A welcome clear early morning start to this day weather wise from yesterday but, as initially cooler, and maybe influenced by the day before, I layered up a bit under continuing to wear waterproofs – the Englishman in me I guess !
As it happened the day brightened considerably as the morning advanced such that I was soon peeling off cagoule, fleece etc.
Another day, another new terroir, this one quite at odds with our altitude yesterday. The only ‘common’ feature was Nuits-St-Georges but this day we travelled south of NSG for the only time, to the village plot of NSG ‘Les Chaliots’, below NSG 1er cru ‘Les Poirets’ which, in turn, has ‘Les Perrieres’ and ‘Les Poulettes’ above it. Quite a bit of other domaine/maison activity all around us today. Without doubt the vendange was in full swing in this part of the Cote.
Quite, quite different understandably to our high on the hill previous experience north of NSG. The ground of ‘Les Chaliots’ was still wet and with heavy, clay type soils – in due course this would be the first day of needing to rid one’s footwear of glutinous sticky soil via such as scraping on row wires, posts etc. I can do no better descriptively than quote from the domaine website re this terroir:-
This name derives from the word “CHAILLE” which means small stones.
This “climat” in the southern part of Nuits is planted on an alluvial cone, which indicates a large presence of stones. The soil is clayey, poor in limestone and contains “chailles”, a kind of reddish flint, rich in silica.
This very special type of soil has encouraged us to make a separate cuvée which characterizes by an abundant minerality, a very pure fruit expression, a quite strong acidity and a powerful body, which give it good aging qualities.
For some reason initially I felt somewhat lethargic, making a slow start. Early on in proceedings Michel passed by me in my row and volunteered, without any question or prompting, that Les Chaliots had the oldest vines in the domaine – interesting indeed albeit doubt I would have noticed without such advices. Always supa interesting to be with Michel as invariably he would provide some nugget of info appreciated by the likes of me. I’d like to believe he appreciated my wider interests in the terroirs, vines, etc etc were much more so than my colleagues. Hard work this day with, again, plenty of grapes in terms of quantity and with good looking quality from the lengthy rows. This was my first day this year of personally experiencing white grapes amongst the Pinot Noir – I believe Chardonnay. Not uncommon at all as I’ve experienced this before in other vendanges – I believe occurrence can stem from a Nurseryman (Pepiniere) inadvertently supplying the odd ‘wrong’ vine in a batch. A little extra care needed I find with moving from Pinot to unexpected Chardonnay when one has been used to the former, and particularly if strong sunlight is coming through the vines. For me, Chardonnay bunches can have an unwelcome ‘ability’ to hide behind foliage such that one can almost ‘guarantee’ if you don’t remove enough, appropriate, leaves then a bunch of Chardonnay grapes will remain there lurking ! I recall the first occasion coming across a Pepiniere was on a visit to Domaine Denis Bachelet, Gevrey, with my late father many years when said gentleman arrived during our visit – from ageing memory he was from some way away – might have been Jura, Savoie or similar. I recall also my father being fascinated by the conversation between Monsieur Bachelet and his supplier.
And so to the welcome lunch break for more nice meat and veg. Chatting to others I learnt the smaller team element had been to Morey-St-Denis that same morning to work the domaine’s Morey En la Rue de Vergy vines. Disappointing personally as I’d hoped to experience that plot but, hey ho, once can’t do everything. I finally, after lunch, managed to grab a moment with Juliette in respect of the domaine wi-fi with just enough moments to log in with my laptop for the first time. Knowing access to the office (bureau) for me would be an out of hours issue Juliette helpfully volunteered the range of the wi-fi was such that I should be able to connect from the near end of our dining cellar just across the yard and down the steps from the bureau – impressive. This was indeed the case as I was to find out, and very welcome, not least that evening as I was able to follow, online, via the BBC Sport website, Liverpool FC’s away win at Lask, Austria.
Post lunch back again to NSG Les Chaliots with by now it quite hot. We cut right down to the D (RN ?) 974 and, at odds with my slow start first thing, I felt I was cutting well here such that finishing my allocated rows strongly I was able to assist elsewhere. In my later notes (always tried to scribble brief thoughts re the day that same evening) I’ve written “frustration with pannier” – now I can’t, for the life of me, recall what I was referring to here doh !!!
I didn’t take many photos during our time in NSG Les Chaliots – no particular reasons other than being busy and/or it never really struck me there was much notable to photo – sorry !
Around circa 16.00 hrs we moved off to another new site. Before we did so, or specifically at least before the Toyota Land Cruiser crew did so, we had the unwelcome experience of some clouds of flying ants bothering us, initially me specifically as I waited, alone, by the car for the others to join me after collecting the full cases of grapes. If there was a (minor) downside to being a part of the Toyota crew (wasn’t a downside for me at all but welcome) it was we were invariably last away from any site hence if, at the end of the day, one wanted to be quickly back to the domaine, then one didn’t want to be a Toyota passenger, with owner/usual driver Michel always keen to oversee full case collection and fastidiously make sure nothing, including litter e.g. empty, used, drinks cups was left behind. One of Michel’s ‘oddities’, in a very nice way with yours truly, was he was at pains to exclude me from full case collection from rows onto tractor trailer – which I tried to help with several times. Again, this played for me to the impression I might be giving in health, posture, fatigue terms etc etc despite feeling A1!! In the end, after several such rebuffs I gave up, albeit was to have my moment on one occasion the following week. The plus factor in having to wait by the Toyota though for me was that brief welcome time alone whilst waiting for the others – invariably I’d use the time for photos and/or to collect the water ‘barrels’, empty them (if end of the day), and other stuff such as the cases holding drinks cups, clothing and ‘what have you’, loading the same into the rear of the SUV. In all my previous harvests I’ve never experienced the most unwelcome small clouds of bothersome flying ants as occurred here – they would feature again on another day. No idea why they featured this year and what would be quite differing locations.
Once we’d done the necessary in ‘Les Chaliots’ we moved off to join/catch up with the rest of the team. Our route initially puzzled me no end as we went into NSG then out of it on the D8 & over the main, busy, railway lines, towards the Autoroute. But, before reaching the latter, we turned left (roughly north) onto the D116 which took us past the Stade Jean Morin sports stadium (which had a very large travellers presence adjacent with some watchful Gendarmes present), then heading into the countryside before turning left past the Chateau de la Berchere hotel (a new one to me) onto the D109G then, heading back towards the railway lines, past the Aerodrome de Nuits-St-Georges. Shortly after passing the aerodrome, still in open countryside, realisation dawned on me we were about to arrive at the ‘below’ the railway lines large plot of vines at Boncourt-le-Bois I’d experienced before in my two years working for Domaine Michel Noellat. I’d had no idea Domaine Gros also had vines here (classification Bourgogne) – the Gros rows were somewhat further from the railway than those of Noellat. All made me wonder how many other Vosne (or other village) domaines had vines here in this quite extensively planted area (of both red and white varietals).
The rows here at Boncourt, stretching roughly north, were massively & dauntingly long – without doubt the longest rows I’ve come across and not really what a tiring vendangeur wants to see late in an afternoon !!! Apprehensively, I waited with interest to see how Michel and his lieutenants set us up here. Initially, a group of individuals were sent off on the long walk to the far side of the vineyard from us to start working their way back – probably not more than say 7/8 rows so covered. For the rest of us we were put 3 to a row (so with the far group 4 individuals to a row) to ‘leap frog each other working a section of row from one piquet (stake, pole) to another – a common way of working with more than one individual to a row. On this basis I was quite relieved and conscious we wouldn’t, given the time of day already, be here too long then I was quite happy. The vines had a mega weight of clean grapes here such that one was filling one’s bucket (pannier !) quite quickly. I can’t recall now if time allowed for us completing the row in terms of meeting the individuals working towards us – but I think we did. There would be a return to this site to complete it the following day but not for me as I wangled an opportunity elsewhere !
With a halt ultimately called the minibuses/vans departed leaving me alone for a while at the Toyota, my colleagues remaining dots in the far distance collecting full cases with two of the tractors. Eventually we made it back to the domaine by 18.00 hrs by which time I was feeling very, very tired – must be getting too old for this malarkey 😉. My pre supper shower was most welcome and once ready for the evening I took my laptop, and before settling down with it in the kitchen, tried the wi-fi connection standing outside the locked bureau – eureka, a good, immediate, connection.
Before finishing this piece I’m conscious I’ve not yet (without checking back) mentioned, or said much (if at all) about wines – an inappropriate omission ! So, what did we drink ? Well, three routine drinking occasions existed – lunch, pre-supper/dinner, and supper/dinner itself. For the first two of those occasions, throughout the harvest our drinking/consumption was of the same wine – pre-supper presented also with bottle(s) of cassis if one wanted to mix – I didn’t, not that I have anything against cassis but if I’m to have it I’d want to mix with white wine, preferably Aligote. This ‘common’ drinking wine was, for me, an unusual one of a kind I’d not come across before in other harvests at other domaines. It was initially explained to me by Pierre Gros and, if I understood correctly, the wine was derived by taking the final ‘matter’/waste from the wines proper (red and white) after one or two pressings, and then pressing that stuff again to produce the vin de soif (my term). When I first tried it, on Day 1, before understanding what it was, my initial impression/thoughts were I might be drinking a Passetoutgrain or similar. Whatever, it was a very acceptable drink and well suited as lunch/aperitif refreshment. Evenings, dinner wise, from the start Michel would select specific wines from the domaine cellar. I should have recorded these nightly but apologies for not doing so. Invariably, and initially, these selections would be a village classification domaine wine such that I believe we soon went through the range of the likes of NSG, Chambolle, Vosne, Morey & HCDN Rouge before we did move on to much appreciated likes of Clos des Reas, Vougeot etc. Most wines were 2021 but we did have a number of 2012s. Of the village wines over the first few evenings I particularly recall the Chambolle as a standout yum ! Curiously perhaps, typing this now, I realise that, other than the to come Paulee (to be covered idc) we never routinely of an evening had any domaine white wines – despite such existing via the domaine’s HCDN Chardonnay. I did ask a couple of times during the vendange, albeit never of Michel or Pierre, if the domaine had any Aligote & was always met with a negative ‘Non’ – in line with the domaine website having no mention of Aligote.
The evening closed satisfactorily other than towards the end of dinner the infantile Belgians table loudly & for some time continually chanting the name of Manchester City midfielder, and Belgian international, Kevin de Bruyne. Whether this was aimed at your’s truly as a Liverpool FC fan I’ve no idea but cared even less !
Tomorrow, our Day 6, would be a key one for our vendange – watch this space !