Why Big Red Diary?

icymi – week 41 2018

Looking over Volnay Caillerets today…

I’ve been collecting and saving these up over the last couple of weeks – I’ve lost a few too – I’ll take more care next time!

  • examining-the-science-of-wineglass-shapes
    Of-course Jancis gets a star billing – I think I already have too many glasses to research further – I don’t break them often enough – that’s my main problem!
  • montrose-owners-buy-into-burgundian-estate
    One has to hope that the new (part) owners will get direct input into the running of the estate – it’s a property with massive potential – despite the good intentions of the sons, the father is seemingly (to me) still quite dominant and seems set in his ways – let’s see!
  • the-science-behind-decanting-wine
    An oldie but a goodie. I wouldn’t dream of decanting old wines – though sometimes make an exception for a reductive 30 year-old white – yes, that used to be a thing! But young wines of both colours, often bottled with too much CO2 gas, plus sometimes a reduction will benefit no end…
  • tastevinage-102e-edition
    The winning wines from the last Tastevinage blind tasting – I should have been there but had guests, so…
  • chablis-the-purest-chardonnay
    A simple abc of Chablis…
  • montys-2018-organic-biodynamic-audit
    I like this piece very much – another level vs the linked article on Chablis as there is detail, there are statistics and there is much to mull over – excellent!
  • The effect of root exudates on rhizosphere water dynamics
    Actually, far more interesting than it looks at first glance – It’s not every day you get to reference Jethro Tull!(1)
  • foulee-des-vendanges
    I’m considering it – because it seems I have to drink Bouzeron rather than take on the Beaune Half-Marathon!
  • global-warming-has-moved-burgundys-top-sites-uphill
    Well, one assumes that there has to be some effect – notably in the earlier ripening vintages, Hautes Côtes and other higher vines do very, very well – I’m still waiting for Romanée St.Vivant to best Romanée-Conti though – I think it may be a long wait for that one…

I note that this week the Henri Boillot 2017s offer has once-more winged into my inbox – almost one month after its first circulation. At first it looks the same – but then it’s interesting to note that the most expensive stuff is now all gone; no more Chevalier-Montrachet, Montrachet or Chambertin – the others are hanging on. From some very limited perspectives – the market remains strong – shame that’s only 0.1% of production…

1 Tull J. 1762 Horse-hoeing husbandry: or, an essay on the principles of vegetation and tillage. London, UK: printed for A. Millar.
Google Scholar

marko’s 2018 vendange – le wrap-up…

Arlaud (Post) Vendange Conclusions, Friday 14th September 2018 – Sunday 16th September 2018

As my Paulee note concluded I slept a sleep of the very tired, up late, ageing vendangeur on Thurs night/Friday morning, shocking myself, as a normally very light sleeper, by only coming ‘to’ circa 7.00 a.m. to find practically all of the lodgers had already roused themselves and dispersed to whatever parts of France they hailed from. The one or two that remained were about to depart. Fairly quickly I found myself with the domaine premises to myself. The coffee machine had been turned off so I grubbed about and found some green tea bags so boiled a saucepan to make strong green tea – not a drink I’m familiar with but quite refreshing. There was plenty of leftover bread and fromage, a little of each sufficing for petit dejeuner. Pre vendange I had undertaken to pursue some wine finding ‘errands’/missions for Burgundy Report reader, arch terroirist and mate, Phil Eaves but codging over my breakfast, in a fatigued state, decided I could accomplish all that was necessary on the Saturday. I also had promised to bring a quantity of wine back to the UK for a long time friend, an associate of Dujac’s Jeremy Seysses from Oxford University days, who has wine cellared at Dujac. That task was also something I figured could be accomplished Saturday by prior contact with JS & calling by arrangement at Dujac (as I’d done similarly in the past 2 or 3 years).

Sprucing myself up for the day ahead, with a shower providing a suitable kick start, I decided to spend the day concentrating on both my diary words for Bill and downloading, resizing and captioning photos for onward email transmission. I spent the first part of the morning on such work alone in the refectory, enjoying the post vendange domaine premises solitude peace & quiet. Late morning I journeyed down to the cuverie, Morey Centre itself peaceful with no signs of activity from other domaines, to use the domaine wi-fi to send my work to Bill, from my usual spot at a bureau desk in the back hallway by the stairs to the cellar. The cuverie itself was a hive of cleanly activity from the permanent guys and packed more than I’d ever seen before by smaller tanks & barriques as well as the usual large tanks around the walls. A tremendously strong winery smell of yeast and fermenting alcohol filled the air. Outside the triage table had been cleaned & dismantled, ready to be packed away for another year and the vehicles (vans, mini buses and trucks) were being deep clean valeted prior to return to the hirers.

Working quietly away, without being aware of the time, I think I noticed quiet had descended beyond my hallway spot but thought little of it, just assuming the team had gone for lunch (which I wasn’t bothered about per se), either upstairs or more likely in the portakabins in the cuverie open space. I was jolted out of my quiet beavering though by Cyprien coming in and telling me to vacate and come to lunch ! Turned out he and Herve, as last to leave, hadn’t been aware of my presence until, leaving themselves, they noticed my car parked on the roadside verge outside the cuverie entrance. The team had gone up to the village for leftovers lunch and refreshment. Jumping into the rear of Cyprien’s Volvo SUV, Herve in the front, we went up to Morey Centre to join the cuverie team and Carole for refectory entrance lunch.

Post lunch immediately back to the cuverie to continue were I’d left off. Two snippets of info from here:- 1) one of the guys who shall remain anonymous had told me Cyprien had been asked to undertake the elevage of two barrels of Hospice de Beaune Mazis-Chambertin from the successful auction purchaser of said barrels – 2017 I assumed although didn’t check annee. Cyprien subsequently confirmed my enquiry in this respect without adding more detail. I assume any prospect of snagging a bottle or two will be remote/nil but intend to follow up on assuming I return in 2019; 2) Cyprien showed me some paperwork he was completing on his computer for the authorities, in this case for Bourgogne Roncevie, the point he was keen for me to see was alcohol level was an ideal 13% by volume which he professed himself, unsurprisingly, very happy with. Throughout the 2018 vendange he’s come across as the epitome of the satisfied & contented vigneron, rather at positive odds with the stressed individual of 2016 I hardly dare talk to.

I wasn’t long at the cuverie post lunch before commencing my Eaves missions with a trip to Vosne-Romanee to pursue two specifics for Phil. Before setting off for Vosne though I agreed with Office Administrator Beatrice that (conscious she does not work Saturdays) I would call back late in the afternoon to collect the Arlaud 2016 wines I’d ordered at the turn of the year, or rather those I’d been allocated. It might surprise, but notwithstanding working for the domaine for 9 years I do not get everything I ask for – not that I ask for a great deal (can’t afford to). For example, the last negoce Echezeaux I obtained was 2013’s, none since. Late in the afternoon was necessary as my order would require one of the domaine guys to ‘finish’ the bottles with labels & capsules then box up. My first Vosne call was to Domaine Gerard Mugneret looking for an NSG 1er cru Boudots which specifically interested Phil. At his office desk, in domaine polo shirt, Monsieur Mugneret was a curious mix of pleasantness and seemingly brusque difficult – but I did, after all, arrive ‘out of the blue’ without appointment – never ideal ! Bottom line was that I was, sort of, brusquely dismissed (although am not sure that was the intention, just the way it came across) with the not unreasonable, particularly for Nuits wines, explanation that difficult 2016 meant there was no wine to sell (inference being no back vintages were available either although I never got to ask that !).

Whilst in the vicinity though I could not resist popping into the Berthaut-Gerbet owned/operated Vosne caveau with resultant ‘hit’ to my credit card as therein I spied, and could not resist at seemingly reasonable (to UK) prices, Domaine Berthaut 2015 Vosne 1er Petit-Monts & Vosne 1er Suchots, 3 bottles of each, the Petit-Monts some €30 per bottle less than I was subsequently to pay for Cyprien’s ‘& Arlaud’ branded negoce 2016 Petit-Monts.

So, the Eaves first quest a failure, I moved around the village en voiture to Domaine Georges Noellat from whom Phil was wanting a Maison Maxime Cheurlin Noellat Beaune 1er Clos de la Mignotte. Looking for somewhere to park took me slowly past the domaine gates. What I saw decided visiting was just out of the question as the yard beyond the gates was almost filled with a triage table around which a considerable number of folk were ‘hard at it’. I simply decided an unannounced visit was out of the question and that this quest was for another day.

So, back to the Arlaud cuverie, for collection of ‘my’ wines (not all for me) & payment. Handily, all the wines were this year in flat pack sixes (Cremants aside) which was to considerably aid my subsequent Sunday morning packing of the car.

Memory fails me re the Friday evening. I may have journeyed one last time to Beaune to meet up with Bill for pizza and wine but am not sure if this wasn’t a previous evening (Weds) or, more likely, if I didn’t just spend Friday working on my laptop, eating leftovers and drinking a bottle of Aligote from my Paulee gift box.
Anyway, Saturday dawned and I was ready for my various other missions. These included:-

  • Domaine Philippe Lebault, Dracy les Couches, for a bottle of Maranges 1er Les Loyeres (not Clos des Loyeres)
  • Domaine Michelot, Meursault, for a Meursault 1er cru Poruzot
  • Domaine Michel Delorme, Santenay, for a Santenay 1er Clos Rousseau Blanc

I’d researched all my visits whilst still in the UK and now further consulted maps etc, Dracy les Couches in particular a ‘new one’ to me, and quite some distance away. I resolved to go this furthest away point (Dracy) and work my way back, mindful also at some point I’d need to contact Jeremy at Dujac and agree a suitably convenient time to call there. Michelot was a particular ‘challenge’ as I’d tried there before in 2017 without success. My route to Dracy took me through Beaune, continuing on the D974 along the ‘classic’ tree lined stretch of road east of Pommard Centre, and on down past L’Hopital de Meursault. For another day I noted the Mikulski premises I’d not seen before, it being quite some time since I’d been on this road. Through Corpeau I continued on the D974bis, skirting Santenay, with the road then running for quite a while alongside a fantastic scenic stretch of canal which was quite enchanting. I’d never been down here before but thought the road and canal spectacular, a super area to live. Through St Gilles, still alongside the canal, I turned off right at Dennevy & headed across country, land rising all the while, through St Maurice-les-Couches, and onto Dracy, avoiding a roadside red squirrel who almost took the wrong decision to avoid the oncoming car. Domaine Lebault I found quite easily in the picturesque, if sleepy, village. Signs of the domaine’s vendange were evident as I asked if I could buy wine, the first lady I saw asking me to wait before another lady arrived to help me who turned out to be the partner of M. Lebault. Buying the required Maranges (3 bottles – I never have the ‘cheek’ to just ask for Phil’s single bottle) I also topped up with the domaine’s top white, a Mercurey Blanc. Great value here, nothing more than €12. In all visit cases I was at pains in initial conversation to make clear I was not looking for degustations of any range of wines because I had no time, knew what I wanted, and equally was conscious this was vendange time and any domaine would be busy enough.

A good start but distance travelled had eaten up time so I quickly headed out of Dracy and towards Santenay on the D1, turning off to Paris L’Hopital, and through some striking, hilly, Maranges vineyards (some harvesting machine activity noted) to the outskirts of Santenay Haut. Mentaal note made I’d like to return and explore those Maranges hills in more detail. Coming into Santenay I got lucky, seeing/taking a sign posted road into Santenay Haut which, as very good fortune would have it, led me directly to my next intended call, Domaine Michel Delorme. This was probably one of the highlights of my whole vendange trip. The street in which the Delorme gate/door was located was extremely narrow (another domaine premises were opposite but can’t now recall the name) but fortunately there was a sort of pull in for Delorme. I’d just made it here with reasonable time before any lunch time. I rang the bell/intercom which produced a cacophony of barking from more than one dog before a very pleasant sounding lady answered. This turned out to be Madame Delorme, owner/proprietor, who’s husband unfortunately died some years ago but she has continued the domaine, bless her. Not unreasonably she was ever so politely reluctant to permit entry without my having an appointment and, with my French as usual limited, the intercom conversation over a few minutes was tricky. I struggled with parts of what she was saying (only subsequently finding out she actually spoke excellent English !) but deduced she was suggesting/insisting I call back in the afternoon. This wasn’t an option for me hence it looked like I was going to have to abandon but chance comment from me that I only wanted to buy 3 bottles (of the Santenay Blanc Clos Rousseau) and wasn’t looking for any degustation literally ‘opened the door’ foro me, Madame obviously having a change of mind & presumably deciding any transaction would be swift. So, in I went to a very pleasant tasting room. I inadvertently ‘got’ on Madame Delorme’s ‘good side’ by seriously admiring a framed woollen cross stitch ‘picture’ of a vendange with various harvesting figures, having some ‘experience’ of cross stitch as my wife used to do this for a few years. Turned out Madame had done this herself so I was in ‘good books’. We briefly chatted about the vendange whilst she gathered and packed the bottles before I paid her and departed with profuse thanks. Lucky ! Madame handed me a tariff list of available wines. This was an eye opener, not least in range, but in the main a) for the incredibly reasonable prices; and b) that decent back vintages were available e.g 2014 whites (the bottles I acquired were 2014 which was a super bonus to prior expectation). I resolved I would return, next time with a prior appointment.

By now it was past 12.00 so any more calls would have to wait until after 14.00 hrs. With Michelot part 2 2018 my next target I left Santenay & headed for Meursault Centre Ville to get some lunch to take into the vines for a pleasant interlude. My route took me past the windmill outside Santenay, past Duc de Magenta & Chassagne Morgeot, then below Chassagne centre, were I noted the superb, work of art, stone cabotte style bus shelter (which Bill has subsequently photographed for Burgundy-Report. Then across the D906, past Montrachet, through the Puligny premier crus, on what I call the ‘high road’ to Meursault, with the Genevrieres hut prominent, before going right and into Meursault past Michelot and other domaines on that road before turning up into the busy sunny town centre, pavement cafes and restaurants well populated. Acquiring a baguette sandwich (poulet & crudites) plus a small tarte au thon, I then crossed to the Casino store for a bag of crisps and bottle of water. Wanting a quiet & picturesque spot I dropped out of the town past the Pierre Morey premises and up into the vines towards the Statue of St Christophe. I’m not quite sure how to describe, or where, I actually ended up but on a bend in the narrow track, after scaring myself dropping a wheel of my car into a road edge pot hole, on a grassed area with trees and shrubs for shade I parked up then walked to a wall on the edge of a plot of vines, looking down on Meursault, to eat my lunch. A glorious spot and lovely day. So tranquil, just faint hum of traffic from the town, only birdsong and breeze in the vines/trees. I reckon I must perhaps have been maybe sat above Les Chevalieres or maybe Les Rougeots but am far from sure. If someone can pick out my location from my photos (the one’s from here, plus one of Genevrieres, the only one’s I took all day as my schedule was so hectic) then I’d be glad to know, thanks. I saw no other human during my break until, getting back in the car, a young lady appeared on foot from the Auxey direction with lively Dalmatian dog & headed uphill.

Back through Meursault to just past Michelot, the car park opposite closed off for some reason, so I parked on the edge of the road/vines deciding I’d allow until circa 14.10 before making a move. I might as well not got out of the car !! Very strange state of affairs chez Michelot – no answer to ringing bell/intercom a couple of times but I was already intrigued by the ‘state’ of the property as every shutter was down & absolutely no sign of life from any buildings/outbuildings or yard. It was as if the domaine had not had any vendange, or as if any occupants had gone away on vacation. Very strange ! I guess famille Michelot could have been out for the day, or maybe just having a serious afternoon siesta but the whole place seemed most odd. Whatever, it was clear I’d failed again here, not for want of ‘trying’ but this one will also have to be for another day, and with an appointment – maybe then ‘3rd time lucky’ !

Michelot was my last call on Phil’s missions – other than acquiring the English edition of the Climats & Lieux-Dits book from Beaune’s ace Athenaeum store which I did on Sunday morning. I’d been successful from 2 of my 5 calls. Ok, but not great. Noellat was never going to happen timing wise and Mugneret was ‘just one of those’. Texting Jeremy S at Dujac to ask what suited him best for my call there I headed back north. I had an idea to call at Armelle & Jean-Michel Molin in Fixin where I’d had a really nice visit in either 2015/6, can’t now recall which. Their value, and previously excellent, Vieilles Vignes Aligote was my ‘target’ and maybe other bottles. En route JS replied to ask me to call after 17.00 hrs – fine by me. I was confident of Molin as I knew they have signage inviting visitors & degustations. However, parking by the Fixin bath house, and walking up to the domaine (phew, by now it was very warm again) I was to be disappointed. No response at all from the Molin premises. Opposite, behind a high wall, at a large property there was some sort of quite noisy cum lively party in full swing. Maybe a vendange finish celebration. I did wonder if that was where the Molins might be but made no difference. Back to Morey Centre. JS texted again to ask if I could defer to 18.00 hrs, no problem at all. I killed time until then back at the domaine premises before sauntering around to Dujac en voiture at the appointed time to be greeted initially by Jacques Seysses and not just the one, as before, loud shaggy dog but also by a young and exuberant larger hound, appeared to be a Hungarian Vizsla who just ran up then tore off again. JS appeared with the 3 cases of wine for the mutual UK friend which we swiftly loaded. Quick chat re our vendanges as JS was busy and had some cuverie work to get on with. I’d been intrigued as Dujac had started the week before I set off for Morey and finished as, or just before, I arrived. He seemed very satisfied with the Dujac timing although I just thought I detected the briefest hint they might have ‘gone’ a bit early – maybe I was wrong. I hadn’t necessarily expected one but was quite clear there was no chance of any repeat of the very nice barrel tasting with Dujac harvest interns I’d been party to on the same sort of visit the previous year. No gifted bottle for my ‘trouble’ but, again, was no expectation on my part.

Back to the tranquillity of the village premises now all mine alone. No beer unfortunately as equipment & liquid all removed – shame. More bread & cheese leftovers for supper plus a half of a 2016 Gevrey Cyprien had given me which was very tasty. And so to Saturday bed, prior to which I spent some little time doing most of my non wine packing and arranging my clothing etc ready for the next morning departure & return to England.

My timings for the Sunday all worked back from needing to be at the Calais cross channel ferry check in no later than circa 45 mins before 19.55 departure. Up in good time, stripped my bed, cleared the accommodation, and made myself more green tea for breakfast. Monsieur Raphet, already watering in his vegetable garden greeted me cheerily. Flying visit to the cuverie for a bit of wi-fi use to get off (email) my work from the Saturday then off to Beaune. Initial task to find a BP petrol station, their Ultimate Diesel my fuel of choice, which I did quite easily not too far out on the road to the autoroute. Back into Beaune, parking off the peripherique, and a walk into the centre to the bookshop. Job done & back to Morey. Car fully packed, much easier this year/more room with less wine then my last visit to the cuverie for ‘good byes’. Leisurely chat with Cyprien re this and that but, overall, he professed himself very happy/satisfied with the vendange timing and outcome in terms of fruit quality (very clean indeed in the main) and volume (good, if not quite 2017 level). His final comment was his concern for those late pickers, his telling me he’d been hearing locally of some bringing in Pinot at 14.5% alcohol. I grimaced, then grinned, suggesting such was akin to “Californian style Pinot ?” in response to which Cyprien also grinned and agreed.

And, dear friends/readers, bar my no alarms auto route drive to Calais, that was ‘it’ for my 2018 vendange – my eleventh in all. Thoughts ? As come to mind, randomly, in no order:-
the weather/the heat throughout as the hottest & humid I’ve known;
the time taken of 11 days (one half not working with the non rain Weds p.m) as the longest non rain protracted harvest for me I can recall;
the changed domaine practices (for the good) for vendangeurs benefit;
the problematic & testing no lunch last day;
the camaraderie (bar couple of daft porteur issues);
evenings socialising in Beaune – thank you muchly mine host;
the variety and number of terroir locations we went to, including some I’d never seen before;
the number of vendangeur lodgers – a bit of a shock as having a room to myself for years;
the Grand Cru sites and Vosne Petit-Monts, fabulous;
the fruit as never before can I recall so often being squirted in the eyes/face by grape juice when picking & from day one – must have been optimally ripe fruit indeed;
being glad I, just as well, got there two days before what had been advised as the ‘official start’;
the absence of IT problems ! ;
the Paulee and unexpected presentation.

Until 2019 (assuming health can hold up !). Thank you for reading, hope you might have enjoyed or found interesting, particularly any of you who might harbour a desire to work a vendange but might not have the opportunity, and last, but absolutely no means least, to Monsieur Nanson for accepting/welcoming my nonsense. Merci bien.
Marko de Morey 8th October 2018.

marko’s vendanges paulée…

Arlaud Vendange Day 11, Evening Paulee, Thursday 13th September 2018

I know its now ‘way after the event’ but something wants to make me finish my vendange diary completely. Ok, guess, in ‘pure’ vendange terms, my Day 11 words have finished ‘that’ diary but for me the ‘whole’ vendange includes my time on the Cote – which includes the Paulee I’ll describe here, plus what will be another note to come, defo my last (hurrah I hear you cry 😉) covering my final weekend up to departure. I’ll leave to Bill whether he wants to add these words to the website given passage of time ?

I can’t recall when the possibility of the end of vendange gathering (a sit down evening meal celebration – but no music, no dancing etc as happened in what is now many years past) was first mentioned this time at Arlaud but believe might have been our last day, or perhaps the day before, but no matter. Whenever the formal announcement was made the gist of it was that the event would be held at the ‘old’ Arlaud XIV century Nuits-St-Georges (‘NSG’) premises, pretty much in the Town Centre or just off it, on the evening of our last day. Transport would be provided from the Morey centre domaine premises and back.
So, after the weary finish of Day 11, we (lodgers anyway) had a couple of hours or so to ‘wash & brush up’ and get into whatever ‘glad rags’ we had for our evening out. It’s always quite something amusing, after working with folk for more than a week to then see those same individuals in completely different garb to what has been previous day to day. We gathered in our ‘party gear’ in the refectory building entrance for a beer or two whilst we awaited everyone who was being transported turning up. As the norm, ribald and other comments greeted arrivals in their ‘smart’ clothes, including such a reception for myself although I wore nothing out of the ordinary – but was shaved, showered & in clean blue jeans, decent shirt and Lacoste blue trainers. The star prize for ‘effort’ and (incredible) appearance though, absolutely hands down, went to a young, local, guy – known as Scarface. I’ve never found out his real name but he and I, whilst about as different characters as possible to meet, have always got on well going back 2/3 years of his working the Arlaud vendange. I gather from an aside Cedric made to someone else this year that Scarface might have a back history as a juvenile delinquent or similar but for me, he’s an ok guy. He can be seen 3rd from right in the photo entitled ‘Arlaud Paulee gathering 4’. He always calls me ‘English’ which is fine, I’ve been called worse ! That, I think, is about the extent of his English language vocabularly. He is generally very unkempt, with long, invariably unbrushed/uncombed, black hair and has a variety of tattoos (including, offputtingly, on his face), plus ‘metalwork’ (i.e studs in nose, ears etc). He endeared himself to me, and impressed me no end, in (I think) 2017 in the Vosne Avenue du Monument plot when we were working doubled up in the same row. I can’t recall how/why it came about but I suggested we ‘went for it’ to finish our row first, not thinking for a second he’d agree or go for it, but it’s incredible what a bit of right direction cum motivation can do now & again ! We blitzed the that row between us in a manner then that stunned me, as well as leaving me gasping with the serious extra effort, and I remember Herve looking supa-surprised as we two emerged from that row, high fiving each other, way in front of the rest – a great, and fun, moment. After that we were ‘best mates’ for the rest of that vendange, Scarface showing that Vosne Village side that totally surprised the rest of the group who’d generally shunned him. He only showed up for this vendange 2/3 days before the end. I never found out why, guess he might have been working elsewhere, but I was happy to see him again even if we didn’t repeat our 2017 mini team effort. Anyway, back to the evening here, I don’t know what possessed Scarface but, mightily impressively, he turned up looking like a sort of Elvis ‘lookalike’/impersonator in white suit (well, the jacket & pants were different shades of white !), black shirt & chain jewellery, the whole ‘effect’ being just slightly ‘spoilt’ by the scruffy white trainers (I wouldn’t be surprised if our man doesn’t possess any ‘formal’ shoes !). When he arrived, once we’d got over the surprise, and taken in the full effect, Scarface received major applause, and rightly so, for both ‘effort’ and effect.

My longstanding friend, all the way back to my first Arlaud vendange (2008), Sandrine, in two photos at the NSG premises, was also very glamorous !

And so to transport embarkation in a wholly different way to harvesting, but using the two smart minbuses, the Renault and for me the black VW Caravelle, destination NSG. In NSG we turned right into the public car park off the D974 just past the traffic light crossroads of the Rue Sonoys/Place de Verdun. Here I was intrigued to note a parked vehicle I’d encountered late one evening heading back to Morey from one of my previous Beaune night outs. This was a newish, white with some blingy gold trim, Range Rover Sport – ok nothing ‘that’ unusual there – but when I’d first encountered it as we both left Beaune, the driver cutting me up at some lights, what had then caught my attention as not something one sees everyday (or I don’t/haven’t) was the Range Rover’s ‘Principaute de Monaco’ licence plates. On the evening in question the Range Rover driver, whom I never got to see, drove like a bit of an idiot at excessive speeds between Beaune & Morey on largely empty road but never actually ‘dropped’ me and my BMW as we invariably caught up again without effort at various red traffic lights en route, and finally at the Morey lights, where the Range Rover went right to the lower residential part of the village and me left to Morey Haut Centre and my bed. At the time I was intrigued just who in Morey (or staying) had such a car and drove as they did. Now here was the same vehicle in the NSG car park!

Disembarking, the first ‘glitch’ of the evening occurred as one of the sliding rear side windows of the VW Caravelle, frame and all, fell out (into the vehicle) and resisted concerted efforts of a few of the guys to get it back in whilst the rest of us waited. Eventually most of us set off for the short stroll to the venue on Rue Grenier a Sel (see photos) leaving a few to see if they could sort out the vehicle. The Rue Grenier premises were not unknown to me. These were the domaine working premises before the current Morey cuverie which was a 2004 (I think) new build. I visited here (NSG) with my late father in what must have been the late 90’s / early noughties, well before I had any thoughts of vendange working, as one of then several Cote domaine visits arranged through UK merchant importers (same trip I recall included Lafon, Pierre Morey, Gouges, S Esmonin & others). At the time I recall both Cyprien and Herve being present but the working premises then being unrecognisable to what we entered on this evening. Beyond the large wooden (oak ?) doors to the street is an inner glass framed entrance into reception area, on the right of which is a kitchen area, and beyond the main ‘room’/space which had two very long tables laid for our meal to come. The whole inner is a series of brick arches – very impressive. I never asked but it looks like the Arlauds have ‘converted’ or made over the premises to some sort of venue which might be rented out for functions etc.

On this evening we milled around, and in the street, whilst everyone coming (who’d not been minibussed) arrived. I was intrigued to note the street wall plaque adjacent to the premises main doors (see photo) does not mention & presumably pre-dates take on of Morey 1er cru Blanchards, but also omits mention of the domaine’s three Chambolle 1er crus. Cyprien and Carole arrived on foot with the three older offspring on a mix of bikes and child scooter. Carole’s chef father (also father of young Victor) was in his chef’s apparel, clearly in charge of what we were to eat. Eventually the ‘crew’ who’d been left to fix the VW arrived led by a smartly dressed Herve, looking impressively turned out (like most/all of us) in comparison to his/our ‘in the vines’ apparel. I gather they’d been unsuccessful in trying to re-fit the window so I guess the vehicle was left unlocked. My return to Morey later was in the Renault but I subsequently learnt over the weekend at the cuverie that the VW window was successfully re-fitted before the valeted vehicle was returned to the hirer.

Eventually we were ‘marshalled’ for two pre sit down formalities. The first was to each be presented with our end of vendange boxed wine gift. The boxes for each of us (two bottles – a Cremant and an Aligote – but a reduction on past years 3 bottles) were in the back of a van in a garage premises across the street from the Paulee premises. After receiving our box we were then directed to a queue in the Paulee reception area to a first time addition:- Cyprien, and Office Assistant Beatrice, handing each of us:- 1) a Domaine Arlaud 2018 Vendange tee shirt (never had these before here in my 9 year history although I was given and still have a Domaine du Duc de Magenta tee shirt from my first 2006 harvest there) and; 2) a Group photograph taken in Roncevie by the professional photographer mentioned on Day 7 (which I’d managed to avoid appearing on !). So, at least I’d got a Group photo even if I’d not taken it myself ! My tee shirt is an XL size (I think Beatrice must have ‘guessed’ individual sizings !) which I suspect, as normally ‘taking’ a L size, might be a bit ‘roomy’ on me as and when I wear it – always allows though for shrinking when washed I guess !!! Nice touches though and all a part of the extra differences e.g the beer, casse-croute breaks the Domaine has gone to in 2018 compared to past years.

Once the above formalities had been concluded we filed into the main ‘chamber’ to sit at the long tables on the benches brought from our usual refectoire dining room. I tucked myself into a far corner, or as near as I could make it, to allow for photo opportunities to come. We dined on an entrée of what I guess might best be described as a slab of pressed ham with tomato, main of Boeuf Bourguignon and pasta, followed by fromage, and I think a chocolate dessert. In addition to the table mineral waters no white wines but Cyprien himself served us individually magnums of domaine (of course !) 2009 Chambolle Village and later what I think, in bottles, was a 1985 (if not 1995) Chambolle Village with its ‘old’ domaine label featuring where we were sat. Both very tasty, particularly the older wine, which must have been made by Herve. I had been anticipating other wines, including maybe Charmes or CSD, from a line up presentation of bottles I’d noted, and photo’d on the way in, but was disappointed – they must have been for show.

The latter part of the meal, or just after it (can’t recall exactly when), was ‘interrupted’ by, initially, a very well & respectfully received ‘thank you’ speech from Cyprien to us all (details to some extent passed me by as my French wasn’t ‘up’ to grasping all he said) before one of the more mature vendange guys, a pleasant individual, a lodger, who’s name I never knew, was asked to introduce a presentation. This was a Diplome du Merite certificate and boxed bottle of wine to my long time associate & van seat companion, Monsieur Jean-Pierre Feral, for vendange services to the domaine over an extended period. Much table banging, clapping, cheering etc as J-PF stood up to receive the above. What followed next left me initially stunned, once I realised my name had also been called out, which I didn’t for a few seconds as my surname was ‘mangled’ but, somewhat shocked, took in everyone was looking at me and many of the guys were chanting ‘Marko’ very loudly and table banging. In super embarrassed fashion I had to make my way around the room to Cyprien and Beatrice to be handed my Diplome certificate and boxed bottle (later discovered this to be a very welcome 2015 Morey 1er Millandes). Very humbling & very embarrassing indeed. I did my best to make a short, French language mangling speech (well, few words really), thinking on my feet literally, which in the main consisted of thanking the family for the original 2008 opportunity & putting up with me in the intervening years with special thanks to Herve. I’m still not quite sure, many days after as I type this, just what this sole English employee has done to deserve the honour, and it is an honour, but suffice to say an extremely nice, if totally unexpected, one when I can think of many more appropriately deserving vendange colleagues, this year and over the years. It dawned on me after a while that this presentation to me must have been ‘the surprise’ Cyprien had casually mentioned to me some days earlier. Suffice also to say we’ve never had anything like this before (formal presentation) unless it happened in 2017 after I’d returned to the UK.

And, post the above, apart from a little more drinking, chat, and inevitable partial room emptying for the smoking contingent, that was ‘it’ for the evening although there was a very pleasant, for me, occurrence when a very good friend from past vendanges & supa popular nice guy, Laurent (unable to work this year), arrived to collect son, Ugo, being warmly greeted by Herve, myself and others. Back to Morey and so to bed. To my amazement I slept in, without waking at all prior, to 7.00 a.m. to find pretty much all/most of the lodgers had already departed, or were departing, to their respective parts of France. My remaining days I’ll cover off in a final piece to come/conclude matters.
Marko de Morey 7th October 2018.

chästeilet, weekend wines (week 40 2018) and some happy producers…

#2017burgundyreport week 1

After my first full week of 2017 visits – see the happy, smiling, faces of the producers above – I returned home for a little relaxation: First there was my 10km Saturday morning jog from Lauterbrunnen up to Mürren with 960 vertical metres of climbing! Whilst my finishing time was my best for 3 or 4 years, my iron will cracked after 30 minutes and nearly 400 vertical metres, from here I alternately jogged and walked for 2 minutes at a time – actually, when it’s this steep, ‘marching’ is probably not much slower than jogging! I know it was only my head, because after 25 minutes of this, as I neared the Winteregg station, I, of-course, ran without problem for the remaining 30 minutes – why ‘of-course?’ Well, here were people walking who would have seen that I wasn’t running – so it was clearly all in my head, not my legs!!!

I met my better half in Mürren and a really excellent rösti for lunch was my first recompense – views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in the sunshine from our luncheon-terrace my second!

Post-lunch we walked for a little over an hour to the cable-car at Grütschalp, but en-route, just past Winteregg, we came upon a gathering of a couple of hundred people – forming a human chain and passing cheeses to one another – well, this is Switzerland!

This was the yearly Chästeilet or ‘cheese-sharing!’

Of-course we had to ask what the chästeilet was! Apparently all the farmers that have cows on this alp between May and September regularly bring their milk to this cheesery (käserei) – it is weighed so that at the end of the season the farmers get the equivalent in weight in ‘mountain cheese’, less whatever is the cheesemaker’s commission. This was the day – the first Saturday in October – that the farmers all come to collect their cheese – mainly round cheeses of 10.5 to almost 12 kg, but also some square ones – apparently for the raclette machines!

On this Chästeilete day the casual visitor couldn’t buy any cheese, but I assume every other day of the year you can buy some cheese here.

A cool tradition that we just happened upon…

Then, of-course, there were some wines over the last days:

2015 Coudert, Brouilly
Plenty of colour, yet modest for the vintage. The nose has drive and a little freshness – more than expect for the vintage and place. Yes – lovely – fresh, open yet with line and vivacity and energy to the flavours – a little dried fruit, raisins, in the middle. Open, succulent – nearly juicy – only modest weight but simply delicious wine. Bravo.

2017 Lambrays, Rosé du Clos
The recent 2014, despite its lovely colour, seemed a bit passed its best, so further investigation was required! This nose has certain freshness of fruit – unlike the cheesy-feet of the 2014 – a sweetness of melon and red fruit. In the mouth there’s good volume and a modest density and richness of freshly delivered flavour. Tasty wine – not particularly special for a rosé but a good rosé. Nice wine. It seems that it pays to drink this young – it’s not that badly priced from the wine-shop in Morey St.Denis – €15…

2015 Albert Joly, Puligny-Montrachet Les Charmes
Vines on the border with Meursault, because of that this wine always tastes more like a Meursault to me, particularly in 2015…
Wide, ripe fruit, almost golden in style. Mouth-filling, a hint of steely minerality before the mouth-wateringly ripe fruit starts to take over. Not a wine of tension despite the balance, but certainly something that is very easy to drink indeed. Always delicious, never very Puligny…

2015 Blain Soeur et Frère, Côte de Brouilly Pierre Bleue
Deeply coloured. Beautifully, fully, cherry-berry-fruited with an accent of coal. Mouth-filling volume, a good line of flavour that slowly decays in a mouth-watering style. A good freshness and clarity of fruit in the middle and it holds well in the finish too. Excellent wine, that’s well-textured and delicious.

#2017burgundyreport – chassagne but mainly meursault and some montrachet

The weather took a turn for the better today after some modest rain yesterday, though my start to the morning could have been improved on – for the 3rd time in 5 days, while parked, my car had been the object of target practice by incontinent pigeons – and I mean incontinent – I’m not sure that an ostrich could have improved on the ‘coverage.’ Once more to the ‘rincage haute pression!

It was comfortably over 20°C in the afternoon, with 26° forecast for tomorrow and Saturday – the last of the day’s sun brought a lovely light.

I had a late finish in Chassagne – only stepping out of a dim-lit cellar about 18h45 – already the sun was casting some long shadows. I managed to catch some of the last rays as I drove towards Montrachet – fittingly – as today I managed the rare feat of tasting 2 Montrachets today – who knows, there may be a third tomorrow 🙂

marko’s burgundy vendange day eleven…

Arlaud Vendange Day 11, Thursday 13th September 2018

And so to our final day. The inevitable tinge of sadness/melancholy for me that I’d soon be leaving this wondrous place, for which I have developed so much affection for over the years from first arriving in 2008. I guess quirky Morey-St-Denis is deep in my soul, along with the domaine, the terroirs, vines and fellow vendangeurs over the years. Well, there’s always another year, meantime we ain’t quite finished yet so need to address this day before we’re ‘done’. I was quietly cum confidently thinking we might just have a few local Bourgogne type terroirs to do, and that ‘management’, in all probability, were likely aiming to have us done by lunch or, at ‘worst’, just after. How wrong would I be, in reality this day turned, from my own perspective, into something of a very surprising organisational, management, debacle which was almost a nightmare – BUT we came through it !

The early morn started cloudy and a lot, lot, cooler finally – praise be – than any previous current vendange a.m. start . A bit late maybe but nevertheless welcome. My thoughts had already started to turn to what I might do in the immediate vendange aftermath (as I always want to stay a day or two for ‘me time’ and had a list of errands/missions to undertake for a long time friend) and when I might return to the UK. For now though a few first thing photos to ‘grab’, including the expectant team, waiting vehicles, sun coming up over the Raphet vegetable patch, and J-P Feral wearing his favourite (well, seems to me it’s his favourite as has made me smile in past years) tee shirt with its ‘j’ai un charme fou’ chest wording translating as ‘I have a crazy charm’ – well, guess such is one way of describing himself, but perhaps he has, oh yes – he does, bless him, a remarkable man !

Usual time, usual departure, usual absence of other teams yet in the vines (as we will be first again) but a not usual (in any way) first plot which, personally, location wise came as a big surprise as entirely new to me for the first time in nine years. Aligote (again) as well, another surprise. The sky first thing as we’d left the village had been remarkable with broken cloud shot through with a striking orange rising sun. Superb. Location wise we were again across the RN 74 east of the village, past the grande maison plot of a couple of days ago, going slightly further north on the same metalled vineyard road (Chemin des Aires ? Or the unnamed road below that ?). Map wise I’d estimate we were maybe below the edge of ‘Les Crais’ or ‘Les Cognees’, possibly as far as being in ‘Les Pertuisees’ (but maybe not that far), looking west up to the village some way off. The Aligote has looked really, really good this year, the summer must have favoured it, and Cyprien subsequently confirmed it was indeed a good year for the varietal – he said it can be difficult to get the right skin colour but no such issues this year. Both quality and quantity, some notably large bunches, including here on this early morn. First plot done we moved only a short distance for Aligote Plot 2 which took us up to after 10.00 a.m. and thereafter, on an unplanted area of rough grass/bare ground, took our by now well established casse-croute and drinks break. Seemed a little longer interlude than usual, chance to take more photos of both the team and looking up to the Morey village properties in the distance, but eventually back to work. I was still in quite relaxed, methodical, no need to ‘bust a gut’, picking mode, my mind kinda dialled in to a wishful thinking likely lunchtime or just before/after finish.

Post Aligote 1 & 2 we moved to some Bourgogne Rouge. Memory is a bit hazy here as to whether it was close to our rest area or elsewhere. I’m fairly sure it was the latter, and on the other (south) side of the village, still ‘below’ the main road, reached along the Chemin des Poisots . We were in the same sort of area we’d picked Aligote on the 7th September but some rows along, nearer to the commercial property on the top part of the Rue d’Epernay nearest to the main road, with the (long) rows running from the Chemin above up to the edge of the RN74. Long rows again here, can’t remember now if we made more than one pass, or if we doubled up – don’t think we did. A couple of photos though, taken at 12.03, as we walked along the grassed top of the vineyard just below the main road to some more rows, give some clue as to what was now happening and, for me, wheels coming off in terms of management. The sharper reader amongst anyone reading this might be ahead of me by now and thinking 12.00 = lunch (and lunch means back to our village base – unless on the Hautes-Cotes). I’ve not worn a watch for years, and don’t mean just for the vendange, and (for the vendange) don’t carry my mobile phone, taking the view I can check it lunch or evening & if someone wants me they can leave a voicemail or send a text. As such, in the vines I only tend to have a general impression what the time might be, unless I ask someone. I had asked a little earlier to be told it was 11.30 at the time but, thereafter at c12.00, it was abundantly clear we weren’t going for lunch (or not then anyway). At first, I didn’t think a lot of this, surmising we maybe hadn’t got much more to do, and thus ‘management’ had decided we would just see off the last vines. Herve had disappeared as well. Maybe he’d gone for his lunch !

One thing I’ve learnt from the vendange, if I didn’t know it already from travelling in France, is how very seriously important lunch is to the French. Quite different from the UK. So, musing on no break immediately for lunch, although confidently thinking we’d maybe soon finish altogether, I wondered how my colleagues would react. Initially, they didn’t, I guess maybe thinking the same as me, but as we continued in the same general area to move around, cutting small plots/small numbers of rows here and there, time passed and soon I was conscious of some collective unease and mutterings from some – not unreasonably I thought.

By approaching 14.30 we were about to start a ‘scruffy’ short rows section of Bourgogne Rouge I knew of old, which always has extensive foliage & is difficult to cut, now on the east side of the Chemin des Poisots where the road kinks & continues for maybe c200 yards towards the RN74. Here matters got a little more serious and, whilst I wouldn’t say there was potential mutiny, a drinks break was the catalyst for in charge Climent not unsurprisingly to come under some semi (or quite)-serious & unhappy verbal challenging of the “What on earth is going on”, “What about lunch”’ “It’s 14.30 and we’ve had no lunch” variety. Whilst to a certain extent, if it had been justified to me, I could pass on lunch, nevertheless I was pretty baffled myself what was going on and why. I think Climent got on his phone, or it rang, but can’t be sure about this but, whilst we were sitting around, and at least we were having a rest, Cyprien turned up suddenly in his Volvo SUV and started dishing out casse-croute type baguette sandwiches. Hum ! To me, it looked like there’d been a bit of a panic on to get some sort of food, belatedly, to ‘the troops’. No one offered me a sandwich; but I was standing on the fringe of the group, at the start of the latest row I’d been allocated, feeling tres fatigue (and the rest) and frankly couldn’t be bothered over a bit of chewy bread & what might be in it. I was more bothered about an explanation as to what was going on and what we were going to be doing after our latest location. No explanation was forthcoming.

Break over, we started the latest. I’d cut a couple of bunches whilst fighting & inwardly cursing foliage then, on my knees, had to duck and lean into the vine to allow a couple of others to pass by me down my row as we were numerically enough to double or triple up. All vendange I’d managed to avoid any injury, including cutting any fingers, and had settled on a great pair of striking yellow & black robust gloves I’d bought for the 2017 vendange but not worn. I’d been wearing these ideal, tough, but flexible gloves from about Day 2 or 3 – after the rubber gloves I’d started in had become ripped quickly & fallen apart – and whilst I’d nicked a couple of the glove finger tips nothing more serious had happened. But, now, the inevitable occurred and, probably distracted by ducking out of the way of the others, seriously tired, and struggling with foliage and awkward bunches, I cut the top of my left index finger in an eye watering way with a loud yelp. Fearing the worst, I gently removed the glove and, wiping some blood, realised I’d actually cut across the top of the finger nail, not quite from one side to the other. The finger nail quick, or some of it, seemed to be hanging out. Some sort of relief came from gently sucking my finger as all I could think to do and waiting a few moments for the pain to diminish. Looking again at my finger/nail I realised if there was some consolation I’d cut across the fingernail or otherwise matters might have been more serious. Pain & discomfort though was followed by some ‘red-mist’ anger ‘at the world’ as, rightly or wrongly, I was blaming our/my by now mid afternoon predicament, fatigue, etc etc for cutting myself so painfully & ironically almost at the end of the vendange. This anger sustained my gently pulling the glove back on, the glove finger tip cut open, and continuing down my row where fortunately my doubling/tripling companions had covered for my impromptu medical pause. I was still inwardly seething though as we got back on the track through the vines and walked a distance to a large tree which I knew, of old, was a ‘marker’ for the Arlaud plot of Gamay which we’d not been to for at least two years (frosted in 2016, not sure why no visit in 2017). The rows here are horizontally ‘across’, rather than up/down from Chemin to RN74, and finish on a track, on the other side of which is a PVC Windows, Doors, Conservatory business. Herve by now was back with us but just acting as a couper (picker). The quality, and quantity, of the Gamay here was quite impressive, and I might have been more impressed if the afternoon wasn’t still moving on with no apparent final end in sight. I did have something of a second (or third) wind here and picked well, finger still very painful, taking some care not to catch it again. We were doubled, or tripled, again but as we finished I realised there was someone lagging behind me (can’t recall who now) and went back to help them get ‘over the line’. As we then exited the rows, praise be, I thought I’d heard more than one mention ‘that was indeed it’, and we’d finished, with it now well after 15.00 hrs. Seizing the moment I shook hands with a few around me (which no one queried !) before taking off knee pads, gloves etc & climbing wearily into the van front seat alongside J-P Feral who, incongruously, was chomping on a large banana, having ‘recycled’ the skin by throwing into the vines.

So, I thought we’d finished ! That comfy, relaxing, thought lasted, having moved from the Chemin des Poisots going north onto the Chemin des Petites Rues, as far as the latter’s junction with the Rue des Jardins, when I realised, with deep sinking feeling, that we weren’t heading back to ‘upper’ Morey but instead were retracing our morning steps which we did until coming to a plot I well recognised. This was Bourgogne Rouge but as about as far east as it is possible to go without ‘hitting’ the railway line. We first visited this plot only a few years ago i.e it didn’t feature at all in my first years at Arlaud – whether it’s a new acquisition or has been picked by the domaine team/machine initially I couldn’t say. I think we did this in 2016 (we definitely did in 2017) but whichever of those two years is in my head it was a complete so and so of a plot to deal with. I go on about ‘long’ rows but the one’s here I’m pretty sure are the longest we do. Just what one needs late in the afternoon on a supposed (by now I was a doubter) final day. So, fatalistically, everyone seemingly past moaning or complaint by now but, like me, apparently grimly determined to see matters out, we set off down the rows – at least tripled up, myself thankfully with two ‘good uns’, Laetitia and the Japanese guy. The only laughter and chat seemed the preserve of the porteurs. And so to a staggering (for me) exit of this last row. This WAS absolutely ‘it’. Climbing one last time into the van it was 17.15 which I could hardly comprehend, about as at odds with what I’d expected as possible to imagine. I’m pretty sure this was, without a doubt, the most ‘sauvage’ and unpleasant last ‘sting in the tail’ day in my 9 year domaine vendange history – ultimately grim ! Total relief, waves of fatigue, etc etc were all mentally mixed up with bemusement at what we’d been led to throughout the day. Ultimately, I pondered, Cyprien (if not Herve although I wonder here) must have been ‘hell bent’ on our finishing on this day at all costs – which must have been/can only be the explanation for where we’d been, timings, no formal lunch etc etc – if understandable. In essence we’d had a very full day indeed (!) and finished about ‘normal time’. Incredible. I also reflected overall, as we drove back to base, just where we had been throughout the whole vendange and the sites/terroirs we’d picked. We’d been to places, despite 9 years, I’d never been to before. We MUST have picked absolutely every plot of vines the domaine owns or has on a negoce basis (except the NSG I’ve mentioned previously), certainly the ‘lesser’ sites. I psyched myself up for one last bucket & secateurs cleaning session when we got back. Arlaud have always been for me unique in that most (it seems) other domaines make a very noisy (vehicle horns etc) last return to their bases when they’ve finished and often decorate vehicles with pieces of vine branches, foliage etc but we’ve never done this, 2018 no exception, with a very quiet, everyone alone with their own thoughts, return to Morey. Manoeuvring the vehicles to finally park up in the Arlaud yard Herve called out there was no need to wash buckets or secateurs that evening – a let off of sorts although I’d have ‘happily’ done, just to draw a final line on proceedings. Heading wearily though for my room, mentally working out my evening timings, I peeled off into the washroom/ toilet ‘basement’, ‘ceremoniously’ confining my battered, almost worn out knee pads, and by now very second hand gloves, to the waste wheelie bin therein seeing no merit/need to take such back to the UK, well though those items had served me. Only remained to get my wash bag and have a shave and cleansing shower before the evening proceedings – latter to be subject of a separate ‘note’ hereafter. BUT, we’d finished, thank goodness, an ultimately satisfying, if probably longest (in days) vendange I’d worked in 11 years (9 at Arlaud). Phew ! Just one stand out ? The heat throughout, without a doubt !

Jusqu’à la prochaine 😉. Paulee, and final two days roaming detail to follow.
Marko de Morey 1st October 2018.


It’s colder. And the birds are starting to gather in the vineyards. I guess it’s Autumn!

Monday was the first day of my programme of vintage 2017 domaine visits – it was also the day of a very rare occurance – rain! Okay, only modest rain! But it was the first in this neck of the woods since the middle of the harvest – actually the end of the harvest for many white domaines – so that’s about 3 weeks – but we’ll soon have 25°C again – it’s forecast for the end of the week!

Yesterday brought visits in Puligny, Meursault and Chassagne. Today there was more Puligny and Chassagne but tomorrow I will get out a little more, adding St.Romain and Pernand!

A few views from my first two days:

marko’s burgundy vendange day ten…

Arlaud Vendange Day 10, Wednesday 12th September 2018

By now it was definite that we’d finish Thursday, although how far into Thursday, and what was left to do, weren’t clear. There was also an odd mention of a post finish Paulee celebration (but not ‘that kind of paulee were one bring’s one’s own wine – just a party with food & drink provided by Arlaud). But, as I hadn’t attended one of those for a few years – 2017’s ‘helpfully’ took place at a Chambolle restaurant circa 2 weeks after my return to the UK – and prior to that there wasn’t one for a few years, I wasn’t ‘getting my hopes up’ although, curiously, in a brief conversation, Cyprien had smilingly hinted at a surprise for me after the vendange had concluded – or at least that’s what I thought he said without remotely having a clue what he meant !

For today, Day 10, we turned out to have a full Hautes-Cotes day. I suppose if I was a lazy so and so, or was by now bored & tired with my ‘diary’, then I could take an easy option and just say ‘Hautes-Cotes’ all day and add the pictures – but that wouldn’t be ‘on’ would it 😉 ? There are plenty of pics so it will be over to Editor Nanson to make his ‘picks of the pics’.

The Hautes-Cotes chez Arlaud might be divided neatly into two distinct elements:- 1) the owned, high trained, short but steeply sloped Chardonnay site, below/on the way to Arcenant; and 2) the quite large, negoce, plot of Pinot Noir on a plateau, high above Vosne, the nearest human habitation of note the hamlet(s) of Concouer-Corboin which, in addition to viticulture, seem to specialise in blackcurrant growing, presumably for cassis etc, and maybe other fruits.

Our first destination, sensibly, as its both the furthest away and does not take long at all to ‘do’ was the Chardonnay site. This is reached for you geography buffs by taking the D25 from those dratted (much scope here for a ruder word or two) traffic light cross roads on the north side of Nuits – in my circa 2 weeks on the Cote I must have passed through this junction innumerable times and never once ‘managed’ to ‘get the traffic lights on ‘green’. Moving out of Nuits, having passed the Intermarche supermarket, one enters a green, wooded, valley of the Le Meuzin river, passing the La Gentilhommiere hotel before one comes to, and passes through, the village of Meuilley. I really like the look of Meuilley, albeit I’ve only ever seen it in limited scope from vendange transport, but it strikes me as the sort of place, if I were to ever have a place in France (I wish), which would suit me well. There’s some very nice looking, older, property. Meuilley is also home to the redoubtable Jean-Pierre Feral, long time, 70+ vendangeur, and my regular van front seat companion. Today, though, given our travel, J-PF would join us in his Citroen once we arrived. From Meuilley we continue on the D25 vers Arcenant, until we arrive/stop at a large, grassy area on a sweeping bend before Arcenant (another village I’d look to properly look at – Aurelien Verdet is an occupant here who’s wines I know a little of and who’s cuverie I’d like to visit). Leaving the vehicles on the grassy area we cross the road and take a path/rough track upwards to the right with vines commencing immediately, high trained Pinot Noir. We continue up this track for maybe a quarter of a mile before coming to the Arlaud plot of, also high trained, Chardonnay. I’ve never counted how many rows Arlaud have here but there must be perhaps 5 or 6. The vines are planted up/down slope which is notably steep. The gaps between the rows are very wide, why I’m not sure, more than wide enough for a vineyard tractor (though too steep for one of those me thinks), probably wide enough for 2, possibly 3, such machines. Being high trained means picking is something of a joy compared to the Cote’s low vines and little serious bending is required. We work these vines normally two vendangeurs to a row, but either side, so one has to be careful unless between you it might be you agree to individually work different sections between posts. In this case I was paired with always highly enthusiastic 17 yr old youngster, Ugo, but as we had enough bodies, the sole, very pleasant Japanese guy (never knew his name, shame on me – in one photo from here with white top, blue neckerchief, grey pants) on the team also joined us. I really like this plot, the vines always seem highly productive in terms of Chardonnay grape volumes, this year no exception. The wine I’ve had in differing vintages has always been very much enjoyed (I must get some !) but is not, as far as I’m aware, imported to the UK – a sad omission, someone’s ‘missing a trick’ imho. What is utterly essential, as seemingly always key in picking white grapes properly, is thorough leaf stripping to make sure no fruit is missed. Its ‘easy’ to pick the big bunches, naturally less so with smaller one’s, when leaf growth is exuberant. It was quite a chilly morning here as we left Morey and arrived on the site but as the sun got going it was just glorious. The rolling, lush green, topography and view over to Arcenant all quite picturesque, with a pleasant, satisfied feeling of accomplishment stroll back to the transport (see photo captioned ‘picturesque walk etc). So, all quite smartly over & done with, and off we go to what will, somewhat differently, occupy us for the rest of the day.

From the grassy sward roadside below Arcenant we drop back down the D25 until it’s ‘back on itself’ turn off/junction with the D109 just by the roadside, interesting looking, Restaurant Le Meuzinc. The D109 initially climbs steeply uphill until levelling out somewhat heading to Concoeur but before we arrive there, we go right, taking a narrower twisty road with a couple more turns onto a track until we come to the expansive, plateau area, crossed by large electricity pylons. On our right are the innumerable area of vines, to our left a large rough grassed area (see ‘team rest’ photos) which goes into the distance. If one were to continue up the track and down the far side of the plateau/ escarpment one would come to Nuits or Vosne. The lower edge of the plateau is shielded by trees/hedge as is the ‘top’ boundary we initially work our way up to which has a lovely, small, house in the top right corner (looking up site from bottom left). The site slopes gently upwards from the bottom corner where we arrive to the top boundary, also wooded, before the ground drops away on the far side. Beyond the top edge, and through the hedge to the left, is another large area of high trained vines. I’ve no idea who’s these are (maybe multiple ownership) but I’ve often, in previous years, seen this worked/cut by the ‘dreaded’ harvesting machine(s). In terms of machines I’d hardly seen any this year so far, literally only one or two, and those on the main roads, but Bill told me he’d seen many more than I. One of my memories from 2017 was being shocked to witness a harvesting machine picking next to us one morning in Chambolle Bussieres, not least as it was working for Raphet, with Gerard Raphet observing. So much for the domaine claiming, or at least the North Berkeley Imports site claim, ‘Harvest is done by hand’ – well, not for the above site, last year, at least.

Initially, we ‘tooled up’ (buckets, secateurs etc) and Climent commenced allocating us our individual rows. Speedy, always Crocs footwear & pink bandana wearing, Laetitia had the first, outside, row which was shorter, as angled to the track boundary, with me next, full length row, and Cedric inside next to me. We were about to start, indeed I recall I might have picked a bunch or two, before we were called to a halt, told to leave buckets at the start of one’s row, and assemble for the drinks/casse croute break – made sense but why we’d been about to set off I’m not sure – maybe Climent had initially forgotten the break ! Since leaving the near Arcenant Chard site and arriving here the temperature had climbed, and to some extent continued to do so, but whilst by now an utterly glorious day on this plateau, it never got ridiculously hot as around Morey and there was the occasional gentle, most welcome, breeze. I’ve seen some very ‘varied’ weather up here over the years since we first came here in 2013, memory particularly always to remain ‘scarred’ by the horrors of Oct 2013’s late harvest freezing cold and wet, to say nothing of the extensive rot, but 2018 is absolutely the best visit ever – everything ‘just right’. The grapes were as clean as ever and plenty of volume, again if not just to 2107 level. Indeed, it seemed, as we progressed, getting much further up the rows (away from the trucks until the latter were moved to plot top edge), that the porteurs were struggling to ‘keep up’. Laetitia finished her shorter row in good time, although I was slightly chuffed she hadn’t left me too far way behind, and I was ‘up’ on Cedric and feeling good/going well. Laetitia moved into the top of my row and worked down towards me, such that we eventually met. By then I’d come to an enforced stop as my bucket was full to overflowing, if not way over full. I managed to pick a few more vines by adding to the by now adjacent/approaching Laetitia’s bucket before the inevitable – her’s became as full as mine leaving us both ‘stopped’, as was Cedric, & having to wait a few minutes to be relieved of our burdens by easy going porteur, Jackie’, he of the extravagant, well manicured, twirl ending moustache.

We continued methodically working the rows, helping others we might finish before, up until lunch. There was quite a lot of aerial activity up here on this day of both the natural and ‘man made’ varieties. I think we must have been maybe directly above, or on the flight path to, the aerodrome near Nuits (think I’m right in saying there is one ?). That aerodrome though would not have catered for the French Air Force jets that overflew. The most spectacular was a formation of five such jets that, if not an actual aerobatic team, certainly looked/flew like one, coming over very low, late morning, slidingly inter changing formation positions in ultra slick fashion as they did so. Jaw droppingly impressive. Individually almost as impressive, maybe more so in noise and speed, were the couple of delta winged (Mirage ?) fighter/fighter bomber jets that also came over singly at different points. The first one must have been travelling at ‘some’ speed as initially I looked towards the noise, failed to spot anything, then looking right realised the actual jet was way further on, disappearing rapidly into the distance going north. A number of light planes also flew low over during the day together with a large, noisy, very low helicopter in the afternoon. Lunch, the full monte of entrée, main and dessert, was ‘al fresco’, being brought to us in the outside caterers sealed (for keeping warm) boxes, by Cyprien in his Volvo along with drinks, cutlery, etc etc. Made sense as to return to Morey for lunch & come back would have cost a lot of time. Wife, Carole, also arrived with the three youngest pre school age children. I can’t now, for the life of me, remember what we ate. Was a relaxed affair with individuals sat on upturned fruit cases, buckets, or in open vehicle doors/rears. Having eaten I initially had a wander, first going along the plot edge (we lunched at the top, the vans having been brought up) to the top southern corner to have a look at a lovely small house I’ve always admired/coveted which sits there. Must just be a superb place to live, if remote, and maybe not a bundle of laughs in the winter (more of that below). I didn’t want to get too close and be too nosey but its an ace property. All was so still here as well, my colleagues some way from me, just birdsong and breeze in the foliage behind me. Lovely ! Retracing my steps back past the team and vehicles I took a right, thinking I would progress beyond our boundary and maybe look over the escarpment edge to any views down on Nuits/Vosne. More vines were on my left, shrubs and thickets on my right. It was getting a lot hotter ! I went some distance without coming to the vista I anticipated, the ground not dropping away as quickly as I thought it might but, wary of picking re-commencing with me stranded, thought it best I get back quickly just in case. I had no need to fear as everyone was still in post lunch relaxing mode. As I turned back onto our site I noted a green post box set back from the track on my left, not quite in the bushes. I was quite surprised, if not quite taken aback, to note the names on the box, which was clearly for the house above, were Denis Berthaut (of the eponymous Fixin domaine), his wife, and charming daughter Amelie who, of course, has now followed her father as the Domaine Berthaut winemaker and seems to be making quite a name for herself. I have some of her 2013 wines (Fixin, Gevrey, Vosne) bought EP, as yet untried. Getting back to the vehicles, I saw a pair of some sort of raptor (birds of prey) coming towards the vines from the north, seemingly quartering the ground for prey but, seeing us, they moved away amongst the pylons and disappeared. I came to Cyprien and Carole and mentioned noting the Berthaut ‘presence’. Cyprien explained to me the house is for summer occupation as it only has gas bottle, and small wind turbine, energy, plus of course he cited winter weather and access as ‘out of season’ issues. All very interesting. With the team still lazing about I noted Herve was cleaning all the team secateurs in a couple of buckets so gave him a hand. As we finished washing them he counted them from bucket to bucket, arriving at a total of 30 – the one he was looking for. He’s always been appropriately very keen on accounting for the secateurs. Was interesting for me to be aware we were now a team of c30, still quite sizeable, and adequate for what we were doing, if some way off the peak number of 47 (listed anyway) at vendange start.

Eventually we re-commenced the afternoon ‘shift’. A word, mentioned in past years, but for any new readers, about the ground on this site. It’s the normal/usual type earth interspersed with small rocks/stones from the bottom edge of the plot where we started but, as one progresses up the rows, the stones/rocks become progressively more prevalent and larger, such that by the top edge of the plot the ground is covered by very large rocks and flat stones which can be difficult to walk on, and worse to kneel on ! I’ve not walked amongst Chateuneuf-du-Pape’s galet vineyards but am guessing the top section of ‘our site might be vaguely similar. The afternoon continued with solid graft. The rows are long here. In addition to the full team circa mid-afternoon drinks break either the porteurs, Herve or Climent moved amongst us with water vessel and plastic cups for quick drinks. And so to late afternoon which would have finished unremarkably except, for your’s truly, with another porteur ‘clash’. Am not wishing to wrongly give any impression I’m picking fights here & there but if something’s palpably wrong and working against the greater team good I’m not just going to rollover and accept it. In this instance, I’d finished my last full row quite well and as usual used my own initiative, or was directed, to help others. Initially I helped finish a couple of rows that were almost done. I then volunteered myself to Climent who pointed me to 3 or 4 rows adjacent where the pickers were quite a shocking distance up the rows, some way from finishing. The guys here were not the quickest and it wasn’t necessarily a surprise to see one or two of them understandably ‘lagging’ nearing the end of the afternoon and in long rows. I made my way up one row to join the individual therein and started at the next piquet (stake post) from where he was. I’d noted, with a little inward disquiet, as I’d walked up the row that the common denominator for this lagging group was their porteur. This was a big, local, guy – a regular annual porteur by the name of Cyril. I think it would be fair to say that probably even Cyril’s family, friends & associates would not credit him as a gentleman of ‘finesse’. I’d long noted his lack of mechanical sympathy, if only with vehicles, it being notable that whilst he often drove a truck aggressively from domaine start in the morning to whatever our first site might be, he was never then called upon to drive between sites and cuverie, but then became a porteur. I’ve never seen him cut grapes and doubt he ever would which is ok if he’s first class in his chosen area. It didn’t take me long to grasp just what might have been impacting this ‘lagging’ group to impinge on performance/efficiency. After about the 4th or 5th quasi bullying demand from Cyril to me (and others around me) that I empty my far from full bucket, such was his demanding frequency, often when I was on my knees, or might have just dropped to my knees, that I ‘snapped’ and in the best limited French I could muster sort of gave a shocked Cyril a ‘piece of my mind’. He responded with something unintelligible to me, not with anger, but by then I was picking again and ignored him. Within a couple of minutes, seemingly from a pathetically tale telling Cyril going straight to him, Climent arrived on the scene. Fair shout to Climent, his first words to me were “Did I want another porteur”? The answer to that was “No, not necessarily but, hang on, we need to talk……….” as here was the chance for the moral high ground, then and for the future if necessary. Abandoning picking for the moment, with the guys around me standing & listening, and in my best mix of French & English (it helped Climent has some English) I avoided undue personalising but, genuinely stressing and coming from the team efficiency and best working practice angles, I outlined to Climent (whom I think had ‘got it’ already) that it was no coincidence the guys around me were behind and needed help, and that a large influencing factor thereto was the ridiculously inefficient, bogging down way, that Cyril had ‘brought to proceedings’ by constantly seeking not full bucket emptying at far too regular intervals, and in so doing constantly having the guys up and down. Only as I now type this, as didn’t occur to me at the time, am I now realising there was more than likely ‘method in Cyril’s madness’ in that, doubtless once he had a part filled case, he could troll off to the truck and have a rest, drink & smoke before coming back & causing more discord/slowing down. To digress slightly here, Cyril was one of just a couple of guys who’s embraced vaping, something personally I abhor more than smoking. Cyril’s vape (correct term ?) of choice was something with a particularly obnoxious, sickly sweet, odour which I seriously objected to having clouds of blown in my vicinity, albeit this was nothing to do with the current spat & I never mentioned it. Back to the issue, I guess the guys who’s buckets he was insisting on emptying didn’t realise the collective ‘disruption’, as in one or two cases first year participants, or otherwise not realising what was going on. Coming new to the scene I quickly did and wasn’t for taking lying (or kneeling) down ! The discussion between self and Climent concluded with his nodding, not disagreeing, but leaving us to continue with not just Cyril who stationed himself in the row farthest from me (!) but with another porteur or two of the more sympathique variety, one of whom winked to me. Climent also rounded up the by now resting, nattering, rest of the team and applied them to work from the bottom of the rows we were struggling in such that the efforts of the whole team soon wrapped things up in a suitably peaceful environment. There were no interested or intrigued questions to me as we walked back to the vehicles, nor was I avoided, hence I’m quite sure the collective knew what had gone on and were in total support or doubtless I’d have been in for different treatment ! Vendange politics eh 😉 ? There can be a lot more to ‘this game’ than just a bucket & secateurs ! As a postscript I heard nothing more, be it from Herve as we left the site (and he’d have surely mentioned if I were in the wrong, nor afterwards from Cyprien, and most intriguingly the next day Cyril seemed to go out of his way to pleasantly greet, and even high five, me !!! Definitely a moral victory but all wholly unnecessary in the first instance.

And so we left the Hautes-Cotes plateau for another year, but I’d definitely seen it at its ‘best’ this year, and in a wholly different, more positive, light than any previous year. It had been just glorious. Our route back to Morey was wholly different to the one we came in by but of course we’d come thro Nuits & to the Chard site initially. Coming off the site, past all the blackcurrant cultivation (which must have irrigation judging by the flexible hosepiping along the rows of bushes) we turned north on the D109 with Concoeur off to our left and headed towards Corboin but taking a right at a crossroads and heading on down into Vosne-Romanee still on the D109. This is an interesting drive as leave the wooded slopes behind & emerge into the Vosne vineyards. The road initially passes between ‘Les Barreaux’ and ‘La Combe Brulee’ before passing through ‘Aux Brulees’ (ummm makes me thinks of the Rene Engel version – sadly no longer !) with some nifty, posh stone walling in these sites, then sweeps right now between ‘Les Suchots’ to the left and initially ‘Les Richebourgs’ to the right before also on this side coming to Romanee St-Vivant. Then into the village on the north side, past various well known vigneron name properties, Herve also pointing me to the premises of DRC before we headed to, and left onto, the RN74 and so back to Morey for bucket/secateurs cleaning, own gear cleaning, and a reviving biere or two from the Pub d’Arlaud. I don’t think it was this evening, but maybe 2/3 before but, after cleaning duties I’d been heading for my room which direction had taken me towards the entrance gates and noted a BMW X6 in our gateway (shared with the old Raphet premises). The driver called towards me that he was looking for the Arlaud premises with my confirming he was in the right place. By way of further explanation he told me he had a beer delivery! Honestly have to say I’ve never seen beer in bulk (here 6 x small metal barrels) delivered by a BMW X6 !! I helped his reversing all the way to the top of the yard (the passage way for vehicles to the open yard from the road is a bit tight and narrow) where the relaxing guys enjoying their late afternoon beers were more than happy to help the BMW driver unload. Needless to say he was from the company who’d supplied all the beer dispensing equipment and liquid itself. Curiously he didn’t want to take any empty barrels but left them for a later date. Our beer supplies were assured to the end of the vendange – well done whoever ordered the additional supplies !! Reckon it would be fair to say no one was missing previous years end of day red or white wine !

The above was more or less ‘it’ for the day but I had another evening appointment in Beaune so, getting changed and presentable, I headed off leaving the other lodgers to their liquid refreshments and pending evening meal. My soirees to Beaune involved a little personal responsibility which came with the keys to the roadside huge, metal, front gates. These are always locked at night and wall side attached metal bars put in situ, with a pair of inner gates also shut, one of which has a reinforcing bar to the passage way wall . I’d learnt in a previous year, thro bitter experience of being locked out late at night, due to ‘someone’ who’d been deputed to leave locking the gates until I returned forgetting me (!), that it was vital I had the keys. On that historic occasion I’d only got in by making so much noise, including car horn, to waken someone to let me in, that I’d probably woken most of Morey – but the undesirable alternative then would have been (trying to) sleep in the car on the Morey car park !! Herve was always happy for me to take a set (of the very large keys) trusting me to do the necessary. This was fine, the only ‘issue’ being the lock was a complete ‘so and so’, badly in need, I think, of lubrication. I struggled on every occasion with locking the gates from the inside and always for some reason could only lock via reaching through the bars and locking from the outside. On this night I’d expected, as the norm, everyone to be in bed, but was surprised to see a few of the guys still in the refectory entrance playing cards & drinking beers. Joining them briefly with no intention of staying I quickly realised domaine full timer, Cedric, a Dijon resident and boyfriend/partner of sweet Japanese, Kaito, was present (which he ordinarily certainly would not have been by this time). Its not uncommon for some of the domaine full time guys to join us for evening dinner but they disappear to their homes thereafter. Clearly Cedric hadn’t and, worse, he was ‘rocking’ and rather ‘worse for wear’ – I could only assume too many beers !!! He was the only one of the group, all of whom were ready for bed as I walked up and about to disperse, who was so ‘well oiled’ but clearly he was (absolutely) in no fit state to drive his Toyota Auris hybrid back to Dijon and thus needed a bed – which he asked me for there and then !!! Why me for heaven’s sake ???? Not only did he ask me for a bed & state himself he could not drive (he had trouble standing suitably straight & upright !) but, whilst I was taking in this state of affairs, he took out his phone, rang Kaito, then passed me his phone & asked me to speak to her – great, thanks a lot !!! Why me 2??? Needless to say Kaito (thank heaven her English is pretty good) was as surprised to have me on her partner’s phone as I was to be thrust into speaking to her in such circumstances. I’m pretty sure, I’m quick like this 😉, that she was far from ‘best pleased’ at Cedric’s absence from Dijon and why but, bless her, she took it well (with me anyway) and seemingly at least relieved that the ‘responsible Englishman’ would look after her well oiled partner. Next ‘problem’ was finding the wobbling, speech slurring, Cedric a spare bed as I could not immediately think there was a spare anywhere, be it in the gate house or the other atelier rooms myself and the other lodgers occupied. Fair to say desperation was coming to mind but, doing my best to try and not wake anyone, looking in the other front room on the landing before mine, I was hugely relieved to see just one spare bed. This, I’m sure, ordinarily belonged to one of the four young guys from Brittany but as he clearly wasn’t occupying it, and seemingly would not (I’d locked up after all), I took a chance and guided the inebriated Cedric to it for sleeping off/overnight purposes.

And on that bizarre note I quickly got myself into bed to end a very full Day 10 – one day to go !
Marko de Morey 29th September 2018

offer of the day – domaine leflaive 2017 – bargain alert!

Actually that last part was joke – but I do almost see restraint in the increase for the Chevalier-Montrachet 🙂

Prices of their 2016s and 2015s, in that order, in the brackets (for even older prices to 2012 you can look here.)…

DOMAINE LEFLAIVE 2017 – Puligny-Montrachet (En Primeur)
Pouilly-Fuissé 75cl 49.00 Swiss Francs* (37.00 Swiss francs in 2015)
Rully 1er Cru Leflaive & Associés 75cl 49.00 (first offer)
Bourgogne 75cl 45.00 Swiss Francs (42.00, 38.00)
Puligny-Montrachet 75cl 89.00 (82.00, 69.00)

Puligny-Montrachet Les Clavoillons 75cl 128.00 (118.00, 89.00)
Meursault Sous Le Dos d’Âne 75cl 128.00 (118.00, 99.00)
Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières 75cl 198.00 (185.00, 145.00)
Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes 75cl 198.00 (185.00, 185.00)
Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles 75cl 259.00 (245.00, 195.00)

Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet 75cl 498.00 (459.00, 325.00)
Bâtard-Montrachet 75cl 565.00 (498.00, 348.00)
Chevalier-Montrachet 75cl 695.00 (685.00, 445.00)

*As each year from the same merchant – no magnums in the offer this year. The last time I purchased was 2012 for magnums of Pucelles – as a comparison, they cost 355 swiss francs each. These prices are delivered in Switzerland, without the additional 8% Swiss purchase tax which you should include.

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