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the return of the mark – domaine arlaud’s harvest diary…

Arlaud Vendange 2015 – Monday 7th Sept 2015 ( and un peu Sunday)

Sunday :-
Bonjour toute le monde ! Je suis arrive !!! In Morey-St-Denis that is for my 8th vendange avec le premier equipe de Morey.

Various conflicting potential start dates by email to my banking day job over the preceding couple of weeks had been stirring the anticipatory senses. We’d (Cyprien Arlaud et moi) eventually settled on a Monday 7th Sept start which had me departing my NW England home the preceeding Saturday evening for an uneventful drive to Dover for le bateau, rocked along by the peerless Nils Lofgren on the CD and boring Talksport Radio discussion about whether Wayne Rooney is an England football great (absolutely no way for this 3rd generation lifelong Liverpool FC fan who cannot see anything remotely ‘good’ in any aspect of/connection with Manscumchester Utd !).

Ferry at 3.20 from Dover traverse La Manche and arrival in Calais circa 6.00 a.m. Autoroute to Burgundy was uneventful other than two ladies backing into each other with le crunch at a rest area. How common are Common Buzzards on the autoroute ?? I saw lots on fence posts plus other smaller hawks and, around Reims, three hovering kestrels within a mile. CD Music en France was Pink Floyd, Lez Zeppelin, and belatedly Bob Dylan. Arrived on the Cote from Dijon Sud. Had been beautiful weather, if nippy early on at occasional rest area halts when my eyelids started to protest. Driving into Morey nice and warm, just a gentle breeze. Being a Sunday as quiet as the proverbial burial ground. No one in the vines, well it was lunchtime as well as a Sunday ! I’d not seen any ubiquitous white vans in the Champagne vineyards either as visible from the autoroute.

Morey centre was its unchanged (will it ever?) self. Eerily quiet. Car park mort suggesting no domaines had maybe yet started their harvests, I unpacked quickly lugging one case of ‘good’ clothes, and one of vendange ‘rough’ gear, plus case of wine (13 various bottles from home), plus electricals up the steep stone stairs and into my rough wooden floor boarded, metal ex Armee bunk beds, atelier. My home for the vendange, lovely ! Made my bed with sheets and blanket and, resisting temptation for siesta, tripped off en voiture to the Arlaud cuverie. Vines looked good as I crossed the main road. Arlaud cuverie had a new smart & tasteful name sign not there last year. Also new a smart, dark red, expensive looking Buchler Vaslin press outside under the porch front with all the other equipment ready for vendange take off. Full triage supa clean table quietly ready for action plus two fork lifts and lots of stacked cases for the grapes. Whilst I was taking a few photos a BMW X5 pulled around the corner. Turned out to be the Arlaud Dutch importer who was seemingly baffled no one was around & he was being greeted by a crazy Englishman. I helpfully suggested he maybe return later, or better still Monday, and that I would advise Cyprien we’d met.

Back to the le village centre via a diversion ‘around the block’ as it were from the cuverie towards the railway line to nosily see what a massive tower crane was all about. Sacre bleu, une grande construction, akin to a concrete nuclear bunker – and someone had been digging deep from the mound of earth adjacent ! I was to learn later this was the site of a new cuverie for my friend, M Raphet Senior’s, domaine now in the hands of his son, and that Domaine Raphet would move here on completion, consolidating from currently three separate sites around the village. One assumes the cost must be formidable (pronounced in French). Just a very few of us for evening meal with Herve, Cyprien, wife Carol and their lively, growing up fast, perpetual motion, three young daughters – how does maman cope, especially as there is now clearly a fourth event pending – late October I was advised !!!. arol would not admit to me that a boy would be nice but did tell me Greg Gouges and partner also had a child event pending. Only semi regular Bastien was sleeping over in the next flat along from me but we also had a stagiste from Metz who’s learning wine making and has studied in New Zealand plus the engaging Jessica who has given up study of law, and now hails from a Luxembourg based wine brokers (with some link to the domaine) who would be with us for three days only – both living in the domestic property at the entrance to the yard. Both M Stagiste (I’ll recall his name soon !) and Jessica have excellent English to my shame so I can have conversation rather than just for the most part be in listening mode. Plan of attack for Monday was approx 12-14 of us in total would pick Nuits St Georges 1er cru Les Porrets St George (a negoce terroir) and some unidentified other stuff. The full vendangeur team would arrive Tuesday for the main action.

A convivial evening meal, for which, alongside the usual Arlaud PTG & delish chilled Aligote, I offered a Pascal Jolivet 2013 Sancerre ‘Les Caillotes’ , seemed to be well received, and so to bed to be ready for the morning’s gentle sounding start. Sooooo good to be back in this place again. I almost forgot to mention I’d been looking for Monsieur Jean Raphet Senior next door. Not for one of his potentially long one on one tastings of whatever he fancied opening for company with l’anglais but as I’d brought a gift for him (nice Scotch whisky) to partially repay his super generosity when I arrived in 2014 and between us we’d guzzled (well, I did more than he) a delish Domaine Raphet 2000 Clos de Vougeot GC, post which he’d insisted on so generously gifting me another bottle of the same wine (which I still have). There was no sign of habitation next door which looked odd/unusual – maybe en vacances I thought. Maybe later in the week.

Monday:-
No slacking a la Domaine Arlaud with Herve around ! Even with just the handful of us we were off before 7.30 a.m. towards Nuit St Georges in the 2 double cab lorries which sufficed for our party. Vans for the reinforcement would arrive Tuesday. Our first terroir was one of the negoce sites, Nuits St Georges Les Porrets (Poirets ?) St Georges on the far side of town with rock face above and Gouges Clos des Porrets adjacent to the north. Felt a little odd initially handling the secateurs again but the ‘rhythm’ soon clicked ! How nice was this, dry ground, obviously going to be a warm, if not hot, day, and what grapes to be greeted with ???? Prepare to be bored if Bill doesn’t beat me to it which I guess he will. Where’s the rot ? None whatsoever ! Super fruit. Better than 2014 ? We’ll see. Not as much volume is a vague recollection but it’s the first site This looks like it will be an interesting year, tres beau raisins as my employers would repeat. We don’t do many rows here so didn’t take us long but was just brilliant enjoyment and a nice entrée to this year’s vendange.

Back to the cuverie to unload the caisses. We just pushed them into the cuverie as they were, presumably to be attended to later. But where to next ? I couldn’t follow the route below the main road, going north of Morey, not far from the trainline. Seemed like we might be heading for Roncevie but, no, we stopped before that. Cremant I was told, eh ? I’d never got my hands dirty in this plot before in 8 years so assumed it was either newly rented or, more likely, might have been machined in past years. Aligote was the subject matter and plenty of it. All was very relaxed though, and without sounding boring, this took us the rest of the day, with none of the usual pressure and a break for lunch as usual.

Eving saw some of the other regulars arrive, notably Renee, Serge, Daniel plus Jackie who has the linking room behind mine. Dede also rocked up via taxi from the train, pulling a face to tell me had taken him 2 hours. A rather ‘interesting evening meal ensued ! Serge was at the stove cooking a decent volume of fish akin to deep fried whitebait (but bigger than the white bait I’ve had in England!). He also had a fortunately lesser amount of the dreaded escargot (yes, snails) cooking in a very large frying pan – looked like mushrooms but didn’t taste like fungi ! Herve, Cyprien, Carol and the 3 girls all joined us again for a noisy, fun filled, evening. The fish were delicious and a superb match for the chilled Arlaud Vin Blanc Nature (Aligote). Yum ! The escargot were ‘ok’, not really my ‘thing’ but better for not being in the cream and heavily garliced sauce when they were first inflicted on me a few years ago to then much mirth at my expense. And so to bed 2. A Village day Tuesday, the 8th, with a 1er cru end to the day. More in the next instalment from the Morey Diary !

One response to “the return of the mark – domaine arlaud’s harvest diary…”

  1. mike

    Very nice writing …..

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