Saturday SEPT 23rd
No, this wouldn’t be our last day yet. I’d not heard any whispers as to when we’d be ‘done’ so onwards and upwards again to the Hautes-Cotes and to the same site from yesterday – which I’d taken to be ‘En Fretoilles’. Seemed a lot cooler first thing on this morning, the Toyota’s dash digital temp reading 7/8 degrees C, and which started cloudy, grey and overcast. As mentioned in my Day 13 words we’d ‘lost’ Pierre Gros some days earlier due to his wife’s confinement &, as always after Pierre’s absence, before we left Vosne Michel left instructions for the cuverie team in his absence. I never ascertained the nature of the instructions but, from what I saw from a distance, such looked very comprehensive, filling more than one side of a page of an A4 writing pad. Once again, from the car during our journey out of NSG towards Meuilley, I saw 2/3 small wild deer moving along a field hedge line – safe from the Sunday chasse on this day.
Once we arrived Michel went on ahead from the parking area whilst we sorted ourselves out with buckets and personal ‘equipment’ – in my case secateurs, gloves, knee pads and camera with my drink cup clipped to the belt of my pants. Making our way through the trees and down into the vineyard I was much amused to see Michel ahead of us – I say amused as, at the end (or beginning !) of a row some way in front of/below us he was on his large mobile phone whilst standing on an upturned empty case looking into the distance. All looked slightly comical but what I guessed he was doing was looking to sight a far-off tractor on the other side of the vineyard (hence his wanting height !) and presumably to sort out, and make sure of, empty case distribution along the rows we’d be working on. In terms of sub teams I can’t recall exactly now but believe there to have been certainly 3, possibly 4. We were still seeing a few departures and one or two new faces. The Hautes-Cotes weather first thing mirrored that we’d left behind in Vosne i.e cloudy, grey & overcast yet no overt threat or sign of rain. Certainly jumper and/or jacket weather.
There seemed to be a bit of ‘messing about’ in terms of setting up teams to specific rows of vines but eventually we got started. I was paired (doubled up) with a young, diffident, bespectacled French guy of few words who’d only recently joined & who was taking no chances with the weather dressed, similarly to myself, in navy cagoule and over trousers. We worked well in tandem, of similar ability/speed, albeit with few words exchanged. Long rows here as I may have said previously, and with a slight curve on them, and downslope topography, we couldn’t sight the end of the rows until very close which mentally seemed to make the rows seem even longer. Plenty of leaf stripping required. Sizeable volume of fruit again albeit some rot evident requiring a careful approach and self- triage of affected bunches. As the morning wore on the weather improved to become sunny, warmer and with some blue sky before reverting again to grey and cloudy as we came up to lunch time. During the spell of nicer weather at one point we were distracted by the sound of (non jet) aero engines. Such came from a number of historic (WW2 ?) vintage looking aeroplanes, maybe 8-10, in loose formation, none bomber size large, which flew lowish above us across the vines from the direction of Arcenant towards Marey-les-Fussey and beyond causing us all to stop and watch. No one seemed to know what these planes were all about, presumably on their way to/from some sort of display/historic event. My own knowledge of historic aircraft was lacking, French ones even more, so as to prevent any sort of identification, and nor did I hear any knowledgeable comment from any of the others. An interesting diversion nevertheless – one never knows what one might see during a vendange ! We also had overflights here from one or two birds of prey. At the end of the row, with welcome drinks break, I was much amused to see the elderly owner of lively pooch Onyx giving the dog some welcome canine hydration by Onyx slurping his adept fill of water from paper cup refilled a couple of times. Onyx was a bit of a scream with us, seemingly of inexhaustible energy, very friendly, and always ready for ‘play’, with his ‘party piece’ being if one approached him with a view to a stroke he would stand, tail wagging, until one got very close whereupon he’d bark, jump back, and then tear off in a circle at speed with more excitable barking, wanting to be chased, before coming to a halt, panting, tail wagging ready to have the same play all over again. Very engaging & very much a fun dog.
Back to Vosne for lunch in the Citroen Jumpy again with young Justine from Alencon as chauffeur, Michel not wanting me to be detained waiting for the Toyota guys even though I’d have been happy to hang about
Post lunch a surprise ! Justine and boyfriend weren’t working the afternoon as due to leave later (that wasn’t the surprise !) so the Jumpy crew were reduced to self, Angela, and FonFon. I might have returned to the Toyota but seeing Angela and FonFon sitting in the Jumpy I thought “why not” and with a tad of initiative got behind the wheel. Michel signalled he was ok with this and once I’d learnt where the handbrake was (the opposite of where I’d expected) we were free to go. In this, my 14th vendange, this was the first time I’d been ‘allowed’ to drive anything (other than my own car !). Quite a nippy little machine, my only slight alarm coming on our route across the vines from Vosne to Nuits when, on a very rough section of vineyard track, whilst seeking to avoid the larger pot holes, I inadvertently dipped a wheel briefly off the tarmac to the briefest consternation of my passengers but kept the thing on the straight and narrow 😉. We’d been up to the Hautes-Cotes that often knowing the route wasn’t an issue, even remembering the last section of rough track through the woods above Chevrey to the morning’s site, but all three of us were somewhat surprised when we got to the parking area to find no sign of anyone else or any other vehicles !!! We sat there for what seemed quite a while but just when I was beginning to worry that perhaps we should be somewhere else (!) the minibuses and van arrived from the opposite direction we’d come from – phew !
Once again, we had to cope, as on the previous day, with rain starting to fall just before we were about to start on the afternoon rows, requiring under cover shelter in the same copse of pines as previously. Some person or individuals had clearly been camping or similar in this sheltered copse as the remains of a fire were visible along with various elements of litter including drinks cans. Naughty. The rain soon blew over allowing us to set too on the next rows below those from the morning but against a cloudy grey sky albeit there was no further rain to bother us. The stand out feature of the afternoon for me was another quite hilarious doggy moment. This involved both Acho and Onyx who at one point suddenly started excitable, and almost violent scrabbling & then digging, with much excitable whining and the odd bark, in the grassy middle between two rows. Quite what caused this wasn’t clear to me but someone suggested a mouse, vole or similar. The two dogs had their own gradually increasing size of hole close to each other but both went ‘at it’ for quite some minutes, oblivious to the grape picking going on around them. Acho seemed to tire, or lose interest, more quickly but Onyx persisted until he’d excavated a larger hole than his companion (large enough to get a human foot in) before he too seemed to decide he wasn’t going to achieve anything other than very mucky paws and face ! A very engaging and amusing distraction. My own sub team finished our rows before the other teams so went to help wrap up with the laggards.
Coming up to 16.00 hrs I was a tad surprised we were shifted to a wholly new site, roughly back in the direction of Au Vallons, but accessed from going deeper into the woods. The land here initially sloped gently downwards from our grassy parking spot before a sharper, almost roller coaster type dip about half way down then with a rise to the wooded edge on the far side. Again high trained vines, fully grassed areas between the rows, wide enough for tractor passage. We worked until a halt was called at the usual time (would have been somewhere between 17.00hrs – 17.30hrs) by which time we were probably about a third or more down the rows. I had become increasingly irritated (kept to myself), as the afternoon wore on to the close, by a young female, probably early 20s, track suited, make up, nail polish etc. She and her similar in type boyfriend had joined us a day or two before and I hadn’t noticed previously but this ‘young lady’ was extremely work shy, and some, just seeming to hang around her boyfriend or ‘fiddle about’ in the cases of grapes ‘pretending’ to triage. This pair, her and boyfriend, were notable also for being amongst the first individuals to have ‘their noses rapidly in the trough’ at lunchtime, and greedy with it. If our table had run out of bread there was absolutely no question of either of them getting off their posteriors to go and cut some more – as the rest of us regularly did icon. We were to see a lot more of their behaviours on our next working day and, whilst the guy picked fairly solidly, his girlfriend continued to show her lack of desire such that ultimately I inevitably came to the conclusion she was ‘conning’ the domaine in terms of pay, benefits etc for practically zero effort/return. If we’d continued much longer my ‘patience’ would have ‘cracked’ and I’d have been moved to say something but as it happened that didn’t come about.
Once the finish call came we, as just 3 of us, (self, super Angela, and FonFon) had the Citroen Jumpy smartly away before the other vehicles and lead the ‘convoy’ of the other vehicles all the way back to Vosne. We’d have been the first back into the parking area at the domaine but I made a tactical error as we came into Vosne. From the start of the vendange the street on which the domaine sat had been made one way only (from north to south) by temporary road sign by the Mairie. As a consequence, throughout the vendange when we returned to Vosne at lunchtime/evening (and I was previously Michel’s passenger) from the south we’d taken a quasi circular route to the left of the Mairie, past Domaine Georges Noellat and others, continued a short way, then turned right down a narrow street to come out facing the Liger-Belair bar/restaurant/accommodation building I’ve referred to in one of my earlier diary words (where we’d watched the France v. Uruguay World Cup rugby one evening in week 1). Turning right there it was only yards to Domaines Mugneret-Gibourg and Michel Gros. Being well behaved (generally) and law abiding, whilst I noticed the one-way street sign had gone as we came into Vosne past Clos des Reas, I wasn’t confident I should ‘break the habits’ of the vendange and take the direct route up the street to the domaine. Thus I took the route above we’d been using all vendange……………but as the only vehicle to do so as my minibus and van chauffeuring colleagues seized their moment such, to my chagrin on behalf of my passengers, we were the last vehicle into the domaine parking area having been the lead vehicle all the way from the Hautes-Cotes – doh ☹ !!!
That was essentially ‘it’ for this day, with a number of departures of folk we would not see again, other than, when logging onto the wi-fi for my evening home-work, I noted I’d received an email ‘circular’ from the domaine (Juliette) to the vendangeur emailing list which was a forwarding mail from Pierre (Gros) with family photos and the following narrative:-
“Annonce naissance Constance”
Bonjour à tous,
Camille et moi sommes heureux de vous annoncer la naissance de notre fille Constance jeudi à 8h31.
Elle pèse 3,3kg et se porte bien. Son grand frère Jules est très fier, quoiqu’encore un peu intrigué.
Vous trouverez ci-joint quelques photos de la merveille.
Pierre et Camille GROS
To save use of Google Translate, the above was the happy announcement from proud parents, Pierre Gros & wife, Camille, of the birth the previous Thursday of new daughter Constance, weight 3.3 kg, as a sister to big brother, Jules, the latter described as very proud if not a little intrigued. Bless. I’m afraid I don’t know the age of young Jules but a nice and happy ending to our Day 14 with a new vendange bebe!