Wednesday – typed 02/10/2023
This was a very interesting day I thought – in retrospect; but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I wasn’t in the best of moods initially, having been kept awake past 2.00 a.m. by the noise made by the blasted Belgians. The morning dawned grey, with heavy clouds, temperature much cooler/fresher, although it was still warm, with everywhere very wet, although the rain had stopped. Initially, before heading to breakfast I went to my car for my rubber boots (new for this year green wellingtons) having already taken out from my luggage my waterproofs (cagoule and over trousers), rubber gloves and my latest knee pads – a heavyweight looking pair from De Walt which turned out to be great as they have two loop type fasteners top and bottom rather than an elastic top and loop bottom (my experience is the elastic straps soon stretch and thus make pads a poor top of the knee fit. The De Walts would hereafter become my preferred go to (other brands are available !).
Chat over breakfast with the senior guys inevitably turned to the previous night’s shenanigans. The common/usual morning greeting always routinely involves whether one had had a good sleep & doubtless, having been brought up a good Catholic (now somewhat lapsed) boy, I answered suitably here. The senior chaps have accommodation over the cuverie so they were ‘insulated’ from the worst but clearly aware of it. Michel was present, bless him, but was unblinking throughout. He’s such a lovely, nice man – clearly very tolerant, gentle, kind and doubtless seeing the best in everyone. Very definitely right up there with the nicest people I’ve met over the years in Burgundy. I couldn’t help but reflect, if it wasn’t around this time, that had similar circumstances occurred at Arlaud I very much doubt Herve Arlaud might have been so tolerant – I recalled one year when some younger types from Dijon misbehaved. They were not present the following day.
Anyway, this impressed me no end, and all the more so when we got there, but breakfast conversation and similar in the Toyota once we’d set off, revolved around today’s terroir(s) having been purposely/specifically chosen for Les Caillottes (albeit not sure if this is the correct word but sounded like it). Essentially, due to the overnight rain, potentially sodden ground, Michel had chosen that we go high up and on stony ground (and how). At lunch from my ‘Climats & Lieux Dits’ bible I’d thought we’d been to NSG Les Argillats but only that evening, pouring over said book pre-supper, did Michel, seeing my studying, explain we’d been to Aux Champs Perdrix (a.m.) then shifted along (with only narrow grassed row between) to En la Perriere Noblot p.m. We were certainly high up, as high as vines get to. The manner in which Michel took the Toyota up there was very impressive and involved the low ratio gearbox (the only such occasion he used that). I’m not sure how the rest of the team eventually joined us, only seeing them arrive on foot, but guess they came by minibuses/vans as far as it was possible then walked up the rest of the way. Our Toyota crew were joined, whilst waiting for the full team, by one of the large vineyard tractors & trailer – so high were we, and so steep was it, that a vineyard tractor up there was an absolute non starter. Beyond the grass sward at the top of the rows was just scrub, vegetation, rocks and rough ground to the top of the hill. Also, whilst our initial ‘gang’ awaited the others I noted a harvesting machine somewhat below us and to our left towards Vosne. I couldn’t be sure where said machine was working but, to me, it seemed it more than likely must be in a premier cru terroir – not at all impressive if indeed the case.
We did quite a few passes up and down the vines in these climats – I noted 5/6 but am not sure now if that was the full day or just morning or afternoon. The afternoon saw 60 cases taken to the domaine. Big quantity and super quality all day. I could certainly see why Michel had chosen today’s sites as, despite the overnight weather we didn’t get too dirty or muddy. It was here late on I witnessed a notable, fascinating, technique I’d never seen before on such a scale in any vines but basically this was a (full) cases carrying ‘train’ – the most impressive here I saw must have involved about 10/11 individuals with similar number of cases where one man (unless at front or back) had one hand on one case in front of him, his other hand on the case behind. Quite amusing and impressive to see such a case ‘train’ emerge from a steep row & an excellent technique to retrieve the relevant number of cases for transfer to tractor trailer and then on to the domaine.
Lunch today was most excellent – the main course a chunk of pork loin/steak with garlic potatoes. Yum!
Not so impressive was the Belgian ‘children’ being ‘at it’ again in the vines as featured throughout the vendange involving throwing bunches of grapes around, at each other, and at other unsuspecting victims. If this wasn’t ridiculous enough they took things to another level on occasion by filling the odd bucket with mud, grapes etc then finding a victim to sneak up on & empty it all over. Several times I had grapes whistle around me when I was bent picking. I was never sure if such were meant for me, probably not, but I was unimpressed from the point of view of having my camera slung around my back when not grabbing a chance to use it.
During an afternoon rest break I was intrigued to note a younger guy who’d only joined us that morning with a friend was wearing a Domaine Arlaud tee shirt. In friendly conversation with him he was intrigued at my 9 year involvement there & explained he’d worked two harvest with Arlaud (after my last there).
We finished the afternoon slightly earlier than usual as we were back at the domaine before 17.00hrs. On the way back to the domaine I enjoyed a brief watch from the car of a kestrel hovering low over the vines not too far from us. I was to see a bird of prey for most days, including later in the Hautes-Cotes, and not always Kestrels but sometimes unidentifiable (by me) small hawks & occasional buzzard rather than falcons. An ornithological aspect I did note this year was the strange total absence of swallow and/or house martins. I’ve always been used to seeing swallows swoop over the vines, sometimes in past years almost seeming to head straight for you before flashing away. What I wasn’t seeing here this year had been mirrored at home in England when I’d already noticed I’d not seen the usual summer visitors. No idea why unless migration conditions to Northern Europe had been particularly affected in 2023.
The other smaller picking team had spent the day in Chambolle.
Gear cleaning on our return was minimal in the circumstances – welcome !
I did have some weird camera issues during the afternoon which I could only put down to maybe damp getting in the on/off switch, or moveable zoom but ultimately all seemed ok in the end. I was also by now reminding myself at regular intervals to check the settings wheels on the top of the Canon G16 as its quite ‘easy’ that such get caught and without one realising once can be attempting to take photos without the right set up – for obvious reasons I have to use the ‘Auto’ setting default.
A quieter evening thank goodness, post meal for me focused on my now routine photo downloading, resizing and captioning. Day 5 would be quite different again and see our first, and only, venture south of NSG.