Vintage 2020

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

By Marko de Morey 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.

Postscript:-

** 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 !

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-54429714

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

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

Chassagne-Montrachet

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 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 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 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 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.

2020 harvest update – it continues!

By billn on October 03, 2020 #vintage 2020

Just when you thought it was safe to go out – despite the heavy rain in the Côte d’Or on Friday – it seems that some vignerons have taken a chance to harvest the second-set or verjus grapes in their plots. Such things are typically left for the birds as they don’t get the time to sufficiently ripen – but when you have the earliest harvest on record behind you, there is more chance. Of-course, the biggest pain is rolling out (once more) your beautifully cleaned and polished triage and vibrating tables plus the ‘giraffe’ etcetera…

I know that they are not the only ones, but yesterday I happened upon the team of Maxime Cheurlin of Domaine Georges Noellat; despite the rain they had harvested an impressive number of cases of really fine looking grapes from their plots in Chambolle Feuselottes and Grands-Echézeaux – perhaps a Bourgogne Grands-Feuselottes in the making 🙂

Really not a lot of triage needed for these grapes – I’ve seen far, far worse in ‘normal’ vintage times. Maxime told me “If there was ever a vintage to try this, then 2020 is that vintage. I don’t know what this wine will turn out like, but I’m really interested to find out, as the raw materials look lovely.

marko’s harvest diary 05-Sep-20 – day three

By Marko de Morey de la Vosne on September 21, 2020 #vintage 2020

Echezeaux Fruit
Echézeaux…

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Three, Saturday 5th Sept 2020

A long day here, commencing with a surprise, and finishing with a convivial evening social in Beaune with William and Angela.

Before embarking on detail of the day proper I need to make a (photos) confession & to ‘catch up’ with a couple of aspects missed previously, one of which relates to today’s surprise, the other to our first day cleaning activities when we had an unexpected, if hilarious, ‘helper’.

Balloon over Echezeaux c8.00 a.mOn the photo front the limited (I was too busy !) number of photos I took this day turned out, very disappointingly, to be ‘spoilt’ by the camera settings, unbeknown to moi, being accidentally disturbed – which I failed to notice into Day 4. In brief, the Canon G16 has two overlapping ‘wheels’, or dials, on the top relating to its settings. One wheel is that for settings, with my keeping that on ‘auto’ most of the time, the other wheel is for -3 to +3 movements in increments of 1. First thing, I take the leather cover off the camera for speed of use (it has 3 press studs), otherwise I’d have too much messing about with little time, and then sling/loop the camera strap from shoulder to opposite waist in effect such that the camera itself ‘sits’ on my lower back safely out of the way whilst I’m picking until I wish to take a photo. I’m not sure even now what was going on with this vendange as, jumping ahead to the end, after today I was constantly finding the settings wheels were being disturbed – much more than ever before in previous years. Whether the dials/‘wheels’ movement has become ‘slacker’ with age (the numerical wheel I was finding hereafter was moving often, the other not so much) I don’t know, or maybe the camera was being ‘caught’ by the excessive vine foliage this year. After spotting today’s problems only part way through ‘tomorrow’ I then wised up & always tried to think on to check the dials pre taking any photo. Today though, and into the day after, the auto setting was ‘caught’/moved such that the photos have come out ‘bleached’/whitened (over exposed ?). Very frustrating, particularly re the hot air balloon (see later). I’ll leave up to Bill whether he believes the photos might be used (or some of them). Getting ahead of myself I bit, but whilst on the subject of photos, I may as well confess now things got ‘worse’ as I completely lost all the photos taken for Days 5 & 6 in an error ‘saving’ (or not !) after download, when I was also too quick to delete from the camera to be able to retrieve matters. Doh ☹.

Away from camera/photo ‘cock ups’ two other matters. 1) Yesterday, I had a conversation with my team leader from last year, Gilles. Gilles had been happy to explain to me he’d been ‘promoted’ this year, away from the teams, to be a driver i.e fetching the grapes back to the cuverie. I was suitably envious! But, what was more interesting was what else he told me! I casually queried why we hadn’t seen him as a camion driver to which his response was he had been roving around elsewhere with the ‘Bulgarians’ ! Ah hah, dammit, this was the confirmation of my suspicions of the domaine employing another, contract picking team, alongside us which I’d understood had happened in 2019 – it then had to as in 2019 we never picked any of the Vosne 1er crus, or the domaine’s Cote de Beaune sites (Savignys and Pommard). A team we never saw & who must have had their own eating, accommodation etc etc arrangements. Gilles, not really understanding what he was telling me meant to yours truly, garrulously continued to tell me this year they’d already done Vosne Suchots, Vosne Beaux Monts and Echezeaux. This was almost akin to a punch in the guts to me & I struggled to hide my disappointment. Whilst the Noellat family are lovely people, and I love them to bits, my major reason (in fact ‘the’ reason), having decided 2018 would be my last Arlaud vendange after 9 years, in selecting Domaine Michel Noellat was their portfolio of vineyards/terroirs. It had been deeply disappointing in 2019 to find matters were not as I anticipated & I’d mused in England, ahead of coming out here for 2020, that if 2019 was repeated I’d seriously have to consider continuing with Noellat – in fact I’d decided I couldn’t/wouldn’t and already had thoughts on a ‘replacement’ in Pernand. So, Echezeaux already done but not by us (although we had picked it in 2019). Looked like Vougeot & NSG Boudots were going to be our only top/‘serious sites’ & we’d have to be excited by NSG Village, Chambolle Village, Fixin, Marsannay, Bourgogne’s, and the Hautes Cotes. Hum !!! Probably only terroirist myself was ‘affected’ by this as the others were simply here for the vendange for other reasons. I never heard any of my colleagues ask about, or express any comment, on any terroir. In fact, only now musing on this, none of my colleagues actually ever asked me why I was working the vendange – even though I was probably asked every other possible question except my inside leg measurement !

Matter No 2):- this was altogether non serious/light hearted. Amongst our number were 5 young Spaniards – 2 guys and 3 girls. Perhaps they might best be described as ‘new age’ or whatever, but they had ‘radical’ hair styles, including a couple of mohicans, heavy tattooing, metalwork piercings and so on. Friendly types, and hard workers, they live in 3 or 4 camper vans on the other side of Clos de Reas from the domaine. They didn’t eat with us & I believe may have been vegetarians. They had a number of dogs between them – five in all I think although I never saw all the dogs close up to and, unlike the Italians from 2019, the Spanish dogs never accompanied us into the vines. Anyway, on Thurs evening, for our first gear cleaning session in the garage, after a while I realised, away from my bucket dunking, there was much amusement amongst the others, notably towards Philippe wielding the hosepipe being used on the porteurs panniers lying on the garage floor. The source of the amusement was immediately obvious, a very small, black, muscular, hyper bundle of energy, terrier type dog who was obsessive about the jet of water from the hosepipe and ‘biting’ it, or ‘catching’ it, in his mouth, occasionally yelping with excitement. Whilst Philippe was happy to give the dog the occasional ‘play’ he (Philippe) was also intent on cleaning the panniers but the dog was diving in and out of the panniers and chasing the water jet anyway he could in hyper mode. Inevitably, the dog was also wet through on occasion but that didn’t stop him. Short haired, he just stopped occasionally to give himself a brief convulsive muscular shake before continuing his manic, excitable, attention to the water jet. It was all very amusing and an utter delight to watch. Turned out the dog, and another larger sweet, feathery, mongrel type with a withered left front leg which meant she walked on 3 legs & who kept to the side of the garage away from the water, belonged to one of the Spanish guy’s who was upstairs having a shower.

Onto the day itself and herein was the immediate surprise. We embarked the vehicles for the short journey to Echezeaux Au Dessus. Echezeaux ??? Moi ? Gobsmacked, after what Gilles had told me as earlier. This was an odd one – I was highly intrigued, and all the more so, when I saw we had a reception ‘committee’ of two gents waiting for us by our camion which had arrived before us. One of the two guys was obviously the worker/gopher from his attire but the other was clearly ‘somebody’. I felt I should know/recognise this second individual but have not been able to place him or establish who he was. I gather he was a Courtier; small, very dapper/distinguished, smartly dressed in expensive looking blue shirt & chinos with tan leather brogues, slicked back silver hair, smart watch – not your average vendangeur !! These guys were in 2 vehicles; a ubiquitous large white van and a VW Touran SUV for Mr Smart. As we prepared to start Alain Noellat arrived and I overheard a conversation with our ‘guests’ along the lines of 15 cases & 1 piece (pronounce ‘piess’ !). The rows we were about to pick were definitely not the one’s we’d picked last year so I assumed Gilles reference meant that the ‘Bulgarians’ had done those rows. Instead, the rows we were about to tackle were more towards Vougeot, still ‘Le Treux’ though as Alain confirmed to me at lunchtime. The visitors had brought their own, common, plastic cases of the type I was familiar with from Arlaud but there was no stencil name identifying on the cases. Mr Smart disappeared in his VW as we started. As we picked our porteurs emptied their panniers into the cases which were loaded one by one into the white van. This went on until 15 cases had been filled post which the van departed but we carried on picking, presumably for the domaine. An interesting ‘diversion’ occurred early on as we picked in that a large hot air balloon came over us from behind us as it were i.e the higher ground/slope. It was pretty low, moving quite smartly on the morning breeze, in a NNE direction. My photos of the balloon might have been pretty good had the camera settings not been askew, drat it. Typical !

After the highly (to me at least) interesting Echezeaux ‘diversion’ and enjoyable casse-croute ‘refuel’ we got into the vehicles, crossing back through Vosne, towards NSG and the village plot we’d been working in late one afternoon in 2019 when we’d been ‘caught’ by a biblical almost heavy rain storm with thunder & lightning, then just making it to the vehicles to avoid a proper drenching. What a difference a year makes weather wise – this year hardly being more different ! I’ve just tried to work out which terroir this plot of village is. I can’t be sure but believe it must be one of Aux Allots, La Petite Charmotte or Au Chouillet. Bit vague I know, sorry ! A relaxed pick of this NSG, good grapes, took us to lunch. Back at the domaine I tried to establish with Alain Noellat whom we’d been picking the Ech grapes for. Alain is pretty open and would have told me I think but I couldn’t make myself understood – or so it seemed. He did confirm my understanding 15 cases = 1 piece and that was what had been sold. I jokingly suggested ‘good for cash flow’ to which Alain agreed & laughed. I’ve never had a ‘duff’ lunch at Noellat but today’s was a rather good one. To start, as nice a piece (piece of, not ‘piess’ !) of jambon persille as I reckon I’ve had. To follow rabbit with small roast potatoes and green beans. Fromage to follow then an ice cream – very satisfying !

Afternoon initially saw two more plots of NSG Village, one of which was the one from last year who’s lower edge is up against the rear of domestic properties fronting the RN974. I believe we must have been in Aux Tuyaux, failing which Aux Athees. A short way to our left were pickers from another domaine but not close enough for any interaction & finding out who they might be. From mid afternoon we moved north again to outside the south side of Chambolle and the gently rising slope towards, just around the top corner of the hill, Musigny. We must, I think, have been in ‘Les Gueripes’ but, whatever, the soil here is nice and fine. I was in good form here, and gradually drew away from my colleagues except having to come back for bucket emptying, such that frustratingly at the point ‘time’ was called for the day I was only yards off the end of the row/top of the hill. And, guess what ? My team never came back to finish what we’d started so I didn’t get any ‘benefit’ of my efficiency.

I missed the evening meal as I had a ‘date’ in Beaune ! The town was surprisingly (to me) busy. I just managed to find a parking space on the ‘Peripherique’ which wasn’t too far away from my destination. Bars and restaurants were packed looking and lively. Plenty of folk strolling along were mask wearing but social distancing didn’t see to apply. Nice evening at Bill’s was a change from the norm – the wines broached have been covered by Bill in his “some weekend wines – obviously” Diary entry of Sept 7th. I was very happy with the tasty showing of the Arlaud 2000 Clos de la Roche and confess I didn’t ‘get’ any brett. The Bouchard 2015 Chassagne 1er En Remilly was of great interest as I’ve been much intrigued since Bill highlighted this terroir/wine, and with purchase of a bottle or three at Bouchard’s on my agenda post vendange completion. Finally, the Bertagna was another really good 1996 (love that vintage); the first ever Bertagna and Vougeot 1er cru I can personally recall tasting. Happily being ignored by some gendarmes standing by their car as I pulled away from my evening’s parking spot it was back to Vosne ahead of Day 4 with perhaps the biggest nightmare I’ve had in my vendange career to come (maybe other than October 2013’s Hautes-Cotes freeze fest for Arlaud) !

marko’s harvest diary 04-Sep-20 – day two

By Marko de Morey de la Vosne on September 18, 2020 #vintage 2020

Vougeot lower grapes case on lorry
Vougeot lower grapes case on lorry

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Two, Friday 4th Sept 2020

Am actually, typing this 17th Sept, back at home in the UK having left Burgundy very early last Sunday. Apologies for the delay since my last missive but various distractions, needs etc getting home & not been feeling too great the last couple of days – albeit no Covid symptoms ! Now, that I’m both at home, and in ‘enforced’ quarantine until the 27th I should be able to accelerate my ‘output’ to fully cover the vendange, and what turned out to be a very pleasant couple of days ‘me time’ afterwards.

But, for now, our Noellat vendange second day continued to follow a similar pattern to 2019s. A delight to have the room to myself and be able to ‘spread out’ my stuff, but in disciplined fashion I made sure I made my bed each morning. Normal start on the Noellat premises ‘forecourt’, grabbing a coffee from the machine in the large room we dined in last year, then waiting for everyone to arrive. Routine sees the team leader chauffeurs taken first thing to the cuverie on the RN 74 where the mini buses are parked overnight to then return in said vehicles to collect the rest of us and gear. A new feature for this year for each vehicle & sub team (4) is a cool box containing bottles of water (Vittel & Badoit) and bottles of white wine for both casse-croute lubrication and other lubrication thro the day. Into the vehicles are also loaded the porteur’s pannier and the requisite number of buckets we need. We’d been allocated our secateurs at the Day One ‘initiation’, with responsibility to retain these through the vendange and hand in at final day completion. Woe betide anyone losing their tool ! For myself, my personal equipment includes camera (the tough, robust, Canon G16 I’ve had now since 2012), gloves (gardening type although I also had rubber gloves with me but didn’t use those), and my invaluable knee pads. I’m quite in awe of those who don’t wear gloves and also long surprised more of my colleagues don’t use knee pads – but maybe I spend more time on my knees !

This vendange became notable for me with the settled weather – this morning was no exception. No great chill even first thing and, whilst initially an extra layer or two’s clothing might be judicious, once ‘hard at it’ one soon needed to get down to just tee shirt or the one top. So, 7.30 a.m. and off we go ! Not ‘that’ early as my 9 years at Domaine Arlaud always saw Herve Arlaud determined that we’d be in the vines before 7.30, invariably before any other domaine.

Destination Vougeot, this year to start with the bottom section of the two parcels Noellat have here (2019 we started with the top section). Vehicles parked on the widish section of verge where the road from the village joins the RN74 (see photo if Bill includes). Entry to the Clos was, if memory serves, via the Faiveley gate. My second layer jumper was removed in the first row as it was already becoming hot, hot, hot with no breeze at all to speak of. Grapes looking pretty good, my grabbed photos maybe not doing overall justice. It was post Vougeot later that a theory formed in my mind that for this dry and hot year maybe those lower lying terroirs, and/or with heavier, more water retentive soils, would benefit notably to lighter earth terroirs. There was no shortage of grape volume in this lower part of Vougeot. Casse-croute break, just inside the wall, followed completion of the lower section Vougeot picking before embarking en vehicule to loop around the southern section through the edge of Grand Echezeaux to enter the upper part of the Clos through gap in the wall onto track which takes one ultimately to the buildings. From our mini bus as we skirted along the wall pre-entry I was shocked to see a static Harvesting Machine with support van on the other side of the wall in the Clos. I never thought I’d see a Harvesting Machine in a grand cru – maybe I’m naïve. I’ve no idea who might have been employing it – my Landrieu-Lussigny & Pitiot Climats & Lieux-Dits ‘bible’ listing over 60 producers presenting a harvest Clos de Vougeot declaration for in 2011. If I had to have a guess though, and hope I’m not doing the gentleman a disservice, my suspicion would fall on Gerard Raphet as I’d seen him using a Harvesting Machine in Chambolle Bussieres a few years ago, surprised then, when (hand) picking close by for Arlaud.

Picking the upper section parcel of Vougeot passed without incident or note. Grapes not as abundant though as in the lower section.

Once out of Vougeot we travelled only a relatively short distance south before, probably below/opposite Vosne Chalandins or Aux Ormes, heading off towards the railway line, coming initially right to the fence before heading maybe half way back towards the main road before disembarking to tackle a parcel ( 2 passes made) of Bourgogne Rouge (or similar designation) which would take us up to and into lunchtime. This BR parcel was notable for what was to be repeated elsewhere namely a material weight of foliage (leaves etc). I did wonder if the canopy had been kept ‘heavy’ particularly to shield the crop from the sun but never established if the case. Whatever, it was akin to tackling a jungle, in addition to which the weight/volume of grapes was substantial. Everywhere was very dry. I definitely hadn’t come to this plot in 2019 or anywhere near to it so it was ‘new’. Just before we finished here my colleague, Patrick, in the next row called my attention to something at the top of a vine along the top wire. This was a small, wild wasps nest with a few wasps buzzing on it. A first for me in 13 harvests (see photo). Fatigued by the ‘war’ in battling through the above our team was the last back for lunch ! Menu for lunch & dinner is as per the photo but a pretty good lunch !

A late return for lunch saw a later p.m start and thus shorter afternoon session which was solely Nuits-St-Georges Aux Boudots who’s northern boundary is, of course, Aux Malconsorts. Boudots had made a deep (positive !) impression on me in 2019. Topography, terroir and ambience were really nice such that this swiftly became a favourite personal site joining such as Clos St Denis and Vosne Petit-Monts. We must, as a full team, have been split as my photos show only two mini buses rather than four. Where the others went I didn’t establish although I now suspect maybe a plot of Nuit-St-Georges Village as when we tackled other parcels of NSG Village on Day 3 such did not include all of those we’d ‘done’ in 2019. Boudots required two passes, one upslope and one down, punctuated by a lengthy drinks break as the afternoon was extremely hot with my scribbling that evening ‘thirsty like never before’ !!! I was developing a serious liking for Badoit sparkling water, and amusing my fellow team members by calling it ‘Badoit Grand Cru l’eau’.

Post Boudots back to the domaine for the evening rituals:- gear cleaning, shower time (then for me), photo downloading/editing (ideally with a beer), before evening meal & so to bed. Meal this evening had, unusually, Croque-Monsieur for the main course which seemed a bit of a cop out for our talented chef but a good Croque it was too. One of my fellow lodgers, big a regular for a few years, is highly likeable Thibault, a youngish, always cheerful, big guy. Thibault has a prodigious appetite such that he’s always offered 2nd or 3rd helpings by the likes of Madam Noellat and I’ve never known him refuse. Where he puts his nosh goodness only knows !! On this occasion I reckon he must have eaten at least 4 Croques if not more ! We had a fun debate this harvest when I asked Thibault, with others present, if he’d ever seen the American TV program, Man Versus Food. Turned out he had & was much amused at my suggestion he might be the star of a French version !

And so to bed before Day 3 with an Echezeaux conundrum.

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