Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Five, Monday 7th Sept 2020
Day 5:- Amazing how, for me, the vendange takes one away from it all, especially without regular wi-fi access. No newspapers & no TV. Almost total escapism into another world – no bad thing lol ? Unless I were to think hard, and almost count the days on fingers, then if someone asked me what day of the week it was then I’d be hard pressed to say. One is almost in a bubble of vendange routine. Am not sure if I’d be able quickly to say Day 5 was a Monday but if it was Monday then today meant Marsannay, followed up to lunch by interesting Fixin plots, then another afternoon return to Morey, but the latter a much more ‘comfortable’/normal one than the day before !
As I’ve said previously, what a difference a year can make weather wise ? When we ‘did’ both Marsannay & Fixin (the latter more than once) in 2019 both came after the weather ‘turned’ post the biblical NSG storm and became grey, cloudy & sometimes damp. The journey to the Noellat Marsannay plot this year was a pleasant interlude, start to the day, initially cruising up the RN74 through Gevrey, then left on the D108 into the village, then with a short right onto the Route des Grands Cru, before left again, still on the D108, the various signs pointing to the village domaines piquing my interest for return visits some time. Through the village, leaving buildings/habitation behind, Noellat’s plot of Marsannay is a relatively small one, in ‘Es Chezots’, the vines tucked into a sweeping uphill right hand bend of the D108, before two higher hairpin bends, on its way to Corcelles les Monts. Bright & sunny this morning, with an initial chill which made me keep a jumper on over my tee shirt. As last year we parked on a track opposite which takes one to a Sapin du Garde (observation deck) with uncultivated field on the Marsannay side, on the other trees and shrubs amongst which some local(s) has some kennels for what sounds like a large pack of chiens de chasse (hunting dogs – spaniels, hounds & terriers). Needless to say, as last year, even though the dogs must have been mostly out of sight of us, as soon as we arrived the peace & quiet was shattered by a cacophony of barking & baying which continued until we were leaving (and for all I know may have continued a while after !).
As an aside, whilst looking up ‘Es Chezots’ in my ‘Climats & Lieux Dits’ bible, I noticed on page 42 a (for me) stunning, uncaptioned, full page, photo (presumably relating to Marsannay) of a vineyard with what look like in focus lavender in flower amongst grass ahead of a very old looking vine with others and posts blurring out of focus heading downhill with village buildings in the background. Lovely photo which I’d be delighted to have taken.
Care required as we crossed the road in groups as traffic was regular. I could feel my hip as I tried to pick up speed across the tarmac but with nothing coming I could have paced myself. The full team of the four sub teams had made it here, and as the plot isn’t of great size, it didn’t really seem to take us long, even with two passes, for some of us to see off the staggered, shorter rows as one came back to the road. Nice grapes here, well presented, from well trained vines, no excessive foliage hence almost a joy to pick after my receding Morey nightmare. I’ve had the domaine wine from here a few times in a couple of vintages – a good one. So, back across the road, and whilst it seemed a little early/too soon for the casse-croute break, although I confess I had no idea of the real time, nevertheless, refuel we did in quite pleasant surroundings – continual doggy noise aside. Must confess I felt sorry for the cooped up canines, much as I did for the dogs in similar surroundings in a copse almost in the middle of Arlaud’s Bourgogne Roncevie. They must be gagging to get out when ‘released’ for the chasse. Quite relaxing though, sitting on the mini bus rear bumper in the sunshine, munching the usual large half baguette, sipping Aligote. Worst way’s to spend one’s time 😉.
Next stop, as I’d half guessed beforehand, after Marsannay was, logically, Fixin (pronounced Fissin). The more I see of parts of Fixin the more I like/warm to it, and as somewhere I could happily live. Another village, like Marsannay, with much scope to visit vignerons. Our first (of two) sites in Fixin this morning was a familiar one from last year, well below the village proper on the top side of a road who’s bottom side is residential housing. As last year I’m pretty sure we were looking at Fixin ‘En Clomee’ – if not that then Fixin ‘Les Chenevrieres’. As we pulled up & disembarked another domaine were working here, two tractors and trailers parked close by our vehicles. No great surprise this other domaine was the local Domaine Pierre Gelin (‘PG’). Readers of my vendange diary and photo views from 2019 may remember a photo I took then of a small, round, red post marker with the name of Pierre Gelin on it. PG has holdings in both ‘En Clomee’ & ‘Les Chenevrieres’ so I’m correct we were in one of those two. I sort of recall we had two or three serious go’s at this site last year but this was to be our sole visit for 2020. Maybe the Bulgarians had been here already or coming to it after us. Whatever, whilst I had strong memories of very long, time consuming rows, such didn’t seem the case this year – maybe the much better weather and dry ground underfoot cast a different light. With the full team here though, half were directed to the other end of the rows to work back whilst the rest of us set off from ‘this’ end so we effectively halved the rows. Nice grapes again here on this heavier, low lying ground.
What followed the above rows was rather interesting and not something that featured in 2019. It’s a crying shame I lost my photos this day, from here and later in Fixin (see later). Further on up the road (as the song says – now who sang that ?) as just a short walk, on the opposite side, were another plot of (Pinot) vines. These lay beyond a piece of land given over to allotments. The individual allotment nearest to us was a ‘work of art’ on which the owner had, and is, clearly lavished/lavishing much time and effort beyond whatever he/she must be growing. There is, for want of a better word, a posh ‘cabin’ – maybe better described as a small pavilion – with veranda, and also further into the plot, perhaps in the middle, was a serious looking tree house constructed, from the ground up into/around the tree, from wooden pallets – quite a structure. As someone who’s had to domestically break up pallets (used for delivery of bathroom fittings), unable to find a home for them (seems most pallet firms deal in sizeable quantities, not interested in one or two) I was highly impressed ! Once we were on this second plot of vines we could also see more handiwork from the allotment owner on the far side of the cabin, namely a brick barbecue, and also a sink and ‘draining board’ type preparation area on brick pylons. Anyway, allotment escapism aside, this second plot of vines were quite something as high trained, akin to what one would find on the Hautes-Cotes as we’d come to in due course. I was intrigued. We were paired up to work the rows here, as usual with these high trained vines. For me, that meant the start of what was to pleasingly continue for such vines for the rest of the vendange, being paired with the quiet, studious, highly likeable, older than me, Patrick Prevost who lives in Nuits. Patrick and I worked well together and in time dispatched our row efficiently before assisting laggards elsewhere before final grapes were collected & we returned to the vehicles. One clown, a wiry, older, guy who I believe is a long standing regular, who’d tried to ‘take the piss’ out of me one evening as ‘Anglais’ until a gave him a mouthful to the consternation of others and Alain Noellat (who asked me if I was ok to which I just grimaced), decided it was ‘clever’ to climb a decent sized tree on this high trained plot & start shouting some unintelligible (to me anyway). Clearly an exhibitionist but with only half a brain, who clearly hadn’t considered the implications, not least for the Noellats, if he’d fallen to the ground. From his shaking of the head and quiet muttering it was clear to me Patrick was as unimpressed as I was by ‘Tarzan’ !
Back in the vehicles, sometime to go before lunch, so off we went to another Fixin plot – or the others did as we (in our vehicle) got lost and ended up in a random tour of the village before eventually making it to where we should have gone directly by which time the others were dismounting and making their way on foot to the next plot. We’d set off in the right direction but in the front seat, local Odile was directing Jean-Claude up & through the village but, and am not sure why exactly, the latter must have misunderstood the directions, resulting in us taking, I think, a left instead of what should have been a right. In efforts to ‘get back on track’ we seemed to take almost an entire convoluted circuit of the village, to the ongoing puzzlement of the back seats passengers (including your’s truly), at one point passing the well known to me Domaine Jean-Michel & Armelle Molin, close by the village’s Roman bath house. We should have gone directly up the Rue Noisot to the restaurant, Au Clos Napoleon, and taken a right down the side of the restaurant building onto the Rue des Hervelets a ver Fixey – which we got to eventually. I was anticipating we were to pick, below the road, last year’s Fixin Les Boudieres/Le Village where I’d been on the village side outside row and ended up with vines, under the shadow of trees and shrubs, having minimal grapes. Above the road, but not for us, are the premier crus ‘Les Hervelets’ & ‘Les Arvelets’. My assumption was wrong though so the Bulgarians must have ‘done’ the above. Instead we walked, from the vehicles, to a very old set of stone steps down into the plot onto a path, just before ‘En Combe Roy’ above us, which led us to a plot of vines some way back from the road which must be part of ‘Les Entre-Deux-Velles’. We’d ‘done’ this plot last year after the one mentioned above but in this year’s sunny, warm, dry weather it was a good deal more pleasant & nicer place to be than in last year’s indifferent claggy weather. Nice grapes again; good volume, no rot. Completing this took us up (allowing for travel time back to Vosne) to lunch time. But, walking back along the Rue des Hervelets to our vehicles, coming towards us was an unusual/unexpected sight, namely a guy astride a lively, sizeable (as in tall) skewbald horse – akin to something from a Cowboy film or ‘The Lone Ranger’ (for those of us old enough to recall the latter !). The horse was quite skittish, doubtless down to having to make its way through our motley crew, its shod hooves clattering the road, its helmeted rider seeming none too impressed at our presence, whilst wrestling his steed. What a shame again I lost my photos as I recall having good one’s of our venue and then the equine encounter. Hey ho ! No recall without photos either of our lunch/evening menus.
Post lunch back in the vehicles, and off down the Avenue du Monument to the RN974. With the Noellat cuverie immediately to our left, as we waited for traffic to allow us to make a left turn onto the main road, I was intrigued to see a large multi wheeled commercial tanker truck in the cuverie entrance. What on earth was that doing ? Evening enquiry of Alain Noellat brought advice clarification the tanker was bulk collecting Aligote juice ! Wow, the Noellats must have some quantity of Aligote to allow for such a bulk sale. I omitted to ask if the juice was this year’s but assume it must have been albeit our ‘crew’ had yet to pick Aligote in quantity although we did subsequently. Our destination going north again this p.m. ? Shock horreur pour moi; Morey-St-Denis again !!! To my intense, subsequent relief the Village rows we spent the afternoon picking, a little more north and more directly behind the Hubert Lignier premises, whilst hard work didn’t have the horrors of my worst nightmare from Day 4. Concluding our Morey excursions saw a completion of Day 5.