Warning:- Some Doggy Porn (clean pictures of dogs !) will accompany this report 😊
Slept pretty well given I’d been travelling for c24 hours to arrive yesterday, then wined & dined. Was up early for breakfast; for me was a routine of coffee or tea, a glass of orange juice, a breakfast bar (3 packets brought with me) and a piece of fruit from the domaine’s supply – mostly an apple. In time-honoured custom one’s drink is from a bowl, odd to one used to English custom. I quickly realised the early morning line up at breakfast, and who got things going e.g. the coffee and hot water, was of senior male team members who mostly worked as tractor drivers and in the cuverie with only two of them pickers – they’ve obviously been together vendange wise a while and sleep etc in a room/rooms over the cuverie. A key group to be on the good side of and share influence. A number of them have fantastic histories of vendange attendance e.g. c40 years – despite not looking old enough. My instant favourite was Philippe, a really nice guy, tall, slim, understated and a former officer in his local Sapeurs Pompiers. We instantly got on well.
Weather was immediately warm, dry and sunny and to get a lot warmer/hotter with cloudless blue sky. As common to all my vendages, post breakfast, there was much milling around cum hanging about, with locals arriving & others not ‘interning’. Then there was the gang of youngsters dossing in the old house at the village end of Clos des Reas. I’d been told the team would be c80 strong but I subsequently tried a couple of head counts & got nowhere near this. Surveying the scene with attendance clipboard, followed by her faithful 10-year old lurcher type hound, Prunelle, and with a word or several for many attendees/arrivals, was office lady, Juliette, who like many of her ilk appears key to the operations and indispensable.
Lined up across the road from the domaine premises and cuverie, in parking area to the front of the almost complete new bottle store building, were the usual for harvest several hired mini buses and 3 or 4 domaine vans of dubious vintage (a couple small, two bigger). But, as word was given to move off this was on foot !!! Wot no transport ??? Reason obvious actually, we were Clos des Reas bound so not far – I was in the front rank and looking behind me was amusing to see the rag tag of the Gros team coming along behind (see photo). En route to Reas we passed, amongst others, the premises of Domaine Francois Lamarche which has a large static tower crane in the front courtyard – hard to see any building work but think this is at the rear of the premises as I thought I could see from another angle a few days later when we were in Vosne La Colombiere. The buckets, cases, water etc. had gone by vehicle ahead of us.
We were actually split into two separate picking teams, one a smaller one which went on their way to smaller sites – on this Day 1 to Clos de Vougeot to be followed by Chambolle. I was slightly regretful to be in the main, larger, grouping but resigned myself that one could be everywhere – and I certainly wasn’t unhappy to be in Clos des Reas.
And so into Reas and sort of upslope if there were a slope – we started on the high side, across from Les Chaumes. A word on vendangeurs/in vine management. M Gros have another variation on those I’ve seen before elsewhere. One might imagine from all the Burgundy domaines that, over the years, a universal way of working would have been arrived at but no ! The Gros method is conventional but, like Michel Noellat, they use small sub-teams of 6/7, within the overall group. The sub-team leader, and maybe a helper, don’t pick but accumulate, and sort, the pickers bucketloads into the usual size of cases strategically scattered along rows from the vineyard tractor before we start. I was intrigued by the sorting as a form of in-vine triage – Gros doesn’t appear to have a formal triage table. Many domaines claim in vines sorting but in my experience, this doesn’t happen or is perfunctory at best. Here at Gros though there is clear and obvious in vines triage and that after the pickers are encouraged to do their own care in cutting and rejection. The cases, once full, are collected by vineyard tractor then taken to a green sward area in the vineyard and offloaded to be collected later by road tractor & trailer, or immediately transferred from vineyard tractor to trailer.
Another innovation I’d not seen before until here are little blue seats on a strut for the pickers which strap to the waist & buttocks ! These were very popular – for me though I was happy to stay with my tried and trusted knee pads. Something that struck me immediately in Reas once we got going was the height, or lack of it, of the vines – very handy indeed if one needed to hop over. Not sure why this is. Featured not quite to the same extent in other vines we were to move to.
We quickly got going, with the morning passing unremarkably, whilst we moved steadily along the vines. Much needed water and rest break after Pass 1. Bending to my first vine, secateurs in hand it felt like I’d never been away rather than having missed 2 years. Lunch seemed to come quite quickly – back to the domaine (on foot !) where 3 small steel wash basins (fed from an outside tap) and soap dispensers were set up in a row for suitable pre-lunch hygiene. The domaine yard area outside the cuverie is quite compact. Lunch was a starter (can’t recall), lasagne, fromage selection (usually Comtes, Rebluchon and Brie) and an ice cream. Without getting ahead of myself the catering here has subsequently turned out to be at least on a par with Arlaud, if not the best. Food, pre-cooked, is brought in from traiteurborguignon.com in special containers then heated up for us.
Back to Reas p.m from 13.30 with, I think, 4 passes completed in the day. Boy, was it getting hot & your writer was perspiring freely. I’d taken Cyprien Arlaud’s warning to heart and worn a straw hat all day. Finish c17.30. Serious result coming back to the domaine as I’d been expecting some gear (buckets, secateurs etc) cleaning but as I went to voluntarily spread the buckets out a large, mature, lady scolded me saying that as a domaine employee (not sure she was to be honest) it was her job to do the buckets – fine by me !!! Things getting better all the time 😉.
Returned to my room for a welcome shower & change before returning to the dining cellar to work on photo downloads, resizing and captioning. A lot to this reporting for Bill lark, time is always at a premium. I didn’t note the evening menu but we never had leftovers, was always a new menu.
And so to bed. Tomorrow unsurprisingly, given its c2 hectares Reas Day 2 to a finish and then more very exciting things !