Arlaud Vendange Day 5, Wednesday 28th Sept 2016
Day started early with my taking my car down to VW Ladoix to leave with them to fit a new left side rear window to replace the temporary and not very fetching cardboard and tape. Daniel (Le Carp) followed me down there in Serge’s Touran to fetch me back. I was of course too late back to get out start wise to the vines with the rest of the gang so we went to the cuverie as Daniel’s place of work & for me to await the arrival of one of the camions with first cut fruit to hitch a ride back to wherever the action was. Sure enough Rene rocked up and once he’d unloaded we got back to Chambolle Village terroir, if nearer Morey than C-M. Another stunning, sunny, clear blue sky, day weather wise in prospect. We moved around 4 or 5 plots of C-M Village through the morning. Mix of fruit dependant on which plot, or even which vine, but the good was looking very good, akin to Morey Clos Solon from the day before. Saw my first of many large snails attached to a vine who’s fruit I was dealing with – they all turned out to be same shades of dark brown with cream stripe. Serge later told me they are highly prized in Poland – well, the Poles are welcome to them. My one and only escargot (cooked) experience is not one I’d rush to repeat. We finished the morning close to the nearest to Chambolle back corner of Roumier’s Clos de la Bussiere. Another domaine were embarking on their transport close by – Herve told me it was the H Lignier team.
After lunch came a bit of a shock – back to Roncevie yet AGAIN ! Well, I suppose this is a fact of life when the domaine has circa 5 ha. I did finally believe after this latest effort, which lasted longer than Tuesday’s post lunch Roncevie session, that we’ve finally now ‘done’ with Roncevie but can I say that with confidence ? Errr, no, we’ll see.
What came next though, if not for the rest of the afternoon, was just the real deal tremendous. Our post Roncevie destination was Gevrey 1er ‘Combottes’ and its aged vines chez Arlaud. Wow, wow, wow ! This was just seriously impressive in every way. Maybe not the ultimate max volume but appeared very useful and, as usual, with this Combottes a real mix of type of grapes from millerandage variety (always a feature here) to the full & voluptuous. Just a joy to pick here, any fatigue thoughts banished. We were doubled up two folk to a row, one at the bottom, one starting half way up. I managed to wangle a mid row start to ensure I ended up at the patch of grass ‘summit’ at the top of the parcel. We must have collectively kept the porteurs pretty busy in volume terms as there were a couple of fullish crates at the top and I stumbled out of my row with a full bucket looking for a home. Short break only for a drink (water !) and Herve moved us along a ways towards Clos de la Roche to work our way down some separate Combottes rows back to the road & our vehicles. Again little or no other domaine activity round and about – very odd but for my part I’m very comfortable Cyprien has got his timing right. Some of the smaller bunches detached with ease and the larger bunches looked pretty ripe to me.
I can’t really get my head around what’s been happening to date but am quickly getting there ! What I mean here is that, prior to coming out, pretty much most things I’d read or heard were what a disastrous year this is/would be. I get that for parts of the Cote de Beaune no problem, as Christine Dubreuil had outlined, and then had ‘evidence’ for my own eyes of the frost damaged parts of Roncevie (not all though), other plots of Bourgogne Rouge, and the Aligote – the latter not producing anything like I’ve seen in other good or not so good years. However, the fruit of Echezeaux was a first sighter of what has since emerged / continues to emerge, even though volume there was markedly down (I’ll get a figure from Cyprien if I think on). Once we moved away from the ‘base’ appellation stuff and flat lands though things (on the slopes) have improved immeasurably e.g Clos Solon yesterday, Chambolle Village this morning, and now jaw droppingly Combottes. My experience of so called lesser vintages is that Combottes, or the bottom part particularly, is always prone to some rot or mildew etc but all looked encouragingly good now.
If Combottes was not enough our ‘cup then overfloweth’ as Herve led us, en pied, almost like a school children’s outing, along the roadside grass verge from Combottes to one of ‘the Daddies’ – Clos de la Roche (further than it looks !). Before I forget, here I’d better mention the pics I’ll be sending to Bill taken from around midday onwards have come out rather ‘dark’. As always will be up Bill what he prefers to ‘publish’ & maybe he considers they will be too ‘dark’ but it was only when I came to download them did I realise something was amiss. It turned out both the settings ‘wheels’ on top of my Canon G16 had inadvertently been moved from the default auto settings hence the ‘dark’ shots – a crying shame & frustrating. I was ‘brushed’ by a porteur with case on his back just before lunch and my uncovered camera (looped around my neck/shoulder so that I can keep it on my back out of usual harm’s way whilst cutting) I can only think might have taken a brush also – on which basis maybe I was lucky there was nothing more serious.
Clos de la Roche (‘CdlR’) well, cor blimey guv, from this proud Lancastrian was just the male pooch nether regions. Gobsmackingly beautiful looking ripe fruit and lots of it. The best yet ? Who knows, bit different from Combottes which maybe had more ‘finesse’ from millerandage etc but for me the CdlR grapes, in my row anyway (always that caveat), were breathtakingly, jaw droppingly fantastic. Note to self think about CdlR as a 2016 must have – acknowledging the wine has to be ‘made’ yet. This just lifted the end of the day spirits for me to a very special place despite my inevitable fatigue. Trudging back to the Jumpy, stripping off knee pads and single left hand glove, looking up CdlR slope to in the sunshine all of a sudden the world, or my world, was a very special, ‘lifted’, place. I’m a lucky (59 yr old) boy to be doing this and with great people. Be anywhere else ? No thanks, this is the best.
Subsequently I quizzed cuverie located Basile on how our afternoon efforts went down. To no great surprise he confirmed, grinning that Basile behind the specs grin, that Cyprien was very happy (he should be) but to my alternative surprise advised Cyp preferred the Combottes grapes.
What a just cracking day though, superb. Onto day 6, could D5 be surpassed, yes, actually/amazingly it could – stay tuned pop burg pickers!
Arlaud Vendange Day 3, Monday 26th Sept 2016
The aforementioned rest day arrives. ‘Overslept’ until 7.30, extremely fatigued by the previous two days exertions, but was still first into the refectoire. Boy though, was I stiff in the legs and hips areas. Initially, I concentrated on computing, writing, camera downloads & photo editing – all very time consuming.
Main event/focus of the morning from this unexpected free time was to get myself and the car down to the VW Dealership in Ladoix, somewhere I’d passed many times but never for a second thought I’d venture through the gates, let alone the showroom door. Quite entertaining experiencing a French dealership – seemed just the same, barring the language as the English ones. Eventually, in my limited French, having sought to explain my predicament and car repair required, I ended up sat with smiley, cheery, Fred, who seemed to be some sort of chief mechanic, if a youngish guy, and in (clean) overalls (other than the ‘regulation’ whites shirts and seeming de rigeur tight, narrow pants of the salesroom guys). Fred came out to my poor damaged Bora with me, inspected it briefly, taking a photo of the window with his phone and noting its VW details. We then returned to the showroom and his computer where he proceeded to take all my details bar my inside leg measurement ! My UK Post Code seemed to cause notable consternation in terms of entering but eventually, surmounting the language barrier between us, he seemed confident the repair would be straightforward but, as I’d fully expected, they’d need to get the part in (the window glass). He suggested that would be the next day so I promised to return with the car and leave it, Fred for his part suggesting only Tuesday morning would be needed and I could call back for it Tues lunch or evening. Hum !!!! The best laid plans……………see later.
I’d used my run down to Ladoix & back to Morey to spot the small roadside arrow signs pointing to domaine locations, mentally filing these away, for possible future visits e.g. D…… & Ravaut. On the way back rambled my way through sleepy Chambolle, not much happening at all (in fact nothing !). I’d seen very little signs of vendanging life during my there & back to Ladoix – just the very odd (as in rare) team alone in a vast sea of vines. From Chambolle taking the ‘high road’ to Morey I spied a team at work in Bonnes-Mares and stopped for a look/chat. They greeted me cheerfully as Domaine Bruno Clair, one of the guys pointing to an older, greying, guy sat on tractor & attached trailer with grape cases as the man himself. If this was BC he greeted me pleasantly, professing himself happy with the cut grape quality – certainly looked ok to me. There didn’t seem to be ‘that’ many cutters and, if I hadn’t been in smart attire, I’d have happily offered to help.
And so back to the village domaine buildings for lunch where the rest of the resident guys and Herve were already tucking in. An interesting event occurred as we finished lunch, and can’t remember now who came in with it (might have been local vendangeur Daniel), but someone arrived with a ‘parcel’ which happened to be a large, if not huge, Common Carp, frozen stiff, wrapped in cling film. I’ve never been fortunate to have caught such a fish in my freshwater fishing days (mainly my youth) but I’d estimate its weight at between 10-15 lbs. This prompted much appreciative conversation, and many references to Le Carp (if there was any doubt what the poisson was), with debate on how to best prepare and cook it. This would be a new first for me but more of that for Day 4 evening.
Early afternoon I returned to, & concentrated, on my computing for Bill. Cyprien had told me there was now (shock horreur, wonders will never cease !) l’internet at our residency but I should see Basile for more detail.
However, I had more in mind for maximising the rest of the day than being chained to my laptop so mid afternoon set off for Beaune with a view to picking up my 2013’s Le Grappin order having been ever so politely approached by Emma pre vendange if I could collect given Le G’s limited space. Managed to go straight to the Le G premises which chuffed me. Found them all hard at work bar Andrew who’d ‘nipped out’. My mission ended as something of a fool’s errand though as Emma explained the storage bottles were off site and needed notice to arrange collection and, if I understood correctly, needed labelling. Guess I should have anticipated but I hadn’t so agreed to come back post vendange.
Quick thought process with time on my hands pre needing to be back en Morey for evening meal had me head to beloved Pernand-Vergelesses and a call in to my still fondly remembered Dubreuil-Fontaine (‘D-F’). Initially met cuddly office lady, Bernadette, who told me she would be retiring April 2017 – what a shame as she’s been lovely with me. Before heading uphill to the cuverie I commiserated with Bernadette on the sad death previously of Bernard Dubreuil. To add to this Bernadette told me that as we spoke Christine’s husband, Nicolas, was in hospital having a back operation that day hence, as Bernadette put it with some drama, Christine would be ‘alone’ for the vendange. I asked about buying some wine and was handed the price list (carte) but with Bernadette pointing out a number of unavailable, sold out, wines which amazed me as until now one could count on D-F to have a v good selection. No blanc premier crus made for an easy decision there so settled on 6 packs of each of the P-V Village 2014 blanc and Beaune 2013 1er cru ‘Montrevenots’. Concluding the purchases and with a fond good by to Bernadette I headed uphill to the cuverie. Here came across Christine in conversation with two very nice older local couples notwithstanding which she greeted me in the most delightfully warmest fashion. Leaving her to conclude her conversation I said ‘hello’ to 3 or 4 of the same cuverie staff there in my ‘day’ and helped them with their final washing/brushing up. Christine came to join us & asked if I’d stay for a degustation – ‘yes please’! Over a very pleasant Aligote I heard how their vendange was going well other than decimation of certain terroirs/parcelles. Christine quoted me some figures which I should have written down, but suffice to say they were Cotes de Beaune horrific. She told me the Cortons were actually ok & largely unaffected – good, but only I suppose if one has the funds to buy them idc. Said my regretful good bye’s as they are all lovely people – if I wasn’t now so ‘embedded’ at Arlaud I’d return to D-F in a heartbeat, and may yet do so one day as I feel I owe it to them.
Treated my fellow evening diners to a bottle of each of my purchases. I normally bring some wines with me but didn’t have time on this occasion to get a few together so manic rushed was the run up to my departure from the UK. The Pernand ’14 Village blanc was steely, mineral, just a touch of miele delicious. The Beaune Montrevenots ’13 went down well but personally surprised me at its softness and (low) level of acidity. My previous experience of this wine (deliciously) all relates to the 2008 but this one was nothing like how I recalled the earlier vintage bottles. Very strawberry & raspberry fruited though, easy to drink.
And so to bed but with an unfortunate, if annoying (very!), twist in that Sebastian the traveller hippy type (and suspect he’d fallen asleep) was playing loud, dull thudding, repetitive music from his room, and there’s a stairway to a loft space in between our rooms (not to heaven) which woke me at around 2.30 a.m – 3.00 a.m. and destroyed the rest of my night’s sleep, although the noise did eventually stop. This was something to be tackled later and was (to be continued !).
Day 4 details to follow when we eventually move away from the Bourgognes (and how), have Le Carp served up for our evening meal and things continue to escalate re Sebastian. Meantime I’m sending some pics of today, including our evening fare but as ever its up to Bill how many he ‘publishes’.
Arlaud Vendange Day 2, Sunday 25th Sept 2016
Similar morning start to Saturday, one or two new faces presenting documents, some others from the day before not turned up. New faces included the most extraordinary looking character I think I’ve ever seen vendange time. Turned out to be a girl (I wasn’t sure honestly) with the most inappropriate, (bizarrely) ‘floaty’, ‘outfit’ for a day in the vines and an incredible blonde ‘beehive’ type outfit – a true apparition.
Vines wise this was a totally Aligote flat lands morning experience. We started nearer Morey than Roncevie but beyond that & even nearer to the train lines, passing several lovely looking ‘virgin’ pieces of earth ready for planting with whatever, super looking soil though. The plot we arrived at, vans parked under a very attractive large tree, was not one I could ever recall from my previous years thus I wondered if rented, or maybe machined in past years. Machines are generally an absolute “ No no” for Arlaud as wholly against the much valued certified organic/bio status. The vines were atypically dripping wet from over night but I’d learnt my lesson quickly from Saturday a.m. and wore waterproof over trousers. The sun was rising behind us for an ethereal atmosphere as Herve gave a lecture to the newbies on how to pick Aligote, and the essential need for vandalistic leaf stripping beforehand to reveal the ‘hidden’ fruit for then cutting. Gloves, or a left one in my case, utterly essential. If one ignores a leaf you can guarantee a bunch of grapes behind it. Here I had ‘love himself’, “aren’t I great, fantastic, girls look at me supa cool dude” Thierry as my porteur – conceited idiot. Just stood there, fagging it for the most part, preening himself in his 60’s style, throwback from ‘Grease’, baseball bomber jacket – get a life monsieur. Total opposite of fantastic, rough edged if great bloke, porteur Claude (see later).
Mixed results here, vines clearly frosted badly, and nothing remotely like the weight of fruit Aligote routinely produced in past years. What there was though was nice, much care required to make sure none missed. I rattled up my first row, having always enjoyed picking whites. We moved south a plot or three, passing a bold cock pheasant chancing his ‘luck’, to do our second plot quickly via doubling up to the few rows before moving onto familiar Aligote territory on the Chambolle side of Morey below the RN74. Here, to my utter amazement, we had a coffee break ! Unheard of a la Arlaud but welcome, father in law chef arriving with flasks, biscuits and No 2 Cyprien & Carole daughter, the lively, fun, Jeunesse. Pleasant interlude before we attacked this latest plot of long rows towards the main road. For me this was superb as in my row I had longtime regular porteur, Claude, who was missing Saturday. Claude is a bear of a bloke, but super cheerful, despite surviving a bad illness of some sort which saw him absent a year and losing a load of weight (he had it to then lose !). What rules him apart from ALL the rest of the (mostly lazy in my experience) porteurs is his sympathetic nature to the coupers, manifest whole heartedly in the Aligote, in being prepared to, most efficiently, leaf strip without being asked. This was worth loads to me and, between us, we stormed up the row we were in, ending up way ahead of anyone else – hugely satisfying to me as the anglais outsider. Brilliant.
Resting after lunch, I overheard mention between Herve and Damian, the latter clearly being groomed as 63 yrs old Herve’s in the vines leadership succession (have my personal doubts as, whilst I have no problem with nice guy likeable Damian, having patched up our 2015 differences) I’m not at all sure he has the gravitas or ‘drive’/authority for vineyard team management) of a team split for the afternoon, and Echezeaux. I asked Herve if I could be included for the Echezeaux (Les Treux) team so off we went, just a few of us. Some more activity noted around Vougeot and Vosne which Cyprien had mentioned at lunch (Mugneret-Gibourg and others he mentioned seeing on his parcelled checking travels) but we arrived at our few rows with no activity around us. Some really nice looking grapes here, very nice, but not many of them compared to previous years. Here Damian gave me a lecture (unnecessarily in front of all – singling me out as being English ?) on putting my Bucket under the bunches being snipped to avoid, as if, single grapes hitting the deck. I said nothing, but took tacit support from my porteurs knowing ‘looks’ and brief supporting words après. The owner of these en meteyage vines was present throughout, hovering. We had a brief conversation post picking where he was clearly intrigued/amused at my English vendangeur presence, asking all the usual questions about where in England I am from, how many vendanges I’ve worked, etc etc. We agreed about the positive looking quality but he bemoaned (assume he gets paid by the caisse) the lower than in the past volume (to be the recurring theme of the vendange I wonder ?).
What followed was ridiculously horrible ! Passing two lots of separate gendarmes teams before and after the Vougeot roundabout, stopping drivers for a) speeding and b) drink testing we arrived at a new to me, ‘wrong’ side of the road plot below Chambolle, with Cyprien present ahead of us in his Volvo V50. He confirmed to me this is a constituent of his negoce Bourgogne Oka. But what a farce cum disaster. If one wanted any further evidence of frost effect here it was. Incredible, hardly any grapes at all, really at all, many vines with none. Dishearteningly tedious, soul destroying, under a broiling sun, which left me hardly able to speak so thirsty was I and with no water (go figure) in our accompanying truck as usual. Initially I wondered why pay us to ‘do’ this waste of time plot rather than just machine what little there was but, without asking anyone, it occurred to me later that to machine would be against everything bio/organic which the domaine so values.
We moved on to join the rest of the crew, resting in a break and, thank god, with plenty of carafed water, in Roncevie to jut finish the few rows o/s from Monday. These we knocked off in short order for a c.5p.m. early finish but not before Herve called the team around him below the RN74 to announce Monday would be a no work, rest, day and we’d re-commence Tuesday. Caused some consternation for the locals, the younger one’s particularly. Almost unheard of for me – think we had a rest day (fatigue and forecast bad weather 2014) in 2014, the only other day off I can recall in 7 years.
Went to the cuverie evening, after bucket cleaning & getting changed out of filthy, sticky, attire with a view to despatching early missives to Bill but confess got distracted by catching up on early emails as well as essentially sports results, including my dear to ma coeur Liverpool FC’s 5-1 thrashing of Hull FC, as well as being much amused by waste of space, W Rooney’s long overdue dropping by MUFC’s (aka the Scum) Moaninho – priceless . Lost track of time, partly by laptop’s clock being an unaltered hour behind UK time but finisihed with a pleasant tasting interlude in the cuverie tasting room hosted by vendange stageur, Arthur (?) Salvadori from his family Jura domaine. We had an Iscardi (no vintage labelled) Dolcetto d’Alba (pleasant but not for me) and a much better, hugely interesting and atypically oxidative 2009 Savagnin Cotes du Dura. And so back to the village, evening meal, and very tired early night. Appropriate to mention during the day I learnt the 2016 Roncevie total production was circa only 20% of a ‘normal’ year – terrible but can totally believe on what I’ve seen to date. We’ll see re the premier and GC’s to come.
Arlaud Vendange Day 1, Saturday 24th Sept 2016
Bonjour Bill et tout le monde. J’arrive sur la Cote Friday evening after leaving my North West England home for Dover circa 2.15 a.m Friday morning. J’a une petite probleme avec ma voiture on the Autoroute about an hour from Dijon when it locked me out of it after I’d stopped for some diesel and was washing the windscreen free of half the insects between Troyes and Chaumont. I won’t bore you with the rest but suffice to say after recovery from the service area on a flatbed truck to some garage in a hamlet somewhere in the countryside my VW now needs a new left rear window – was impressive how the car stood up to the attempts of the garage guys to break in with increasingly larger hammers but eventually a spot welder or similar something lance like hot on the glass enabled entry & keys retrieval (insert various rude words of choice ici). . I could hardly watch. Now over 200 Euros worse off (that’s less wine to be acquired doh !) I’ve still got to sort some replacement glass before returning home – a trip to VW Ladoix beckons !
Anyway, enough of that nonsense. All hugely familiar in Morey Centre after my diversion to the Arlaud cuverie first to see what was happening, who might be there – it was by now after 7.00 p.m. due to my incident which I reckon cost me 2 hours or so. Only Herve and the office lady packing up at the cuverie but clear all was ready to commence with triage table, presses, cases etc etc outside under the roof overhang as usual. Cyprien had originally contacted me in early August to say, quite explicitly, we would not start before the 28th Sept. Yeah right ! At the beginning of last week he told me Saturday the 24th. Gawd, loads to do in my desk bound UK day job to ‘escape’. Eventually turned my work computer off at home Thursday evening very late having done all I needed to, grabbed a couple of hours sleep, fuelled up with black coffee and set off as above. Some 680 UK miles later, one English Channel & one ferry, 3 quick stops en route to ‘refresh’, plus beaucoup of self inflicted car woes (my defence is I’d no idea it had a self locking system – I’ve only had it over 10 years !) here I am in dear ole Morey-St-Denis, and very sleepy it is this Friday evening.
Reassuringly familiar for this my 9th vendange, 7th at Arlaud (think I got my maths wrong last year when might have mentioned 10th). The chasseurs from Besancon area were here i.e Colonel Rene, loveable softy spoken Serge, sage Daniel plus new man, George. Also present were young Basile from Bordeaux who told me he’d completed his MA thesis on “Iconic Wines – what makes a wine iconic”, and a first time here young lady who turned out to be apprentice winemaker, Caroline, from Germany (avec perfect anglais) who has worked in the Rheinhessen, and latterly Sancerre, but has pitched up at Arlaud on a recommendation from the Sancerre winery (name not known, sorry !) to experience organic/biodynamic viticulture.
Amazingly no long time fixture, Dede, nor Mr Handlebar moustache, Jackie, who has occupied the annex off my room the last few years. Hey ho, nothing stays the same, but Herve is his usual larger than life self including my instantly becoming Marko (name is Mark actually but do I care not one bit !).
Convivial Friday evening meal relaxed me from my Autoroute car woes. In addition to the domaine’s ‘usual’ Bourgogne Aligote & Bourgogne PTG we had a couple of half bottles – one 1999 Morey Village, and one Morey 2002. The first was corked although only I tactfully called it out with Basile quickly agreeing. The 02 was flat out delicious – love to have some of that in my cellar (but not in halves !). We also had some sort of claret – very Merlot. Think it was Chateau du/le Pin 2011. No one seemed very interested & c.half of it it was there on the table for Saturday breakfast so I had a small glass with my breakfast bar and before my black coffee. Seemed quite pleasant !
Today turned out to be a (Bourgogne) Roncevie day all day. Contain your excitement ! Once the usual checking in paperwork (swear there’s more of it every year) had been done, seemed to take an age, with all the new for 2016 crew and some of the usual regulars, off we went. Quite a smarter line up of hired vehicles this year than the crocks of the past. Seemed to be a change of emphasis from vans and a couple of double cab, flat bed, trucks to only two vans (actually mini buses) but three trucks. Plus the usual decrepit, seems to go for ever, domaine workhorse Citroen Jumpy small van. Quite dark to 7.30 a.m. but we are later this year. Didn’t do a head count but we filled the vehicles – maybe not as many folk as last year perhaps.
Fairly early on the opening strategy for this year’s harvest it became clear i.e attack and complete the low lying, frost affected, stuff. We started in Roncevie, where regular Arlaud aficionados will know the domaine has 5 ha., in the furthest section towards the railway, up against a wood. This portion, probably the lowest lying bit,(think totally) was re-planted after the devastating frost/winter of 2009-10. Its always been a pain in the butt to try and pick the first efforts of the youngster vines. This year was weird. Many of the vines had little or no fruit on them but then one would come to a vine which for no apparent reason had a few nice bunches on it – much more than seen in past years. Also fairly quickly I noticed variable/inconsistent ripening with some bunches, or parts of bunches, next to fully ripe one’s, looking ‘rose’. Very quickly got quite muddy as well, as in clinging to one’s boots etc in vast quantity – not good. Very early the vines were pretty wet from morning dew so one also got damp. Morning passed uneventfully and so to lunch, before which Cedric, Jean-Pierre and myself cleaned all the buckets and the secateurs. On the subject of the latter I had two during the morning which were a sticking pain in the butt. Have never had sticking/blocking secateurs in my previous year’s – someone hadn’t oiled them me thinks. Porter friend/regular Laurent offered to get me a replacement for the first pair but the one’s he got from one of the trucks was no better so I persevered until lunch time then selected my weapon’s of choice carefully for the afternoon.
Cyprien’s wife Carol(e?)’s father, an ex professional chef,. was in charge of lunchtime dining arrangements as last year. An engaging, larger than life, extrovert type whom one cannot help at being amused by. Lunch was usual mixture of entrée, mains, plat du fromage (large one) and fruit ou dessert. Wines as above i.e Aligote & PTG on free flow as required.
Back to Roncevie for the afternoon. Really hot weather wise now with clear blue sky and only an occasional whisper of breeze. What struck me now, as we worked the rows/section nearer to the road (RN74), was the almost total absence, as far as the eye could see between Gevrey & Morey, of any other domaine’s vehicles scattering the hillsides i.e we were almost alone. Very unusual but I heard later most of the Morey domaine’s intended to start Monday or later that week. I should have guessed sooner from the all but empty Morey car park !
My afternoon’s toil was brightened by music to work to. Initially, a tall, whisper of beard, guy next to me was playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon from his phone. Actually turned out to be a Floyd tribute band re-make but good enough. Took me back to buying ‘Dark Side’ years ago when it first came out, in my long ago 6th Form College days (between 16-18), as my first ‘proper album (actually my second but I don’t like to talk about the aberration first by Wizzard !). Moving rows later I was next to, hippy traveller type, Sebastian, with his long ‘matted’ dreadlock hair, a ‘type’ old ladies might cross the road to avoid. Sebastian is quite an engaging, if voluble, character with very good English, originally from the Vosges region, but who has spent his latter years as a travelling free spirit. A girlfriend (not present) who lives in Dijon brought him here. He explained to me, andhe can chat (!), whether I wanted to hear or not, that he has fallen in love with Colombia (of all places & nothing to do with drugs) and has dreams to get enough dosh together to open a bar or restaurant there – hum ! Anyway, he was playing what turned out to be an eclectic mixture of stuff, pretty loudly, via his phone. The first ‘tune’ was the rocking, if repetitive, Suzie (Suzy ?) Q which I will always associate with my favourite film, Apocalypse Now, said tune from the up river ‘concert for the US Vietnam War troops featuring, for those days, exotic dancers. Post Suzie Q an even better series of electric blues tracks (just my type) blasted forth to rock us down the rows and take my mind off my raging thirst.
The grapes in Roncevie Haut were pretty impressive, what there were of them. Volume very varied vine to vine but first sight of big bunches. Rising ‘dust’ as said bunches landed en bucket though suggested some rot albeit within the bunch other than being visible on the surface and so it proved post triage conversation – shades of 2013.
And so, to return to the village, final bucket cleaning, departure of the locals, quick glass or two of vin blanc refresher before photo downloads, evening meal and early night.
Arlaud Vendange 2015 – Monday 7th Sept 2015 ( and un peu Sunday)
Bonjour toute le monde ! Je suis arrive !!! In Morey-St-Denis that is for my 8th vendange avec le premier equipe de Morey.
Various conflicting potential start dates by email to my banking day job over the preceding couple of weeks had been stirring the anticipatory senses. We’d (Cyprien Arlaud et moi) eventually settled on a Monday 7th Sept start which had me departing my NW England home the preceeding Saturday evening for an uneventful drive to Dover for le bateau, rocked along by the peerless Nils Lofgren on the CD and boring Talksport Radio discussion about whether Wayne Rooney is an England football great (absolutely no way for this 3rd generation lifelong Liverpool FC fan who cannot see anything remotely ‘good’ in any aspect of/connection with Manscumchester Utd !).
Ferry at 3.20 from Dover traverse La Manche and arrival in Calais circa 6.00 a.m. Autoroute to Burgundy was uneventful other than two ladies backing into each other with le crunch at a rest area. How common are Common Buzzards on the autoroute ?? I saw lots on fence posts plus other smaller hawks and, around Reims, three hovering kestrels within a mile. CD Music en France was Pink Floyd, Lez Zeppelin, and belatedly Bob Dylan. Arrived on the Cote from Dijon Sud. Had been beautiful weather, if nippy early on at occasional rest area halts when my eyelids started to protest. Driving into Morey nice and warm, just a gentle breeze. Being a Sunday as quiet as the proverbial burial ground. No one in the vines, well it was lunchtime as well as a Sunday ! I’d not seen any ubiquitous white vans in the Champagne vineyards either as visible from the autoroute.
Morey centre was its unchanged (will it ever?) self. Eerily quiet. Car park mort suggesting no domaines had maybe yet started their harvests, I unpacked quickly lugging one case of ‘good’ clothes, and one of vendange ‘rough’ gear, plus case of wine (13 various bottles from home), plus electricals up the steep stone stairs and into my rough wooden floor boarded, metal ex Armee bunk beds, atelier. My home for the vendange, lovely ! Made my bed with sheets and blanket and, resisting temptation for siesta, tripped off en voiture to the Arlaud cuverie. Vines looked good as I crossed the main road. Arlaud cuverie had a new smart & tasteful name sign not there last year. Also new a smart, dark red, expensive looking Buchler Vaslin press outside under the porch front with all the other equipment ready for vendange take off. Full triage supa clean table quietly ready for action plus two fork lifts and lots of stacked cases for the grapes. Whilst I was taking a few photos a BMW X5 pulled around the corner. Turned out to be the Arlaud Dutch importer who was seemingly baffled no one was around & he was being greeted by a crazy Englishman. I helpfully suggested he maybe return later, or better still Monday, and that I would advise Cyprien we’d met.
Back to the le village centre via a diversion ‘around the block’ as it were from the cuverie towards the railway line to nosily see what a massive tower crane was all about. Sacre bleu, une grande construction, akin to a concrete nuclear bunker – and someone had been digging deep from the mound of earth adjacent ! I was to learn later this was the site of a new cuverie for my friend, M Raphet Senior’s, domaine now in the hands of his son, and that Domaine Raphet would move here on completion, consolidating from currently three separate sites around the village. One assumes the cost must be formidable (pronounced in French). Just a very few of us for evening meal with Herve, Cyprien, wife Carol and their lively, growing up fast, perpetual motion, three young daughters – how does maman cope, especially as there is now clearly a fourth event pending – late October I was advised !!!. arol would not admit to me that a boy would be nice but did tell me Greg Gouges and partner also had a child event pending. Only semi regular Bastien was sleeping over in the next flat along from me but we also had a stagiste from Metz who’s learning wine making and has studied in New Zealand plus the engaging Jessica who has given up study of law, and now hails from a Luxembourg based wine brokers (with some link to the domaine) who would be with us for three days only – both living in the domestic property at the entrance to the yard. Both M Stagiste (I’ll recall his name soon !) and Jessica have excellent English to my shame so I can have conversation rather than just for the most part be in listening mode. Plan of attack for Monday was approx 12-14 of us in total would pick Nuits St Georges 1er cru Les Porrets St George (a negoce terroir) and some unidentified other stuff. The full vendangeur team would arrive Tuesday for the main action.
A convivial evening meal, for which, alongside the usual Arlaud PTG & delish chilled Aligote, I offered a Pascal Jolivet 2013 Sancerre ‘Les Caillotes’ , seemed to be well received, and so to bed to be ready for the morning’s gentle sounding start. Sooooo good to be back in this place again. I almost forgot to mention I’d been looking for Monsieur Jean Raphet Senior next door. Not for one of his potentially long one on one tastings of whatever he fancied opening for company with l’anglais but as I’d brought a gift for him (nice Scotch whisky) to partially repay his super generosity when I arrived in 2014 and between us we’d guzzled (well, I did more than he) a delish Domaine Raphet 2000 Clos de Vougeot GC, post which he’d insisted on so generously gifting me another bottle of the same wine (which I still have). There was no sign of habitation next door which looked odd/unusual – maybe en vacances I thought. Maybe later in the week.
No slacking a la Domaine Arlaud with Herve around ! Even with just the handful of us we were off before 7.30 a.m. towards Nuit St Georges in the 2 double cab lorries which sufficed for our party. Vans for the reinforcement would arrive Tuesday. Our first terroir was one of the negoce sites, Nuits St Georges Les Porrets (Poirets ?) St Georges on the far side of town with rock face above and Gouges Clos des Porrets adjacent to the north. Felt a little odd initially handling the secateurs again but the ‘rhythm’ soon clicked ! How nice was this, dry ground, obviously going to be a warm, if not hot, day, and what grapes to be greeted with ???? Prepare to be bored if Bill doesn’t beat me to it which I guess he will. Where’s the rot ? None whatsoever ! Super fruit. Better than 2014 ? We’ll see. Not as much volume is a vague recollection but it’s the first site This looks like it will be an interesting year, tres beau raisins as my employers would repeat. We don’t do many rows here so didn’t take us long but was just brilliant enjoyment and a nice entrée to this year’s vendange.
Back to the cuverie to unload the caisses. We just pushed them into the cuverie as they were, presumably to be attended to later. But where to next ? I couldn’t follow the route below the main road, going north of Morey, not far from the trainline. Seemed like we might be heading for Roncevie but, no, we stopped before that. Cremant I was told, eh ? I’d never got my hands dirty in this plot before in 8 years so assumed it was either newly rented or, more likely, might have been machined in past years. Aligote was the subject matter and plenty of it. All was very relaxed though, and without sounding boring, this took us the rest of the day, with none of the usual pressure and a break for lunch as usual.
Eving saw some of the other regulars arrive, notably Renee, Serge, Daniel plus Jackie who has the linking room behind mine. Dede also rocked up via taxi from the train, pulling a face to tell me had taken him 2 hours. A rather ‘interesting evening meal ensued ! Serge was at the stove cooking a decent volume of fish akin to deep fried whitebait (but bigger than the white bait I’ve had in England!). He also had a fortunately lesser amount of the dreaded escargot (yes, snails) cooking in a very large frying pan – looked like mushrooms but didn’t taste like fungi ! Herve, Cyprien, Carol and the 3 girls all joined us again for a noisy, fun filled, evening. The fish were delicious and a superb match for the chilled Arlaud Vin Blanc Nature (Aligote). Yum ! The escargot were ‘ok’, not really my ‘thing’ but better for not being in the cream and heavily garliced sauce when they were first inflicted on me a few years ago to then much mirth at my expense. And so to bed 2. A Village day Tuesday, the 8th, with a 1er cru end to the day. More in the next instalment from the Morey Diary !