Entries from 2023

Domaine Michel Gros 2023 Vendange Day 2 – Sept 11th

By Marko de Morey et de la Vosne on September 25, 2023 #vintage 2023

(Typed 24/9/23)

Up at 6.09 for breakfast to be ready for a 7.15 departure for Vosne 1er cru Clos Des Reas – part deux. As circa 2 hectares clearly this monopole isn’t a site one can see off quickly, albeit as someone used to Arlaud’s 5ha of Bourgogne Roncevie requiring multiple visits, to complete Reas before lunch as we did was good going/satisfying. In finishing in Reas our sub team worked south down mid plot then we turned round and worked back towards the village picking the rows nearest to Rue de la Fontaine. At some point in our first pass someone complimented me on my speed (of picking):- “You are fast”. Similar had happened the day before and in all I would receive similar compliments 4x during the harvest – not bad for an old guy missing the last two years. Of course, out and out speed is to a degree irrelevant as it’s a team business with the name of the game to ideally stay aligned across the team for steady movement, grape collection etc etc. Over the Reas wall and across the street are starred names such as Leroy & Mugneret. Further along are the neat, tidy and well-presented premises of Domaine Michel Noellat I remembered fondly from my 2019 & 2020 harvests & where I’d anticipated I might have been this year except for 2023 they are using a Contract Picking Team for the whole of their terroirs. Coming to Domaine Michel Gros this year it slightly amused me to recall using the shower room at M Noellat once looked out over the Clos des Reas – and now I was standing in it !

Whilst making my early way along the row closest to the Reas wall I noted a familiar looking car come past – it was (Mum) Isabel Noellat’s Mini Convertible. An idea formed and as I was well ahead in my row as I came to the gate mid way along the Reas wall I downed bucket, secateurs and gloves nipped across the road and to the door of the Noellat offices. The whole family (near enough) was there including father, Alain, Sophie (now mother of 3 boys after birth of her latest earlier this year), Isabel, and Sebastian’s wife (name escapes me now). We only had time for quick pleasantries and my explaining my sudden, bizarre, appearance which amused but Sophie, as ever the happy, smiley, glass most definitely in the full category personality, told me they were starting (their harvest) the following day. Rushed goodbye’s and I was back thro the Reas gate and back to picking which, with not many vines, was soon done.

Whilst we, the main bunch, were finishing Reas and moving on to the NSG site below the smaller team element were dealing with Echezeaux (this and Richebourg came to the domaine 3 years ago) and NSG Aux Murgers which, with some Aux Vignes Rondes, forms the basis for the domaine’s NSG 1er cru.

Back to us as the main bunch we were once again on foot (another Randonee !) south to NSG Bas du Combe. Interesting site this, a first for me, but sits below 1er cru Aux Boudots which I know well, and liked so much, from Domaine Michel Noellat. After a rest from walking there we worked here for a short spell up to lunch then walked back to the domaine for lunch – all this walking and no Minibus use yet for the main picking group is aiding the Domaine’s carbon footprint !!!!

Ultimately I reckon I would judge the food here for this harvest as the best I’ve experienced (in 14 harvests). Arlaud was pretty consistently good also but I reckon the Gros bought in catering, and chef use to finish off/serve is a great combo. Today, forgetting the entrée, we had chicken, gratin dauphinois, the cheese fixture, and fruit (an apple for me) for dessert.

I was spared the walk back to NSG Bas du Combe as, about to set off, Michel (Gros) called me back and insisted I share a ride with him in his ageing Toyota Land Cruiser. This was to be my transport for most of the vendange hereafter and glad of it/not to be in the minibuses was I. Michel told me he has been a devotee of Toyota’s for c30 years and likes to mention this when visiting Japan promoting his wines. It didn’t take us too long to finish Bas du Combe (not a large parcel) then we switched across the village to make a late afternoon start on Vosne La Colombiere. The view up to the village and rear of the properties along the Rue des Communes (including Gros, Mugneret-Gibourg, and Lamarche) was interesting from here – I reckoned I could now see what the crane in the front courtyard of Lamarche was all about i.e lifting materials etc over the property for what looked, from a distance, to rear extension works.

My sub team had the outside rows (right hand side of the plot looking up it) with the rear of the buildings on the D109 on our right, including that of Domaine Rene Cacheux. Late in the day halt called & once again I was glad of my new taxi status. Curiously, Michel seemed to have taken pity on me even though I was, and felt, fine – something which would continue. I know my gait has changed since my left hip procedure, added to my long time right sided back issues, with one leg longer than the other (common post hip procedures as I understand it). So back to the domaine, and as I’ve always done, I set to intending to wash, or help wash, the buckets when they arrived back but as I was setting out said pails I was admonished by one of the team leaders, a large, formidable, long time domaine servant lady, Odile. She made it quite clear it was her role, with a lady accomplice, and my involvement was unnecessary – fair enough, first time in 14 years, I’ll take that – at least I offered!

There was one final postscript to the day. Whilst the bucket situation sorted itself out and we queued to wash our hands attention was drawn to a hilarious (for me anyway) scene involving a cute little Jack Russell terrier. This animal had already fascinated me, arriving first thing with his owner from NSG, but upright and with supreme balance, with forelegs perched on the owner’s bicycle handlebars, back legs on the owner or similar. Here though the dog was absolutely and utterly fascinated cum obsessed with the water in the drain away shallow gutter in the yard as led to street drain. Some observed the dog might be looking at his reflection in the water (I doubted it given the dirty colour) or biting bubbles in the water was the attraction. Whatever, I’ve never seen anything remotely like it, as the dog was up and down the water channel, nose almost permanently down in the water, oblivious to everything/all around him.

And, other than shower (water still not properly hot/warm !), then evening meal that was it for our second day.
Day 3 – more doggy antics with a twist and amazing vineyard sites all to come.


Domaine Michel Gros 2023 Vendange Day 1 – Sept 10th

By Marko de Morey et de la Vosne on September 18, 2023 #vintage 2023

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 !


The return of the Mark – Vosne 2023

By Marko de Morey et de la Vosne on September 17, 2023 #vintage 2023


Bonjour tout la monde (as one says, en France, in a plural greeting to a number of folk e.g arriving for breakfast) 😊 !

I’ve really, really, missed 2 years away from my spiritual second ‘home’ on the Cote d’Or, since my 2020 Covid related Domaine Michel Noellat vendange, when I was already struggling mobility wise, cutting not a problem, with what culminated with a (self) diagnosis, subsequently formally confirmed, of an osteo-arthritis destruction of my left hip resulting in bone on bone.

May 2021 saw the replacement procedure with my now having a ceramic (’shelf life’ said to be c25 years) joint replacement at the world leading Wrightington, Nr Wigan, U.K. hospital – fortunately near my NW England home. Some might say I’m now bionic – this vendange will see !!! My Surgeon might not approve, but hey ………..

Why Domaine Michel Gros you might ask ? Well, why not ? Teasing aside, having also missed the 2022 vendange at the 11th hour/last minute with ‘domestic’ issues, I was all the more determined to return to the fray in 2023. I won’t bore you with more details, having confidently approached three of the domaines I’d enjoyed working for previously, I encountered various insurmountable problems, consequently, by the time July came around after much ‘water under the bridge/messing around with the above,’ I’d decided I’d have to forget 2023 and defer to early timing in 2024.

Then !! I got an email, perfectly timed in diminishing timescale to get fixed up, with copied Instagram post inserted from Domaine Michel Gros seeking vendangeurs – impressively full terms & conditions re hours, pay, food etc etc included but, crucially for me, no mention of accommodation. Was hugely impressed at the prospect of this starred, solid reputationally, well regarded (and serious) domaine, which ticked all my boxes re vineyards size, terroirs etc etc. Quickly fired off email was equally quickly responded to by Domaine Fulcrum, Key Bureau Lady, Juliette who confirmed accommodation not an issue available and I would be very welcome. Sign Up followed with my sending all the usual paperwork, then readily acknowledged by Pierre Gros as by then Juliette was on August vacances. Intriguingly, sometime around this point I noted a person from Domaine Michel Gros had searched my sad LinkedIn profile – assume it must have been Pierre (maybe fortunately, for nothing more than bits of fun since, and before, my 42 year career 2017 banking redundancy/retirement, I’d added my various vendange employments to LinkedIn ).

So, with joy in the heart at last and after much domestic planning/tasks to cover my absence, Friday 8th Sept saw my early p.m departure from my NW England home in my well packed BMW 340i M Sport Touring for a new to me crossing of the English Channel from Newhaven, Sussex to Dieppe, France – saving mileage & time on the historic drive to Dover – overnight departure 23.00hrs, arrive France Saturday 5.00hrs. Trouble free (for a change) travel on the UK Motorway network saw early arrival into Newhaven and ultimate boarding to be greeted by a ‘buzzing’ French crew, still much excited by the France Rugby Union team beating New Zealand’s All Blacks that afternoon/evening in the Rugby (Union) World Cup. A young crew member was notably amusing with cheeks and forehead marked with the tricolour – superb and very good/nice. Can France now ultimately win the World Cup ? I think they can.

Am not a good sleeper on ferry couchette, airline type, seats hence wasn’t particularly refreshed leaving Dieppe (a new port/town to me). Trouble free route & roads though to Rouen, & managed to join the autoroute towards Paris without incident – so far, so good even in still darkness. Subsequently though, ahem, despite my best efforts, printed off route, and SatNav, I still managed to get lost actually into Paris (a right of passage 😉) rather than skirting it, which I guess cost me c30 minutes, with extrication only ultimately managed by stopping and setting my then manic, after a brain wave, SatNav to Beaune (would not accept Vosne – rude !). In part, passing accidentally through suburb Nanterre as a scene of recent rioting was a bit nerve wracking. But, after exiting Paris without more ado, other than a long & hot drive, punctuated by frequent stops in quiet Aire rest areas due to tiredness, I arrived in Vosne with ‘bad timing’ as it was lunch time ! I cruised Vosne initially then drove out to ‘Aux Brulees’, parked in the shade under some trees and eat part of my packed meals to kill time whilst the French lunchtime passed. I’d identified whilst driving various domaines seemingly having started/or not their harvests- my past associates, Michel Noellat, being one of the non-starters albeit with all the gear set up out front the cuverie on the main road. In truth, I guess I was surprised even post lunch at the seeming lack of Cote de Nuits activity – hum ! Before registering at Michel Gros I ventured to beloved Morey-St-Denis and, without entering, noted from the village premises that Domaine Arlaud were obviously underway. I then drove to the cuverie, noted initially the large extension to the rear of the premises in the last two years, and new tarmac’d car park (!), with my first encounter the irrepressible, supposedly retired, Herve Arlaud. Warm greetings before moving into the blissfully cool (twas very hot outside) cuverie to chat with Mathieu and Cyprien. They’d started the previous Tuesday & were clearly content with their harvest outcome to date – quality and quantity volume. After pleasantries, with Cyprien issuing a friendly, if stern, warning I needed to wear a hat picking – my response I’d packed two – I bade my good byes to the people of this special domaine which will always have a particularly fond place in my heart.

And so to Vosne. I found the domaine car parking without much ado, and crossed on foot into the domaine yard & to the office for my first encounter with the irrepressible, cheerful, welcoming, curly haired, middle aged bureau chief, Juliette. I was quickly shown my room on the 1st floor of an impressive building a little up the street which I gather is also Michel Gros’ home – understand he lives in the basement. I was immediately very intrigued, before we entered the premises, to note ‘my building’ shared a courtyard type area with Domaine Mugneret-Gibourg (home and cuverie) – impressive neighbours indeed (of which more that evening). The building Juliette took me into was notably impressive, several stories, and big in ground floor area, one of the walls resplendent with hunting trophies of Jean Gros (Michel’s father who I gather was quite a chasseur) and including two scary looking and very large Sanglier (wild boar) heads – one would not like to meet either on a dark night, or in daylight even !!! Up a wide, sweeping stone staircase, onto the 1st floor Juliette showed me into the first of two bedrooms, laid out for two, and explained I’d be sharing with the Chef for the harvest, Jean-Michel (yet to arrive). Room looked very good indeed and way the potentially best, most comfortable accommodation I’d had during my various vendanges. Across the corridor was a large bathroom (wash basin only) & loo. At the end of the short corridor, after the other bedroom, was another tight in size bathroom (shower & wash basin). Juliette left me to ferry my stuff from the car, handily off road parking was available across the street, but also showed me the key code entry for the front door – this damn thing was to be the bane of my, and others, lives as it clearly didn’t work properly with one often left, after numerous attempts, ‘twiddling one’s thumbs’ & hoping against hope someone would come downstairs and out of the door or come and join you outside and have better luck at the key code thing doing the trick – all a joke really.

Once I’d lugged all my stuff in from the car and arranged my luggage on the floor for handy access (all the cupboard and wardrobe space was taken by bedding, family stuff etc etc) I was desperate for a shower & change of clothes given it was now mid afternoon & I’d left home c24 hours before with long hot drives & ferry crossing. Another failing here as the shower was teeth clenching, shiveringly, freezing cold !!!! I was just able to stand it long enough to get scrubbed up. Fingers crossed it would warm up in the next day or so (wait for future bulletins !).

Killing time to the previously advised pre-harvest evening reception I wandered down the street to the parking area in front of the Mairie, where the Rene Engel family premises sit in brooding fashion, and opposite the Mairie is the corner house on the northern end of the Michel Gros Monopole 1er cru, Clos des Reas. I’d already learnt this would be/is a vendangeurs lodging, unused rest of the year, and also that numerous Burgundy reference works highlight the Clos, given its nature, is an early ripening site. A handy wine quiz question is name the only Vosne 1er cru Monopole – answer Clos des Reas. Having a quick shuftie inside the property it was clear some occupants had already arrived but weren’t around. I then went through the property, out to the rear, into the Clos beyond. I wasn’t aware at the time but, no great surprise, we would start here tomorrow. A very cursory look at a few vines suggested to this non vigneron, the fruit was ready for cutting & already some burnt grapes were evident- hum ! And, boy, was it still very hot moving into early evening. Walking back to the domaine I met Jacques who seems somehow linked to Juliette. Falling in with each other, we quickly came across an ultra-friendly ginger cat who was happy to rub around us and out with a lot of head scratching – a nice greeting from a local !

Back at the domaine much milling around self- consciously and shyly by an increasing gathering in smart clothes ! It was at this point before the drinks reception action really got going, that some of us were fascinated by activities (they’d clearly started their harvest) in /outside the Mugneret-Gibourg cuverie just across the courtyard from the north entrance to the M Gros dining cellar I’d get to know so well. In time I met and shook hands with both the sisters who seemed a little intrigued at this Englishman in Michel Gros’ midst. They were delightful & seemed very content with their own harvest progress to date.

Eventually we were ‘called to order’ for the drinks reception – red wine and/or cassis. I can’t recall now exactly but there may have been a short speech. It was readily evident that both a number of longstanding regulars were present along with ‘newbies’ like myself (of various ages). I was already fielding a range of very standard questions from many quarters, which kept on coming over the next few days e.g where did I live; was this my first harvest (at M Gros/elsewhere); did I have another job in the UK; why was I working the vendange; what other domaines had I worked for; was it a holiday for me(!) etc etc. Some patience is required ! At some point I was introduced to my room share, a very likeable rotund, round spectacles wearing, character Chef Jean-Michel. As instantly likeable and friendly, and with his employment differing in nature from mine, I was very pleased cum relieved. Curiously, another Jean-Michel (and, despite the name, German) a domaine harvest regular, was to be one of the occupants of our room. JM2 lets call him is a tall, studious, laid back individual, seemingly/obviously widely liked by those working previously and as another plus for me has excellent English.

Post drinks reception we all sat down at a number of tables in the below ground dining cellar for our evening meal with wine (I’ll cover the latter in my next bulletin) post which off to bed to be ready for an early start the next morning. Initial impressions very positive indeed & that I was going to enjoy this a good deal, the odd bit of suffering aside !

Day 1 (shorter detail) to follow with photos. Stay tuned pop pickers !


marko’s harvest diary 11-Sep-20 – day 10 – the last post-script!

By Marko de Morey et de la Vosne on November 09, 2020 #vintage 2020

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – (Postscript) Vendange Day 10, Saturday 12th Sept 2020

On this, my next to last morning, I awoke to eery quiet, alone in the domaine premises. I omitted to mention in my Day 9 record just how seriously hot & humid it had been that evening, particularly the humidity. Even without shifting numerous boxes of wine from car into garage I was extremely ‘warm’ & unpleasantly perspiring freely. All before getting ‘hot under the collar’ venting spleen and the rest on my credit card provider over the Friday afternoon nonsense. Before evening scoff and then bed I’d also managed, just, to get my car off the street and into the garage by moving the heavy sliding metal doors then squeezing in front of the domaine’s old blue Mercedes van.

Somewhat frustratingly this morning I couldn’t access the front of the domaine premises with all gates locked, and thus the coffee machine, so water had to suffice first thing. My plans for this, my last day, were thus:-

  • Visit the Noellat cuverie.
  • Return to Boursot in Chambolle, hope my card payment would work this time and collect wines.
  • Call, back in Vosne, at Domaine Robert Sirugue.
  • Roam up into the Hautes-Cotes with Domaine Cornu-Camus, Echevronne a must re-visit from 2019.
  • Call at Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine, Pernand.
  • Domaine Jean-Pierre Diconne, Auxey-Duresses.
  • Shop for my return home at the NSG Intermarche.
  • Early night for Sunday’s planned 4.00-5.00 a.m. car loading & departure for Calais & the UK.

Sounded like a (good) plan to me, reflecting also how well the day before (Friday) had gone, credit card shenanigans aside ! Once ready to go my first call, circa 8.30 a.m., was to the cuverie. There was a specific reason for this, relating to my wanting to access the internet at the domaine again, albeit I can’t for the life of me remember now why this was. Anyway, as I anticipated, Alain Noellat was busy, or about to be, in the supa clean & strongly yeasty smelling cuverie, with remontage as had been the case the same time, post vendange, in 2019. He got me a welcome coffee and advised Sophie would be along soon and would be able to let me into Rue de la Fontaine premises. All looked very good in terms of the fruit sitting in the various open topped steel tanks. One particular tank’s ‘overflow’ type pipe was slowly fizzing juice from the top back into the tank, but this was an outlier.

In time Sophie rocked up, as always in her supremely cheerful, uber positive, laughing kind of way – definitely someone who’s glass is always half (or more) full rather than half empty. I followed her smart, new for this year, powerful Mercedes SUV back to the domaine buildings & she let us both in through the remote control operated heavy gates then left me ‘to it’. Once I’d finished what I needed to do I exited, closing the gates, and dropped off the building key and gate remote back at the cuverie, expressed my grateful thanks for the vendange & said my goodbye’s before heading for Chambolle. There, I had the opportunity to say ‘hello’ to the whole lovely family including the youngest, next generation, young man who must be 4/5 yrs of age before heading into the caveau. Eureka, thank heaven my card payment went through this time so collecting the wines I said my goodbye’s and departed. As a very nice gesture I’d been gifted a very much appreciated bottle of the domaine’s 1998 Chambolle-Musigny 1er cru Les Chatelots. That premier cru was always one of my favourite sites, in its hollow near the village cemetery, when working for Domaine Arlaud. This also reminds me I’d been similarly been gifted a bottle the previous day by Lauriane Andre – a 2016 Savigny-les-Beaune 1er cru Les Vergelesses Blanc (might open that soon !). I’m always humbled by these generous gestures.

From Chambolle, rather than dropping back to the main road, I turned right below the village onto the road that takes one past Musigny/Amoureuses towards Vougeot, stopping the car a couple of times for photo opportunities, careful to dodge cyclists. Another glorious morning. I then continued through the vines in the same direction until coming to the t-junction facing Romanee Saint-Vivant Grand Cru. A left there took me curving into Vosne centre. I pulled up by the fabulous covered bus stop/shelter, initially to check if the Post Office was open (wasn’t), but then couldn’t resist photos of the bus shelter interior with its vineyard maps and extensive numbered list of Vosne domaines. Neat!

Then to Domaine Robert Sirugue, an oasis of quiet with ostensibly no one about until I met an affable, polite, Monsieur Sirugue Senior up a small wooden ladder, barrel tending, in the open doored cuverie to the rear of the house. Asking for Arnaud, M. Sirugue led me through a rabbit warren of doors and passage way at the rear of the cuverie until Arnaud emerged from another small room where he was tending to some other smaller tanks/barrels – these for the wines he & Sophie are making as a ‘side-line’ under their own names – micro negoce wines from Gevrey En Champs, Vosne Les Barreaux, and a Meursault. We sat down in another room for a very pleasant tasting of both Domaine Sirugue’s, and the couple’s micro negoce, wines (no Meursault though). I was amazed here to find how strong Arnaud’s English was as I’d never previously been aware of that at Noellat. We talked easily about ‘this and that’ – he’s a really nice guy. At one point we got onto who in Vosne was related, married etc to whom !! This, from Arnaud, a fount of knowledge & gossip, was amazing such that I ended up joking an extensive written family tree was required to keep track. I do remember particular mention of the wife (or girlfriend ?) of Pierre Duroche of Gevrey as ‘hailing’ from a Vosne family.

In putting together a wine order discussion also ensued around (the very problematic !) potential availability of Sirugue’s Grand Echezeaux ! Arnaud did hesitantly say, if I was really keen, he would see what he could do for me, maybe next year, in this respect but said average production was only c600 bottles a year, cost €180 a bottle ! Such was clearly going to be a huge problem so I thanked him but told him we should forget it. Instead, with my purchasing focus this year in the main being on lower end wines, I bought Domaine 6 packs of Aligote and PTG, both 2019 & €8 euros a bottle (!), a 6 pack of 2018 Bourgogne Rouge, 3 each of Vosne Village and Vosne 1er Petits-Monts, both 2018s, and finally 3 bottles of the Arnaud et Sophie Sirugue-Noellat 2018 Vosne-Romanee ‘Les Barreaux’. I was particularly pleased with the Petits-Monts, a raging bargain (in UK terms) €62 a bottle ! Arnaud offered to drop the wines off later that day, straight into the Noellat garage, whilst I continued roving about which was very handy for me. By now lunch was looking close, in fact Arnaud was being called for his, so I bade my goodbye’s and departed towards NSG and the Hautes-Cotes.

My route to the Hautes-Cotes was that ‘well worn’ one we’d followed during the vendange i.e the D8 through Chaux but rather than any diversion to vines or Villars-la-Faye I continued until reaching the D8’s cross roads with the D115 – roughly between Villars & Marey-le-Fussey. At the cross roads I continued over towards Marey but pulled into the car park of the Maison Aux Milles Truffes l’Or des Valois. This truffle retailer with café/restaurant in its semi isolated location I’d visited last year purchasing various truffle products for my truffle keen wife & daughter – confess truffles don’t ‘do’ a lot for me particularly. Place seemed quite busy judging by the number of parked vehicles but, not sure what might be required at home, I fired off a couple of quick texts. As well I did so as les femmes dans UK were ambivalent at any more truffe produits so I carried in into Marey which I just trickled through in observation mode. This is a village I’d like to vinously explore a lot more on another occasion as there seem any number of vignerons in the village – Michel Joannet & Thevenot le Brun look notably interesting. Anyway, my focus was elsewhere but for now we were in the 12.00-14.00 lunch period, albeit I’d again decided to forego any scoff, not having had the foresight, silly me, to acquire sandwiches or similar. From Marey, with no rush & time to kill, I drifted slowly to Fussey, then via Changey into Echevronne and a slow tour around the sleepy village passing the smart property of Jean Fery et Fils I’d successfully visited last year then checking out my forthcoming destination of Domaine Cornu-Camus. Retracing my route back past Jean Fery I took the Rue de Marey up & out of the village, past its cemetery, to a small triangle junction. A largish plot of vines was on my right, to my left an uncultivated field, on the edge of which I parked up, beyond which were more vines. I chilled here for a while enjoying the peace, quiet and bird song before setting off again slowly across country (lots of vines hereabouts & great views) to another sleepy hamlet, Magney-les Villers. After another slow tour around the centre here I found a small area to park up on, next to the church, across the road from the classic looking, small French town/village Mairie, with its flag, clock and ‘Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite’ words over the door. To my left I was highly intrigued, and not a little impressed, by what appeared to be a classic, vintage, British Royal Enfield** motorcycle, resplendent with red tank and gleaming chrome. Coincidentally I’d seen the same sort of bike (might have been the same one) outside the NSG Intermarche the previous evening. The same machine as I was looking at now ?

Time ticked slowly by, the only movement initially the emergence from a gap in the wall in front of the motorcycle, of an impressively furry, longish haired, local dark tabby cat. Pussy regarded me warily (fair enough !), with no intention of making friends (I love cats), even less of letting me anywhere near close, and moved off left around the corner. As I was considering a move a chap in a Peugeot arrived in the tight gap next to me so giving him room with acknowledged thanks back to me I reversed out & headed back out of the top of the village, passing the Naudin-Ferrand premises (noted for future reference), towards Echevronne, also noting between villages a harvesting machine in the near distance with attendant tractor & trailer. Back in Echevronne there was still time to kill to get towards cessation of the lunch period at 14.00 hrs so I decided to head on down to Pernand-Vergelesses, figuring by the time I got there it would be past 14.00 hrs or as near as, and I could call to see Christine at Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine before coming back to Echevronne. Unbeknowns to me though D-F are closed Saturday afternoons so that was a shame but I would have enough wine & opportunities.

Back to Echevronne and up past the cemetery I returned to my original field verge parking spot by the small triangle junction. I’d not been here more than a few minutes when the quiet was disturbed by the sound of machinery, it initially being difficult to tell where it was coming from. I soon found out as despite the extended lunch hour eventually two large blue New Holland harvesting machines (why, seemingly, are all these machines blue, pray ?) came across the field towards me from vines beyond and headed off. I was just digesting the sight of those and blow me another arrived to commence work on a plot of vines across the road from me. This was the same type New Holland SB60 as I’d just seen but interestingly (probably the same for the others but I hadn’t noticed) had stickers on each side identifying it to the Nuiton-Beaunoy Co-Operative (on the roundabout south of Beaune by the turning to Pommard). Alongside the driver/operator’s door was a young female, standing upright, holding on tight – presumably girlfriend/partner of the seated operator. Quite fascinating watching this machine close up even though I’ve seen one at close quarters before (3/4 years ago at vines adjacent to Domaine Arlaud’s HCDN Rough plot near Concoeur). I’m not sure, but my impression of this latest generation of harvester (it looked pretty new to me) was that it was a little more efficient/sympathetic to the vines than earlier examples. It didn’t seem to be giving the vines the extremely rough thrashing treatment I’ve noted in years before and, once it had passed, the vines looked in a very decent state. The Hautes-Cotes high trained vines must be ideal I guess for these harvesters than the vines on the Cote below.

I could have watched the machine from various angles for a while but enough time had now elapsed for me to drop back down and through the village to Domaine Cornu-Camus. I’d loved the wines I’d bought here in 2019, all long consumed with alacrity and much enjoyment (without also thinking about the keen prices !). Pulling into the domaine premises the two young boys I remembered from 2019 were careering about on their scooters in ubiquitous football shirts (FC Barcelona’s !). I was warmly greeted by Pierre Camus, a lovely now semi-retired, twinkingly eyed, flat cap vigneron. He seemed to recall me from 2019 & was touchingly solicitous of my hip related difficulty in getting out of the car from which we descended to the cellar. He explained his daughter, Lydia, & her husband Christophe Pertuzot, the latter a friendly bear of a guy (now I think the winemaker) were out for the afternoon. No matter, I was very happy to taste and spend time with Pierre. He seemed very content with their 2020 harvest, themes the same as I’d experienced and had found elsewhere i.e nice fruit, pretty much trouble free harvest, just volume down somewhat. Unfortunately, no HCDN Chardonnay (2018 sold out, 2019 to be bottled) and I already had my quota of Aligote from Philippe Chavy and Sirugue. I was happy to settle for 2 x 6 packs of the delicious Pernand 2018 Blanc (€14 a bottle) and a 6 pack of the very tasty 2018 CdN Villages (€13 a bottle). Pierre would have none of it when I went to pick up some of my purchases and, despite being of small stature himself, insisted on carrying all three 6 packs at once to my car, before we crossed the yard to the office for paperwork & payment. I asked about the large dog from 2019, conspicuous now by its absence, which had then been partly bandaged from some canine injury/problem. Pierre told me it had died – I couldn’t pick up adequately from what he said what the cause of its passing was & whether related to the 2019 problem. Sad, as it was a lovely dog, noisy but friendly, then with an obvious close bond with the family’s 2 young boys. Two visits here now. I adore this domaine, one which will be an ongoing fixture on my visit ‘list’.

Very happy with my Echevronne visit I figured I could make time, and afford in time, cost & car space, one more domaine visit before calling it ‘quits’ for 2020. I knew exactly where to go as well so back down the valley, past Pernand, into Beaune (or rather around it), and out towards Meursault but destination Auxey-Duresses and Domaine Jean-Pierre Diconne. As I approached Auxey I was passed by any number of Porsches heading the other way – presumably some owners club outing. Impressive ! Monsieur Diconne Senior didn’t seem to recognise me from my two previous visits here, not even when I tried to recall, with my limited vocabulary, the issue we’d had last year with the domaine’s inoperative card payment machine (not then my credit card provider !) which had necessitated my returning the following day with cash. No matter, my visit here was brief as I was only after a single 6 pack of the domaine’s delicious 2017 Auxey VV Blanc. Next time I pass this way I’ll aim for more wines from here !

Afternoon now moving on so back towards Beaune and its south side BP Service Station for a full tank top up of Ultimate Diesel to take me to Calais and beyond. Fully fuelled, back towards Vosne, but with another visit to the NSG Intermarche for homeward bound provisions – sandwiches, crisps, bottled water, bottles of Foire aux Vins crémant for madam, and tins of canard and cassoulet. Search as I might I couldn’t find any tins of gesiers unfortunately. What I did come across, on the far side of the store, away from the main wine selection were some other wines with my eyes drawn, irresistibly, to some William Fevre Chablis – and, result, it was 2014 – €14 a bottle. Would have been rude not to so 3 bottles added to my shopping.

Back in Vosne and into the Noellat garage for moi et voiture. I unpacked this day’s purchases then stood back and ‘took stock’ of what I had to get into the car for the return to the UK. I’d also noted Arnaud Sirugue, bless him, true to his word, had accessed the garage and left the wines I’d bought from him alongside my other purchases from Friday already there. Additionally, as a heart-warming nice touch, he’d also left a bottle of cassis with a felt tip pen scrawled message and smiley face emoji on one of the wine boxes explaining the cassis was made by his father and would go well with Aligote or Cremant ! Brilliant, what a guy. Car loading after multiple post vendange purchases and personal luggage has always been a challenge – sometimes particularly so !!! I remember one year in the yard at Arlaud where I had to have two or three attempts to ‘successfully’ shoehorn everything, with difficulty & ‘creatively’ into my then VW Bora work horse – much to Cyprien’s amusement at the time ! Having already sorted out my two luggage bags I set aside the clothes & footwear I would use for Sunday, with washbag etc, and then brought everything else e.g all bags, rucksack (with its books, papers, electricals etc), and footwear etc down into the garage from my upstairs room. I decided best to actually load the car just pre departure, knowing full well from past experience what a hot & sweaty exercise that might be, and rather than leave it standing packed overnight down on its suspension. I was glad, this year, I didn’t have to include any Dujac errand boxes as well as such could have been a tipping point issue !

So, light supper, finish of my beers, and an early night. Sunday morning just pre 4.00 a.m. saw me in the garage, with my loading jigsaw puzzle of wine boxes, luggage etc to how best fit into the car – thank goodness for having an estate & lowered rear seats ! All done without too much pain or difficulty but I was relieved I didn’t have more wine – beautifully judged 😊. Luggage on top of wine boxes and a car rug and couple of jackets over to cover from prying eyes behind the privacy glass. Remained only to strip my bed, have a shower, have a last check over/look around, exit & close/lock the garage doors, drop the key as arranged with Alain into the domaine post box, then at approx. 4.50 a.m., with it still dark, say goodbye to Vosne & head for the Autoroute at Nuits for Calais & home.

Hope my vendange word & photo diary might have amused and/or been of interest. Thanks to Bill for encouraging and publishing, and to the wonderful Famille Noellat, my fellow vendangeurs (in the main !), our chef and the other domaine staff who looked after us, and to those other super vignerons I met. I reckon we all survived Covid (I haven’t heard otherwise) for which I guess, for now, 2020 will be remembered. Back in the UK I did have raging sore throat and nasty cough for 2/3 weeks but was always sure it wasn’t Covid – as a test ultimately proved. Post my return from France UK quarantine I have had an X Ray at the local hospital, immediately after which my car ‘survived’ being rear ended on my way home, the X ray result confirming serious issues with my left hip (has deteriorated significantly since the vendange – oops !) for which I now await an orthopaedic consultation – likely outcome seemingly a hip replacement. We’ll see, but something needs to ‘give’ ! Whether I can get ‘sorted’, timing wise, for any 2021 vendange only timings will tell – for now I can’t contemplate a vendange (other than simply propped up at triage table maybe !) in present condition. But, I’m determined ! Merci.


** Just recently saw this news item which suggests the motorcycle I saw in Magney-les-Villers might not have been the vintage classic I thought it was – hum !


marko’s harvest diary 11-Sep-20 – day 9 – post-script!

By Marko de Morey et de la Vosne on November 03, 2020 #vintage 2020


Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – (Post) Vendange Day 9, Friday 11th Sept 2020

The morning after the night before !

Whilst our working vendange was now over, as I’ve mentioned previously it has been my habit in recent years to look to stay on in Burgundy post vendange for 2/3 days ‘me time’, to make the most of actually being there. The early 2017 conclusion of my 40 years + banking career also meant there were no longer any ‘get back to work’ pressures to hinder me. Such brief ‘extra’ stay though, with my tight fistedness ruling out moving to any hotel at attendant cost, has required my employers allowing me to stay on in my accommodation subject of course to my feeding myself. Am pleased to say this has never been an issue at any of my four employers over the thirteen years. My principal focus in my ‘me time’ has been to visit vignerons, either one’s I’ve got to know well just to ‘catch up’, or to buy/collect wines for myself and one or two ‘mates’ back in the UK – this latter aspect was to be my initial focus this Friday but let’s not get ahead of one’s self !

All through the vendange I’d never needed an alarm clock, other than my own ‘built-in’ alarm ! I’d set my phone alarm for the morning of Day One but had awoken before it was due to go off and thereafter never bothered. This morning though, I slept in, only sleepily ‘coming to’ at circa 7.30 a.m. to hear various noises in the garage below and people moving noises in the corridor beyond our rooms. Rousing myself it didn’t take me long to work out that earlier risers had either left for home, or were in the process of doing so. In the garage Gerald, Hubert and others were valeting the hire vehicles ahead of their (the vehicles) being returned. The two occupants of the room next to me had packed, stripped their beds, and moved out. Isabel was at the sink at the top of the stairs doing her morning ablutions, and beyond her peeking into the communal dormitory revealed 4/5 of the 12 occupants to be comatose ‘away with the fairies’, with the others having left or about to. My plan for the day was to sort myself out, get on the internet for some necessary personal admin, and then set out on my travels for the day – to initially call at Domaine Francois Andre, Beaune, then Domaine Philippe Chavy, Puligny-Montrachet – both new to me. My ‘mission’ in visiting these two domaines in the first instance was to acquire very specific wines for longstanding friend and fellow Burgundy Report subscriber, Phil E. Between us we’ve come to call such visits as ‘foraging’, something I’ve done for a few years now at Phil’s behest with varying degrees of success or failure ! This year I was more confident of 100% success as for Domaine Andre there is the ‘Bill connection’, and re Philippe Chavy Phil E had already been in contact with the domaine for the 3 bottles he wanted from there so I was just collecting. I’ve valued Phil’s instructed tasks over the years as being very useful in my getting across the threshold at some domaines I might not have otherwise visited and giving me the opportunity on those calls to buy some bottles for myself at the same time. Another regular annual task in several past years has been to call at Domaine Dujac for another UK friend, who’s a longtime (from university) friend of Jeremy Seysses, and has cellared various wines (not just Dujac’s) at Dujac for years – various of which I’ve transported back to the UK on request and dropped off on my way home. This year though there was no requirement to collect such bottles so no ‘excuse’ to visit in Morey – a shame but at least I’d have more room in the car for own purchases.

I started the day by having an overdue tidy up sort out of my clothing across my two bags. I have one bag/case for vendange working clothing and another for more regular, smarter casual attire. As the vendange proceeds I tend to chuck worn/dirty clothing in a pile (in this year under a spare bed) so as not to mix with unworn, clean garments and sort out later. Usually I bring a bin liner or two for the stuff heading for a washing machine on my return but this year had forgotten said bin liners so resolved to pack the worn clothing, vendange & otherwise, in one case and the clean stuff from both categories in the other bag. This sorting task took a little while but was worth it in tidying up and giving a clear mind on wardrobe ! After this shower time then off out around to the domaine buildings to hunt down a coffee or two to accompany my breakfast bar. Moving from the garage, onto the street briefly, then through the gates onto the domaine buildings forecourt the latter area was transformed as the substantial awning which had covered our dining area had been taken down and dismantled, with the tables and chairs in the process of being moved into the large room usually used for dining in non Covid times. There were enough ‘bodies’ attending to the above that my services clearly weren’t required so I headed for the office to seek permission to move into the ‘shop’ caveau room for use of the wi-fi. Madam Noellat greeted me cheerily, what a sweet, fabulous lady she is and, readily consenting to my wi-fi use request also took the opportunity to give me my wages envelope. Gross pay for the vendange for me €636.41, net €525.07 after deduction of tax €111.34 ☹. I haven’t looked up last year’s pay but believe may have been more, if not a lot different. I was used to a little more at Arlaud but my vendanges there involved a day or two more and longer hours. Pay is obviously useful but has never been a key driver for my love of the vendange. I’m not sure, if asked, whether I’d work the vendange without being paid – I guess I probably would – but that’s never arisen as I’m always working with those for whom the pay is a lot more important than it is for me !

In addition to the wi-fi access I value my time in the caveau for its peace & quiet. This morning, sipping my coffee, my tasks were email catching up, quick read of the online BBC News & BBC Sport pages (latter mainly to catch up on The Mighty Reds aka Liverpool FC & Formula 1), booking my return travel across La Manche (the English Channel), and completing the online UK Government’s specific Covid related form required from those returning from France. Mentioning Formula 1 here has reminded me of the amazing result for Pierre Gasly from the Italian Grand Prix the weekend before this one. I’d only learnt of this at our evening meal get together that Sunday as it was, understandably, ‘the talk’ of my French colleagues. I’d been appropriately incredulous at the time to hear what was being talked about as well but pleased for supa nice guy, talented, Gasly who, for me, had a ‘bum rap’ in the Red Bull Senior team. Everyone loves an underdog don’t they ? Particularly the British !

Perusal of the cross-channel return options quickly ruled out the Euro Tunnel train this time as the price differential with the ferries was much wider (adversely) than when I crossed to France. I wasn’t bothered either about speed crossing back so went for a mid-day Calais-Dover ferry for Sunday. The UK Government ‘immigration’ form was simple enough to complete online – to me was clearly designed to obtain track & trace details once one was back in the UK. The only tricky bit, with my having no printer (didn’t want to bother Madam Noellat in this respect), and the authorities requiring one to be able to present the completed form on one’s smart phone, was to email it to myself which I duly did. A bit of previous photos downloading/editing completed my admin tasks for the first part of the morning and, gathering what I needed for my ramble through the rest of the day, I calculated I just had enough time, all being well, to get to Beaune & make Domaine Francois Andre my first point of call before lunch. I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to also get to Puligny pre lunchtime so Philippe Chavy would have to ‘come’ just after lunch. I figured I’d kill time after Beaune around Meursault, Puligny & Chassagne.

I had to make a brief ‘pit stop’ on the way out of Vosne at the Noellat cuverie to collect a key for the garage large metal doors to the street, to enable me to lock myself in at night and secure the premises during the day after everyone else had departed, then it was onwards a vers Beaune on this bright, sunny, warm morning. Bill has, if I recall correctly, previously referenced Domaine des Terregelesses – Francois Andre (to properly quote its full name) as now the (one of the) only working wineries within Beaune’s old walls. I was fortunate, carefully navigating the narrow (with other parked cars) Rempart Saint-Jean, to find the last available parking space almost outside the Domaine’s front door. As I was manoeuvring an older, suited, gentleman was awaiting the door being answered but entered before I might have joined him. Once I rang the bell I was greeted, having explained who I was etc, in the most delightfully, warm, friendly fashion by Lauriane Andre whom it must be impossible not to instantly warm to. My key focus was the domaine’s Beaune Blanc 1er cru Belissand as a requirement for friend, Phil E. I gather a Blanc is a rarity from the Belissand terroir and the Andre version one that has only recently become available after newish planting with Chardonnay ? With time pressing towards lunch we (Lauriane and self) agreed that I’d return in the afternoon to collect my chosen wines. In addition to 3 bottles of the Belissand Blanc (I’d neglected to ask Phil how many he wanted but would happily take any ‘extra’ myself) I chose 6 packs for myself of the domaine’s Beaune Rouge 2016 Les Bon Feuvres, Pommard 2017 Les Vaumuriens (plot purchased from Coche-Dury 2013 ?), and Bourgogne Blanc 2018 Cote D’Or. I was a lucky boy, with Lauriane endearing herself further to me, by her explaining that the domaine had recently had an offer on certain wines (including my choices) but whilst that offer had recently ended she would apply that offer discount to my already wallet friendly purchases. Result !

So, delighted with my first visit outcome, & lunchtime (2 hours of course in France) looming I headed south out of Beaune and initially to Meursault. I decided not to bother with lunch, not feeling particularly hungry. Pottering, en voiture, around the central back streets of Meursault, out of curiosity I initially looked for the premises of Domaine Vincent Latour – my interest being on the back of an intended May 2020 week+ stay in the Domaine’s gite (through Gites de France) which my wife and I had to cancel due to UK/French lockdowns/restrictions at the time. Found the Latour premises easily enough so handy for future reference as we’ve carried over our aborted 2020 booking to, fingers crossed (!), May 2021.

From Meursault, who’s centre seemed pretty busy, I took the road out past Michelot & Bernard-Bonin towards Puligny, arcing right up thro Genevrieres to the higher road, past Puligny Champ-Canet, and the small copse of trees below Blagny, coming out beyond those trees to stop on the verge of Folatieres just past Magenta’s Clos de la Garenne & below Boillot’s Clos de la Mouchere Monopole. Took some photos before continuing a bit further then dropping down into sleepy Puligny. I mooched about around Puligny before taking the road out towards the RN974 to check, for later, the location of Domaine Philippe Chavy, as not far from the main road junction. Happy with location I then drove back thro Puligny, up thro the vines and across towards Chassagne. A slow driving meander followed thro Chassagne, then past Clos St Jean, followed by Les Chaumees & its Clos de la Truffiere, then St Aubins’s Le Charmots & Les Combes before crossing the N6 & up towards Gamay. All sleepy hollow here other than a truck delivering to Domaine Larue’s new premises. With still time on my hands I cruised slowly back towards and into Puligny, parking in the welcome shade of a building wall on the square near Hotel Le Montrachet. I chilled whilst allowing suitable time to go past 14.00 hrs before heading back towards Domaine Philippe Chavy.

The domaine’s previously closed gates were now open so in I went, passing the main house, turning around in front of the cuverie buildings to park in the shade of trees between house & buildings. Wondering where to now head for the decision was made for me as what turned out to be Philippe himself and one of his friendly employees approached. I was instantly impressed by Philippe, who struck me immediately as my kind of vigneron in his overalls. I managed to convey I’d come for Phil E’s bottles but would welcome the opportunity to buy some additional wine for myself whereupon Philippe led me into the cuverie and an array of already opened bottles and halves, with chalk written identification, lined up on a desk underneath a statue of St Vincent. Beyond the existing above ground cuverie metal shed building, to the far side & rear of it, construction works were in course for expansion. Philippe was quite prepared to give me a ‘full monty’ tasting of the whole of the domaine’s portfolio of wines which, on another day, would have been eagerly accepted but, conscious of time limitations on me, as politely as I could I had to ‘restrain’ him to those cuvees I was interested in purchasing. The end result was 2 x 6 packs of 2016 (bottle age a plus !) of Bourgogne Aligote at €8 bottle (!), 2 x 6 packs of Bourgogne Chardonnay 2018 at €14 each and a single 6 pack, also 2018, of the St Aubin 1er cru Les Murgers des Dents de Chien (€32 each) – the latter a long time favourite cru from different producers. We left the cuverie to deposit my purchases in the car, move on to the house office to collect Phil E’s bottles, and to make card payment. As we did so a French registered Range Rover had arrived, its occupants suitably greeting us, which led immediately to my sixth sense the couple were British. Quel surprise, indeed they were, with an interesting conversation following with Domaine Mischief & Mayhem’s Michael Ragg & Fiona Traill-Stevenson. I’m not sure who was more intrigued to meet who but for me it was something of a weird coincidence for Brits to meet up as we did. Turned out Michael & Fiona were dropping off a quantity of their wines to be collected by a mutual client who was to call for purchases at Philippe Chavy in due course. I was a tad spooked that Fiona realised, or guessed before I had the chance to explain, that I was Bill’s Burgundy Report Michel Noellat vendange correspondent and it was clear that she’d previously read my vendange diary and was looking forward to my forthcoming ‘work’ ! After encouraging me to call in at Aloxe any time they went on their way and I went with Philippe into his office to finalise paperwork & payment. I loved this visit, much taken by the diminutive, no airs & graces, down to earth vigneron and resolved to return one day as soon as I’m able. Thank you Philippe !

So, enthused by my day so far, back to Beaune to see Lauriane at Francois Andre as previously agreed and collect more wine ! Turning off the Beaune ‘Peripherique’, onto Rue Armand Gouffre, I had a brief heart stopping moment as, approaching the junction with Rempart Saint-Jean, with the Domaine’s ‘working’ cuverie door opening onto Rue Armand Gouffre at the junction, a little old, very elderly, lady on my immediate right decided to step off the pavement into the road seemingly to avoid the pavement made wet by cleaning water coming from the domaine. If I hadn’t been almost stationary prior to turning right, and hadn’t already had my eye on her, I could quite easily have almost knocked her down. As it was she proceeded on without giving any indication she’d noticed my car and, breathing a sigh of relief, I parked up outside the domaine front door. I was given a brief tour of the impressive buildings, including cuverie and barrel cellar. All suitably impressive as was my charming host (hostess ?) and after loading wines, payment and bidding my appreciative good bye’s whilst being encouraged to return anytime, I left for my next port of call which, quite close by, was the hugely impressive set up of Bouchard Pere et Fils & its parking area off the Rue du Chateau. My ‘target’ here was the Chassagne 1er cru En Remilly – which had fascinated me since Bill wrote a piece on it some months ago and also covered, with photos, in a post on a UK wine forum. The Bouchard ‘shop’ was an oasis of cool & quiet calm. It was, in layout terms, not as I remembered it from a former visit 2/3 years ago, the slightly haughty, superior, sales gentleman who greeted me confirming changes had been made. He became immediately enthused by my mention of the ‘En Remilly’. Several vintages were on offer (which I already knew from Bill). Also, the gentleman was very clearly aware of Bill’s/Burgundy Report’s ‘association‘/publicising of the wine. Not cheap at €86 a bottle hence I restricted myself, reluctantly, to just a 3 bottle pack but very happy to depart with that. The day, which had been another glorious bright sunny one, seemed to be getting warmer (hotter !) all the time as I drove away from Beaune with suitably cooling aircon switched on.

Wither from Beaune ? Actually Chambolle-Musigny. My destination here was Domaine Boursot Pere et Fils & their centre village direct sales cave. A domaine new to me in wine terms but one which I’d resolved to visit since Bill first ‘covered’ them, profile wise, in Burgundy Report. That Famille Boursot as viticulteurs trace their history back to 1550 is quite incredible. I won’t go into more detail about the domaine as Bill’s already suitably covered that on Burgundy Report. As I got out of my car right in front of the family home my timing was perfect as a couple were departing the caveau opposite hence I was able to introduce myself to Romuald Borsot (at least I think it was Romuald – the spectacle wearing brother anyway) and follow him back into the caveau. All was going swimmingly here, great little set up and very attractive wines, until I came to pay !!! Five times Romuald and myself tried to get his card machine to accept my payment but no way seemingly would it go through. Not a little embarrassed, as well as annoyed at my card provider, I stepped outside to call the UK, ready to vent my spleen on the credit card company. Not quite ! For over 40 minutes I waited in vain for my call to be answered before giving up. Only after ending the call did I see my phone had received two fraud type check texts from the credit card company asking me to reply with a ‘Y’ for ‘Yes’ if my attempted Boursot transaction was genuine ! I replied quickly, in fact so quickly I inadvertently replied twice but no matter as that generated an immediate auto reply telling me the transaction would go through if I presented my card again through the retailer (i.e Boursot). Confidently returning to Romuald, after he’d finished attending to a young Dutch couple who had professed they didn’t really like red wine (eh ?) then bought a single bottle of Bourgogne Chardonnay (!), we tried again with the card machine. To my utter disbelief, further embarrassment & by now seething anger at Barclaycard, twice more the transaction would not go through. All I could do was apologise to Romuald and ask him to put the intended purchases on one side until the following day by which time I intended to have sorted matters out with an evening phone call to the UK & formal complaint. My purchases (to be) were 6 packs of 2017 Bourgogne Rouge & Chardonnay, a dozen bottles of Cremant de Bourgogne (made for Boursot as the case with Arlaud’s), a 6 pack of the Chambolle 2018 Les Echezeaux which really impressed on tasting & was a new terroir to me, and 3 bottles of the 2013 Chambolle 1er Les Lavrottes which I preferred to the Fuees – handy bottle age here.

I could not depart Chambolle without a closer look, yards away from the Boursot premises, at an ancient & very impressive tall oak tree at the road side with adjoining plaque. The words on the plaque detailed the ancient lime tree as being originally planted in the reign of Henry IV (1575-1610) & having a height of 17.5m & maximum circumference of 8.70m. Fantastic ! A bit bafflingly to me that I had never noticed this tree previously but I was glad to spend some moments looking in awe at it now.

From Chambolle, with, now circa 16.30 I had more time on my hands before thinking of calling it quits for the day in rambling terms so I headed for Morey-St-Denis, deeming it rude not to call and say ‘hello’ etc at Domaine Arlaud. Taking the road from Chambolle through the vines, below Bonnes-Mares/above Ruchots, into Morey and then turning right at the church (curiously no sign of the regular quartet of formidable ladies who usually inhabit the bench in front of Clos de Tart), then dropping down Grande Rue towards the RN74 I was highly intrigued on my right to note the construction works at Dujac which has seen demolition of a former building with currently a cleared area ahead of what’s to be built thereon. Dujac not the only Domaine with construction works as, pulling into the familiar Arlaud premises, more early stage construction was immediately evident at/across the rear of the building. Additionally, on the other side of the domaine premises i.e the front, what had been the small field with stable building where Berthille Arlaud had originally kept her horses sitting below the domaine building, has been levelled and covered with crushed stone as a parking area, a ramp leading down from the existing open area. Cheery greetings from the guys in the cuverie including Matthieu & Climent but no sign of Cyprien. Herve then just happened to appear, it clear from his attire he must indeed have ‘retired’ from vendange in the vines leadership as I’d anticipated in 2018. We were both pleased to see each other; he’s just a great bloke whom I warmed to massively in my 9 years of working with/for him which included some very special times. Herve explained Cyprien had nipped out but would be back any moment & sure enough as we chatted Cyp appeared en voiture. Beaming smiles on seeing each other. Suitable chat followed re our vendanges, the construction works, family etc etc. Cyp explained sister Berthille now had a baby daughter. He was clearly very happy, if not relaxed, with the Arlaud vendange which sounded very similar to my own experiences in fruit quality, slightly less volume etc etc. In response to my querying if he’d had any difficulties recruiting a vendange team he said not and that he’d been very happy with his team. He explained how they’d fed themselves evenings at the village premises but this all sounded a bit DIY cooking ‘skills’ which made me think I was a lot better off at Noellat. After more conversation we said our goodbye’s and I went on my way, glad that I’d made the effort to call but adjudging I’d probably been right to make a change after 9 years. What’s that saying about never going back ?

I concluded my roaming day by retracing my ‘steps’ to Nuits-St-Georges and the Intermarche to buy some sandwiches, crisps and beer for my evening sustenance. Once back at Noellat, now absolutely alone (bliss !), my first task was to unload my purchases into a cool area of the garage. That done back to my room but before evening dining a phone call to Barclaycard UK. I won’t bore you all with the detail of that but suffice to say I was suitably angry, the phone eventually answered this time. The lady in the UK recorded my request to register a formal complaint, full of apologies herself, but told me she had to put me through to the India based ‘Fraud Team’ who were ‘responsible’ for my afternoon troubles & frustrations. The increasingly frustrating and strained conversation with the incompetent sounding female Indian operative who’s response was basically “computer says no” was ultimately a joke. She could, or would, not explain what had happened at Boursot, and particularly after I’d text confirmed my attempted transaction as genuine to receive confirmation that transaction would go though – but it then didn’t ! All she would say in response to my rising anger was that if I returned to Boursot the next day i.e Saturday all would be well, she but she was evasive when continually pressed by me to ‘guarantee’ that and/or whether I’d have further fraud ‘trouble’ e.g paying for the essential fuel to be required to get back to the UK !

Joke phone call over I consoled myself with my evening repast and warm beers before calling it a day, or is that night, and retreating to bed whilst mulling my plans for the following day.

marko’s harvest diary 10-Sep-20 – day 8 – the last!

By Marko de Morey et de la Vosne on October 20, 2020 #vintage 2020

2020 harvest - it's over!

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day 8, Thursday 10th Sept 2020

So, here we are, our final day of the Covid vendange. For me, it was anybody’s guess where we’d be going this morning, where we might finish, and how much of the day we’d be working. I was to be surprised (in a good way !) on all counts. Thinking back to 2019 we’d finished then, not far away from the domaine, in late afternoon, on the plot of Bourgogne, on the far side of the railway line, reached down Vosne’s Route de Boncourt le Bois, and toasted our efforts in Champagne served by Alain Noellat before making our traditionally noisy (vehicle horns) way back to the domaine. As we’d already been to that final 2019 plot we wouldn’t be going back again.

Off we went on another fabulous morning, weather wise. Surprise, surprise, back to the Hautes- Cotes again via Chaux. Our initial destination was the plot through Villers-la-Faye, past Tonnellerie Meyrieux, I mentioned in my 5th para of Day Seven. I referred then to not being sure when we came this way but I now reckon I was wrong and it was only this morning of our final day we came to this plot (not visited in 2019). I should have looked at my Day Eight photos before commenting in Day Seven as it was those photos which decided for me today was the day of our sole visit. Quite a pleasant spot with the vine rows finishing against a shrubs & treeline boundary. Nice fruit again here, all the HCDN Pinot reminding me as being of similar quality/volume as 2019 (as best I could recall). We finished our initial morning efforts with what would be our final casse-croute break before moving on. The domaine ‘did us proud’ with the fayre on offer for our casse-croute breaks – I’d have no hesitation as considering this year (2020) to have the best casse-croute breaks, or offerings, of my vendange career (not difficult per Domaine Arlaud as in my first years there we never had casse-croute or other breaks & only in the latter years did Herve Arlaud, bless him, soften the original hard driving approach !).

Where to post casse-croute ? Well, before that, on a whim, I decided to photo record the laminated Covid notices each vehicle displayed in their side windows. One referred to sanitary precautions, the other that mask wearing was obligatory. The former notice was headed by the domaine name. I’d noticed during our vendange, when passing vehicles from other domaines they’d displayed the same notices identifying the actual domaine hence infer such was from a ‘central’ authority directive. To my slight surprise, we headed back through the outskirts of Villars, past the relaxed grazing donkeys in their field by the road junction, taking the road back in the direction of Chaux, but soon turned off again left and back to the Pinot plot we’d worked Day Seven p.m. Here, we shifted along a bit from the Day Seven rows, to some more which had previously been started and then left. Finishing off these vines didn’t take long at all & by mid-morning we were ‘done’ – complet for 2020. Remained only to take finishing photos, gather the equipment and, for the enthusiastic, undertake the traditional end of vendange vehicle ‘decoration’ with vine foliage – Michel & Patrick being prime movers in this respect for our vehicle. Jean-Claude had not been a particularly sympathetic chauffeur and I winced at the Renault’s vendange ‘battle scars’ of visible scrapes and odd panel damage – notably the front and wings low down. Not one I’d personally be wanting to return to the hirer !

No champagne in the vines to ‘celebrate’ our conclusion this time but to be fair we were some way from Vosne & the domaine, and there was to be a generous pre-Paulee champagne reception to come later. A relaxed drive back to Vosne through Chaux and Nuits. Much horn sounding (again, a tradition signifying the end of a domaine’s vendange) as we came to/passed through any habitation. On reaching Vosne we took a horns honking around the village ‘tour’, thro back streets, to the domaine. At one point, passing the open gates of another Vosne domaine, shame I couldn’t identify it, two or three guys cleaning equipment in their yard heard our noisy progress and came to their gates to aim their hoses at our passing vehicles – funny and all in good spirit. Back at ‘base’ a weary disembarkation, for your’s truly at least, before the final ‘round’ of bucket and pannier cleaning to cap things off before our final lunch. I junked my two pairs of gloves which had, unusually, lasted the vendange. I’d used two of the same pairs of gardening type gloves as whilst the faces had a vinyl type material the rest of the gloves were cloth which got wet & dirty. Each evening I’d cleaned that day’s pair, leaving to dry in the garage for 24 hours, rotating with the other pair. The same pair of knee pads had lasted the vendange without mishap and my camera had survived another round of harvest abuse – kudos to Canon. Only my left hip and pelvis area ended the vendange badly – an X Ray and follow up awaited my return to the UK to diagnose the problem(s) which I was already guessing at/foreseeing as potential left hip replacement.

I’m not quite sure now (ageing defective memory again !) what became of the early afternoon to be honest. I recollect lingering over the final lunch & liquid refreshment, and later having a long overdue appointment with my razor & shaving foam to address my through the vendange unshaven state, but otherwise can only think I maybe scrounged an entry to the closed domaine shop to access use of the wi-fi, the IT equipment – servers etc, being in another room behind the shop (latter closed during the vendange). I would have photo downloads and editing to do as well as catching up on over a week’s emails and UK news. Post a return to being clean shaven and shower thereafter time to dress smartly casual for the evening ahead. This (the late afternoon/evening) largely followed the same pattern as 2019 in that we all slowly gathered (lodgers and locals – latter coming back from their homes) to the front of the domaine, the early arrivals amongst us grabbing a chair/seat on the patio/garden type furniture immediately to the front of the buildings. Tables had been erected to the open side of the dining space awning parking area for champagne & other drinks plus nibbles & canapes. All very pleasant & convivial. Before the reception various of my colleagues had been asked individually to go and see Madam Noellat in the office – this to receive their vendange pay packet. For myself, Sophie approached me whilst all this was going on and whispered was I ok to receive my pay envelope on Saturday – which was fine by me. I’d already asked if I might stay on in my vendange accommodation for a couple of days hereafter, as I did in 2019, on the basis I fed myself of course, prior to heading back to the UK. This had been readily agreed hence Sophie knew I’d be ‘around’.

Post champagne reception, and before we sat down for our evening meal, another tradition – the cellar visit conducted by Sebastian as also occurred for me in 2019. The same awkward little entrance down a few steps from the big room we’d normally (without Covid) dine in, into the first ‘chamber’ lined with racked bottles, a large old barrel stood upright in the centre of the chamber for tastings etc. A bashful, shy looking statue of St Vincent occupied a small alcove in one wall. From the initial chamber more steps down into the impressive looking barrel cellar which stretched into another room beyond racked out with mouth watering wines from recent vintages and some older. I was particularly ‘taken’ by the bottles of 2015 Echezeaux & 2012 Vosne 1er Les Beaux Monts ! These bottles must be the family’s personal cellar as the above were not for sale in the domaine shop which only has the most recent vintages. I’ve been in a few barrel cellars in my time but that of Michel Noellat is, for me, one of the more impressive – if an ‘argument’ might be made for less use of new oak.

Cellar tour/visit over time to sit down for our Paulee meal. Not strictly a Paulee in the true sense as the bottles opened to accompany our meal came ‘only’ from the Noellat cellar. I can’t for the life of me recall the menu, but don’t believe it was boeuf bourguignon as we’d already had that. Nor did I make a note of, or have any full recall of what we may have drunk. I do recall the opening vin blanc as a village Puligny en magnum – we’d had this wine in 2019. I gather Alain obtains this for family personal consumption from an unknown (to me) vigneron via swap of his own reds. I certainly don’t recall any stellar red offerings as were opened/poured in 2019. Mindful I had roaming plans for the following day I certainly wasn’t going to overdo ‘it’ in consumption terms – one following morning’s banging head this vendange was enough ! Post meal just ongoing chat amongst small groups until the locals drifted away & us lodgers drifted off to our beds. Sophie’s husband, Arnaud (a Sirugue – Domaine Robert Sirugue) was present throughout, giving me the opportunity to check it would be ok for me to call at his family’s domaine on my travels to come.

The close of the working element of my 2020 vendange, just two more ‘free time’ days to come for touring, domaine visits, and purchasing which I’ll also write up for anyone interested. Personal takeaways from this harvest ? In no particular order:- good weather throughout (the first year I can ever recall not having to reach for my Wellington boots at least once) without being too hot, very dry ground from the Cote’s lack of material precipitation pre vendange, weight of foliage cover on many vines, fruit quality (hardly any rot at all), maybe less volume, incidence of shrivelled/burnt grapes here & there, the lower lying plots with heavier soil seemingly benefitting more than higher ground with lighter soils, going to ‘new’ plots we hadn’t been to in 2019, and conversely not going to one’s we had been to last year. Additionally, Covid impacts/precautions, and for me maybe the crux i.e that yet again as a huge disappointment, I didn’t get to experience the Domaine’s Vosne premier crus or Cote de Beaune plots, and that our group was only one ‘half’ of two teams, the other the mysterious Bulgarians we never came across. Did I enjoy it ? Of course, my vendange has been the highlight of my year for a number of years now & gives me a valued perspective on my long time passion for the wines of Burgundy, and Burgundy as a place. With each year now I’m conscious age will catch up with me at some point thus maximising those years I can continue to work is key. It will be a sad day when I have to ‘give in’ & cease my annual sojourn but hopefully there’ll be a few more years yet ! 2021 already seems to hang in the balance as my return to the UK, and X Ray result has confirmed major left hip issues, the next stage for me an awaited orthopaedic consultant appointment. If, as seems inevitable, a hip replacement follows then timings of any waiting period for such and convalescence could rule me out of next year’s harvest – we can but see.

marko’s harvest diary 09-Sep-20 – day 7

By Marko de Morey et de la Vosne on October 13, 2020 #vintage 2020

Patrick, Philippe, Jean-Claude et Gerard top of Noellat HCDN Pinot

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Seven, Wednesday 9th Sept 2020

The initial whispers of a finish on Thursday had been officially confirmed by the time we gathered for Day 7’s activities & embarked the vehicles. Another fantastic, beautiful morning, weather wise. I can’t recall if I heard early mention of our destination but if I didn’t it soon became apparent as we headed south to Nuits-St-Georges and, turning right at those pesky traffic lights by Moillard (always seem to be on red !), weaved our way through the town to take the D8 road steeply upwards out of the town towards Chaux and the Hautes-Cotes (de Nuits).

My reasonable (well, I thought so !) assumption as we passed through Chaux (always seems ultra sleepy) was we’d be headed still on the D8, in the direction of Villers-la-Faye, towards the plot(s) of Pinot Noir I knew from 2019. Err, not quite, and as another example of the ‘recurring theme’ for me of this vendange i.e experiencing new plots not seen in 2019/not going to some 2019 plots, just out of Chaux we ‘hung a left’ off the D8 onto a more minor road, still heading in the general direction of Villers – but more its eastern edge than west top side. We passed numerous plots of vines and unplanted land, until taking another left onto more of a vineyard stony track than a road, which was taking us towards the edge of the Hautes-Cotes plateau above Comblanchien. Our destination was a plot of high trained Chardonnay who’s rows, roughly south, culminated against a boundary of trees & shrubs. Looking down from the Hautes-Cotes towards the plain below, but off to our left was quite a hum of noise, which I realised was coming from a sizeable quarry some distance away. The inside of the quarry, as below ground level, was invisible but ‘marking’ it, in the early morning, was what looked like a floating mist – whether early morning dew/mist and/or dust rising from the noisy quarrying I wasn’t sure. In the distance, quarrying aside, our location was just fabulous in that early morning.

We picked, initially, away from the track towards the wooded perimeter. The rows were fairly long but as always we were doubled up in pairs, one each side of the vines. For me, again, this meant my new, best picking friend, Patrick. Without wishing to ‘brag’ Patrick & myself were pretty efficient, not bad at all for two over sixty year olds though I say it myself ! The technique with these rows of vines, as usual, was vandalistic leaf stripping to ensure visibility of all the grapes to be picked. This resulted, after some progress down a row, in quite a sight on the ground of leaf debris – from a distance it would be quite obvious what would be a picked or unpicked row. The grapes looked excellent although I’m not used to seeing much Chardonnay. Only our neighbouring female pairing of Odile and Isabel were quicker than Patrick & myself but not by much ! Odile was an interesting character. I didn’t recall her from 2019 but guess she was present then. A local, whilst Isabel lodged, Odile was properly assertive, in a good way, and also seemed well known or to know everyone locally e.g whenever we came across other domaines in vines, or passed other domaine vehicles on vineyard tracks, invariably someone would call out to her or vice versa. She was often the front seat human satnav resource to Jean-Claude when we weren’t following other team vehicles. And so to the end of our first rows. I’d really enjoyed our work so far, standing at the high trained vines very beneficial in terms of my creaking left hip as opposed to more of the usual low level picking. Casse-croute break time. I’ve referred above to our location being just fabulous and so it was, particularly down against the wooded perimeter with continuous bird song. At this point reflecting on our surroundings, the glorious early morning weather, our work, case-croute break etc etc it just came to me felt things could hardly be better and that this was one of the most enjoyable picking experiences in all my 13 years harvesting experience – it just felt that good, if hard to put into words.

Post break we took on new rows working back to our starting location and the trucks collecting the super looking grapes. This, and assisting, some laggards took us near enough to lunch time to, allowing for the travelling, head back to Vosne. Curiously, as I was a little bemused why we hadn’t come this way, our route back was to head thro the vines onto the D115J towards a descent from the Hautes-Cotes, past the quarry entrance (revealed it to look like a very sizeable operation indeed – a huge, terraced, ‘hole in the ground’), down to a junction with the RN74 adjacent to the longtime Les Routiers Auberge du Guidon, as always seems heavily favoured by truckers. Must try the Auberge someday – Google Maps reviews are strong, menu & pics look very enticing.

Our own lunch was a particularly tasty one. We’re lucky imho to have our chef whom I gathered retired professionally some 14 years ago. Today he served up a trout starter (v nice !), followed by simple but tasty roast chicken & pasta. These were followed by tubs of fromage blanc akin to yoghurt (I loved the way Chef writes the menu to note items such as the fromage blanc, ice creams etc are supplied by the domaine i.e not made by him !) and fruit tarts from the local Boulangerie. I ‘passed’ on the latter as the tart pastry was a step too far for me after what we’d already scoffed ! Our staple white wine was again the domaine’s 2017 Savigny Blanc – quite impressive we weren’t ‘rationed’ to Bourgogne Blanc or Aligote. I always thought the food at Arlaud was pretty good but reckon it’s a step (or steps) up at Noellat. There’d be something amiss with you if you were going hungry !

Post lunch back to the Hautes-Cotes, hurrah ! Again we took the route via Nuits, then Chaux. I’m going to be a bit hazy here as I recall we went through Villers, past a field with two contented looking donkeys at a t-junction, turning right, then left on a road which leads to Echevronne, looking down (as set below the road) on the premises/wood yard of Tonnellerie Meyrieux, before coming to a small plot of vines. My defective memory is lacking here as to exactly when we visited here, and what we picked BUT process of timings elimination suggests to me it must have been after lunch this day, or possibly early on Day 8, and involved Pinot grapes which didn’t occupy us too long – another ‘new’ site not seen in 2019.

A word on in vehicle entertainment (which I can’t resist !). Initially, in the earlier days of the vendange, with travelling distances routinely shortish, and probably on account of our team being collectively ‘senior’ in ages, there was no recourse to the Renault’s radio. But, as time moved on, and our travelling times lengthened the front seat ladies provided us with radio music. My experience of French radio stations (local one’s ?) en minibus over the years is that the playlists of the moment seem incredibly short in number of songs such that ongoing repetition is the norm (and some). This was certainly true for us with one particular Europop dirge (sorry, song !) featuring continually to an excessive extent – it seemed every few minutes and every time we had the radio on !!! I’ve looked up this ditty since getting home, if only out of curiosity, feeling like I’d had it driven into my subconscious to learn said song is called ‘Control’ by one Zoe Wees who I gather is a young German from Hamburg. Here are the lyrics for your delectation (Bill, do pls feel free to delete if any possible copyright issues:-

Early in the morning I still get a little bit nervous
Fightin’ my anxiety constantly, I try to control it
Even when I know it’s been forever I can still feel the spin
Hurts when I remember and I never wanna feel it again
Don’t know if you get it ’cause I can’t express how thankful I am
That you were always with me when it hurts, I know that you’d understand
I don’t wanna lose control
Nothing I can do anymore…

[Edit: But I can – that’s enough of that – Bill!]

I can only assume this song must have got to No 1 in European pop charts so often was it played – on our radio at least. The key line is “I don’t wanna lose control” which Ms Wees seemed particularly exorcised/tortured about when ‘singing’ it & which eventually seemed to enter my subconscious, such that at times I couldn’t help myself humming or singing it (quietly !) to myself when picking. Horrendous !

Back to the main focus ! From our brief, through village, diversion we retraced our route back a short distance towards Chaux, but turning left up a gentle upslope on a vineyard track, then ninety degree left, to a familiar plot of high trained Pinot rising upslope to our right from the track to a treeline, which I remembered well from the latter stages of the 2019 harvest. By this point of the afternoon it was pretty warm again, with regular water breaks much appreciated. Same high trained routine i.e my being paired with Patrick. There was quite some weight of 100% clean grapes on these vines such that very regular bucket emptying was the norm, keeping Jean-Claude ‘on his toes’, backwards & forwards to the truck(s). I did ask about the age of the vines here, if not when we were there then that evening, and if memory serves was told 35 years. I guess another appropriate question might have been to ask if the Noellats planted the vines originally, or bought the plot as established, but that line of enquiry didn’t occur to me. Eventually, with what seemed a delayed truck changeover, we got to a point where, with buckets filled almost to overflowing we had an enforced stop & opportunity for a gentle rest. For pace setting Patrick & self, only the ladies duo ahead of us, we were circa two thirds, or three quarters, up our row. Initially I busied myself leaf stripping ahead but after enough of that returned to my bucket to await emptying ‘relief’ as eventually came about. After completion of our initial row, and rest at the ‘summit’ underneath the trees we shifted left and helped another team complete their rows which took us to completion of the afternoon’s labours.

Back to Vosne for the usual i.e emptying the vehicles and for the cleaning ‘posse’ setting too on the buckets and porteurs panniers. From day one the cleaning crew had remained largely constant, comprising Philippe wielding the hose to clean the panniers and myself, Isabel, Thibault and Eric (the latter a local and enthusiastic team leader of one of the other sub teams) dealing with the buckets in our large rectangular fibreglass tank before stacking them, upside down, pyramid style along the garage wall to dry for the next day. My routine post gear cleaning was to have a shower, get into smarter clothes for the evening, then take laptop and camera to deal with the days photos whilst enjoying a refreshing beer (or two) from our individual, personalised plastic beakers. Beer was on tap somewhere in the premises enabling jug filling as required. I’d lost my original beaker which must have become detached from my belt a few days ago in a plot of Bourgogne Rouge & had had to grovel to Madam Noellat for another ! Evening meal of rice salad and cold meats with cauliflower gratin (tasty !). And so to bed ahead of what was to be a relaxing last day close to our 2020 efforts.

marko’s harvest diary 08-Sep-20 – day 6

By Marko de Morey et de la Vosne on October 08, 2020 #vintage 2020

NSG Village Fruit

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Six Tuesday 8th Sept 2020

In summary this was a day of Bourgogne ‘a go go’ – with a gossip twist as to when the end of the full vendange might come for us. A vendange might sound a compelling adventure (maybe not !), with superb opportunities to get ‘close up & personal’ with lots of famous name premier and grand cru terroirs. It can be I guess but there’s also the seriously mundane to ‘endure’ e.g Bourgogne terroirs and aligoté to go with pinot. For us this day of ‘slog’ started with a first thing vehicle ride, again north, to a little way beyond the Vougeot/Flagey-Echezeaux roundabout, to opposite were the D122e heads up into Chambolle. Here we turned east off the main road into what I call the flatlands which culminate against the Dijon-Beaune railway. Nothing notable or remarkable here. We made 2/3 passes of different, extensive, pinot vines in warm sunshine, with usual break for casse-croute. At one point mid-morning a quite lengthy walk ensued between plots which, for your’s truly (who’d stupidly forgotten to take his corti-steroid medication that morning – not actually prescribed for my hip but useful in deadening the discomfort) was causing serious limping ‘grief’ when one of the trucks hove to alongside me on the track. Alongside highly likeable driver Gerard, was ‘in the vines’ boss Gerald. The latter motioned to me, initially prompting, uncharitable as it turned out, thoughts on my part I was to be told off for something, or be told I was heading in the wrong direction or similar. Instead Gerald, who’d obviously, to his credit, noted my plight in limping any distance, was calling me to step up into the truck cab for what turned out to be a serious ‘lift’ around the plot to its other side. Very handy, as to traverse the full distance on foot would have been a real tester, the rising morning temperature an added issue. At the end of my truck ride we waited for the straggling on foot groups to collectively make their way to us. My team, once they arrived, were directed to move down the rows to the ends to pick their way back, to meet another team who’d pick towards them. I started to follow my colleagues but Gerald called me back, again ‘saving’ me any randonnee. Instead he allocated me to a row (doubled up) with the team who were to pick towards mine. All pretty considerate of him, causing me to regard him in a much more favourable light than hitherto, particularly 2019 ! I didn’t consider myself as ‘stricken’/incapacitated as it might have appeared & didn’t really have any great problem holding my own at the vines in actually picking. Mobility over a distance was an issue though so any ‘taxi ride’ was a bonus. After this latest pinot plot we moved only another short distance in the same area to what turned out to be lengthy rows of Aligote which took us to lunch. Picking Aligote or Chardonnay after Pinot can be quite different. Naturally, the Pinot bunches tend to stand out unless a vine is particularly heavily foliaged but, and notably in bright sunshine, Aligote & Chardonnay grapes unless sizeable, weighty bunches can be seriously hard to spot. Enthusiastic leaf stripping and studious care is essential to ensure quite decent sized bunches aren’t missed. It seems to be if there’s a temptation to leave some leaves, or not look behind them then one can almost ‘guarantee’ grapes will be missed. I do enjoy picking white grapes though as a change – can’t really explain why.

Post lunch, quite different landscapes, but more Bourgogne. The afternoon continued what for me was a theme of the vendange this year i.e whilst broadly we went to the same areas/plots as we did in 2019 not all was the same in that particular plots we went to last year we didn’t this e.g in Fixin as above; and conversely this year we went to plots we hadn’t in 2019, perhaps the first example here the Bourgogne Rouge we did after Vougeot. The latter aspect was particularly apparent this afternoon with a degree of the former ! I can’t quite remember now with passage of time the order of plot picking (usually my photos are a reminder/prompter) but we certainly attended one’s I’d never seen before – all on the far side of the railway. Initially, we took a right just going out of the village to the north, opposite the D109 as leads into the village. This took us into rolling countryside with areas of trees/copse, interspersed with vines and fields. All quite interesting as I’d no idea vines existed in such a location. We also at some stage picked two sites near the railway, a new one from our initial sortie away from the village, the vineyard track very close indeed to the railway fence at one point, passing a large signal box, the other a well remembered from 2019 plot past industrial units reached from some way down the Route de Boncourt le Bois which is almost opposite Restaurant La Toute Petite Auberge on the main road. Our afternoon finished with a large plot of Aligote bordering (non village side) the RN974 as it climbs out of Vosne. We made more than one pass through these Aligote vines in two areas, walking between both. A very tiring afternoon, notably warm throughout & even into the evening, for a fatigued your’s truly at least who’s hip was by the close giving me hell. At some point late in the afternoon or maybe early evening I’d overheard gossip of a finish on Thursday (Day 8) which didn’t surprise as suggesting a timescale akin to 2019s. So, we were getting there, with what turned out to be venturing into the Hautes-Cotes to come to see us to a conclusion. I think it was the evening of either Days 5 or 6 which saw a bit more of a late night drinking (wine) session than usual when I inadvertently caused some consternation amongst those staying up later. After consumption of the usual sorts of bottles with our evening meal and immediately afterwards, and when I’d moved away from the group slightly to work on my laptop photo downloading, re-sizing, captioning etc, at some stage Gerald & Hubert decided an additional bottle or bottles were needed. I was aware from 2019 that as longstanding regulars, and bosses below the Noellat family, G & H could have access to the keys to the underground cellar (our usual bottles came from the above ground buildings; specifically the room to the rear of the garage I believe, which also houses the bottling line). On this occasion they disappeared and triumphally returned brandishing a 2002 Vosne 1er Les Suchots – a serious bottle, much more so (serious) particularly in age terms than I’d ever seen broached before. This was opened with much fanfare & shared around. This didn’t sit easily with me at all though, in fact made me particularly uneasy. If Alain Noellat had made it available there’d have been no hanging back on my part but, as it was, I politely declined when I was offered a pour. This resulted in a bit of a minor furore as all present were surprised at my refusal, probably as they all knew I liked my wines. I was challenged & somewhat put on the spot were, and in attempting to explain myself, the language barrier didn’t help & matters got a little ‘confused’. I could clearly tell I was being told it was fine to open the bottle, and Gerald & Hubert were entrusted with the cellar keys, all so far so good BUT a top premier cru, and a 2002, the likes of which we’d definitely not seen before (in 2019 or this year) were all too much for me. I sensed I might not, at that moment, have been too popular, or maybe they were all just baffled by me, but my conscience was clear, remained so, and in any event I’d drunk enough as my head told me the following morning !

As above, to come the Hautes-Cotes and, as a counterpoint to my Morey nightmare, one of the most fabulous morning’s picking experiences I’d had in my vendange career.

marko’s harvest diary 07-Sep-20 – day 5

By Marko de Morey et de la Vosne on October 07, 2020 #vintage 2020

Noellat Team in NSG Village

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Five, Monday 7th Sept 2020

Day 5:- Amazing how, for me, the vendange takes one away from it all, especially without regular wi-fi access. No newspapers & no TV. Almost total escapism into another world – no bad thing lol ? Unless I were to think hard, and almost count the days on fingers, then if someone asked me what day of the week it was then I’d be hard pressed to say. One is almost in a bubble of vendange routine. Am not sure if I’d be able quickly to say Day 5 was a Monday but if it was Monday then today meant Marsannay, followed up to lunch by interesting Fixin plots, then another afternoon return to Morey, but the latter a much more ‘comfortable’/normal one than the day before !

As I’ve said previously, what a difference a year can make weather wise ? When we ‘did’ both Marsannay & Fixin (the latter more than once) in 2019 both came after the weather ‘turned’ post the biblical NSG storm and became grey, cloudy & sometimes damp. The journey to the Noellat Marsannay plot this year was a pleasant interlude, start to the day, initially cruising up the RN74 through Gevrey, then left on the D108 into the village, then with a short right onto the Route des Grands Cru, before left again, still on the D108, the various signs pointing to the village domaines piquing my interest for return visits some time. Through the village, leaving buildings/habitation behind, Noellat’s plot of Marsannay is a relatively small one, in ‘Es Chezots’, the vines tucked into a sweeping uphill right hand bend of the D108, before two higher hairpin bends, on its way to Corcelles les Monts. Bright & sunny this morning, with an initial chill which made me keep a jumper on over my tee shirt. As last year we parked on a track opposite which takes one to a Sapin du Garde (observation deck) with uncultivated field on the Marsannay side, on the other trees and shrubs amongst which some local(s) has some kennels for what sounds like a large pack of chiens de chasse (hunting dogs – spaniels, hounds & terriers). Needless to say, as last year, even though the dogs must have been mostly out of sight of us, as soon as we arrived the peace & quiet was shattered by a cacophony of barking & baying which continued until we were leaving (and for all I know may have continued a while after !).

As an aside, whilst looking up ‘Es Chezots’ in my ‘Climats & Lieux Dits’ bible, I noticed on page 42 a (for me) stunning, uncaptioned, full page, photo (presumably relating to Marsannay) of a vineyard with what look like in focus lavender in flower amongst grass ahead of a very old looking vine with others and posts blurring out of focus heading downhill with village buildings in the background. Lovely photo which I’d be delighted to have taken.

Care required as we crossed the road in groups as traffic was regular. I could feel my hip as I tried to pick up speed across the tarmac but with nothing coming I could have paced myself. The full team of the four sub teams had made it here, and as the plot isn’t of great size, it didn’t really seem to take us long, even with two passes, for some of us to see off the staggered, shorter rows as one came back to the road. Nice grapes here, well presented, from well trained vines, no excessive foliage hence almost a joy to pick after my receding Morey nightmare. I’ve had the domaine wine from here a few times in a couple of vintages – a good one. So, back across the road, and whilst it seemed a little early/too soon for the casse-croute break, although I confess I had no idea of the real time, nevertheless, refuel we did in quite pleasant surroundings – continual doggy noise aside. Must confess I felt sorry for the cooped up canines, much as I did for the dogs in similar surroundings in a copse almost in the middle of Arlaud’s Bourgogne Roncevie. They must be gagging to get out when ‘released’ for the chasse. Quite relaxing though, sitting on the mini bus rear bumper in the sunshine, munching the usual large half baguette, sipping Aligote. Worst way’s to spend one’s time 😉.

Next stop, as I’d half guessed beforehand, after Marsannay was, logically, Fixin (pronounced Fissin). The more I see of parts of Fixin the more I like/warm to it, and as somewhere I could happily live. Another village, like Marsannay, with much scope to visit vignerons. Our first (of two) sites in Fixin this morning was a familiar one from last year, well below the village proper on the top side of a road who’s bottom side is residential housing. As last year I’m pretty sure we were looking at Fixin ‘En Clomee’ – if not that then Fixin ‘Les Chenevrieres’. As we pulled up & disembarked another domaine were working here, two tractors and trailers parked close by our vehicles. No great surprise this other domaine was the local Domaine Pierre Gelin (‘PG’). Readers of my vendange diary and photo views from 2019 may remember a photo I took then of a small, round, red post marker with the name of Pierre Gelin on it. PG has holdings in both ‘En Clomee’ & ‘Les Chenevrieres’ so I’m correct we were in one of those two. I sort of recall we had two or three serious go’s at this site last year but this was to be our sole visit for 2020. Maybe the Bulgarians had been here already or coming to it after us. Whatever, whilst I had strong memories of very long, time consuming rows, such didn’t seem the case this year – maybe the much better weather and dry ground underfoot cast a different light. With the full team here though, half were directed to the other end of the rows to work back whilst the rest of us set off from ‘this’ end so we effectively halved the rows. Nice grapes again here on this heavier, low lying ground.

What followed the above rows was rather interesting and not something that featured in 2019. It’s a crying shame I lost my photos this day, from here and later in Fixin (see later). Further on up the road (as the song says – now who sang that ?) as just a short walk, on the opposite side, were another plot of (Pinot) vines. These lay beyond a piece of land given over to allotments. The individual allotment nearest to us was a ‘work of art’ on which the owner had, and is, clearly lavished/lavishing much time and effort beyond whatever he/she must be growing. There is, for want of a better word, a posh ‘cabin’ – maybe better described as a small pavilion – with veranda, and also further into the plot, perhaps in the middle, was a serious looking tree house constructed, from the ground up into/around the tree, from wooden pallets – quite a structure. As someone who’s had to domestically break up pallets (used for delivery of bathroom fittings), unable to find a home for them (seems most pallet firms deal in sizeable quantities, not interested in one or two) I was highly impressed ! Once we were on this second plot of vines we could also see more handiwork from the allotment owner on the far side of the cabin, namely a brick barbecue, and also a sink and ‘draining board’ type preparation area on brick pylons. Anyway, allotment escapism aside, this second plot of vines were quite something as high trained, akin to what one would find on the Hautes-Cotes as we’d come to in due course. I was intrigued. We were paired up to work the rows here, as usual with these high trained vines. For me, that meant the start of what was to pleasingly continue for such vines for the rest of the vendange, being paired with the quiet, studious, highly likeable, older than me, Patrick Prevost who lives in Nuits. Patrick and I worked well together and in time dispatched our row efficiently before assisting laggards elsewhere before final grapes were collected & we returned to the vehicles. One clown, a wiry, older, guy who I believe is a long standing regular, who’d tried to ‘take the piss’ out of me one evening as ‘Anglais’ until a gave him a mouthful to the consternation of others and Alain Noellat (who asked me if I was ok to which I just grimaced), decided it was ‘clever’ to climb a decent sized tree on this high trained plot & start shouting some unintelligible (to me anyway). Clearly an exhibitionist but with only half a brain, who clearly hadn’t considered the implications, not least for the Noellats, if he’d fallen to the ground. From his shaking of the head and quiet muttering it was clear to me Patrick was as unimpressed as I was by ‘Tarzan’ !

Back in the vehicles, sometime to go before lunch, so off we went to another Fixin plot – or the others did as we (in our vehicle) got lost and ended up in a random tour of the village before eventually making it to where we should have gone directly by which time the others were dismounting and making their way on foot to the next plot. We’d set off in the right direction but in the front seat, local Odile was directing Jean-Claude up & through the village but, and am not sure why exactly, the latter must have misunderstood the directions, resulting in us taking, I think, a left instead of what should have been a right. In efforts to ‘get back on track’ we seemed to take almost an entire convoluted circuit of the village, to the ongoing puzzlement of the back seats passengers (including your’s truly), at one point passing the well known to me Domaine Jean-Michel & Armelle Molin, close by the village’s Roman bath house. We should have gone directly up the Rue Noisot to the restaurant, Au Clos Napoleon, and taken a right down the side of the restaurant building onto the Rue des Hervelets a ver Fixey – which we got to eventually. I was anticipating we were to pick, below the road, last year’s Fixin Les Boudieres/Le Village where I’d been on the village side outside row and ended up with vines, under the shadow of trees and shrubs, having minimal grapes. Above the road, but not for us, are the premier crus ‘Les Hervelets’ & ‘Les Arvelets’. My assumption was wrong though so the Bulgarians must have ‘done’ the above. Instead we walked, from the vehicles, to a very old set of stone steps down into the plot onto a path, just before ‘En Combe Roy’ above us, which led us to a plot of vines some way back from the road which must be part of ‘Les Entre-Deux-Velles’. We’d ‘done’ this plot last year after the one mentioned above but in this year’s sunny, warm, dry weather it was a good deal more pleasant & nicer place to be than in last year’s indifferent claggy weather. Nice grapes again; good volume, no rot. Completing this took us up (allowing for travel time back to Vosne) to lunch time. But, walking back along the Rue des Hervelets to our vehicles, coming towards us was an unusual/unexpected sight, namely a guy astride a lively, sizeable (as in tall) skewbald horse – akin to something from a Cowboy film or ‘The Lone Ranger’ (for those of us old enough to recall the latter !). The horse was quite skittish, doubtless down to having to make its way through our motley crew, its shod hooves clattering the road, its helmeted rider seeming none too impressed at our presence, whilst wrestling his steed. What a shame again I lost my photos as I recall having good one’s of our venue and then the equine encounter. Hey ho ! No recall without photos either of our lunch/evening menus.

Post lunch back in the vehicles, and off down the Avenue du Monument to the RN974. With the Noellat cuverie immediately to our left, as we waited for traffic to allow us to make a left turn onto the main road, I was intrigued to see a large multi wheeled commercial tanker truck in the cuverie entrance. What on earth was that doing ? Evening enquiry of Alain Noellat brought advice clarification the tanker was bulk collecting Aligote juice ! Wow, the Noellats must have some quantity of Aligote to allow for such a bulk sale. I omitted to ask if the juice was this year’s but assume it must have been albeit our ‘crew’ had yet to pick Aligote in quantity although we did subsequently. Our destination going north again this p.m. ? Shock horreur pour moi; Morey-St-Denis again !!! To my intense, subsequent relief the Village rows we spent the afternoon picking, a little more north and more directly behind the Hubert Lignier premises, whilst hard work didn’t have the horrors of my worst nightmare from Day 4. Concluding our Morey excursions saw a completion of Day 5.

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