mark’s vosne harvest – day 4

By Marko de Morey de la Vosne on October 16, 2019 #vintage 2019

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Four, Sun 22nd Sept 2019

Whither today ? A Chambolle morning then an afternoon with a real ‘sting in the tail’, if not a transformative moment for our vendange. Photos morning only, the absence of any from the afternoon will become clearer later !

Our second day with Jean-Claude2 filling in for the Lyon fleshpots absent Gilles. On this once more super morning of sunshine and restrained temperatures we were Chambolle Village bound again to similar, or the same, location we’d visited previously, just more rows. In essence, an unremarkable steady, hard working morning. Team J-C2/Gilles were initially selected by Hubert for an hillside elevated section of vines not far from the top of the slope, and as the hill started to curve around back towards Musigny etc. These vines were notable for being across slope, rather than up/down, and as such brought fond recollection of Arlaud’s Vosne Petit-Monts vines. After we’d finished our own specific ‘patch’ we worked downslope to meet/join another team coming up which took us ‘neatly’ to a circa 9.40 a.m. break.

After finishing the above we spent the rest of the morning, albeit getting there by only short walks first on tarmac then earth path into the vines, as best I can recall working quite different areas of vines, on essentially flat(er) land from those on the slopes we’d had two go’s at. I’m really struggling to identify now just where these latter vines might be, map wise. They were the other side of the road i.e just to the north of where we’d been but a little back on ourselves. ‘Climats & Lieux Dits’ almost suggests we could have been in a Chambolle 1er cru but I can’t think we were so we must have been in the quaintly named ‘Les Pas de Chats’, or possibly ‘Les Barrottes’. Assuming I return to Noellat in 2020 I must then make an effort to identify exactly the locations we visit (beyond the obvious Grand & Premier crus) & perhaps spend some brief time with Alain or Sophie and ‘Climats & Lieux Dits’ to get a handle on domaine vines locations. Mind, it some me some years to be ‘up to speed’ with Arlaud’s sites, and that with Herve always being helpful in answering my questions. The domaine’s website is no help in location of vines, even clicking in to the detail of each wine made. However, late afterthought that Bill might include detail has had me belatedly look back at BR’s domaine profile and tasting notes, one reference noting a little 1er cru for the Chambolle cuvee. If that indeed is the case then maybe we went to a bit of Les Feusselottes or perhaps Les Plantes ? Coming away from our late morning location I ‘snapped’ another unknown domaine’s yet to be picked Pino as we strolled past. Earlier as we’d come out of one section, crossing the tarmac road to another, we met two quite different ladies with a young boy on his scooter. These two ladies were adorned in vine leaf Roman like head adornments (fascinators the fashion term ?) and in very jolly mood. They were headed towards Chambolle but where they’d come from & quite why they had the ‘creations’ on their heads I’m totally unsure – a brief, amusing, diversion though !

Back to Vosne ! Lunch must have been unremarkable as no recall of it or photos, nor can I remember seeing a door affixed menu. Afternoon took us to Nuits Villages vines (Vosne side) – more towards Nuit than our Boudots and Aux Barrieres locations of Day 2. Possibly Aux Allots initially. Long rows so more slogging. I meant to mention when commencing typing re this day that there had been talk amongst my co-workers of the weather forecast suggesting rain, if not during the day then felt to be more probable for evening or overnight. Certainly the Chambolle morning and its ideal, sunny, conditions gave no inkling of any major weather deterioration to come. We moved on from our initial location(s) to another (village) location much nearer to Nuits than before, almost into the outskirts – perhaps La Petite Charmotte or La Charmotte. As the afternoon had moved on I could not help but notice the absence of the morning sunshine and gradually gathering/darkening cloud – particularly over the Combe behind NSG.

I think it must have been sometime after 15.30 that (fortunately) not too far down our latest NSG Villages rows, and not too far away from the vehicles on the road above us, that we felt the just occasional first large drops of rain. From then on it was only a matter of time and, with shocking suddenness, not only did almost semi-darkness descend but rain started to fall properly. There was no hesitation from whomever shouted at us to get outta there and get to the vehicles, and t’was a mighty good job we didn’t delay ! I’ve seen it ‘rain’ before several times in previous vendanges but this was ‘proper’ !! Trust me, it wasn’t far up our rows, and back to the vehicles, but in the short time it took us all to leg it there, what started as ‘rain’ turned into a storm & deluge of Noahesque biblical proportions ! If I’d seen people or animals going in two by two I might not have been surprised ! It was every man & woman for themselves, and in the case of our minibus at least, as the vehicle on its right hand side was parked tight to vines, several of us in our scrambling fell/tripped over the vines end of row wire, not exactly visible in semi-darkness, haste, rain deluge etc – which could be painful !! I know I tripped trying to throw myself into the front seat, not badly fortunately, and also saw Jean-Philippe, Jacques and Francoise all do similarly. By the time we were all in the minbus, panting to get our breath back, with the vehicle rapidly steaming up with hot bodies and wetness, it really had got dark, some thunder & lightning was evident, and good grief, WAS IT lashing down !!!! As ‘good’ as a storm I’ve seen in Burgundy in my harvest career. It was difficult to make out Nuits not too far away but lights were coming on.

We sat there a while, not too long, before somehow/someone communicated, phone call I think, that we call it a day and return to base ! Could not have been a difficult decision as one didn’t need to be a meteorogical genius to work out the lashing curtains of water weren’t going to stop anytime soon ! Our initial route, given the way we were facing, and as it turned out Hubert in the lead was heading initially for Nuits before taking a mainly concrete road back through the vines to Vosne, took us past the vendangeurs of another domaine who’d been a little beyond us. They were still out there, ok at first glance many of them seemed appropriately dressed, but goodness me it seemed recklessly crazy given the thunder and lightning. I assume they were just collecting what they’d picked and would soon be out of there !

The route back to Vosne was amazing in terms of the water on the road, gushing across it and coming down. The concrete road sections are a longitudinal v shaped gully with high edges, the latter I reckon to hold back vineyard soil erosion but the water in the centre of the road ‘v’ was incredible.

Back in Vosne, we ran for cover to the garage with gear for cleaning whilst outside the storm continued. Heavy rain lasted well into the evening, and ‘lesser’ weight of rain all night. Evening is gone from any memory, weather aside. Guess I was probably on laptop photo downloading, editing etc but, just ahead of our evening meal, I do recall a group playing tarot with my being invited to play but declining (wouldn’t have had a clue !). Jean-Philippe seemed a novice at the game, but Alain Noellat as not initially playing, although seemingly something of an ‘expert, was very keen to proffer advice to J-P and re-arrange his hand of cards !

The end then of a ‘climatic’ day. Maybe a defining one for our vendange in terms of conditions i.e days pre storm/post storm. Hereafter ground conditions would be much changed muddy/sticky with consequent effects on us, our footwear, buckets etc etc. Where would tomorrow take us ? We’ll see!

mark’s vosne harvest – day 3

By Marko de Morey de la Vosne on October 15, 2019 #vintage 2019

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Three, Sat 21st Sept 2019

Into our third day and routines becoming well established and, for me, working practices clearer – if I approved or not !

For the Gilles sub team the weekend saw a departure – that of the porteur/chauffeur man himself – to Lyon to stay with one of his daughters, to return for Monday. As a substitute we had my room mate, Jean-Claude No2, if I can call him that to differentiate from his more forthright associate – Jean Claude No1 being the leader of another sub team, the tee shirt modeller from the Day One photos and our room through the night snorer. J-C2 is a quietly spoken, semi-reserved, no edge on him, pleasant guy so I was pleased to see him ‘lent’ to us for the weekend in a leadership role, notwithstanding this was his first vendange.

My neck was still extremely painful despite ibuprofen and pain relief gel. I also continued in my spectacles figuring I’d give my right eye a rest for several days then try the lenses again. Coffee first thing was always on machine free flow in our dining ‘shed’, with teabags/kettle if different brew preferred. Food was available but I never investigated exactly what as I’m always content with just a Cadburys breakfast bar (other bars are available !), particularly knowing a casse-croute break was to come idc.

So, where to today ? With J-C2 in the driver’s seat for us our convoy headed out of Vosne in the same direction as we’d taken yesterday to Vougeot. We didn’t get that far this time as GC Echezeaux was our destination – not unfamiliar to me as Arlaud had a few rows here from 2013 inclusive as one of the ‘& Arlaud’ offerings Cyprien took on from that infamous, difficult year (other than the NSG 1er Porrets which featured in 2012). I’m pretty certain we were now in Echezeaux du Dessus. Lovely morning again, sun coming up, and not a cloud in the sky. Our first rows, nice looking grapes bar odd dodgy bunch, took us uneventfully to the casse-croute break just after 9.30 a.m. The dogs were with us again, now as an established feature – but no chocolate titbits from me so’s I could avoid unwarranted abuse & poisoning accusations ! Instead, and never fancying the charcuterie myself, I let others give the dogs bits of fat etc. I confined myself happily to bread and cheese, with just water as the drink in my ‘meal deal’ ! Today’s casse-croute break seemed a little drawn out so, becoming a little bored, I wandered along the vineyard road we were on just some yards north towards Vougeot. I was then utterly amazed to realise I was looking at the Arlaud rows from past years, readily identifiable from the white (as Arlaud use) daubed marker post and heavy sleepers containing the soil to the start of one row where the land fell away slightly. Quite some coincidence – if the Arlaud rows weren’t directly next to Noellat’s they were only separated by a few !

Anyway, we continued post break with the remaining Ech rows but at some early juncture there was something of an amused commotion leading to us standing up. This was on account of one of the other sub teams, notable for including the leading lights from lunchtime singing, having dressed up in Gilet-Jaune uniform !!!! This was highly amusing, although I never established what prompted it. I was much taken/amused by one of the guys even including a ‘fetching’ dayglo yellow hat with ear flaps to enhance the gilet jaune ! Once we’d all exited our completed rows I grabbed quick opportunity to photo the G-J team.

From Echezeaux we took a short drive past Musigny and Les Amoureuses before turning left towards Chambolle, but almost immediately took another road left through the vines where we parked up to tackle an upslope piece of Chambolle Village – and very nice aspect up hill it had too with track and trees/shrubs to the top. I’ve spent some time looking closely at my ‘Climats & Lieux-Dits’ bible (everyone remotely interested in Burgundy should have a copy imho) to try to work out which vines we were picking in. Initially, but mistakenly, I thought we were in ‘Les Pas de Chats’ (across the road from Les Feusselottes’) but I was looking at the wrong road, instead our vehicles were parked at the edge of the next road south. Thus, I reckon we must have picked in either Les Gueripes or Les Foucheres or both.

Very pleasant in whatever terroir it was, with my sub team cruising efficiently ahead of the others up to lunch. In fact I, and I think it was Donna, with joint exquisite timing, actually had just picked the very last vine at the top of our designated rows as the call came to cease for lunch. Quite a coincidence, and similar was to happen to me on my own that afternoon in a section of Fixin Village. No photos of lunch taken today ! I must have been concentrating hard on my nosh !

Onto the afternoon and no photos taken either, sorry ! Typing this back in the UK post vendange (and a little stupidly not having scribbled just outline reminder notes as has been my practice previously) I’ve been falling back in part on my photos to remind of our itineraries/locations etc. When no photos have featured this is generally a sign of a few influencers e.g I’ve not been enthused/excited enough by location etc to prompt camera use, or; the weather has been bad enough to prevent me getting the camera out etc etc. For this 3rd day p.m. we journeyed to a particularly flat, low on the ‘slope’, uninspiring piece of Fixin Village (without getting close to the village proper some way ahead) we were to come to more than once. Its lower edge was a public road with residential dwellings on the other side. I can only think now we must have been, most likely, in ‘En Clomee’ – if not there then am not sure ! Exciting it wasn’t though, and the rows long. Bit hard to see why it might be designated ‘village’ other than, say, Bourgogne Rouge. Fruit was ok, no issues there, but the afternoon was a bit of a physical slog, for me notable only that, as mentioned above, I again just happened to finish my row, a little way ahead of others, coinciding with the c 18.00 hrs call to end the day. I cursed gently to myself thinking that if we came back to take up & finish where the others had left off I’d probably ‘suffer’ as having finished my row ! Maybe a lesson for me I can hear some of you thinking !

So, good day, both of the domaine Grand Crus dealt with, along with NSG Aux Boudots, but absolutely no sign/mention of us heading to the domaine’s premier crus, Morey’s 1er Clos Sorbes, Savigny or Pommard. Instead, for now, we seemed to be on a CdN Villages fest but I told myself it had only been Day 3. I recall it might have been this day’s lunchtime that I managed, pre lunch, to ask Madam Isabel Noellat about use of the domaine wi-fi and in her ever helpful, nothing too much trouble, way she’d printed off a page of A4 from her bureau computer which had all sorts of password details, and other IT related saved reference details – which, for me, had the extremely long wi-fi router key of numbers and letters. The evening of Day 4 was to be the start of my attempted log on frustrations !!!

offer of the day – 2017 Millemann(?)

By billn on October 14, 2019 #the market#warning - opinion!

It’s always nice to see merchants offering the wines of up-and-coming new names – and only 2 wines at that – Corton-Charlemagne and Chambertin. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the pricing – 360 and 550 swiss francs, respectively – from the “exceptional 2017 vintage!

I understand your ‘gulp’ at those prices, but given the current price of grapes – that’s only about a 50% margin, for the Chambertin, anyway! At these prices you are forgiven for demanding more info about the producers; “Stéphanie and Pierre Millemann, well known in the winemaking world for their work as consultants in oenology and viticulture” – but not by me, alas. “The career path of this couple a long journey towards excellence,” well at these prices I hope that they are close to the end of that journey! Better still, “the bottle was chosen for its technical characteristics. It guarantees a straight neck over a sufficient length…” Super!

Whilst I (fortunately) don’t see it on the front label of the image supplied by the merchant, the merchant’s text describes the Chambertin as Chambertin Vieilles-Vignes. As I see it, at the top of the appellation, a wine is Chambertin or it is not Chambertin, the addition of extra qualifiers is something to frown upon if you are looking for the best!

mark’s vosne harvest – day 2

By Marko de Morey de la Vosne on October 12, 2019 #vintage 2019

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Two 20th Sept 2019

After an ‘interesting’ first day, in more ways than one, Day Two opened with the ‘senior’ (in terms of number of vendanges) Jean-Claude room mate asking me if I’d slept well. I hadn’t actually, finding the bed and pillow less than comfortable, but his seemingly innocuous opening question was a ‘teaser’ for his then proceeding to rib me gently at my (known to me) snoring. I had to take this ‘on the chin’ but subsequently found it more than ironic over following nights that I was myself disturbed/kept awake by J-C’s own, ahem, ‘impressive’ snoring in ostensible deep sleep which was quite something. I guess over those following nights I had the opportunity to ‘get my own back’ but never bothered.

The first few days of the vendange also saw me grappling with a couple of most unwelcome health issue distractions – anything amiss less than ideal given the manual labour being undertaken. My first issue was with my eyes/contact lenses (or rather right eye specifically). I’d had a problem discomfort bad timing issue with this just prior to coming away such that I’d been forced to resort to my spectacles – am not a fan of wearing specs (glasses) and massively prefer my contact lenses (as a long time wearer). Am not sure what caused my pre vendange right eye issue – trying new lenses made no difference – but I had been trimming substantial shrubs & hedge to the front of my home so guess I must have got some muck or dust in my right eye. I popped into my local opticians on the afternoon of my departure and they checked my eye over, could see no specific problem, sold me some small bottle medication as a 5 day course for use without contacts wear icon, and agreed with my assertion that my drive to Burgundy would give my eyes an appropriate break from the contact lenses (as I forego the lenses for that long period night & day time drive). I wore my spectacles on Vendange Day One but put my lenses in this morning. Straight away there still seemed to be an issue with the right eye but I resolved to persevere thinking the lens would ‘settle’ – that was a mistake with hindsight as my right eye streamed constantly all day and was quite sore. I did without (lenses) for the immediate days hereafter.

I can’t actually remember if Day Two saw my other problem. I think it did but could have been Day Three but I’ll get out of the way now. Whichever morning it was I woke with an absolutely incredibly uncomfortable stiff/sore left side of my neck/shoulder which made it initially difficult/painful to get out of bed & thereafter move my head even slightly – particularly to the left as almost impossible. Feeling a proper ‘comedian’ but nevertheless really ‘struggling’ I was very grateful, and highly appreciative, of Alain Noellat’s solicitous concern, together with his immediate provision of some ibuprofen tablets and a tube of Voltaren (Voltarol in the UK) gel ointment (other pain relief gel ointments are available !).

Anyway, my male weaknesses aside, morning routine was the same. On this occasion there was no on foot amble to any close by vines so it became clearly apparent (to new boy me at least) what the practice with the minibuses ( rentals x 3) and van was. From our gathering at the Rue de la Fontaine gate the designated drivers were taken by Hubert in the domaine’s Mercedes Van to the cuverie, where the vans were parked overnight, and returned with them for us to embark & load buckets etc. So, off we went. At first, I thought from the direction of travel we must be bound for a Vosne 1er cru or maybe Echezeaux. For some reason I hadn’t considered Clos de Vougeot but the latter was indeed our destination on what was becoming a nice, bright, sunny morning, to become an equally nice day, but fortunately with just enough of a breeze to make ideally comfortable working conditions. I had absolutely no desire for any repeat of 2018’s excessive heat/temperatures !!!

We ‘entered’ Vougeot by what I’d guess one might describe as (looking north) the south west corner, or from the RN 74 looking towards the chateau, top left where there’s a gap in the Clos wall. Exciting ! There was just enough of a non vine planted area to park the vehicles before getting ‘stuck in’ to picking. It was only at this juncture did the main organisational Noellat in the vines practice become known to your’s truly – as somehow I’d not been aware of it on Day One – and no one had told me !!!! Essentially, ‘below’ Gerald & Hubert, the organisation was by way of ‘sub teams’, each led by a porteur who was that sub team’s minibus driver (other than those in Hubert’s van who’s porteur was not the vehicle driver). Turned out I was in a sub team of eight in all – porteur Gilles, ladies Donna, Francoise and Martine, gents myself, Jean-Philippe, Jacques and (drat it) another very ok chap who’s name my dodgy memory now can’t at all recall. Jacques had an unfortunate start that morning as somehow the minibus tailgate (which opening was the type rising on struts to the vertical rather than being door[s]) came down as he was moving back from loading and caught him flush on the upper nose, or rather on his spectacles, snapping them neatly in half on the bridge and causing a nasty cut on his nose – ouch ! Temporary tape repair enabled him to continue & he also had a pair of what must have been prescription sun glasses with fetching lime green frame.

Gilles was/is an interesting character & for the most part he and I rubbed along well thro the vendange after I’d submitted to the usual ’20 questions’. I inferred he respected my vendange background. A tall, semi distinguished, well turned out chap, he’d had a career in Sales & Marketing for a pharma company multi national (he told me which but I forget), lives in Dijon with his wife, has two obviously intelligent, achieving, in their mid/late twenties daughters (one a dentist, one a lawyer), and is a serious golfer. In essence, he’s a departure, as well as a sort of posh, ‘upmarket’ porteur than those I’d long been used to. His management style was friendly, caring and relaxed with us (doubtless whilst we did as we were told !) although there was to be an ‘interesting’ brush between us both near the end of the vendange. He was a regular at Noellat hence his status. Usefully, for me, his career & related travel meant he had a modicum of English. Only in initially embarking (or being directed to) the Gilles piloted minibus, and then being directed to line up for our individual row of vines, did I learn of the team that I was a member – none of this obviously apparent on Day One !!! Quite bizarre ! This sub team set up/culture did prompt a couple of issues from my perspective, namely: 1) for me, given the delegation etc, it meant even less reason/rationale for having two ‘management’ above, namely Gerard & Hubert, with surely just one of them being adequate; and 2) it kinda meant the teams were rather focussed on themselves, rather than the wider team with, for example, when we’d finished our designated rows it was not uncommon for us to be stood around, the others chatting, me restless, not least/whilst other teams could still be some way off finishing their rows. At Arlaud there would have been absolutely no question of as and when individuals finished rows they would be immediately directed by Herve, Damian or Climent to any lagging vendangeur with biggest need for help. Not good chez Noellat. On one notable occasion a few days later when I did use my ‘initiative’ and stop to help another really struggling group, whilst ‘my’ team walked off up the vines, my reward was a volley of angry direction to leave those I was helping and re-join the others. Hey ho.

Anyway’s, upper Vougeot was very pleasant indeed on this calm, sunny, morning & I told myself this was just the sort of ‘new’ (to me) terroir that was in part behind my decision to leave Arlaud. If someone had told me in 2006 that I would have the vendange career I’ve had, and this morning be picking in Vougeot Haut, then I’d probably have thought them ‘barking’ mad. In terms of barking (chien x 3 variety) I think, not recalling them on day one, this second day was the first occasion the ‘wolf pack’ belonging to the three Italians came along with us – as they would every day hereafter, often also amusingly present in hopeful scrounge mode at meal times. As a dog lover all my life (albeit never owing one since leaving parents/getting married – a long time ago, never deeming it fair whilst having a career to leave a dog at home) I was delighted to have the dogs present. There were three. Two were similar, in being rangy, lanky, slim cross breed (I assume) types. I’ll spell the names of the dogs as I heard them but could be actual spelling might be different (I never asked). The sandy/golden brown bitch, the most reserved and way quietest of the three, was ‘Raja’ who belonged to Italian, Davide, an engaging always cheerful guy. The other two dogs belonged to the young lady who’s name I never actually knew, her boyfriend (of impressive dark beard) being the third of the human triumvirate. ‘Morsi’ was a grey/black mid size, bundle of mega-energy, muscle and noisy exuberance with curling over tail who to me resembled a small wolf type. He was great fun. The third was the ‘leader’ of the three, ‘Borja’ (Borgia ?), a lovely tall, rangy, black (or very dark brown) bitch with dash of white on her front, who had a beautiful temperament and loved a stroke, rub or ear scratch. When let loose at our destinations from the Italians Toyota Avensis car in which they followed our minibuses the dogs went initially crazy, hurtling off at speed through the vines, doubtless looking for wild fauna e.g hares – but I never saw them pursue anything. Whilst we picked they’d be all around us continuing their searching & foraging or loud play fighting . Morsi, about 12 months old, was one to watch if he got over excited as he could be prone to give one a playful nip without meaning to hurt. He almost did this to me one day but I saw him coming ! Borja was definitely the boss and ready to put Morsi in his place (often !) by pinning him to the ground if necessary. She also had an ongoing penchant for finding great big old pieces of pulled up vine which she carried high, almost as a trophy, and would love a protracted tug of war with anyone who’d try to get the vine off her. She had some grip and strength but never growled or threatened. Sometimes it was eventually possible to get the ‘wood’ off her and hurl it a way for her to chase, fetch back, and start with all over again. Borja was touchingly, lovingly, affectionate with her young female owner at evening meal times and similar. On occasion we’d follow the Toyota when one could see one or more dogs silhouetted upright in the centre of the back seat which looked amusing. They gave us a lot of fun and distraction.

Vougeot Haut was very interesting. The grapes were nice if not notably abundant and the ground firm and stony. Both here and in the lower part of Vougeot to follow, and as was to become a far from uncommon recurring theme daily in other Noellat terroirs, I came across white grapes (see photos), sometimes just on the one vine, sometimes a vine with white and black grapes. Such seemed much more prevalent than I remembered from Arlaud. My ‘ability’ to get ahead of other pickers with my ostensible ‘speed’ was useful in allowing me windows to grab a few photos without falling behind. At the start of the vendange someone had made a cryptic comment, ignored by me at the time, that I would not have time to take photos – yeah, right ! We picked steadily & without issue until the casse-croute break back by the vehicles which I think (not sure now) might have coincided with our finishing these top part of Vougeot rows – yes, it did, I’ve just checked photo timings. The dogs loved the casse-croute breaks when they ceased their vineyard roaming to stand around looking mournfully hopeful someone would give them some charcuterie or similar. During our break I had the ‘temerity’ to give Morsi a very small piece (morsel for Morsi) of chocolate. This brought a volley of shouted criticism my way in front of everyone else from the obnoxious Gerald in terms of chocolate being bad, implied poisonous, to dogs. As someone who’s family, if not myself directly, has had many, many dogs over the years, often more than one at one time, I found this absolutely ludicrous and very annoying in context of what I’d given Morsi as a one off. His owner stood close by me made no objection. I responded angrily with Gerald then turned my back away from him dismissively. I’m not sure if it was in Vougeot this morning, recollecting might have been in the afternoon’s NSG Village, but for the 3rd time in two days I was to be admonished in angry, public fashion for again being too fast. Ridiculous. Fortunately it never happened again or that might have been the end of my vendange but within a couple of days curiously I noted a softening of approach from Chief Gerald towards myself – whether something was said I’m not sure – but I maintained a cool, detached, correct approach with him. Of Hubert I had little interaction other than occasional direction in terms of our positioning/being set up to start specific rows. One aspect of Gerald & Hubert which stood out for me was their seeming & surprising lack of awareness of the terroirs we were picking. They were much more focussed on the lady team members. Obviously the GCs were the GCs but when it came to lesser sites my request/enquiry as to the name of the lieu-dit etc we were about to start, or in, was often met with a shrug or ignored. I only ever got a knowledgeable answer on the occasional moments when Alain Noellat was present.

From the initial Vougeot parcel & post break we embarked the vehicles and drove through the vines directly past the front of the chateau when, despite the bucking/bouncing on the vineyard track, I managed to grab a few chateau photos through the windscreen. My seat throughout the vendange was the front one adjacent to driver Gilles. The others seemed entirely content to sit in the rear which suited me as I’ve always preferred the front. We exited on the northern side past a couple of other domaine teams and turned right onto the tarmac road dropping down towards the RN74 with the Vougeot premier crus, including Clos de la Perriere and Le Clos Blanc, on our left. On the main road we went south past the village before immediately pulling onto the verge just past the first lower gateway entrance to the Clos which had Jean Raphet and Jacques Prieur stone plaques to either side. With the dogs charging ahead as always we were directed up the rows of vines to start part way up and pick back, down to the wall. I think now, as a group, we might have been split with some of us working down the rows, others up from the wall to meet somewhere in the middle.

This element of the morning/picking was notable for a couple of aspects. Firstly, anyone with a marked interest in Burgundy will, I’m sure, often read about different elements of terroir within the Clos and desirability of having vines in the ‘better’ part(s) ? I certainly had – and was now seeing exactly what was meant to bring all those digested words home to me. The soil was much heavier & different to the lighter, stonier upper part of the early morning. The vines seemed to have more prolific leaf bearing, different volume and type of bunches than higher. If I was to be uber critical I’d assess this lower part we were working as more appropriately akin to premier cru than what I’d happily consider more grand cru like higher. When I eventually came to consider buying some domaine wine later (all the vendangeurs were offered a 15% discount from retail) I thought long & hard about which GC to buy between Vougeot and Echezeaux. I wasn’t going to buy both (guess I could have had say 3 of each but that didn’t appeal) but ultimately it was the difference between the two parcels of the domaine’s Vougeot, notably my thoughts on the lower element, which made me choose the Ech (from its well situated vines – see Day Three). I also took into account I do already own some Vougeot e.g Grivot, Engel.

The second aspect of our late morning activities was something I’d never, ever, considered I’d see or be close up to in the vines but I suppose the spread of technology mean this was inevitable !!! Some beyond normal buzz of comment at one point ahead made me look up to see some of the others pointing to something skyward which was over the lower group coming towards us. With surprised intrigue and then amusement I realised I was looking at a drone ! Turned out, confirmed minutes later, this was being operated by a pleasant, grey haired older chap who was also using a Sony Cine/Video Camera of some size. This chap subsequently approached me and I thought belatedly was actually formally interviewing/filming me – with hindsight a shock ! I think he said something about Canada so whether I’m going to be on You Tube (shocking – sincerely hope not !) or some Canadian film medium I’m not sure. I also learnt he’s a long standing friend of Alain Noellat who’d commissioned him to film our vendange – for this day at least. There was also a young lady professional looking stills photographer with serious looking Nikon kit whom I didn’t notice at this time but was in my vicinity in the afternoon – when this amateur took a photo of the pro !

Whilst on the subject of flying objects (!) this vendange was also, for me, particularly noticeable for the incidence & number of aerobatic team, or jet fighter type, formation flying we saw. I’ve long been used to seeing (and hearing !) French Air Force jets flying low over the Cote but this year we seemed to see formations of 7/8 jets almost every day, morning or afternoon – at least whilst the weather was ok. The way some of these planes moved, whilst very low, almost above our heads, slickly between very closely grouped formations was highly impressive, reminding me of the British Royal Air Force Red Arrows aerobatic team.

Completion of the second Vougeot parcel neatly took us to lunch, so a return to Vosne – and today what a lunch, one of the best. Very impressively our chef (kitchen professional – a great guy), or possibly Madam Noellat, had gone to the trouble of posting typed menus (for lunch & evening, today and tomorrow) on the big wooden door to our dining chamber. I was highly ‘taken’, and amused, by the little picture of asparagus which embellished today’s menu ! As the menu (hope Bill posts the relevant pic !) quotes we had a super entree of a prawn and avocado salade. If this wasn’t yum enough what followed was right up my alley delicious, namely large solid pieces of delightfully cooked chicken with rice and supreme type sauce. Another day we had a cracking pork dish, but that and today’s chicken etc were my stand out favourites. I decided, after cheese, to swerve the most tempting tarte dessert so as not to likely cripple my afternoon’s performance !

The Video and Photo professionals joined us at lunch, sitting with Alain Noellat at the top of the room’s centre table which was ‘reserved’ for family & the cuverie team. I quickly adopted a favoured regular position on the table at the back of the room, with my back to a highly impressive wall mural of a vendange. I never made enquiries as to who, or where, this mural room feature came from but it was very attractive. My regular dining companion to my left was Claude, an absolutely delightful, very quietly spoken, very well mannered, older gentleman (I’d guess at least in his 70’s) from the cuverie team who eschewed the centre table. He told me he had worked 42 vendanges at Noellat – quite incredible, but this was exceeded by our head of table, Serge, a hale and hearty individual, who’s faithful, constant, terrier dog companion, Noisette was a photo subject from Day One. I was amazed to learn Noisette is 20 years old – good going for any dog ! Serge had worked 44 vendanges at Noellat but he wasn’t working this time. Apparently, he’d been very ill, but was now to a degree recovered, if not fit enough to work & given his ‘old retainer’ type status the Noellats (Alain I understood) were happy to have him present. Serge and Noisette had a room to themselves (lucky, if deserving, them) at the end of the same corridor my room was on. Serge could be quite loud but told me Noisette was ‘his wife’ – touchingly amusing! I guess man and dog must have just pottered about whilst we were working but were always there for meal times. Serge was obviously careful at what he ate, and drank very modestly – perhaps reflective of whatever illness he’d had. I almost forgot, but lunch was also notable for the first ‘outbreak’ of a lusty rendition of the Ban Bourguignon with its accompanying waving/clapping hand/arm motions etc. I’ve naturally heard this many times but, whilst always an occasional occurrence, it was quite rare at Arlaud. There were one or two serious chanteurs here at Noellat on the largest table & they were to constantly lead outbreaks of singing at most meal times.

So, into the still bright & sunny afternoon after our most splendid lunch. To an absolutely new terroir for me but one which instantly became a quick favourite, namely Nuits St-G premier cru Aux Boudots – often described as a Vosne type Nuits. Much as Clos St Denis ‘does it for me’ in ways I can’t properly explain, I found myself on the outside of the team, instantly ‘feeling’ an attraction to the gentle upslope rise before me and whole ambience of the moment, gentle birdsong etc. Highly enjoyable to pick upwards, with decent well drained, stony, ground under foot. It didn’t actually look it but was quite steep once at the top from where the view back towards Vosne was attractive. Once Boudots was completed we moved on foot to another, lower terroir not too far away which Alain Noellat, in response to my enquiry, told me was NSG Village lieu-dit, Aux Barrieres. The rows here were long, reminding me of Arlaud’s negoce wines in Vosne Aux Reas which terroir wasn’t too far away at all. Working Aux Barrieres took us to the day’s finish, tiring for this ageing Englishman, but overall another mostly enjoyable and again, hugely interesting, day. Back to base I dropped into usual routine of getting out of my gear, grabbing a use of strong hose jet to clean my footwear (Merrell strong/robust ‘trainers’ for these early dry days), having a shower and every other day shave, then a beer or white wine ahead of evening meal, which time I also employed to download the days’ camera photos to laptop, edit resize for eventual onward transmission idc to Bill, and also caption. At this early stage I hadn’t had opportunity to ask about/explore use of the domaine wi-fi. That was to come, and with it some frustrations, but the lack of free time was marked & quite how I was going to find opportunity for any diary typing was to be for the future.

Day Three to bring Echezeaux, Chambolle Village, hilarious Gilet-Jaune moments and I think some afternoon ‘exciting’ (not) Fixin Village.

mark’s vosne harvest – day 1

By Marko de Morey de la Vosne on October 09, 2019 #vintage 2019

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day One 19th Sept 2019

Sharing with two others I’d decided going to bed the night before I wouldn’t bother setting an alarm and equally I’d ‘go with the flow’ in terms of getting up, ablutions, moving to breakfast etc etc. Whilst I’d have preferred to have been an early starter (as I’ve been all my life), particularly in a new scenario, I certainly didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot with my room companions. As it was they rose at c7.00 a.m. with my already awake and with collectively just quick top and tail wash we headed for early morning coffee, breakfast if wanted (not by me), then being ready to commence action. More folk evident than the night before, now including those living locally/not staying over on site, and family/cuverie staff also joining us.

The make up of the team was something I idly noticed during the initial hanging about i.e we were a notably mature bunch. We had only two real youngsters, Louis from Le Havre, and another young guy. The rest of us, predominantly male, certainly had plenty of years between us, other than 3 youngish Italians but they must have been late 20s/early 30s. I was much taken with our location in terms of Michel Gros’ Clos des Reas gateway being literally across the road. Also, the views from the two small windows of our communal shower room were of ‘the pinch me’ variety for anyone more than usually interested in Burgundy with one, looking left, down on Clos des Reas and beyond the Vosne side NSG premier crus, the other looking right to the Vosne GC & premier crus – amazing. I always meant to take photos from the shower room to illustrate the above but never got around to it, not taking my camera in there ! A word re the Noellat premises – the buildings we were inhabiting are the domaine’s original buildings in Vosne’s Rue de la Fontaine, which are essentially an L shape and besides the areas I’ve already described contain cellars (I was to see later), kitchens (two – a domestic one and commercial one used for us), bureau/office all modern & swish, and an impressively fitted out tasting room/shop – this closed though for the duration of the vendange. To the rear of the premises, behind the vehicle garage element was a large area of bottle store, with bottling line, racking etc etc. The cuverie is a more modern building, can’t be more than a few years old, and fronts to the RN74 being the first building after where the Avenue du Monument joins the RN74 before one comes to neighbour, Domaine Guyon. It was only after we’d finished picking that I visited the cuverie properly – we’ll come to that in due course but very impressive it is.

Weather was a bit nippy and grey first thing requiring a few layers but the day improved quickly & ultimately turned out well with blue skies and strong sunshine (without being ‘too’ warm). Being morning one there seemed a lot more to sort out before we got going than a regular day. I was ‘armed’ as usual with camera, knee pads and right hand glove – in this case a gardening glove type which, unusually/impressively, almost saw me thro the whole vendange. I was initially puzzled on this first morning at the total absence of vehicles for us but all was to become clear. Around 8.00 a.m. we were all shepherded/herded into the bottle store/storage room accessed through a serious roller shutter door to the rear of the garage, taking a pair of secateurs on the way in which we then ‘kept’/were responsible for during the duration of the vendange (another small departure from Arlaud practice which saw Herve collect them all at the end of a day). Here, Sophie Noellat, with father Alain watching on from in front of me, genially issued what I can only assume was some general words/instruction etc re the vendange – I had no idea what was actually said and no one translated (not that I expected the latter). Quite why we had no transport became clear after Sophie’s words as we were guided to exit an unmarked door at the rear of the room we’d been standing in and found ourselves at the top of vines looking downslope (well, not much of a slope othe than very gentle fall) to the rear wall of the cuverie with main road t’other side. Subsequently using my Climats & Lieux Dits ‘bible’ I figured we must have probably been looking at/about to pick vines in Vosne’s ‘Aux Communes’ village terroir or possibly ‘Aux Genaivrieres’. Getting ahead of myself once we’d picked down to the cuverie and ‘turned around’ to pick the next rows to the south back upslope then we’d have more likely been in ‘Aux Genaivrieres’ than at the outset – but I’m not sure !

Anyway, off we went, and quite easy did I find it, almost as if I’d never been away. I’m not sure now if it was in this first row, or later in the day, but twice that first day Gerald approached me in less than genial, if not verging on the nasty, fashion to tell me off (!) for going too fast !!!!! One of thse occasions was when I’d finished my row, and as long used to, looked for who might be struggling with the intention of helping them catch up. Gerald even directed me not to help – ludicrous. This was gobsmacking to me. I’d never regarded myself as a particularly quick picker at Arlaud and there’d certainly been a few faster than me there over the years. Naturally, with experience I’d got quicker over those years but still…….. I was somewhat unnerved such that towards the end of Day One I was partly wondering whether I’d made the right decision coming to the domaine ! The porteur/bucket emptying system at Noellat is one which encourages, if not in part requires, the pickers working with a porteur to work either side of said porteur and maintain a rough line. One facet I noticed about the Noellat system is that the porteurs are particularly static in their chosen row whereas at Arlaud I’d been much more used to the porteurs quite happily ‘coming’/going to, & proactively working with, the pickers, as well as the better one’s leaf stripping. None of that at Noellat. My take was/is the porteurs all seem an established bunch that appear to have been in role probably for some years and they have established their ‘routines’ without being challenged. Whilst my ‘speed’ saw me out in front of the desired line of colleagues, away from my designated porteur, what particularly ‘got up my nose’ at being told off were:- a) I was on the outside so it wasn’t critical in terms of buckets being passed across rows that I was ahead; and b) I was, as ahead, on the porteur’s route back to the truck so he could easily take my bucket contents when passing & I was quite able to reach to his large back container. Otherwise, such was Gerald’s nastiness in delivery of his message that I could not help but wonder if I was being singled out:- a) for being English/British; b) for showing what must have been unexpected speed/efficiency, and ; c) upsetting the established status quo (whether that was right or wrong). I resolved, being Britishly stubborn, that I’d continue as always and if ‘push came to shove’ I’d challenge Gerald directly that we take it up with the family – reckoning I was on the moral high ground. It also didn’t take me long either to note that Gerald, and partner in crime Hubert, didn’t seem to be contributing a great deal either. The norm was for them to set us up and get us going, but thereafter the authority was devolved to the porteurs (which I had material reservations about), whilst Messrs Gerald & Hubert commonly sat in the vans, or stood by the trucks, often seemingly highly focussed on their own mobile phones (and I don’t mean calls). To me they were lazy, and Hubert’s apparent age was such that one wondered if he should have been retired, with both light years from being of the ilk of the unrivalled leadership and contributions of Herve Arlaud in every possible respect. There was ultimately, to be a very positive, if unexpected, conclusion to my ‘observations’ on the above two gentleman post vendange which were very satisfactory (to me) but that’s for a lot later/another day ! In the vines politics has always been quite something and was certainly evident here. Am I bothered they might read this ? Not a bit although that has to be highly doubtful. Neither had any English in contrast to my French.

The end of the first row’s picking must have taken us to 9.00/9.30 a.m ish and revealed a (for me) utterly gobsmacking, if pleasant routine. Over the years at Arlaud I’d seen grudging moves from no morning breaks at all, to just a short water then coffee break, to a break for limited casse-croute. Here at Noellat, incroyable, almost an extended picnic in the vines !!! A picnic table was set up. On it was a plastic tub of already cut slabs of bread (baguette). Adjacent was a another smaller tub containing those foil wrapped triangular cheeses and the those round ones encased in a red plastic type thing were one pulls a plastic strip around the centre to split two halves to extract said cheese – can’t remember either well known brands ! Additionally, three plastic trays offered differing cooked meats. In essence on offer were all the ingredients to make a very superior charcuterie & cheese sandwich ! For dessert ? Another large plastic tub of broken up pieces of chocolate – dark or milk varieties. Drinks consisted of water, or if one really wanted it at that early time of the morning (I didn’t – there’s a limit !), white wine ! Sampling this en plein aire culinary extravaganza was a highly leisurely affair. I was never sure how long these breaks were but there was certainly plenty of time & no rush ! A great opportunity to ‘recover’ after the initial morning’s exertion and then see us to lunch at 12.00. These casse-croute breaks were highly popular with our three canine companions (not with us yet on that first morning) – more of the dogs in due course with plenty of doggie porn photos to come !

The break against the cuverie back wall gave me an opportunity to scoot around the other side and see the grape processing/triage table/press/waste set up in the cuverie’s open air front space – protected by large ‘tent’ like structure. The cuverie team had their own posh patio table & chairs area for their own case-croute breaks. The waste tray was notable for a complete absence of insect fauna – not a coccinelle in sight here this year !

Post casse-croute break another pass or two took us to lunch – and what a nice lunch. Cheese on tomatoes for the entrée followed by large pieces of salmon with a cauliflower side salade. Cheese course to follow, dessert usually yoghurts or similar, sometimes to come tarte tatin, cake or sponge. Wines at lunch and dinner became particularly notable and generous. I never saw a Bourgogne Blanc, Rouge, PTG or Aligote at any meal time. The default white was a Savigny Blanc with a few years age; red commonly one of Savigny, Chambolle or Fixin village. Lunch was similarly leisurely as other timings in that back to work was 14.00 hrs so a little longer than I’d been used to. The waiting on at lunch & dinner was excellent – from Madam Noellat and two partners of other male family members – great job all round by the ladies. Impressive. A notable event at lunch was Sophie ‘dishing’ out domaine vendange t shirts (v neck, fetching red except for cuverie team who had grey, with domaine MN logo) – nice !

Our afternoon saw us move away from working on our doorstep – in passing the only other occasion I can recall similar working was my first vendange (2006) at Duc de Magenta when we strolled to the likes of Morgeot & other vines around the domaine, only being en vehicule to the likes of the Puligny vines. For our first afternoon chez Noellat though the minibuses appeared and we set off north through the village, past my car, past Liger-Belair (more construction here !), across the square past the Berthaut cave, past DRC then into what I was told was ‘Aux Ormes’ but looking at maps now we started higher before descending into ‘Aux Ormes’ to must have commenced in ‘Bossieres’ or, more likely, ‘Vigneux. Picking here took the afternoon to almost 18.00 hrs by which time fatigue was setting in but nevertheless a very interesting and largely satisfying first day – Gerald and Hubert’s foibles aside. So, back to base, shower, beer in the gazebo then evening meal and so to bed.

The fruit ? Oh, sorry, pretty good, in fact with hindsight amongst the best I was to see through the vendange. Nice grapes, no overt rot at all, little or no sign of uneven ripening, shrivelled berries or brown, dead leaves.

Day Two to follow – a Grand Cru morning & NSG afternoon…

day 2 & 3 of tasting 2018s…

By billn on October 09, 2019 #travels in burgundy 2019

36 appointments now confirmed for October’s ‘white domaines’ report – a few more are still open, but that would be fine for the report.

Some images for you that are mainly Pommard and Meursault – reflecting more where I ran, than where I actually tasted 😉

the return of the mark – the vosne harvest part 1

By Marko de Morey de la Vosne on October 08, 2019 #vintage 2019

Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Intro 18th Sept 2019
Bonjour tout le monde 😊 – and Bill 😉.

Apologies again this year for the late harvest reporting – tech issues once more beyond my control (wi-fi key related, not my fault m’lud!), only resolved too late the day after our vendange concluded. I know some of Bill’s dear readers (well, two at least !) have been asking after me and my ‘reporting’. Thank you for that, am touched, more than I deserve ! Am now back in jolly old England and, juggling domestic issues including a house flood, I’ll endeavour to convey a belated daily picture of this year’s activities as I experienced. Jumping ahead though, seems a strong harvest in terms of quality, maybe very strong (another annee ending in 9), if down on 2017 & 2018 in volume – my comments relate to Cote de Nuits reds volume – that volume affected as reported elsewhere by earlier in the year uneven flowering, and a very hot, dry, summer. Bill has previously mentioned uneven ripening & I certainly had some first hand experience of that, a significant amount of shrivelled, dried berries and ‘burnt’, crispy, brown leaves.

So, what’s new at Arlaud ? Errr, I’ve no real idea, sorry. Why, I hear you ask ? Well, after 9 years, much mulling over my vendnge future at the end of 2018/early 2019 led me to make a decision to make a change. The easy option would have been to continue at Arlaud and I certainly thought hard about that. Ultimately, I’ll always be highly indebted to Cyprien and Herve for giving me my first 2008 opportunity and their fulsome support in subsequent years. For very much the most part I more than thoroughly enjoyed all my 9 Arlaud vendanges, with all the many and varied experiences those 9 years brought. It was overall great and I’m extremely grateful, always will be, and will always have a special place in my heart for Morey and the Domaine. In making, and advising, the decision to leave Cyprien was highly understanding and, bless him, said some very nice things to me including that I’d always be welcome at Arlaud – that meant a lot.

So ! Where to for 2019 and why ? In casting about for a potential new employer the same personal considerations I’ve applied before came into play – namely:- 1) I’d need a domaine of some size such that any vendange would last a reasonable length of time (week or more) to make it worth my while travelling from the UK; 2) an interesting and diverse mix of terroirs; 3) ideally family owned/hands on; 4) availability of food & accommodation; and 5) not a key driver but perhaps a domaine that might be a little ‘under the radar’. There was also the option to go back to one of Pernand’s finest, Dubreuil-Fontaine, with whom I enjoyed a fabulous 2009 harvest and have felt guilt ever since at not ‘doing’ more than the one year. I’ve told myself I will go back to D-F one day before hanging up my gear and secateurs and am currently thinking maybe start a vendange with them (maybe 2020) then move to the CdN to continue – we’ll see. Anyways, in mulling matters, I was conscious of my age (62) and that my vendange career might only have a few more years so, to move might be now or never. In terms of Arlaud I felt I’d done and seen as much of their vines as relevant; there’d been just a few minor issues in the last year or two which also made a change appropriate; I could foresee change such as Herve retiring; and ultimately there’s only so much motivation one can extract from one’s self for 5ha of Bourgogne Roncevie (even if it should be a Village) and/or the extent of Bourgogne Rouge or Blanc we tackled in 2018.

Why Michel Noellat et Fils ? I can’t actually remember the initial ‘trigger’ but I’d certainly read Bill’s domaine profile and guess must have filed it in the subconscious. My initial approach (email) in late Feb this year was a very encouraging ‘eye opener’ in two respects:- 1) the reply was very prompt, same day, and I recall within a couple of hours – a very stark contrast to any emails to Cyprien which commonly took weeks or even months to be replied to; 2) the reply was also very warm, friendly, and encouraging in clearly being happy to employ me. I guess my vendangeur CV is pretty good but I’m not aware Noellat considered a need for taking any reference. I subsequently found out the respondent to my ‘correspondence’ with the contact@Noellat email address was the delightful, lively, positive, glass half full, animated, amusing Sophie Noellat. What else can one say about Sophie? She’s incredibly fantastic & a delight. Through all the vendange I never saw her other than all the above adjectives as well as bubbling & full of bouncing enthusiasm about everything. It must be impossible other than to be happy and enthused in her company ! Otherwise, Noellat ticked all my boxes:-
1) with 27 ha of vines, a very wide spread of terroirs from Marsannay to Savigny & Pommard.
2) Grand Crus are 2:- Echezeaux and Clos de Vougeot (will comment further on these in days to come), Premier Crus include 3 from Vosne:- Suchots, Les Beaux Monts and Chaumes; plus NSG Aux Boudots, Morey Clos Sorbes, Chambolle Noirots and Savigny Les Lavieres and Les Peuillets. Village red wines are Vosne, NSG, Chambolle, Morey, Fixin, Marsannay, Savigny & Pommard. There is a white Savigny Village. Bourgogne Hautes-Cotes de Nuits are both Pinot & Chardonnay. Additionally, we see Bourgogne Rouge, Coteaux Borguignons Rose and Rouge, and an Aligote. For more/additional info please see Bill’s Domaine Profile and the Domaine’s own website.
3) Family ownership/operation. Bill covers the family structure. My main interaction during the vendange was with father/senior brother, Alain Noellat – a great guy with whom I got on really well from the outset; his wife Isabel Noellat – a diamond of a lovely, caring, hard working lady for whom nothing for anyone was too much trouble; and daughter Sophie. As the vendange progressed I also got to know better the humorous & rugby obsessed Jean-Marc Noellat (Alain’s brother) and his highly likeable son, Sebastian, the domaine’s thoughtful/serious winemaker. Near the end of the vendange I noticed a glass trophy on a shelf in the tasting room which was Sebastian’s 2015 trophy as winner of the GJPV Bourgogne Trophee Jeunes Talent (which recall Bill has judged in a subsequent year).
4) Accommodation and food were confirmed in my initial email correspondence. Reality was both were respective improvements on what I’d been used to at Arlaud – particularly the former.
5) For a Vosne domaine Michel Noellat also seemed to have a lesser profile than many which intrigued me and before arriving there, beyond Bill’s profile and vintage tasting notes and the domaine’s own website (no surprise not updated in recent times !), I could find little other/additional/new info. An enquiry on a UK wine forum elicited a very sparse response from its usually garrulous members. Maybe I should have also tried wineberserkers but didn’t.

The domaine initially advised me in early July they anticipated a vendange start date c15th Sept. I was intrigued they felt able to indicate this so ‘far out’ but told myself that was the sort of date that might have been an indication for many recent vintages. As we moved into/through August I speculated to myself, based on reports coming from Burgundy, that maybe the vendange might come forward into early Sept. I readied myself with several pairs of kitchen or garden gloves and a couple of new pairs of knee pads. Against the above background the domaine finally contacted me to request my arrival after 18.30 hrs on the 18th Sept for a start to picking the following day. With car (for which this would the 3rd vendage) cleaned, fuelled, and luggage loaded I departed my North West of England home at 20.30 hrs on the 17th Sept for my now customary, preferred overnight drive of c330 miles (equiv c528 km) to Dover Ferry Port for the 4.20 a.m. boat to Calais. I say preferred as anyone who lives in the UK, and uses the motorway network across the country regularly, will know what a nightmare it can be in daylight hours. Hence my well honed over 11 previous trips approach. The (potential) danger to such motorway night travel though is the propensity of the authorities to use reduced night time traffic volumes to close sections/junctions of the motorways for roadworks and/or other maintenance. This is something I appreciate, have allowed for, and dealt with previously. This latest trip was perhaps the worst though as I came across 3 major closures but managed to work my way through those & attendant diversions, ultimately arriving into the ferry port check in, after topping up with fuel coming into Dover (am very fussy at the fuel I’ve always out in my current car since new and will go out of my way icon for BP’s Ultimate Diesel), with enough time to be put on an earlier ferry than that booked on – in fact I literally drove straight onto the ferry car deck without pause from check in.

The early departure gave me an hour’s gain off the boat from Calais c 6.00 a.m onto the Pas de Calais Autoroute, sparsely populated in those early hours. The domaine’s request for me to arrive post 18.30 might have meant I could have set off later but I decided to stick with what has always worked for me. I could though pace myself and did so with two or three longer than usual, leisurely stops at those smaller Aire autoute pull offs, my pre-prepared food and water bottles meaning no need to use the larger service areas. Music to travel to on this occasion was an Eric Clapton Live double CD then Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Blues at Sunrise. ‘Navigating’ the toll peages is a bit of a challenge right hand driving solo ! I’ve never considered it worthwhile to get one of the thingies were one can drive straight through so have to pull up, de-belt, struggle out, run around the car for any new ticket or to pay at the end of a section then scoot back into the car & away. I was never the cause of serious hold up & thought worthwhile to put the hazard warning lights on to warn anyone behind me who might have thought of following me into a lane. Worked well, only once did a car pull in behind me but that was funny as the multiple occupants were much amused & laughing at my running around my car doing the necessary.

I came off the autoroute at Dijon Sud around lunchtime having seen little or no signs of activity on my way south , in the Champagne vineyards near Reims, nor those in the Aube region. Nice sunny, blue sky and white cloud day, warm without being too hot. With the whole afternoon before me I drifted slowly south from Chenove, away from the RN74 instead on the Route des Grand Crus thro Marsannay, Fixin, Brochon then Gevrey. All very quiet, no sign of anyone in the vines in those communes, and minimal signs of life in Gevrey centre but no surprise I guess given the sacrosanct lunch period. Immediately out of Gevrey a vers Morey-St-Denis I came upon a team in Mazis-Chambertin with roadside grape collecting truck, minibuses etc. From memory, a quick chat revealed (I think) this to be Marchand-Tawse. Not very chatty, they seemed to regard this Englishman with some suspicion so I moved on, not very far coming to another team in what I think was Clos de Beze rather than Chambertin. This team identified themselves as Arnaud Mortet’s – a coincidence as I recall Bill had already posted earlier seeing (presumably the same) team in Chambertin. Quite why both weren’t on a lunch break I’m not sure as by now it was well after 13.00hrs – but I didn’t ask. No further signs of life as I cruised slowly into dear ole Morey. I codged whether to drop in at Arlaud, Bill having mentioned they’d started a few days earlier, but initially thought better of it, thinking not good ‘form’ to interrupt lunches especially given I was bound elsewhere. Instead, I took the car around the well populated Morey car park but didn’t see any vendangeur vehicles I remembered. On my way out of Morey I changed my mind and decided I would take my chance at Arlaud, figuring lunch would surely now be over at c13.30ish, so turned back. Walking through the familiar entrance, noting M. Raphet Snr’s little white van next door but no sign of the gardener himself, I passed a couple of unknown faces clearly resident in the former Arlaud parent/grandparents house at the gates but further on, on the balcony to the atelier accommodation, I saw the tall, shaven headed, muscle bound gentleman who was 2018’s star porter – the chap with beatbox for punk/heavy metal/rock accompaniment in the vines last year. For a split second or so he didn’t recognise me below but then did, with effusive greeting to Marko, and bellowed insistence I ascend the stairs to my former room. He showed me he had the same back room as last year but explained he had that to himself as his friend from 2018 was unwell (if I understood correctly) and hadn’t come. I was introduced to some other resting, smoking figures but all the faces were unknown/new to me. Continuing up the yard I came to the majority of the team, resting post lunch. A few familiar faces, there including the grinning unkempt Scarface, but most notably a relaxed, casually dressed in clearly non vendange garb, Herve Arlaud himself. Warm greetings from Herve and others, including just in to the refectory the triage table ladies, with sweet Japanese Kaori, Cyprien’s father in law chef, Mathieu from the cuverie plus one or two others. Notably the Arlaud Bar was back again for another year – I declined a beer offer but accepted a plastic cup with Domaine Arlaud branding – new for 2019. The team was clearly markedly different from my years, and even 2018. Enquiry as to the whereabouts of one or two stalwarts led to advice the likes of Jackie with grand moustache, none of the Besancon past regulars, and even J-P Feral had not returned for 2019. I did not ask directly but to me Herve wasn’t working, or certainly wasn’t that day. Of Cyprien (who commonly went home for lunch), or the rest of the cuverie guys there was no sign so, feeling a little uncomfortable, I wished them all well and went on my way. My overriding feeling, from what I had briefly seen, was that my decision to seek a change was perhaps very well timed in terms of the Arlaud history I’d known.

Not due/required at Michel Noellat until 18.30 I spent the rest of the afternoon in/out of the car cruising/pottering around various parts of the Cote down as far as Beaune, briefly into the town itself, around and out of the back of Pernand, into the Hautes-Cotes including Echevronne, Fussey, Marey-les-Fussey, Arcenant, Chevannes (marvelling at the size of the Duband premises in the latter), Meuilley and notably Concoeur & Corboin. Outside Arcenant I had a walk up to the HCDN Chardonnay vines of Arlaud – picked. I spent a bit of time around Concoeur & Corboin as adjacent to the plateau location of Arlaud’s HCDN Pinot – not yet picked but looking good. Here I lingered above NSG finishing the sandwiches I’d brought from the UK before continuing my rambling. The afternoon ticked by, plenty of post lunch harvesting evident around the likes of Pernand, Aloxe, Savigny etc.

Eventually I headed into Vosne as my ‘booking in’ hour arrived. Very busy outside the Mairie with vendangeur camping cars (motorhomes), cars etc. I struggled to find a parking place but drove past the Noellat premises in Rue de la Fontaine in both directions, noting I had no chance of parking anywhere close, and noting also Madame Leroy being a neighbour a bit further along, and wow, Clos des Reas was right across the road opposite ! Eventually parked in the only space I could find, right outside the former Domaine Rene Engel, still with brass plaque on the gatepost, recalling my visit many years ago (well before the untimely passing of Philippe – RIP) with my late father. My car was terribly dusty by now after my afternoon’s ‘rural’ ramblings – we’ll come back to nature’s subsequent lavaux in another days words to come ! Entering the Noellat premises there were any number of folk milling around outside/in a gazebo to the front of the premises which contained table, chairs etc. Not having a clue who was who I introduced myself as the ‘votre nouveau vendangeur anglais’ – which caused some intrigued amusement, my Liverpool FC shirt also causing some ribald responses ! A tall, bearded gent offered me a beer and ‘ticked’ off my name on a clipboard. This was Gerald, who was to be one of two chef des vignes, with Hubert whom I met later. I quickly realised I was one of a number of first time ‘recruits’, mixing with obviously seasoned regulars. Gerald took me into an annex of the premises and handed me a clear polythene bag containing blanket, sheet and pillow case before leading me back out of the premises and right into what looked like a high roofed garage but with stairs to the side leading up to first floor accommodation and washing/showering facilities. I’d been allocated to a small (bed)room along the corridor which I was to share with two other guys, both called Jean-Claude. Meeting them later, both I’d guess in their 50s, one was a regular and porter/team leader, the other a friend of his for whom it was a first vendange. This second J-C had a modicum of English which was handy although we knocked along pretty well thro the vendange with my limited French. With accommodation sorted I returned to my car and got my luggage and other stuff I’d need. Thereafter, apart from one evening’s trip to see Bill, my car never moved during the working vendange duration and survived unscathed in its Engel exterior location.

Returning to the gazebo and premises front exterior after sorting room, luggage etc more folk had arrived. I wasn’t expecting, nor had given any thought, to our being fed but we were ! I can’t now recall at what point I met family members but vaguely think Sophie must have been the first family who spoke to me, followed by her mother then father. Our eating location that evening and for vendange duration was a large, airy, basic working type room space accessed thro large wooden doors just to the left as one entered the front of the premises. Very decent meal ensued, plenty of nice wine to enjoy, and much noisy chatter as folk renewed acquaintances or introduced themselves. By now, and for the evening, I was fielding/responding to the usual questions, particularly for a British vendangeur, and which I’d fielded many times before in previous years e.g where in England was I from, was this my first vendange, how had I got to Burgundy, what was my job in England, was I working the whole harvest, when was I going home etc etc.

To close the day an enjoyable evening and introduction with very favourable first impressions of Domaine Michel Noellat. I was advised we’d start at 8.00 a.m. – interesting and the first marked change from what I’d been used to i.e Arlaud’s 7.00 a.m. “we’ll always be the first domaine in the vines”.

All encouraging !

time to attack the 2018s…

By billn on October 07, 2019 #travels in burgundy 2019

Today was the first real day of my 2018 tasting campaign – 2018 Whites for my October Report – starting and finishing (late) in Puligny-Montrachet. So far I’ve over 30 appointments booked for October and I’m still waiting for responses from about 20 more – if I get at least 10 of those, I’ll be happy.

I hit the road early from Bern, enjoying the rain all the way to Dôle – but it was particularly bracing around Besançon where the speed of the windscreen-wipers needed some augmentation! Almost magically, from Dôle onwards, and for my whole day in the Côte de Beaune, it was dry. Well, maybe not completely dry underfoot when jogging through the vines of Chassagne at lunchtime!

Tomorrow is a lite day, but Wednesday to Friday will keep me much busier.

Burgundy Report

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