which I’ve transported back to the UK on request and dropped off on my way home. This year though there was no requirement to collect such bottles so no ‘excuse’ to visit in Morey – a shame but at least I’d have more room in the car for own purchases.

I started the day by having an overdue tidy up sort out of my clothing across my two bags. I have one bag/case for vendange working clothing and another for more regular, smarter casual attire. As the vendange proceeds I tend to chuck worn/dirty clothing in a pile (in this year under a spare bed) so as not to mix with unworn, clean garments and sort out later. Usually I bring a bin liner or two for the stuff heading for a washing machine on my return but this year had forgotten said bin liners so resolved to pack the worn clothing, vendange & otherwise, in one case and the clean stuff from both categories in the other bag. This sorting task took a little while but was worth it in tidying up and giving a clear mind on wardrobe ! After this shower time then off out around to the domaine buildings to hunt down a coffee or two to accompany my breakfast bar. Moving from the garage, onto the street briefly, then through the gates onto the domaine buildings forecourt the latter area was transformed as the substantial awning which had covered our dining area had been taken down and dismantled, with the tables and chairs in the process of being moved into the large room usually used for dining in non Covid times. There were enough ‘bodies’ attending to the above that my services clearly weren’t required so I headed for the office to seek permission to move into the ‘shop’ caveau room for use of the wi-fi. Madam Noellat greeted me cheerily, what a sweet, fabulous lady she is and, readily consenting to my wi-fi use request also took the opportunity to give me my wages envelope. Gross pay for the vendange for me €636.41, net €525.07 after deduction of tax €111.34 ☹. I haven’t looked up last year’s pay but believe may have been more, if not a lot different. I was used to a little more at Arlaud but my vendanges there involved a day or two more and longer hours. Pay is obviously useful but has never been a key driver for my love of the vendange. I’m not sure, if asked, whether I’d work the vendange without being paid – I guess I probably would – but that’s never arisen as I’m always working with those for whom the pay is a lot more important than it is for me !

In addition to the wi-fi access I value my time in the caveau for its peace & quiet. This morning, sipping my coffee, my tasks were email catching up, quick read of the online BBC News & BBC Sport pages (latter mainly to catch up on The Mighty Reds aka Liverpool FC & Formula 1), booking my return travel across La Manche (the English Channel), and completing the online UK Government’s specific Covid related form required from those returning from France. Mentioning Formula 1 here has reminded me of the amazing result for Pierre Gasly from the Italian Grand Prix the weekend before this one. I’d only learnt of this at our evening meal get together that Sunday as it was, understandably, ‘the talk’ of my French colleagues. I’d been appropriately incredulous at the time to hear what was being talked about as well but pleased for supa nice guy, talented, Gasly who, for me, had a ‘bum rap’ in the Red Bull Senior team. Everyone loves an underdog don’t they ? Particularly the British !

Perusal of the cross-channel return options quickly ruled out the Euro Tunnel train this time as the price differential with the ferries was much wider (adversely) than when I crossed to France. I wasn’t bothered either about speed crossing back so went for a mid-day Calais-Dover ferry for Sunday. The UK Government ‘immigration’ form was simple enough to complete online – to me was clearly designed to obtain track & trace details once one was back in the UK. The only tricky bit, with my having no printer (didn’t want to bother Madam Noellat in this respect), and the authorities requiring one to be able to present the completed form on one’s smart phone, was to email it to myself which I duly did. A bit of previous photos downloading/editing completed my admin tasks for the first part of the morning and, gathering what I needed for my ramble through the rest of the day, I calculated I just had enough time, all being well, to get to Beaune & make Domaine Francois Andre my first point of call before lunch. I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to also get to Puligny pre lunchtime so Philippe Chavy would have to ‘come’ just after lunch. I figured I’d kill time after Beaune around Meursault, Puligny & Chassagne.

I had to make a brief ‘pit stop’ on the way out of Vosne at the Noellat cuverie to collect a key for the garage large metal doors to the street, to enable me to lock myself in at night and secure the premises during the day after everyone else had departed, then it was onwards a vers Beaune on this bright, sunny, warm morning. Bill has, if I recall correctly, previously referenced Domaine des Terregelesses – Francois Andre (to properly quote its full name) as now the (one of the) only working wineries within Beaune’s old walls. I was fortunate, carefully navigating the narrow (with other parked cars) Rempart Saint-Jean, to find the last available parking space almost outside the Domaine’s front door. As I was manoeuvring an older, suited, gentleman was awaiting the door being answered but entered before I might have joined him. Once I rang the bell I was greeted, having explained who I was etc, in the most delightfully, warm, friendly fashion by Lauriane Andre whom it must be impossible not to instantly warm to. My key focus was the domaine’s Beaune Blanc 1er cru Belissand as a requirement for friend, Phil E. I gather a Blanc is a rarity from the Belissand terroir and the Andre version one that has only recently become available after newish planting with Chardonnay ? With time pressing towards lunch we (Lauriane and self) agreed that I’d return in the afternoon to collect my chosen wines. In addition to 3 bottles of the Belissand Blanc (I’d neglected to ask Phil how many he wanted but would happily take any ‘extra’ myself) I chose 6 packs for myself of the domaine’s Beaune Rouge 2016 Les Bon Feuvres, Pommard 2017 Les Vaumuriens (plot purchased from Coche-Dury 2013 ?), and Bourgogne Blanc 2018 Cote D’Or. I was a lucky boy, with Lauriane endearing herself further to me, by her explaining that the domaine had recently had an offer on certain wines (including my choices) but whilst that offer had recently ended she would apply that offer discount to my already wallet friendly purchases. Result !

So, delighted with my first visit outcome, & lunchtime (2 hours of course in France) looming I headed south out of Beaune and initially to Meursault. I decided not to bother with lunch, not feeling particularly hungry. Pottering, en voiture, around the central back streets of Meursault, out of curiosity I initially looked for the premises of Domaine Vincent Latour – my interest being on the back of an intended May 2020 week+ stay in the Domaine’s gite (through Gites de France) which my wife and I had to cancel due to UK/French lockdowns/restrictions at the time. Found the Latour premises easily enough so handy for future reference as we’ve carried over our aborted 2020 booking to, fingers crossed (!), May 2021.

From Meursault, who’s centre seemed pretty busy, I took the road out past Michelot & Bernard-Bonin towards Puligny, arcing right up thro Genevrieres to the higher road, past Puligny Champ-Canet, and the small copse of trees below Blagny, coming out beyond those trees to stop on the verge of Folatieres just past Magenta’s Clos de la Garenne & below Boillot’s Clos de la Mouchere Monopole. Took some photos before continuing a bit further then dropping down into sleepy Puligny. I mooched about around Puligny before taking the road out towards the RN974 to check, for later, the location of Domaine Philippe Chavy, as not far from the main road junction. Happy with location I then drove back thro Puligny, up thro the vines and across towards Chassagne. A slow driving meander followed thro Chassagne, then past Clos St Jean, followed by Les Chaumees & its Clos de la Truffiere, then St Aubins’s Le Charmots & Les Combes before crossing the N6 & up towards Gamay. All sleepy hollow here other than a truck delivering to Domaine Larue’s new premises. With still time on my hands I cruised slowly back towards and into Puligny, parking in the welcome shade of a building wall on the square near Hotel Le Montrachet. I chilled whilst allowing suitable time to go past 14.00 hrs before heading back towards Domaine Philippe Chavy.

The domaine’s previously closed gates were now open so in I went, passing the main house, turning around in front of the cuverie buildings to park in the shade of trees between house & buildings. Wondering where to now head for the decision was made for me as what turned out to be Philippe himself and one of his friendly employees approached. I was instantly impressed by Philippe, who struck me immediately as my kind of vigneron in his overalls. I managed to convey I’d come for Phil E’s bottles but would welcome the opportunity to buy some additional wine for myself whereupon Philippe led me into the cuverie and an array of already opened bottles and halves, with chalk written identification, lined up on a desk underneath a statue of St Vincent. Beyond the existing above ground cuverie metal shed building, to the far side & rear of it, construction works were in course for expansion. Philippe was quite prepared to give me a ‘full monty’ tasting of the whole of the domaine’s portfolio of wines which, on another day, would have been eagerly accepted but, conscious of time limitations on me, as politely as I could I had to ‘restrain’ him to those cuvees I was interested in purchasing. The end result was 2 x 6 packs of 2016 (bottle age a plus !) of Bourgogne Aligote at €8 bottle (!), 2 x 6 packs of Bourgogne Chardonnay 2018 at €14 each and a single 6 pack, also 2018, of the St Aubin 1er cru Les Murgers des Dents de Chien (€32 each) – the latter a long time favourite cru from different producers. We left the cuverie to deposit my purchases in the car, move on to the house office to collect Phil E’s bottles, and to make card payment. As we did so a French registered Range Rover had arrived, its occupants suitably greeting us, which led immediately to my sixth sense the couple were British. Quel surprise, indeed they were, with an interesting conversation following with Domaine Mischief & Mayhem’s Michael Ragg & Fiona Traill-Stevenson. I’m not sure who was more intrigued to meet who but for me it was something of a weird coincidence for Brits to meet up as we did. Turned out Michael & Fiona were dropping off a quantity of their wines to be collected by a mutual client who was to call for purchases at Philippe Chavy in due course. I was a tad spooked that Fiona realised, or guessed before I had the chance to explain, that I was Bill’s Burgundy Report Michel Noellat vendange correspondent and it was clear that she’d previously read my vendange diary and was looking forward to my forthcoming ‘work’ ! After encouraging me to call in at Aloxe any time they went on their way and I went with Philippe into his office to finalise paperwork & payment. I loved this visit, much taken by the diminutive, no airs & graces, down to earth vigneron and resolved to return one day as soon as I’m able. Thank you Philippe !

So, enthused by my day so far, back to Beaune to see Lauriane at Francois Andre as previously agreed and collect more wine ! Turning off the Beaune ‘Peripherique’, onto Rue Armand Gouffre, I had a brief heart stopping moment as, approaching the junction with Rempart Saint-Jean, with the Domaine’s ‘working’ cuverie door opening onto Rue Armand Gouffre at the junction, a little old, very elderly, lady on my immediate right decided to step off the pavement into the road seemingly to avoid the pavement made wet by cleaning water coming from the domaine. If I hadn’t been almost stationary prior to turning right, and hadn’t already had my eye on her, I could quite easily have almost knocked her down. As it was she proceeded on without giving any indication she’d noticed my car and, breathing a sigh of relief, I parked up outside the domaine front door. I was given a brief tour of the impressive buildings, including cuverie and barrel cellar. All suitably impressive as was my charming host (hostess ?) and after loading wines, payment and bidding my appreciative good bye’s whilst being encouraged to return anytime, I left for my next port of call which, quite close by, was the hugely impressive set up of Bouchard Pere et Fils & its parking area off the Rue du Chateau. My ‘target’ here was the Chassagne 1er cru En Remilly – which had fascinated me since Bill wrote a piece on it some months ago and also covered, with photos, in a post on a UK wine forum. The Bouchard ‘shop’ was an oasis of cool & quiet calm. It was, in layout terms, not as I remembered it from a former visit 2/3 years ago, the slightly haughty, superior, sales gentleman who greeted me confirming changes had been made. He became immediately enthused by my mention of the ‘En Remilly’. Several vintages were on offer (which I already knew from Bill). Also, the gentleman was very clearly aware of Bill’s/Burgundy Report’s ‘association‘/publicising of the wine. Not cheap at €86 a bottle hence I restricted myself, reluctantly, to just a 3 bottle pack but very happy to depart with that. The day, which had been another glorious bright sunny one, seemed to be getting warmer (hotter !) all the time as I drove away from Beaune with suitably cooling aircon switched on.

Wither from Beaune ? Actually Chambolle-Musigny. My destination here was Domaine Boursot Pere et Fils & their centre village direct sales cave. A domaine new to me in wine terms but one which I’d resolved to visit since Bill first ‘covered’ them, profile wise, in Burgundy Report. That Famille Boursot as viticulteurs trace their history back to 1550 is quite incredible. I won’t go into more detail about the domaine as Bill’s already suitably covered that on Burgundy Report. As I got out of my car right in front of the family home my timing was perfect as a couple were departing the caveau opposite hence I was able to introduce myself to Romuald Borsot (at least I think it was Romuald – the spectacle wearing brother anyway) and follow him back into the caveau. All was going swimmingly here, great little set up and very attractive wines, until I came to pay !!! Five times Romuald and myself tried to get his card machine to accept my payment but no way seemingly would it go through. Not a little embarrassed, as well as annoyed at my card provider, I stepped outside to call the UK, ready to vent my spleen on the credit card company. Not quite ! For over 40 minutes I waited in vain for my call to be answered before giving up. Only after ending the call did I see my phone had received two fraud type check texts from the credit card company asking me to reply with a ‘Y’ for ‘Yes’ if my attempted Boursot transaction was genuine ! I replied quickly, in fact so quickly I inadvertently replied twice but no matter as that generated an immediate auto reply telling me the transaction would go through if I presented my card again through the retailer (i.e Boursot). Confidently returning to Romuald, after he’d finished attending to a young Dutch couple who had professed they didn’t really like red wine (eh ?) then bought a single bottle of Bourgogne Chardonnay (!), we tried again with the card machine. To my utter disbelief, further embarrassment & by now seething anger at Barclaycard, twice more the transaction would not go through. All I could do was apologise to Romuald and ask him to put the intended purchases on one side until the following day by which time I intended to have sorted matters out with an evening phone call to the UK & formal complaint. My purchases (to be) were 6 packs of 2017 Bourgogne Rouge & Chardonnay, a dozen bottles of Cremant de Bourgogne (made for Boursot as the case with Arlaud’s), a 6 pack of the Chambolle 2018 Les Echezeaux which really impressed on tasting & was a new terroir to me, and 3 bottles of the 2013 Chambolle 1er Les Lavrottes which I preferred to the Fuees – handy bottle age here.

I could not depart Chambolle without a closer look, yards away from the Boursot premises, at an ancient & very impressive tall oak tree at the road side with adjoining plaque. The words on the plaque detailed the ancient lime tree as being originally planted in the reign of Henry IV (1575-1610) & having a height of 17.5m & maximum circumference of 8.70m. Fantastic ! A bit bafflingly to me that I had never noticed this tree previously but I was glad to spend some moments looking in awe at it now.

From Chambolle, with, now circa 16.30 I had more time on my hands before thinking of calling it quits for the day in rambling terms so I headed for Morey-St-Denis, deeming it rude not to call and say ‘hello’ etc at Domaine Arlaud. Taking the road from Chambolle through the vines, below Bonnes-Mares/above Ruchots, into Morey and then turning right at the church (curiously no sign of the regular quartet of formidable ladies who usually inhabit the bench in front of Clos de Tart), then dropping down Grande Rue towards the RN74 I was highly intrigued on my right to note the construction works at Dujac which has seen demolition of a former building with currently a cleared area ahead of what’s to be built thereon. Dujac not the only Domaine with construction works as, pulling into the familiar Arlaud premises, more early stage construction was immediately evident at/across the rear of the building. Additionally, on the other side of the domaine premises i.e the front, what had been the small field with stable building where Berthille Arlaud had originally kept her horses sitting below the domaine building, has been levelled and covered with crushed stone as a parking area, a ramp leading down from the existing open area. Cheery greetings from the guys in the cuverie including Matthieu & Climent but no sign of Cyprien. Herve then just happened to appear, it clear from his attire he must indeed have ‘retired’ from vendange in the vines leadership as I’d anticipated in 2018. We were both pleased to see each other; he’s just a great bloke whom I warmed to massively in my 9 years of working with/for him which included some very special times. Herve explained Cyprien had nipped out but would be back any moment & sure enough as we chatted Cyp appeared en voiture. Beaming smiles on seeing each other. Suitable chat followed re our vendanges, the construction works, family etc etc. Cyp explained sister Berthille now had a baby daughter. He was clearly very happy, if not relaxed, with the Arlaud vendange which sounded very similar to my own experiences in fruit quality, slightly less volume etc etc. In response to my querying if he’d had any difficulties recruiting a vendange team he said not and that he’d been very happy with his team. He explained how they’d fed themselves evenings at the village premises but this all sounded a bit DIY cooking ‘skills’ which made me think I was a lot better off at Noellat. After more conversation we said our goodbye’s and I went on my way, glad that I’d made the effort to call but adjudging I’d probably been right to make a change after 9 years. What’s that saying about never going back ?

I concluded my roaming day by retracing my ‘steps’ to Nuits-St-Georges and the Intermarche to buy some sandwiches, crisps and beer for my evening sustenance. Once back at Noellat, now absolutely alone (bliss !), my first task was to unload my purchases into a cool area of the garage. That done back to my room but before evening dining a phone call to Barclaycard UK. I won’t bore you all with the detail of that but suffice to say I was suitably angry, the phone eventually answered this time. The lady in the UK recorded my request to register a formal complaint, full of apologies herself, but told me she had to put me through to the India based ‘Fraud Team’ who were ‘responsible’ for my afternoon troubles & frustrations. The increasingly frustrating and strained conversation with the incompetent sounding female Indian operative who’s response was basically “computer says no” was ultimately a joke. She could, or would, not explain what had happened at Boursot, and particularly after I’d text confirmed my attempted transaction as genuine to receive confirmation that transaction would go though – but it then didn’t ! All she would say in response to my rising anger was that if I returned to Boursot the next day i.e Saturday all would be well, she but she was evasive when continually pressed by me to ‘guarantee’ that and/or whether I’d have further fraud ‘trouble’ e.g paying for the essential fuel to be required to get back to the UK !

Joke phone call over I consoled myself with my evening repast and warm beers before calling it a day, or is that night, and retreating to bed whilst mulling my plans for the following day.

weekend stuff

By billn on November 02, 2020 #degustation#travel pics

After returning from France, the weather was lovely on Friday & Saturday, so after multiple chores on Friday, we chose a walk for Saturday in the beautiful Emmental – which is on our doorstep. All thoughts of confinement were bannished here in the Swiss countryside!

The trees and houses, set on top of hills, are like a slightly more rustic Tuscany – but with better mountains for a backdrop 🙂 We chose a 10.5 km route of Landiswil – Aspiegg – Löchlibad – Tanne – back to Landiswil – it could have 9.5 km if we’d done it properly!

Returning to home, there was wine – hooray! There was also a wholely unnecessary amount of mess and work to extract a broken cork, but at least once we got at the wine, the effort was to be rewarded!

Way back when, I opined in these pages that if 2005 had been only an average vintage, then 2006 might have some chance to compete with 2002 for the best vintage of the decade. I also thought some 2006s to be the equal of their counterparts from 2005 – and here, in action, was a great example of that:

As for the new week before us, I’m asking myself if all is really lost in terms of domaine visits in November – we shall see…

weekend 01 Nov 2020

2016 Moreau-Naudin, Chablis 1er Montmains
I love the wines from this producer but I really wasn’t sure what to make of this wine. Of-course, I expected concentration given the amount of frost suffered in this vintage, but I didn’t really expect such ripeness too. Fine acidity, but hard to find the minerality. Excellently tasty wine but you might have been hard-pressed to guess that it came from Chablis – and Montmains is such a cool (temperature!) terroir too.
Rebuy – Maybe

2006 Camille Giroud, Gevrey-Chambertin En Champs
Singing on all levels – bar one – that damn cork!
Now that’s a great nose of clarity, depth and width – slightly cushioned and a great invitation. In the mouth too, here is a simply delicious wine of very good concentration, red-cherry fruit and just enough freshness that the wine gives you no reason to think about ‘balance.’ Layered finishing whilst always showing good energy. With a little help, I had to drink nearly all of it on the first day. A glass remained for day two when it showed no additional development – good or bad – only a suggestion of barrel that I didn’t see on day one. That’s a great villages wine and a textbook example of a great 2006.
Rebuy -Yes

this week’s, pre-lockdown, 2019 inquisition…

By billn on October 30, 2020 #degustation

burg 2019 - 30 Oct 2020

A memento of some lovely visits and wines, pre-lockdown. My thanks for all the patience of these producers…
(Report coming soon)

Alphabetically (not pictorially):
Bachelet-Monnot
Chevrot
Sylvain Dussort
Albert Grivault
Patrick Javillier
Comtes Lafon
Dominique Lafon
Olivier Leflaive
de Montille
Jean-Marc Pillot
Rouget
Roulot
Elodie Roy
de Villaine
JM Vincent
Voillot

playing the game…

By billn on October 28, 2020 #travels in burgundy 2020

Puligny Combettes 28-Oct 2020
The sombre view over Puligny Combettes this afternoon – reflecting the mood of the (not just) French nation…

Given the misery that covid has brought to many, I could have, perhaps, found a better word than game – but as of midnight tomorrow (Thursday/Friday), we shall once-more be confronted by the lockdown in France.

What that means to me is that all of my existing appointments will be cancelled and I will be exiting France for the projected one month that was described by President Macron this evening. My list of domaines for the October Burgundy Report is practically complete – I will lose, perhaps, half-a-dozen domaines, but the November report – the reds – well, that’s going to be a bit thin.

But better thin than sick! Keep well all of you…

volnay’s warming biennial festivities for the police-industrial complex…

By billn on October 27, 2020 #sad losses...#travels in burgundy 2020

Tar and feathers!Perhpas you may remember the image to the right – almost exactly 2 years ago. The culmination of a game that began in the summer, first by knocking over, then burning & flaying (more than once), then finally tarring and feathering the radar camera for detecting speeding cars that had been installed on the Route Nationale below Volnay. The remains of the metal box were taken away by the authorities – never to return – or so we thought…

Truth be told, that camera was intentionally very sneaky indeed – hidden behind bushes so that a driver had no chance to see it before it was too late. Given such a state of affairs, and despite the medieval tortures that this metal box was put through, nobody had the slightest sympathy for said metal box.

Move on 2 years and at the beginning of this month, a new machine to subdue the workers arrived – more self-important, higher off the ground – and seemingly able to catalogue driving infringements in both directions too. Note that this time around, the actual apparatus stood nearly 3 metres above the ground. This was no-longer a machine to shy away in the bushes, here was a machine with dominion over all. Until this weekend – when it was set on fire again.

Despite not hiding the apparatus from view in this phase two approach, it seems that sympathy remains scant for this burnt-out hulk. It also seems that burning tyres remain an effective deterrent for the police-industrial-complex 🙂

Before and after:

Burgundy Report

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