Appreciate these are (to be) the words for this Day 6 but I’ve realised I’ve forgotten an aspect of the late evening of yesterday (Day 5) hence, rather than provide such words to Bill, and ask him to edit/add to the Day 5 document he already has, I’ll cover off such here before we get into this day’s events proper.
I’ve already recorded my working (on my photos and diary words) into the evening of Day 5, gaining use of the domaine wi-fi, and intent to have a late evening on the aforesaid work. Whilst busy at my laptop on one of the kitchen tables though I was regularly interrupted (in nice ways) as the evening went on, by entreaties from a number of my colleagues, to stop what I was doing and join the others watching the World Cup Rugby:– France versus Uruguay. Such invitations were very tempting, particularly given the venue (see below !) but I was determined to get on with my work and looked forward to ultimate peace and quiet; as well as being able to follow any evening’s football via wi-fi. As the evening went on though, and fatigue increased, the prospect of watching the rugby socially in an attractive setting, with a suitable drink, became compelling such that I eventually gave in to myself, packed up, and set off just up the street to join the others for what would be the second half of the game.
The venue for the rugby viewing on TV was the stunning building/setting of Comte Louis Liger-Belair’s new(ish) La Cuverie de Vosne ( lacuveriedevosne.fr ). The incredible looking building is essentially next door to Domaine Michel Gros and Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg and I could see the top of the La Cuverie building over the rooftops from our bathroom. I’ve no recollection now what used to be on the site of the La Cuverie building previously and not sure how long it’s been open. I was last in Vosne of course for the 2020 harvest with Domaine Michel Noellat but don’t have any recollection of La Cuverie then – I guess maybe it was a building site ? The venue is all of swanky, posh, striking, attractive, high end looking and many more such adjectives as one might come up with. Some guests were sitting at outside tables as I approached; inside was pretty full, on the TV side of the bar area any way. My colleagues, in previously trying to persuade me to join them, told me they had booked some of the tables/space some days earlier. I settled myself comfortably at the bar (on a free stool) with a good view of the TV and got myself a beer (just about the most reasonably affordable drink in the place !!!). Initially I was happy to watch the game and whilst France ultimately ran out comfortable winners I was quite impressed, and not on my own, with the performance of Uruguay. A second beer further lubricated my evening but as the game wore on I further ‘amused’ myself by studying the comprehensive and highly impressive wine lists. If one wants to feel impoverished, and marvel at the heady prices to which (some) Burgundy wines have reached, then studying the La Cuverie lists and looking at the wall mounted bottles should do the trick ! I believe one can also stay at La Cuverie ( 3 suites ?) and had already noted in recent days the high end cars populating the few La Cuverie parking spaces across the road from it. Someone told me the venue was a project of the wife of the Comte – whether that’s true I’ve no idea. What level of success, profitability, etc it might enjoy over time I guess time will tell – I’ve no idea/am not sure ! It’s certainly highly impressive from many angles & I enjoyed the ‘distraction’ of the rugby, my beers and the ambience.
As a quick corrective aside, whilst on the subject of sport, I’ve realised I made an incorrect reference for Day (or rather evening) 5 before someone ‘pulls me up on it’ in suggesting I’d been following LASK v. Liverpool FC on the internet – getting ahead of myself this was actually a week later !
Dawning of Day 6 prompted me to think how quickly the days had already flown past to this point. Getting ready for the day, breakfast etc was now a usual routine. Whilst we congregated at the domaine’s gates though I heard mention of Gevrey-Chambertin and asked if I might join the team heading there as an alternative to returning to Boncourt-le-Bois. I wasn’t on my own though as the usual small team which had operated in other terroirs was bolstered by others in addition to myself.
My experience of working in a Gevrey terroir ‘proper’ (other than Bourgogne Roncevie) has been with Domaine Arlaud in their Gevrey ‘La Justice’. Today though was somewhat different as we headed for Gevrey ‘La Platiere’. This terroir is on the Morey side of Gevrey, quite some way east of the D974, and below ‘Croix des Champs’. We turned off the D974 onto a road on the north side of ‘Croix des Champs’ (with Creux Brouillard on the other side of this road) and continued down some way on the flat lands until turning right on to another road & as far as an industrial ‘shed’ type building where we parked up & dismounted.
The Gros domaine website describes ‘La Platiere’ thus:-
This parcel called “La Platière” is located in the alluvial cone which is located downstream of the Lavaux valley, a mixture of silt and limestone alluvium carried over the millennia. This subsoil is present in a large majority of the village appellation Gevrey-Chambertin and gives wines that are both supple and deep, of high quality for simple “village” wines.
From my perspective the location was very flat, not particularly scenic, the earth quite heavy, and the rows (we were to pick towards the D974 to a grassy ‘interruption’ area) quite intimidatingly long, albeit short compared to those at Boncourt ! I can’t recall now but am fairly sure we must have at least doubled up in the rows. The grapes I experienced, whilst of decent quantity & largely ‘clean’, were mostly smaller bunches than seen elsewhere previously. We weren’t on our own as one or two others domaine teams were also in the vicinity. When we came to complete the rows Acho amused me by running enthusiastically to another of these domaine teams – am sure he must have thought we were linked ! We finished early here, in a lunch context, at c11.30 and coincidentally the rest of the team had finished at Boncourt similarly such that we all more or less arrived back in Vosne together. The temperature had risen as the morning went on – it was hot getting back. An early lunch was decreed to result in an earlier than usual departure set for 13.15.
Lunch was notably interesting as our outside caterers had provided Perch (as in the small coarse fish) for our main course – an interesting & unusual choice (for me anyway). I can’t recall now what the fish were cooked in, or how, but the portion size allowed for several of the small fish – and very tasty they were too, bones not an issue. Recalling this meal reminds me we’d had another not so common choice last evening – which didn’t go down too well with everyone. The caterers certainly seemed to be using their imagination to vary the offerings but Thursday evening saw Andouillette served up as a main. I’ve heard, and read, a lot about Andouillette over the years – not all good (!) – thus approached my portion with some wary apprehension. It certainly looked ‘different’ albeit not to be studied too closely! Taste wise though it was fine such that I polished mine off happily. Wouldn’t be a first choice again though !
So, that was our morning gone and, whilst I didn’t realise at the time, that was the end of our Cote de Nuits work. When I’d first ‘signed up’ with Gros a vendange timetable had been suggested with week one given over for the Cote de Nuits terroirs, then a very civilised sounding weekend break, to be followed by the second week in the Hautes-Cotes de Nuits. The domaine broadly splits down its c23 hectares to 11.5ha on the CdN with approximately the same in the Hautes-Cotes (the latter including the domaine’s white grape vines).
And, yes, our post lunch departure, preceded by the domaine’s three (non vineyard type) tractors with trailers, setting off well before us given the travelling distance, was for the Hautes-Cotes but immediately before we all left Juliette quickly mustered us all at the street gates of the domaine for a group photoshoot using her phone – seizing the opportunity I joined her, standing a little behind, to grab my own camera shots. I was a little nonplussed at why the group shot at this juncture but subsequently realised in the coming days that, given we‘d see so many personnel changes after this first week, that the first week group was being photo’d before the material changes in team make up which occurred going into week two.
Having personally become more and more interested in the Hautes-Cotes in recent years, and always (for the most part – 2013 being a horror exception) enjoyed working there I was really looking forward to this. Our route was a clever one, initially at least, doubtless chosen to avoid the pesky delaying set of traffic lights coming into Nuits-St-Georges, as we left Vosne to head through the vines with Clos des Reas on our left, and zigzagged in convoy through the vines to the western residential edge of Nuits-St-Georges were we went through a small estate of houses onto the Rue General Brosset which, in turn, led to us turning right onto the D25 Route de la Serre away from NSG towards the Hautes-Cotes. Our route bordered the Le Meuzin watercourse, took us past the La Gentilhommerrie hotel/motel and, climbing all the while, still on the D25, to the very edge of Meuilley, where we took a 90 degree left onto the D115 Route de Beaune but only for a few hundred yards before turning right onto a minor road and up into the attractive hamlet of Chevrey, not far from Arcenant. Keeping left without entering Chevrey proper ultimately saw the road become a track which brought us into Gros’ HCDN Fontaine St Martin Monopole an extensive vineyard of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – all high trained in atypical Hautes-Cotes ‘style’. In addition to the high training the widths between the rows were considerably wider than one might atypically find on the Cote, doubtless to allow for larger, non-vineyard, conventional tractor access.
Very impressive and with fabulous, almost jaw dropping, beautiful views over rolling green hills, lush wooded areas, scattered hamlets, and what looks to be increasing vine plantings in the area and on the opposite hills. The nearest clue of where we’d come from was the distant sight of the long-time high masts (radio, TV, mobile phone ?) on the hills above Nuits-St-Georges which I was now looking at from the rear as it were. Michel and us in the Toyota had led the full team complement in 3 rental minibuses and 2-3 domaine vans. Henceforth there would be no small team group hive off to other sites. Our work for the mostly very pleasant, weather-wise, afternoon was the higher sections of the domaine’s Chardonnay. And wow, wow, just wow – what incredible grapes we had here. I can’t recall seeing anything like these – maybe Arlaud’s HCDN Chardonnay in a good year but the Gros vines here were carrying a serious weight of fabulous fruit.
The Gros approach to picking here took me by surprise & was not something I’d anticipated. Both at Arlaud and Michel Noellat the picking approach on high trained vines in the HCDN had been the same i.e two vendangeurs to a row but one on each side i.e opposite each other. For both of those domaines though the rows had been quite short and upslope whereas here the Gros vines were along the slope and much longer in section. As such we were paired two to a row, leapfrogging each other from post (piquet) section to post section. The sub team triage folk were situated, with the empty cases, in the centre row of those rows, four or five, the sub team were working. When your bucket was getting full, and important not to have it too full or you risked admonishment for it being too heavy, one shouted, or called out loudly, “pannier” and put your bucket under the vines for someone from the triage folk to pick up/swapping with an empty bucket for you to continue with.
At first, all seemed to me fabulous, and I was keenly looking forward to the afternoon but, unfortunately for me, I had the ill luck to be paired with a newcomer who’d arrived that morning, one Gabriel – an unusual individual in many ways. I’ve photographed him with caption “Wild Man of Borneo” before I knew him by name as his appearance was as distinctive as what turned out to be his behaviour. He was a local, from Dijon, probably in his 40s or 50s (hard to tell) and actually seemed to have quite a very decent, if not impressive, grasp of English albeit he had a very ‘heavy’ accent that made it hard to pick out what he was saying on occasion and needing to politely ask for a repeat. He had an extensive, unkempt, beard; heavy handlebar moustache ; long, platted, almost rasta style hair; and wild eyes. The distinctive appearance was fine, each to their own, but what was a ‘killer’, and I was to experience quickly and first hand, was that Gabriel just talked very quickly, and continuously, all the time, without stopping or seemingly drawing breath – honestly, I’m not joking. In all my 66 years I’ve never come across anything quite like it. He was also it seemed, a self ‘taught’ expert on anything and everything. His particular subject of choice with me, although he must have covered pretty much every subject under the sun in his verbal barrages, was English Royalty and specifically the visit of King Charles III and Queen Camilla to France (initially Bordeaux) which was either about to take place, or taking place. I’m no Republican in terms of Britain’s mode of government/royal family but equally I’m not overly interested in the day to day activities of the Royals – here I was at extreme odds with Gabriel who seemed utterly fascinated by Charles – unless that was on my account. I swear, in tackling our lengthy row of Chardonnay, he never stopped his rapid fire non-stop talking once, not once, quite incredible. He wanted to know all about me (fair enough to a degree) and quizzed me on anything and everything whilst telling me all about trips he’d made to London, Ireland on a bike (Galway/Connemara), etc etc. At one particular juncture we somehow got onto the subject of Chablis. Ignoring my mentions of visiting Chablis Gabriel proceeded to tell me all about Chablis and give his expert opinions on it. By the time we got to the end of the row I was, honestly, reeling from the verbal ‘assault’ & efforts to listen/remain polite; my head was spinning and threatening to start bouncing. Post end of row completion rest break for the next row somehow I managed to pair up with someone else and leave another unfortunate to benefit from Gabriel’s extensive wisdoms. Needless to say, we were to have, or rather hear, a lot more from Gabriel who, perhaps unsurprisingly, soon ‘engineered’ himself away from mere grape picking and by the end of the harvest, and goodness knows how he managed this, maneuvered himself into a tractor driving ‘gig’. This was quite convenient in some respects as he largely only had himself to talk to in the tractor cab.
Unusual characters aside, this was a highly enjoyable first afternoon on the Hautes-Cotes and with the incredibly impressive Chardonnay. Finish came circa 17.00 hrs with a lengthy return to Vosne the way we came, the Toyota gang leaving last as usual, albeit we were not the last back at the domaine, passing one of our slower tractors en route. Moving on from the Andouillette and Perch our supper this evening was some super Rosbif !
The rest of the evening for me the usual photo work then bed. Tomorrow would bring a return to Fontaine St Martin but with another (unwelcome in part, if not result) change in the weather, leading into, for me, an unexpected evening.