Why Big Red Diary?

harvest day 13 – 4-oct-2016

 Our 7am accompaniment – some days they can be very loud!

Our last day of grapes began with a trip to Gevrey-Chambertin – on our collection list today was Lavaux St.Jacques and Chambertin.

The morning sky was as clear as can be, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better early morning view of Mont Blanc – a shame that my camera wasn’t to hand in our truck. The clear night had sent the temperatures tumbling – some higher spots in the Hautes Côtes were even touched with a little frost…

The light from the early morning sun on the Côte St.Jacques was really super – the team of our grower was already well underway at 8am, picking in Lavaux. And what grapes – see the images below – this was the best fruit of our 2016 campaign, marginally besting those Charmes-Chambertin grapes towards the end of last week. These grapes from Lavaux provided only one disappointment – we got the equivalent of only 1.5 barrels worth – normally we have two…

Next we drove to Chambertin, and the grower here bussed in a complete team – it seemed from the continent of Africa – most of the women with mud-painted (style) faces – yet in the vines they were as fast and efficient as any team I’ve ever seen picking. 40 cases for us, 40 cases for another producer and just under forty for the final producer. The first booked producer (who is new to this contract) was on site at 9h00, but his cases hadn’t arrived – much to annoyance of his courtier – and to the amusement of everybody-else. I’m sure the courtier would be able to console himself afterwards in his Range-Rover 🙂

Back to our base in Beaune, and Maranges 1er Cru was on the triage table. These were just fabulous grapes – the first pallet with virtually nil to triage – but subsequent pallets had quite a bit of unripe fruit – such a shame to throw it all away – and despite this being the very last day of our harvest, (at least some of) these grapes could have benefited from at least another 3-4 days on the vine. Like yesterday (Monday) our hands were slowly turning blue triaging this fruit – definitely a day for extra layers of clothing, despite the bright sun.

 Perfect Lavaux – and entirely representative of our 1.5 barrels…

Post-lunch, came the Lavaux. Simply fabulous fruit – see above – and like the Charmes, at least visually, close to perfection – a great vintage beckons for certain wines. Part of this went into the tank as perfect whole-clusters. Lastly came the Chambertin; not the absolute optical class of either the Lavaux or the Charmes, but really as good as I’ve seen from this producer/vineyard – and I’ve seen it every year since 2004! Interestingly today, our three parcels of fruit showed zero raisined/mildewed fruit – such a pleasure.

Okay, now it is just pigeage and pumping over for the next days – a number of our tanks are slowly fermenting with temperatures in the mid-20°s – more on those when I return to Beaune next week. Now it’s the final whistle for our 2016 harvest and time for a few days back home…

harvest day 12 – 3-oct-2016

 The aftermath of lots of Santenay…

That was a day!

And a Santenay day, at that. Our triage table started rolling at 08h30, it stopped at 19h00 – the cleaning wasn’t finished until 21h00…

To be honest, it was a hard day’s work, because (at least) our parcels of Santenay had quite a bit of rot (porriture/botrytis) to remove – to a lesser extent some under-ripe fruit too, amd that was despite most of the Côte de Beaune already having finished their harvest. I also noted that some of the fruit seemed a little less robust than what I’d experienced to-date. To be honest I needed 30 minutes to warm-up over lunch – it was only 5 or 6°C this morning, and 4 hours of standing on one spot takes its toll! Every pause was spent in the sunshine, rather than the shade of the triage table 🙂

We did about 80% Santenay villages, the rest being premier cru Santenay Clos Rousseau. The 1er cru was a little cleaner so easier to deal with.

That leaves us with a nice trio for tomorrow – and the last grapes of our harvest – Maranges 1er Croix Aux Moines, Gevrey 1er Lavaux St.Jacques and finally, Chambertin.

arlaud vendange diary – day 5

Arlaud Vendange Day 5, Wednesday 28th Sept 2016

2016_0928lescargot-in-chambolle-bussieres-800x600Day started early with my taking my car down to VW Ladoix to leave with them to fit a new left side rear window to replace the temporary and not very fetching cardboard and tape. Daniel (Le Carp) followed me down there in Serge’s Touran to fetch me back. I was of course too late back to get out start wise to the vines with the rest of the gang so we went to the cuverie as Daniel’s place of work & for me to await the arrival of one of the camions with first cut fruit to hitch a ride back to wherever the action was. Sure enough Rene rocked up and once he’d unloaded we got back to Chambolle Village terroir, if nearer Morey than C-M. Another stunning, sunny, clear blue sky, day weather wise in prospect. We moved around 4 or 5 plots of C-M Village through the morning. Mix of fruit dependant on which plot, or even which vine, but the good was looking very good, akin to Morey Clos Solon from the day before. Saw my first of many large snails attached to a vine who’s fruit I was dealing with – they all turned out to be same shades of dark brown with cream stripe. Serge later told me they are highly prized in Poland – well, the Poles are welcome to them. My one and only escargot (cooked) experience is not one I’d rush to repeat. We finished the morning close to the nearest to Chambolle back corner of Roumier’s Clos de la Bussiere. Another domaine were embarking on their transport close by – Herve told me it was the H Lignier team.

After lunch came a bit of a shock – back to Roncevie yet AGAIN ! Well, I suppose this is a fact of life when the domaine has circa 5 ha. I did finally believe after this latest effort, which lasted longer than Tuesday’s post lunch Roncevie session, that we’ve finally now ‘done’ with Roncevie but can I say that with confidence ? Errr, no, we’ll see.

What came next though, if not for the rest of the afternoon, was just the real deal tremendous. Our post Roncevie destination was Gevrey 1er ‘Combottes’ and its aged vines chez Arlaud. Wow, wow, wow ! This was just seriously impressive in every way. Maybe not the ultimate max volume but appeared very useful and, as usual, with this Combottes a real mix of type of grapes from millerandage variety (always a feature here) to the full & voluptuous. Just a joy to pick here, any fatigue thoughts banished. We were doubled up two folk to a row, one at the bottom, one starting half way up. I managed to wangle a mid row start to ensure I ended up at the patch of grass ‘summit’ at the top of the parcel. We must have collectively kept the porteurs pretty busy in volume terms as there were a couple of fullish crates at the top and I stumbled out of my row with a full bucket looking for a home. Short break only for a drink (water !) and Herve moved us along a ways towards Clos de la Roche to work our way down some separate Combottes rows back to the road & our vehicles. Again little or no other domaine activity round and about – very odd but for my part I’m very comfortable Cyprien has got his timing right. Some of the smaller bunches detached with ease and the larger bunches looked pretty ripe to me.

I can’t really get my head around what’s been happening to date but am quickly getting there ! What I mean here is that, prior to coming out, pretty much most things I’d read or heard were what a disastrous year this is/would be. I get that for parts of the Cote de Beaune no problem, as Christine Dubreuil had outlined, and then had ‘evidence’ for my own eyes of the frost damaged parts of Roncevie (not all though), other plots of Bourgogne Rouge, and the Aligote – the latter not producing anything like I’ve seen in other good or not so good years. However, the fruit of Echezeaux was a first sighter of what has since emerged / continues to emerge, even though volume there was markedly down (I’ll get a figure from Cyprien if I think on). Once we moved away from the ‘base’ appellation stuff and flat lands though things (on the slopes) have improved immeasurably e.g Clos Solon yesterday, Chambolle Village this morning, and now jaw droppingly Combottes. My experience of so called lesser vintages is that Combottes, or the bottom part particularly, is always prone to some rot or mildew etc but all looked encouragingly good now.

If Combottes was not enough our ‘cup then overfloweth’ as Herve led us, en pied, almost like a school children’s outing, along the roadside grass verge from Combottes to one of ‘the Daddies’ – Clos de la Roche (further than it looks !). Before I forget, here I’d better mention the pics I’ll be sending to Bill taken from around midday onwards have come out rather ‘dark’. As always will be up Bill what he prefers to ‘publish’ & maybe he considers they will be too ‘dark’ but it was only when I came to download them did I realise something was amiss. It turned out both the settings ‘wheels’ on top of my Canon G16 had inadvertently been moved from the default auto settings hence the ‘dark’ shots – a crying shame & frustrating. I was ‘brushed’ by a porteur with case on his back just before lunch and my uncovered camera (looped around my neck/shoulder so that I can keep it on my back out of usual harm’s way whilst cutting) I can only think might have taken a brush also – on which basis maybe I was lucky there was nothing more serious.

Clos de la Roche (‘CdlR’) well, cor blimey guv, from this proud Lancastrian was just the male pooch nether regions. Gobsmackingly beautiful looking ripe fruit and lots of it. The best yet ? Who knows, bit different from Combottes which maybe had more ‘finesse’ from millerandage etc but for me the CdlR grapes, in my row anyway (always that caveat), were breathtakingly, jaw droppingly fantastic. Note to self think about CdlR as a 2016 must have – acknowledging the wine has to be ‘made’ yet. This just lifted the end of the day spirits for me to a very special place despite my inevitable fatigue. Trudging back to the Jumpy, stripping off knee pads and single left hand glove, looking up CdlR slope to in the sunshine all of a sudden the world, or my world, was a very special, ‘lifted’, place. I’m a lucky (59 yr old) boy to be doing this and with great people. Be anywhere else ? No thanks, this is the best.

Subsequently I quizzed cuverie located Basile on how our afternoon efforts went down. To no great surprise he confirmed, grinning that Basile behind the specs grin, that Cyprien was very happy (he should be) but to my alternative surprise advised Cyp preferred the Combottes grapes.

What a just cracking day though, superb. Onto day 6, could D5 be surpassed, yes, actually/amazingly it could – stay tuned pop burg pickers!

arlaud vendange diary – day 4

Arlaud Vendange Day 4, Tuesday 27th Sept 2016

Am starting to type this at 6.24 a.m Saturday morning, grabbing some rare free time, having managed to get Day 3 stuff to Bill last night. Its raining outside and has been heavily overnight I think so today (Saturday) could be ‘hilarious’ but lets not get ahead of ourselves. Back to Tuesday which essentially almost divides neatly into Bourgogne Roncevie and Morey Village.

All morning we dealt with various parcels of Roncevie, mostly nearer the road, the top section as it were in my parlance. The grapes here were mostly ok if not in the volume of past years but one could come to a particularly laden vine which would challenge your bucket. Weather was once again blue sky, bright sunshine glorious once past early morning. Seems we are truly blessed with this first week’s weather, really too hot in the afternoons. The Morey centre car park was still relatively lightly populated and neither was there ‘great’ activity in the vines – seems a little odd this year in timings etc. Neither Perrot-Minot nor Taupenot-Merme seem to have got going yet, nor have I noticed Clos des Lambrays activity but could be mistaken re the latter. Anyway, an otherwise unremarkable morning of graft saw us to lunch – once some of us had cleaned buckets and secateurs.

Post lunch saw just a brief return to Roncevie, but not for long, then en vehicule not so far to Morey Clos Solon. Here we pitched up next to the team from Domaine Regis Forey. Nothing had quite prepared me for what happened next though which was just an incredible quantity and apparent quality from Clos Solon the likes of which I’d never seen here before. Quite breathtaking and all the more surprising given what we’d been seeing/dealing with previously. It was as if the grapes had taken a large hierarchical leap with higher plot classification.

Once we’d seen off Clos Solon we moved just yards away, and cutting, towards the road in Morey Seuvrees. The rows here were long, great weight of fruit again so this was a bit of a slog for this old man such that I was glad when time was called on our day. Evening meal saw Le Carp arrive on our plates. Daniel, of the Chasseurs vendange longstanding ‘gang of four’, normal day location at the head of the triage conveyor feeding it with cases, role including loading, unloading, and case washing (via machine), had been in self appointed ‘charge’ of the fish which he’d previously dismembered to remove head, fins, tail, innards etc and by the time the casseroled end result appeared on our plates it was as various sized pieces of fish. I can’t now recall what it was served with, may have been some yellow rice, but whilst I was expecting something muddy and unexciting tasting, the actual reverse was true, it really was quite delicious – very tasty indeed & a first time real treat. Those monks of the middle ages sure knew a thing or to with their wine, fish breeding, agriculture etc !

Unfortunately my evening closed with traveller hippy type Sebastian wanting to unburden himself and his life on me, seemingly wanting some sort of 3rd party (i.e me) psycho analysis of himself. I didn’t really need this nor want to get involved, all the more so when I realised besides his rolled cigarettes he had a small packet of something else which I’d better not go into. The issue of his night time loud music was ‘aired’ such that I was confident that would not re-occur.

And so to bed. Day 5 to come saw car frustrations but finished on very high, including domaine grand cru note.

some sunday pics – puligny & gevrey…


A morning wander around Puligny was followed by a late afternoon walk around Gevrey. Very few people were harvesting today, despite really beautiful – if much cooler – weather, at least there is some wind, so probably not much problem with rot after the rain of Saturday. I saw Florent Garaudet harvesting some Puligny villages in the morning, and just popped into Domaine Pierre Damoy to say ‘hi’ as I saw them triaging. They are far from finished (they are late pickers) but had some beautiful Bourgogne rouge fruit that came from the commune of Fixin.

arlaud vendange diary – day 3


Arlaud Vendange Day 3, Monday 26th Sept 2016

The aforementioned rest day arrives. ‘Overslept’ until 7.30, extremely fatigued by the previous two days exertions, but was still first into the refectoire. Boy though, was I stiff in the legs and hips areas. Initially, I concentrated on computing, writing, camera downloads & photo editing – all very time consuming.

Main event/focus of the morning from this unexpected free time was to get myself and the car down to the VW Dealership in Ladoix, somewhere I’d passed many times but never for a second thought I’d venture through the gates, let alone the showroom door. Quite entertaining experiencing a French dealership – seemed just the same, barring the language as the English ones. Eventually, in my limited French, having sought to explain my predicament and car repair required, I ended up sat with smiley, cheery, Fred, who seemed to be some sort of chief mechanic, if a youngish guy, and in (clean) overalls (other than the ‘regulation’ whites shirts and seeming de rigeur tight, narrow pants of the salesroom guys). Fred came out to my poor damaged Bora with me, inspected it briefly, taking a photo of the window with his phone and noting its VW details. We then returned to the showroom and his computer where he proceeded to take all my details bar my inside leg measurement ! My UK Post Code seemed to cause notable consternation in terms of entering but eventually, surmounting the language barrier between us, he seemed confident the repair would be straightforward but, as I’d fully expected, they’d need to get the part in (the window glass). He suggested that would be the next day so I promised to return with the car and leave it, Fred for his part suggesting only Tuesday morning would be needed and I could call back for it Tues lunch or evening. Hum !!!! The best laid plans……………see later.

I’d used my run down to Ladoix & back to Morey to spot the small roadside arrow signs pointing to domaine locations, mentally filing these away, for possible future visits e.g. D…… & Ravaut. On the way back rambled my way through sleepy Chambolle, not much happening at all (in fact nothing !). I’d seen very little signs of vendanging life during my there & back to Ladoix – just the very odd (as in rare) team alone in a vast sea of vines. From Chambolle taking the ‘high road’ to Morey I spied a team at work in Bonnes-Mares and stopped for a look/chat. They greeted me cheerfully as Domaine Bruno Clair, one of the guys pointing to an older, greying, guy sat on tractor & attached trailer with grape cases as the man himself. If this was BC he greeted me pleasantly, professing himself happy with the cut grape quality – certainly looked ok to me. There didn’t seem to be ‘that’ many cutters and, if I hadn’t been in smart attire, I’d have happily offered to help.

And so back to the village domaine buildings for lunch where the rest of the resident guys and Herve were already tucking in. An interesting event occurred as we finished lunch, and can’t remember now who came in with it (might have been local vendangeur Daniel), but someone arrived with a ‘parcel’ which happened to be a large, if not huge, Common Carp, frozen stiff, wrapped in cling film. I’ve never been fortunate to have caught such a fish in my freshwater fishing days (mainly my youth) but I’d estimate its weight at between 10-15 lbs. This prompted much appreciative conversation, and many references to Le Carp (if there was any doubt what the poisson was), with debate on how to best prepare and cook it. This would be a new first for me but more of that for Day 4 evening.

Early afternoon I returned to, & concentrated, on my computing for Bill. Cyprien had told me there was now (shock horreur, wonders will never cease !) l’internet at our residency but I should see Basile for more detail.

However, I had more in mind for maximising the rest of the day than being chained to my laptop so mid afternoon set off for Beaune with a view to picking up my 2013’s Le Grappin order having been ever so politely approached by Emma pre vendange if I could collect given Le G’s limited space. Managed to go straight to the Le G premises which chuffed me. Found them all hard at work bar Andrew who’d ‘nipped out’. My mission ended as something of a fool’s errand though as Emma explained the storage bottles were off site and needed notice to arrange collection and, if I understood correctly, needed labelling. Guess I should have anticipated but I hadn’t so agreed to come back post vendange.

Quick thought process with time on my hands pre needing to be back en Morey for evening meal had me head to beloved Pernand-Vergelesses and a call in to my still fondly remembered Dubreuil-Fontaine (‘D-F’). Initially met cuddly office lady, Bernadette, who told me she would be retiring April 2017 – what a shame as she’s been lovely with me. Before heading uphill to the cuverie I commiserated with Bernadette on the sad death previously of Bernard Dubreuil. To add to this Bernadette told me that as we spoke Christine’s husband, Nicolas, was in hospital having a back operation that day hence, as Bernadette put it with some drama, Christine would be ‘alone’ for the vendange. I asked about buying some wine and was handed the price list (carte) but with Bernadette pointing out a number of unavailable, sold out, wines which amazed me as until now one could count on D-F to have a v good selection. No blanc premier crus made for an easy decision there so settled on 6 packs of each of the P-V Village 2014 blanc and Beaune 2013 1er cru ‘Montrevenots’. Concluding the purchases and with a fond good by to Bernadette I headed uphill to the cuverie. Here came across Christine in conversation with two very nice older local couples notwithstanding which she greeted me in the most delightfully warmest fashion. Leaving her to conclude her conversation I said ‘hello’ to 3 or 4 of the same cuverie staff there in my ‘day’ and helped them with their final washing/brushing up. Christine came to join us & asked if I’d stay for a degustation – ‘yes please’! Over a very pleasant Aligote I heard how their vendange was going well other than decimation of certain terroirs/parcelles. Christine quoted me some figures which I should have written down, but suffice to say they were Cotes de Beaune horrific. She told me the Cortons were actually ok & largely unaffected – good, but only I suppose if one has the funds to buy them idc. Said my regretful good bye’s as they are all lovely people – if I wasn’t now so ‘embedded’ at Arlaud I’d return to D-F in a heartbeat, and may yet do so one day as I feel I owe it to them.
Treated my fellow evening diners to a bottle of each of my purchases. I normally bring some wines with me but didn’t have time on this occasion to get a few together so manic rushed was the run up to my departure from the UK. The Pernand ’14 Village blanc was steely, mineral, just a touch of miele delicious. The Beaune Montrevenots ’13 went down well but personally surprised me at its softness and (low) level of acidity. My previous experience of this wine (deliciously) all relates to the 2008 but this one was nothing like how I recalled the earlier vintage bottles. Very strawberry & raspberry fruited though, easy to drink.

And so to bed but with an unfortunate, if annoying (very!), twist in that Sebastian the traveller hippy type (and suspect he’d fallen asleep) was playing loud, dull thudding, repetitive music from his room, and there’s a stairway to a loft space in between our rooms (not to heaven) which woke me at around 2.30 a.m – 3.00 a.m. and destroyed the rest of my night’s sleep, although the noise did eventually stop. This was something to be tackled later and was (to be continued !).

Day 4 details to follow when we eventually move away from the Bourgognes (and how), have Le Carp served up for our evening meal and things continue to escalate re Sebastian. Meantime I’m sending some pics of today, including our evening fare but as ever its up to Bill how many he ‘publishes’.

harvest day 9 – 30-sept-2016

Friday 30 Sept.

Despite the poor weather forecast that tells us that there will be plenty of rain later today (Friday) and rain for most of the daytime on Saturday, it seems we are still left wanting for a volume of grapes today. Still, we actually do have grapes and from very different ends of the spectrum.

First up, we have some (Bourgogne) Hautes Côtes de Beaune, these are actually domaine vines, but ravaged by frost – there wasn’t much. And from the other end of the hierarchy we had Charmes-Chambertin, and they were very-much grand cru grapes…

The home ‘domaine’ actually is a négociant, but with a little over 1 hectare of domaine vines, and today’s parcel from the Hautes Côtes de Beaune laid bare what the frost has done to so many vines in this growing season; normally more than 80 cases of fruit are yielded here, today 18. Last year there was more than 7 barrels worth, this year, maybe, one and a half. There was some botrytis to remove from these grapes, but in this case very little of the raisined, dried mildewed fruit. The tiny quantity prompted a rarely seen sight, people triaging what came out of the destemmer – we recovered nearly half a case of grapes!

The Charmes-Chambertin was really a sight for sore eyes – just beautiful fruit that needed very little in the way of triage – at least optically, better than the Corton Clos de Roi due to the smaller more classic grape size. Gorgeous stuff! The grapes here were not better in any of the 05/09/10/15 vintages…

And that was it! Given the forecast, no grapes are in the planning for tomorrow (Saturday) and possibly not Sunday either. Eventually we will get our ‘big day’ but maybe it will be Monday…

harvest day 8 – 29-sept-2016

 So beautiful – 2016 Corton Clos du Roi – only for caressing…

Wednesday was an ‘enforced’ rest day at the home domaine – at least from the perspective of receiving grapes – there were simply no grapes to be had. With such a small harvest in the Côte de Beaune, it will be very difficult for the traditional, smaller (actually not just the smaller!) négociants this year, particularly since 2011 was their last ‘okay’ harvest from a volume perspective.

We did have some Corton Clos du Roi planned for Wednesday, but the picking was re-arranged for today – and a mere 30 cases of fruit at that – possibly about 2 barrels worth. No other grapes were planned for Thursday – another fabulous late-summer day..

But let me say, the fruit was really beautiful – still with some raisined/dried/mildewed ‘grapes’ to triage, but really perfectly ripe; the berries didn’t need a lot of coaxing to fall from the bunches, yet those berries were robust and not even close to being ‘mush-able.’ Probably the finest we have seen this year, so-far. We triaged only about 5kg worth of waste from those 30 cases!

Not much more to add regarding today, except that it took longer to wash our grape-receiving set-up, than it actually took to triage our only delivery of the day. Still, it looks like Friday will be very busy, particularly with rain forecast for Friday evening and the whole of Saturday…

no lingua-franca when it comes to insurance…


Ah the joy of getting French car insurance companies to speak to Swiss car insurance companies, is something I cannot begin to describe – even when they are both AXA! If they don’t get a move-on, I may have to boycott AXA-Millésimes…

Note my car was correctly parked, in the parking, when somebody decided to crash into it and damage 4 (parked) cars, plus their own…

arlaud vendange diary – day 2

Arlaud Vendange Day 2, Sunday 25th Sept 2016

Similar morning start to Saturday, one or two new faces presenting documents, some others from the day before not turned up. New faces included the most extraordinary looking character I think I’ve ever seen vendange time. Turned out to be a girl (I wasn’t sure honestly) with the most inappropriate, (bizarrely) ‘floaty’, ‘outfit’ for a day in the vines and an incredible blonde ‘beehive’ type outfit – a true apparition.

Vines wise this was a totally Aligote flat lands morning experience. We started nearer Morey than Roncevie but beyond that & even nearer to the train lines, passing several lovely looking ‘virgin’ pieces of earth ready for planting with whatever, super looking soil though. The plot we arrived at, vans parked under a very attractive large tree, was not one I could ever recall from my previous years thus I wondered if rented, or maybe machined in past years. Machines are generally an absolute “ No no” for Arlaud as wholly against the much valued certified organic/bio status. The vines were atypically dripping wet from over night but I’d learnt my lesson quickly from Saturday a.m. and wore waterproof over trousers. The sun was rising behind us for an ethereal atmosphere as Herve gave a lecture to the newbies on how to pick Aligote, and the essential need for vandalistic leaf stripping beforehand to reveal the ‘hidden’ fruit for then cutting. Gloves, or a left one in my case, utterly essential. If one ignores a leaf you can guarantee a bunch of grapes behind it. Here I had ‘love himself’, “aren’t I great, fantastic, girls look at me supa cool dude” Thierry as my porteur – conceited idiot. Just stood there, fagging it for the most part, preening himself in his 60’s style, throwback from ‘Grease’, baseball bomber jacket – get a life monsieur. Total opposite of fantastic, rough edged if great bloke, porteur Claude (see later).

Mixed results here, vines clearly frosted badly, and nothing remotely like the weight of fruit Aligote routinely produced in past years. What there was though was nice, much care required to make sure none missed. I rattled up my first row, having always enjoyed picking whites. We moved south a plot or three, passing a bold cock pheasant chancing his ‘luck’, to do our second plot quickly via doubling up to the few rows before moving onto familiar Aligote territory on the Chambolle side of Morey below the RN74. Here, to my utter amazement, we had a coffee break ! Unheard of a la Arlaud but welcome, father in law chef arriving with flasks, biscuits and No 2 Cyprien & Carole daughter, the lively, fun, Jeunesse. Pleasant interlude before we attacked this latest plot of long rows towards the main road. For me this was superb as in my row I had longtime regular porteur, Claude, who was missing Saturday. Claude is a bear of a bloke, but super cheerful, despite surviving a bad illness of some sort which saw him absent a year and losing a load of weight (he had it to then lose !). What rules him apart from ALL the rest of the (mostly lazy in my experience) porteurs is his sympathetic nature to the coupers, manifest whole heartedly in the Aligote, in being prepared to, most efficiently, leaf strip without being asked. This was worth loads to me and, between us, we stormed up the row we were in, ending up way ahead of anyone else – hugely satisfying to me as the anglais outsider. Brilliant.

Resting after lunch, I overheard mention between Herve and Damian, the latter clearly being groomed as 63 yrs old Herve’s in the vines leadership succession (have my personal doubts as, whilst I have no problem with nice guy likeable Damian, having patched up our 2015 differences) I’m not at all sure he has the gravitas or ‘drive’/authority for vineyard team management) of a team split for the afternoon, and Echezeaux. I asked Herve if I could be included for the Echezeaux (Les Treux) team so off we went, just a few of us. Some more activity noted around Vougeot and Vosne which Cyprien had mentioned at lunch (Mugneret-Gibourg and others he mentioned seeing on his parcelled checking travels) but we arrived at our few rows with no activity around us. Some really nice looking grapes here, very nice, but not many of them compared to previous years. Here Damian gave me a lecture (unnecessarily in front of all – singling me out as being English ?) on putting my Bucket under the bunches being snipped to avoid, as if, single grapes hitting the deck. I said nothing, but took tacit support from my porteurs knowing ‘looks’ and brief supporting words après. The owner of these en meteyage vines was present throughout, hovering. We had a brief conversation post picking where he was clearly intrigued/amused at my English vendangeur presence, asking all the usual questions about where in England I am from, how many vendanges I’ve worked, etc etc. We agreed about the positive looking quality but he bemoaned (assume he gets paid by the caisse) the lower than in the past volume (to be the recurring theme of the vendange I wonder ?).

What followed was ridiculously horrible ! Passing two lots of separate gendarmes teams before and after the Vougeot roundabout, stopping drivers for a) speeding and b) drink testing we arrived at a new to me, ‘wrong’ side of the road plot below Chambolle, with Cyprien present ahead of us in his Volvo V50. He confirmed to me this is a constituent of his negoce Bourgogne Oka. But what a farce cum disaster. If one wanted any further evidence of frost effect here it was. Incredible, hardly any grapes at all, really at all, many vines with none. Dishearteningly tedious, soul destroying, under a broiling sun, which left me hardly able to speak so thirsty was I and with no water (go figure) in our accompanying truck as usual. Initially I wondered why pay us to ‘do’ this waste of time plot rather than just machine what little there was but, without asking anyone, it occurred to me later that to machine would be against everything bio/organic which the domaine so values.

We moved on to join the rest of the crew, resting in a break and, thank god, with plenty of carafed water, in Roncevie to jut finish the few rows o/s from Monday. These we knocked off in short order for a c.5p.m. early finish but not before Herve called the team around him below the RN74 to announce Monday would be a no work, rest, day and we’d re-commence Tuesday. Caused some consternation for the locals, the younger one’s particularly. Almost unheard of for me – think we had a rest day (fatigue and forecast bad weather 2014) in 2014, the only other day off I can recall in 7 years.

Went to the cuverie evening, after bucket cleaning & getting changed out of filthy, sticky, attire with a view to despatching early missives to Bill but confess got distracted by catching up on early emails as well as essentially sports results, including my dear to ma coeur Liverpool FC’s 5-1 thrashing of Hull FC, as well as being much amused by waste of space, W Rooney’s long overdue dropping by MUFC’s (aka the Scum) Moaninho – priceless . Lost track of time, partly by laptop’s clock being an unaltered hour behind UK time but finisihed with a pleasant tasting interlude in the cuverie tasting room hosted by vendange stageur, Arthur (?) Salvadori from his family Jura domaine. We had an Iscardi (no vintage labelled) Dolcetto d’Alba (pleasant but not for me) and a much better, hugely interesting and atypically oxidative 2009 Savagnin Cotes du Dura. And so back to the village, evening meal, and very tired early night. Appropriate to mention during the day I learnt the 2016 Roncevie total production was circa only 20% of a ‘normal’ year – terrible but can totally believe on what I’ve seen to date. We’ll see re the premier and GC’s to come.

harvest day 6 – 27-sept-2016

 The ‘second-set‘ fruit that shouldn’t have been harvested vs far right, an unripe bunch (that also shouldn’t have been harvested!) – This is why we triage!

The wall-to-wall sunshine of the last days had left us this morning, but it was still dry with some flashes of blue sky.

Sunshine was coming to Beaune though, in the form of grapes from Vosne-Romanée – always a great cuvée, and almost always one where we do a high percentage of whole clusters. Like all the previous grapes, generally high ripeness , dark berries with crunchy thick skins. Here was the same amount of dried material to remove, more second-set fruit to discard, but also some oïdium too – not lots, but I never like the look of that stuff!


In the end it was Vosne for the whole day – nice to have a bit of volume from somewhere – we will have some days without grapes this year as we’ve lost habitual cuvées from Volnay and Marsannay, all frost-related.

It might have taken longer to warm today – t-shirt weather really only from the late afternoon, but it was a good day…

the return of the mark! arlaud vendange diary day 1

Arlaud Vendange Day 1, Saturday 24th Sept 2016

Bonjour Bill et tout le monde. J’arrive sur la Cote Friday evening after leaving my North West England home for Dover circa 2.15 a.m Friday morning. J’a une petite probleme avec ma voiture on the Autoroute about an hour from Dijon when it locked me out of it after I’d stopped for some diesel and was washing the windscreen free of half the insects between Troyes and Chaumont. I won’t bore you with the rest but suffice to say after recovery from the service area on a flatbed truck to some garage in a hamlet somewhere in the countryside my VW now needs a new left rear window – was impressive how the car stood up to the attempts of the garage guys to break in with increasingly larger hammers but eventually a spot welder or similar something lance like hot on the glass enabled entry & keys retrieval (insert various rude words of choice ici). . I could hardly watch. Now over 200 Euros worse off (that’s less wine to be acquired doh !) I’ve still got to sort some replacement glass before returning home – a trip to VW Ladoix beckons !

Anyway, enough of that nonsense. All hugely familiar in Morey Centre after my diversion to the Arlaud cuverie first to see what was happening, who might be there – it was by now after 7.00 p.m. due to my incident which I reckon cost me 2 hours or so. Only Herve and the office lady packing up at the cuverie but clear all was ready to commence with triage table, presses, cases etc etc outside under the roof overhang as usual. Cyprien had originally contacted me in early August to say, quite explicitly, we would not start before the 28th Sept. Yeah right ! At the beginning of last week he told me Saturday the 24th. Gawd, loads to do in my desk bound UK day job to ‘escape’. Eventually turned my work computer off at home Thursday evening very late having done all I needed to, grabbed a couple of hours sleep, fuelled up with black coffee and set off as above. Some 680 UK miles later, one English Channel & one ferry, 3 quick stops en route to ‘refresh’, plus beaucoup of self inflicted car woes (my defence is I’d no idea it had a self locking system – I’ve only had it over 10 years !) here I am in dear ole Morey-St-Denis, and very sleepy it is this Friday evening.

Reassuringly familiar for this my 9th vendange, 7th at Arlaud (think I got my maths wrong last year when might have mentioned 10th). The chasseurs from Besancon area were here i.e Colonel Rene, loveable softy spoken Serge, sage Daniel plus new man, George. Also present were young Basile from Bordeaux who told me he’d completed his MA thesis on “Iconic Wines – what makes a wine iconic”, and a first time here young lady who turned out to be apprentice winemaker, Caroline, from Germany (avec perfect anglais) who has worked in the Rheinhessen, and latterly Sancerre, but has pitched up at Arlaud on a recommendation from the Sancerre winery (name not known, sorry !) to experience organic/biodynamic viticulture.

Amazingly no long time fixture, Dede, nor Mr Handlebar moustache, Jackie, who has occupied the annex off my room the last few years. Hey ho, nothing stays the same, but Herve is his usual larger than life self including my instantly becoming Marko (name is Mark actually but do I care not one bit !).

Convivial Friday evening meal relaxed me from my Autoroute car woes. In addition to the domaine’s ‘usual’ Bourgogne Aligote & Bourgogne PTG we had a couple of half bottles – one 1999 Morey Village, and one Morey 2002. The first was corked although only I tactfully called it out with Basile quickly agreeing. The 02 was flat out delicious – love to have some of that in my cellar (but not in halves !). We also had some sort of claret – very Merlot. Think it was Chateau du/le Pin 2011. No one seemed very interested & c.half of it it was there on the table for Saturday breakfast so I had a small glass with my breakfast bar and before my black coffee. Seemed quite pleasant !

Today turned out to be a (Bourgogne) Roncevie day all day. Contain your excitement ! Once the usual checking in paperwork (swear there’s more of it every year) had been done, seemed to take an age, with all the new for 2016 crew and some of the usual regulars, off we went. Quite a smarter line up of hired vehicles this year than the crocks of the past. Seemed to be a change of emphasis from vans and a couple of double cab, flat bed, trucks to only two vans (actually mini buses) but three trucks. Plus the usual decrepit, seems to go for ever, domaine workhorse Citroen Jumpy small van. Quite dark to 7.30 a.m. but we are later this year. Didn’t do a head count but we filled the vehicles – maybe not as many folk as last year perhaps.

Fairly early on the opening strategy for this year’s harvest it became clear i.e attack and complete the low lying, frost affected, stuff. We started in Roncevie, where regular Arlaud aficionados will know the domaine has 5 ha., in the furthest section towards the railway, up against a wood. This portion, probably the lowest lying bit,(think totally) was re-planted after the devastating frost/winter of 2009-10. Its always been a pain in the butt to try and pick the first efforts of the youngster vines. This year was weird. Many of the vines had little or no fruit on them but then one would come to a vine which for no apparent reason had a few nice bunches on it – much more than seen in past years. Also fairly quickly I noticed variable/inconsistent ripening with some bunches, or parts of bunches, next to fully ripe one’s, looking ‘rose’. Very quickly got quite muddy as well, as in clinging to one’s boots etc in vast quantity – not good. Very early the vines were pretty wet from morning dew so one also got damp. Morning passed uneventfully and so to lunch, before which Cedric, Jean-Pierre and myself cleaned all the buckets and the secateurs. On the subject of the latter I had two during the morning which were a sticking pain in the butt. Have never had sticking/blocking secateurs in my previous year’s – someone hadn’t oiled them me thinks. Porter friend/regular Laurent offered to get me a replacement for the first pair but the one’s he got from one of the trucks was no better so I persevered until lunch time then selected my weapon’s of choice carefully for the afternoon.

Cyprien’s wife Carol(e?)’s father, an ex professional chef,. was in charge of lunchtime dining arrangements as last year. An engaging, larger than life, extrovert type whom one cannot help at being amused by. Lunch was usual mixture of entrée, mains, plat du fromage (large one) and fruit ou dessert. Wines as above i.e Aligote & PTG on free flow as required.

Back to Roncevie for the afternoon. Really hot weather wise now with clear blue sky and only an occasional whisper of breeze. What struck me now, as we worked the rows/section nearer to the road (RN74), was the almost total absence, as far as the eye could see between Gevrey & Morey, of any other domaine’s vehicles scattering the hillsides i.e we were almost alone. Very unusual but I heard later most of the Morey domaine’s intended to start Monday or later that week. I should have guessed sooner from the all but empty Morey car park !

My afternoon’s toil was brightened by music to work to. Initially, a tall, whisper of beard, guy next to me was playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon from his phone. Actually turned out to be a Floyd tribute band re-make but good enough. Took me back to buying ‘Dark Side’ years ago when it first came out, in my long ago 6th Form College days (between 16-18), as my first ‘proper album (actually my second but I don’t like to talk about the aberration first by Wizzard !). Moving rows later I was next to, hippy traveller type, Sebastian, with his long ‘matted’ dreadlock hair, a ‘type’ old ladies might cross the road to avoid. Sebastian is quite an engaging, if voluble, character with very good English, originally from the Vosges region, but who has spent his latter years as a travelling free spirit. A girlfriend (not present) who lives in Dijon brought him here. He explained to me, andhe can chat (!), whether I wanted to hear or not, that he has fallen in love with Colombia (of all places & nothing to do with drugs) and has dreams to get enough dosh together to open a bar or restaurant there – hum ! Anyway, he was playing what turned out to be an eclectic mixture of stuff, pretty loudly, via his phone. The first ‘tune’ was the rocking, if repetitive, Suzie (Suzy ?) Q which I will always associate with my favourite film, Apocalypse Now, said tune from the up river ‘concert for the US Vietnam War troops featuring, for those days, exotic dancers. Post Suzie Q an even better series of electric blues tracks (just my type) blasted forth to rock us down the rows and take my mind off my raging thirst.

The grapes in Roncevie Haut were pretty impressive, what there were of them. Volume very varied vine to vine but first sight of big bunches. Rising ‘dust’ as said bunches landed en bucket though suggested some rot albeit within the bunch other than being visible on the surface and so it proved post triage conversation – shades of 2013.

And so, to return to the village, final bucket cleaning, departure of the locals, quick glass or two of vin blanc refresher before photo downloads, evening meal and early night.

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