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mark: domaine arlaud’s harvest diary, wednesday…

Arlaud Vendange Day 3 – Weds 9th Sept 2015

Quick recap back to day two – did I mention in referencing the Morey Village that such included Morey Clos Solon ? It did/does, where I believe Arlaud both own vines but certainly have negoce fruit available. The Clos Solon fruit we harvested Tuesday was top notch, again little or rather no sign of rot in what is a lower lying location not usually immune and, for those ‘obsessed’ with just ‘super star’ names, the likes of one J-M Fourrier surely cannot have done better.

Anyways, today turned into one of those special vendange days, to be followed by Thursday, in terms of sites picked, moving around (for ‘recovery’ purposes), and variety. The weather continued to be just about perfect, if anything just a bit too hot, where a little more breeze or cooler temps would have been just right ! I was by now hearing rumours of bad weather for the coming weekend but for now all was serene in our world.

For me, today prompted the random thought (amazing what one can think about while picking) that this was the 40th anniversaire of joining my banking employers, albeit pre a take over and other rafts of changes over the years. Not something to celebrate in my ‘book’, instead maybe a bit sad. I almost looked for something else on several occasions but stuck with it. To now be away from the UK and be able to avoid any mention, or highlighting, of it suited me just down to the ground – Charmes-Chambertin the first today ! I’ll say no more about my employers etc as I would not want to get into any ‘trouble’ !! Maybe another 2-4 years will be such to see me decide enough is enough and pack it all in at last. More opportunities then to visit the likes of the Cote more often and plenty of wine to be drunk ! Alongside one anniversary this year is that this is my 10th harvest (my 8th at Arlaud) which strikes me in context of my banking day job’s 40 yrs as almost incredible. Those 10 years of vendanges have just flown by ! Seems almost like yesterday I was almost cutting my left hand index finger off in 2006 in Domaine du Duc de Magenta’s Chassagne Morgeot vineyard after a chance conversation with Amelie MacMahon, la Duchesse, that August.

As another little aside I’d by now noticed Cyprien A had a ‘new’ car. Well, not a brand new one, as he was atypically at pains to emphasise to me when I admired it, but a very nice Volvo V50 Estate in a hard to define colour but very dark blue (or blue/black metallic). Has very nice, almost BBSesque spoked wheels – all in all a handsome car. All the time I’ve known him C has driven an ancient looking small Opel (Vauxhall Corsa – in the UK) hence I was pleased for him at his quiet pride in this ‘upgrade’. Wife Carol drives the other family vehicle, also owned several years, a Renault Espace, doubtless essential to the family size etc. The sub text to the above is that, whilst other CdN vignerons might have not one, but two, helicopter(s), or drive BMW X6 or similar, the Arlauds have no signs of overt wealth, or in no way show it, are the antithesis of ‘flash’ or ostentatious, and for me are all the more plausible, real, genuine, likeable etc etc.

One evening Cyprien and I got onto the question of extra vineyard land (have no recall of how I might have raised this !) where C was directly honest in saying to me there was no way the domaine could, or would attempt to, afford any decent parcel/plot which is why I guess the negoce stuff emerged in 2013. Cyprien went onto discuss with me how the only probably realistic route to vineyard acquisition would be with an investor e.g with my then prompting him with the names of the likes of Francois Feuillet (associated with/wines made by David Duband) or the Murray Tawse/Pascal Marchand tie up.

Conversation moved on from the above to my suggesting that the current domaine vineyards must have very substantial value and as such the family, as others, could well sell up and live happily ever after without the admirable farming / wine making commitment. This was a bit naughty by me, whilst semi serious, but I’ve known Cyprien long/well enough now to convey in such a way he could see where I was coming from without taking offence. As it happens he agreed with me in terms of lying on a beach somewhere such as French Polynesia but otherwise shrugged and smiled his enigmatic smile, in effect conveying without words that it’s the family vocation being taken forward for the family legacy. He went on to suggest that his oldest daughter shows some interest but she’s way too young yet but I’m sure he’d be thrilled if the next generation would continue.

Sorry ! You want to hear about vineyards, grapes, wine etc I guess ? Well, as above, the very top section of Charmes-Chambertin, not quite directly across the road from Latricieres, was our early start focus. I’m bitterly regretting not taking any grape photos here as, continually banging on aside, the grapes here were just fantastic, maybe the best of the vendange. I’ve honestly never seen anything like them from this vineyard before. The vines are ancient, I think averaging around 80 yrs old, Cyprien subsequently telling me the oldest was 95 yrs old. Other than their appearance you’d never guess from the fruit volume this year just how old are these veterans. The reason for lack of photos was I just didn’t consider I had time to stop because, as a team we just moved at almost lightning speed down these rows. The vines were trained such that the bunch presentation, and without overt foliage as an issue elsewhere (e.g lower Clos St Denis), made cutting a quick fire dream. If I were to make a mental note for only one future purchase from this vintage based on grapes seen then Charmes would be the one. We were soon back at the road side and taking a break whilst the cases were sorted out with both camions (trucks away at the cuverie/en route at once). Another domaine’s vendangeurs arrived just up the road on a single decker bus (!), accompanied by covered truck which went into the vines, plus what was presumably the boss in a BMW X6. This turned out to be Domaine Jacques Prieur (spelling ?), Meursault.

We left them to it and foregoing our own vehicles Herve walked us on foot along the road towards Morey to the roadside edge of Gevrey 1er cru Combottes. As long as I can recall the Arlaud vendange as always started with this terroir, until this year. Whatever, the vines here are average 40/45 years old, and again just looked superb. Some level of rot is not usually uncommon here either but all I saw this year was a little bit just once where two bunches had become intertwined. Combottes was notable, as it is every year, albeit this one maybe more so, for the incidence of millerandage. Have I said how many of there were this year ? We eventually ended up with a register of 55 names (am not sure if this covered the triage table two ladies – presumably didn’t include the domaine permanent, non family, staff of four). Whilst odd folk were missing odd days we had a substantial gang which, other than myself and the four young Poles from last year who were to arrive Friday from Beaujolais, were all French. Most regulars, just a number of new faces. One could tell the team was larger than past years by the population of the confectoire dining room at lunchtime !!! If you happened to be one of the selfless souls who, arriving back at base at lunchtime, voluntarily took it upon themselves to clean buckets, secateurs etc then when it came to getting your own, trestle table lunch space such was easier said than done – that is until we quickly wised up and Breton Annie saved 3 spaces for herself, husband Augustin (‘Tin Tin’), and moi. The core bucket washers were Tin Tin, longtime regular Dede, and myself. Initially in our first five days bucket cleaning was not unduly onerous given the dry ground but all that was to change later (and how !). I mention the size of the team as for Combottes, as happened elsewhere on several occasions the ratio of bodies to number of rows enable us to be two, or sometimes three to a row spread at suitable intervals. In Combottes we were two to a row, with myself in a group who were sent half way along the rows to start, and thus ended up finishing at the top on a little grassy plateau whilst fruit was collected/organised to be transported back down. Photo opportunities existed here leading to inveterate joker, Jean-Pierre Feral, taking it upon himself to pose for me with a large vine leaf ‘strategically’ held below waist level to cover suggested ‘modesty’. Pic to be amongst those for Bill.

After Combottes we moved another short, on foot, distance to Clos de la Roche (just one of those ‘average’ terroir days !). I can’t remember much about this now other than I think here I was amongst a group moving down slope in our rows rather than the usual up. The vines nearest the road for Combottes, CdlR, and Clos St Denis all featured greater vine foliage (thus need for aggressive leaf stripping to avoid no bunches missed), and greater ground cover plants or weeds, the nearer one was to the road/bottom of the slope, the converse being true as one climbed the slope.

To take us up to lunch we whipped through Morey 1er cru ‘Blanchards’, adjacent to the Domaine Odoul-Coquard outbuildings. This terroir lives up to its name in terms of the number of white/pale coloured stones within the earth. Again, I’ve deliberately taken a photo of ‘my’ row to give an idea. By now this was turning into a seriously hot day ! My notebook simply records “hot, hot, hot” for the afternoon but, to end the morning session, we were glad to finish Blanchards for the very short distance back to base on this side of the village.

Afternoon was a session for adjacent crus on the other side of the village. The sun was by now beating down ! I think it was this afternoon (if not was Thursday) I consumed two full bottles of water of my own plus any cups on offer at rest points. The order here was Chambolle 1er cru Noirots, Chambolle 1er cru ‘Sentiers’ (part), and finally Morey 1er cru ‘Ruchots’ (part) . All looking good. I was a bit dischuffed at myself from the top of Sentiers, against the wall below the road (with Bonnes Mares GC across the road), to start walking back down the rows towards our vehicles without realising until about halfway that the others had moved along the wall to Ruchots doh ! A long, hot, slow retracing trudge !

That evening I had a look at the Gevrey Combottes fruit in tank with Cyprien. I’d been meaning to ask about his policy this year at the use of stalks as quite a number of bunches had come away easily, some without needing cutting suggesting to me (doubtless I’m wrong) but that the stalks were ripe. I know he’s experimented in the past albeit not going as far as other domains e.g Dujac where C is friendly with Jeremy Seysses. For Combottes whilst we gazed into the tank Cyprien, whilst suggesting volume was down on 2014, and highlighted the extent of millerandage we were looking at, told me in terms of stalks he was going 25%-30%. In terms of stalks he told me he was looking for green coloured one’s, with plenty of chlorophyll, and no bitterness – at this point he handed me a bit of stalk to chew asking me what I could taste. Not a lot really other than something a bit woody but certainly nothing bitter ! Cyprien went on to say sometimes one could taste a hint liquorice.

So, that was a lovely day three. More of the same or similar for day four and maybe my personal highlight this year to come.

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