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the return of the mark: Vendange Day 8+9

ARLAUD VENDANGE DAYS 8 & 9 – Monday & Tuesday 22nd/23rd Sept 2014-10-07

Whilst I’ve regrettably now been back in the UK since the 26th Sept, and am increasingly becoming immersed in my banking (Rick S pls note !) day job and matters domestic (leaking shower cubicle anyone ?) I feel sort of duty bound & with a sense of the incomplete/unfinished to make me conclude what seemed to become an increasingly drawn out vendange (that is if Bill cares to publish this but I’m including a few pics to hopefully ‘bribe’ him.
The above said I’ve only just stopped laughing at Bill’s latest set of pics, and specifically the comfy goats lol !! Priceless, never seen anything like that before although I do have fond memories of my parents having two goats, one after the other, when I was a child.
Before matters grape picking etc, a correction, as I’ve only just noticed an error in the Day 7 piece. Whether down to Bill, or more likely myself ,I’ve just seen that Day 7, my Sunday Le Montrachet breakfast and afternoon dog walking day, is described as ‘Day 7, Friday 21th Sept 2014’. This should of course read Sunday the 21st Sept – but of course you eagle eyed readers will have worked that out and more than likely attributed it to vendangeur inebriation – I wish !
Back to le vendange ! We were joined Sunday evening, rather unexpectedly to me, by 5 young Poles – 3 young ladies and two boys. I eventually learnt they’d been recruited with others to join (see later) to help the core team see off Roncevie, other unfinished ‘stuff’ around Morey, and for our ‘assault’ on the Hautes-Cotes – the latter the stuff of my 2013 endurance nightmares ! What was interesting from the new recruits was that they’d come from de Montille, Volnay. They spoke well of Alix (de Montille or is she married Bill ?) looking after them and described what could only be Etienne whom I know fairly well. The evening meal Sunday was also notable for Gava, now in love with me, scrounging surreptitiously from Rene & Serge, both dog owners themselves who, despite owner Tiffin’s disapproval, were happy via sleight of hand etc to pass tidbits (meat, cheese etc) to the soulful, hang dog looking Gava standing behind their bench meal places. A brief interlude of excitement occurred when, not knowing the dog was present, an unsuspecting Mystique the cat entered the refectoire, bent on seeking affection and a bit of scrounging himself. The inevitable happened with cat seeing dog, dog seeing cat, latter deciding escape was required toute suite (fortunately the door was open to the yard), and both disappearing a rate of knots with much yowling from the cat, growling and barking plus scrabbling of claws from the dog who exhibited an amazing turn of speed and manouverability, before order was restored – the dog returning after c 10 minutes having failed to entrap the wily Mystique who was unscathed.
From here not a great deal to record except two days of almost drudgery. I can’t recall ever picking Roncevie in such a sustained fashion before i.e solidly across what turned out to be two full days. Motivation gets a bit lacking once one knows no more Premier or Grand Crus to come. My recollection of previous years is that we’ve come to Roncevie on several occasions across the whole vendange, or several days anyway – not that we’ve done it as we did this year. Weather was good though, almost ideal conditions of not too hot sun and a breeze. I do like the site, there’s something about the way the rows, by now with an increasingly autumnal look, stretch into the distance. Grape quality again very good. Odd bits of inconsequential rot only, nothing compared to previous years for what is a low lying site prone to wet & damp.

I can’t recall, after the Poles, if it was Monday or Tuesday morning but we also added further to our number on one of those mornings with 4 Slovakians or Slovenians (can’t now remember which), two guys & two gals plus a local young French guy – lunchtime now became increasingly crowded and seats at a premium. One of the former group, Marquetta (spelling ?), subsequently amazed me at the ultimate end of vendange Paulee by telling me that I had, or had had, back trouble – she was right ! In the mid to late 80’s I had all sorts of back problems, including a laminectomy and several hospitalizations for bouts of traction, and at one point an epidural jab with the longest needle I’ve seen to this day. Apparently Marquetta was a proper masseuse, including of an equine nature, and could simply tell from my stance that I wasn’t straight & hence her diagnosis – clever !
Roncevie concluded on the Tuesday afternoon with a bit of a whimper. We’d done all the main rows proper (the holding is c 5 hectares) but a furthest from the road , butting up eventually to trees, was very young vines. This section had been terribly badly frosted in the winter of 2009/10 9 (I think) which killed a goodly number of old vines and led to a wholesale replanting, maybe no more than 3 years ago (or less ?). The new vines are but mere babes, many shrouded in a form of bag, presumably for protection and to promote growth. We were all done in, and it was circa 4.30 / 5.00 p.m. but Herve gave us a rather bizarre instruction to sweep the new vines plating section but not to spend too long and only concentrate on the very best, or most significant, grapes. Well, that was tedious ! What grapes existed were small indeed and took some getting to grips with being almost at floor level of in the shrouded bag things, or caught up in grass or weeds. Was fair to say our hearts weren’t in the (non) task so, after faffing around for half an hour or so becoming increasingly fatigued and irritable we called it a day – not one of the most compelling vendange exercises I must say.
I subsequently discussed Roncevie with Cyprien on my evening cuverie trip to use the wi-fi. Cyprien told me they’d taken the extra 10 people (Poles, Slovaks, Frenchman) to help get things wrapped up by cWednesday. He also advised me that Roncevie was the largest holding in single ownership on the Cote which remains hand-picked. When he said it I was rather nonplussed by the claim but afterwards decided quickly I’d either misunderstood him, or maybe he was referring to Bourgogne (Rouge ?) only – as two immediate single holdings which are larger are the Clos de Lambrays and de Tart – and doubtless there are others at GC or Premier level. Whatever, I jokingly told him I’d had enough of Roncevie for a while and didn’t care if I didn’t see a bottle of it for some time, if ever. This had an unexpected consequence to come later and revealed a sense of vigneron humour, as well as indicating Cyprien listened to me and remembered, quite endearing !
Photos to accompany, I’ll leave Bill to select from the one’s to be sent. Camera continues to please and do the business but I find myself increasingly careful and selective as to how I’m using it with sticky and wet hands.
To come:- the final days of Weds, and incredibly, Thursday for my longest ever vendange.

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