Well, if you like a little Brouilly, here you can see some nice pictures of the new team at Château de la Chaize:
Last week I was involved in the tastings that will determine the 2019 Young Talents from all regions of Burgundy. This (document below) is the result of the first tasting which delivers the 3 top producers in each territory. There will be further taste-off to decide which of the 3 nominees in each geographical area gets the final prize.
Just a little more than double the price since the last proper offer I saw from the same merchant – but that was for the 2010 vintage.
Nice to see some ‘library’ wines though – given the amount of testing they did with existing stocks, one should assume that these are in good shape.
DOMAINE BONNEAU DU MARTRAY
CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE 2017 75cl 229.00 (*Swiss Francs)
CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE 2016 75cl 209.00
CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE 2011 75cl 219.00
CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE 2008 75cl 219.00
CORTON-CHARLEMAGNE 1993 75cl 239.00
If the domaine was to consistently offer library releases such as this, there’s a good case to be made for not buying ‘on-release’ at all!
*As always, these swiss franc prices are delivered but lack the 7.6% Swiss VAT…
Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Days Six, Tues 24th Sept 2019 & Seven Weds 25th Sept 2019
Apologies for the delay for this piece following on from Day Five – all down to me, nowt (Northern Egland dialect word = ‘nothing’) to do with our illustrious web site owner (okay – a bit, Bill!) I’ve been majorly distracted by dealing with a quasi incompetent insurance loss assessor re the previously mentioned water leak to our domestic property and also taking as much advantage as possible from the window of very nice & dry autumnal weather here in North West England to get gardens, exterior etc tidy & ready for winter.
So, with thanks for the patience, am combining days six & seven here, largely as it seems to make sense, that rationale down to day seven being a ‘bit’ of a non-event. Indeed, am struggling to recall much about it (!) other than it was nothing other than a Bourgogne terroir type day, all day. I didn’t even take any photos of day seven either which I can recall being down to two aspects, namely:- 1) what we were doing was not compelling enough in any way to prompt me to get the camera out; and 2) the weather was also ‘iffy’. So, only photos of day six to go with these words, and not ‘that many’ of those – for the same sort of reasons as above.
Without getting too far ahead of myself, day six started out grey, chilly, and clammy with that sort of mist draping the Cote the locals refer to as brouillard (fog). Brouillard is definitely a word I’ve only learnt from my vendanges; seau = bucket (or vice versa!) being another one – serious stuff hey ! The above weather sort of persisted for the rest of the day, or at least until lunchtime/just after, and we also had drizzly, semi-persistent, on & off rain, but not of the volume to mean temporary or other cessation of activities. I’d been told before even coming to Burgundy that the Noellat vendange duration would a week, and I’d heard that reiterated to others after I arrived – so, not too long to go it seemed. As a ‘dampener’ for the commencement of day six I also had a ‘bit of a head’ (!) from fine wine consumption from the evening of day five dinner as well as staying up too late – served me right I guess !
Off we went en vehicule, on to the RN974, seemingly in the Fixin sort of direction, but as we cruised past that village still on the main road then one could only deduce our destination must perhaps be Marsannay (or to properly give it its full name:- Marsannay-la-Cote). Deduction confirmed as we eventually turned left off the main road on to the D108 up towards the village. I’ve never had cause to venture into the centre of Marsannay before (unlike Fixin) but it looked very appealing & definitely worthy of future investigation. Fingers crossed by me we weren’t heading for any below village ‘boring’ flatlands but quickly became clear we were absolutely not – quite the contrary ! Instead we drove into the heart of the village with bit of jiggery pokery right/left then seeing us continue upwards through and out still on the D108, buildings/habitation gradually being left behind. As we’d passed through the village centre I was intrigued to see those small brown ‘tourist type’ signs with direction arrows & producer domaine’s names on; recall noting Bruno Clair, Bart, & Fougeray de Beauclair amongst others. Our destination was to quite a small section of vines on the northern side of the road, just as the D108 curved quite tightly right and also climbed quite steeply (for trucks, cyclists) uphill – a little further on coming to a section of three bends – the next habitation thereafter some way on seemingly being Corcelles-les-Monts. My ‘Climats & Lieux-Dits’ book suggests the vines we were to ‘attack’ to be in the upper section of ‘Ez Chezots (Les Echezeaux)’. We parked, just off the bend to the left, on a stony track with large muddy water filled puddles. No vines on this side with the land just off the road soon giving way to shrubs then woody/forested rising slopes. Amongst the shrubs etc to our right there must be a kennel/kennels, for more than likely hunting dogs (much as there are at one side of Arlaud’s Roncevie), as our alighting from the vehicles, and presumably having the Italian’s dogs with us as usual, prompted a cacophony of barking, whining etc which continued until we finished and left, which didn’t take that long ! The extent of Noellat vines here was small. Situate tucked into the bend of the road and roughly planted not quite north to south meant the rows of vines were uneven in length. It didn’t take us too long at all until we’d ‘done’ these vines such that whilst the yields were ‘average’ I couldn’t help but think the production volume must be modest/small. We certainly did not subsequently receive a bottle of Marsannay in our individual vendangeurs gift boxes (details for a later date !) and I don’t recall any such wine being served to us (I haven’t mentioned or photo’d one have I ?).
So, with some degree of footwear cleaning required, with the parking trackside vegetation and large track puddles helping, we re-embarked and set off for what would be Fixin (again) this time, and what I think was now our third visit, to what I now know was indeed the low lying, flat land, Fixin ‘En Clomee’. Weather still drizzly, dank, grey, overcast – not good ☹. A notable occurrence to come here was one of the worst examples of picking avoidance cheating naughtiness at the expense of your conscientious fellow team members I can ever recall in my vendange working history and which had a highly surprising ‘conclusion’ !
This was to be our last visit to Fixin ‘En Clomee’ and I wasn’t sorry ! It was even less inviting than on previous visits given the weather this day ! I can’t recall now if we took the casse-croute break on arriving from Marsannay and/or how many passes through the vines we made. But, think from photos timings we must have made one, or possibly, two passes before the c-c then a third and final after. Such being the case I reckon the occurrence referred to above happened on our final row pass. For the previous I think we had individual rows allocated or were only doubled up but, as I’ve mentioned re a previous visit to this plot, the rows here are long hence quite energy sapping – not least when one is weighed down by loads of soil/mud attaching to one’s footwear ! Previously I’ve also mentioned that I thought I’d corrected the issue with my camera at close of Day 5 but, looking at the few photos I took this Day 6 morning with blurred elements (apologies !), either I didn’t (correct) until later or the ‘Auto’ setting had been ‘knocked’ again. Whichever pass it was that saw us three to a row (must have been first or last) I was ‘sharing’ an outside, upslope row, with ladies Francoise and Martine – each quite different from the other ! I liked Francoise, our retired teacher from the Jura region. She was/is very pleasant and, for her first vendange, a committed calm & kindly grafter. Martine I’ve mentioned on an earlier day’s report but here she was to disgrace herself in my eyes. We three set off quite normally in our allocated section of the row, between posts and, as anyone who’s worked a vendange will have likely experienced, when one is doubled or tripled up (or more) with others when you’ve picked the vines in your section you ‘leapfrog’ past your colleague(s) and start at another post, they then similarly coming past you when they’ve done – and so it goes on until the row is done. It took me a while to figure what was going on for us three (I’m not the sharpest knife in the box sometimes !) but eventually I noticed two ‘unusual’ aspects. The first was that the vines I was picking after my first section seemed to have very few grapes on compared to previously, and more noticeably what grapes I needed to pick seemed to be in the most awkward locations on the vines i.e low down etc. Whilst I was initially musing on this oddity, continuing to pick, I also realised neither Francoise nor myself had got ahead of, or had passed Martine – very strange. I could hardly take in the rationale for all this but with eventual realisation, namely that not at all speedy Martine was clearly ‘cherry picking’ (or is that bunches of grapes picking) the easy to pick bunches and then quickly moving on. This to me was quite incredible & something I’d never come across in all my 11/12 vendange years experiences. I decided to undertake a ‘little check’ and, leaving my bucket to mark where I was at, I wandered up the row to Martine, excusing myself to squeeze past, then continued a little way to sort of cover/disguise the reason for my ‘ramble’. I didn’t actually see anything tangible at that particular moment but I’d already seen & realised enough ! Team player Martine certainly is/was not. The immediate, somewhat unexpected to me, post script to this came soon after. I can’t recall exactly when now – either at the end of the row or as we embarked vehicles to move off – but, and I think Gilles must have been following matters & my then gaze towards Martine, or thought I was about to discuss with Francoise, but he moved close to me, presumably not be heard, and said, somewhat brusquely/quasi aggressively:- “Be quiet” !!! Needless to say I was rather taken aback but, assessing matters quickly (unusual for me !), decided to say, nor do, anything but keep my counsel. Reflecting subsequently I didn’t believe Gilles’ tone was deliberate, as it seemed, but rather in using English & wanting to speak economically/quickly to me his words came across as above. I guess he was keen to ensure no ‘interference’ in the team dynamic but I was also mindful he and Martine travelled together coming to the domaine daily (presumably he gave her a lift & they also travelled home together) and I was unsure how many vendanges they may/may not have worked together. So, I said nothing more, but it must have been obvious that both Gilles and Martine were aware of what I’d seen/figured out. Either by accident or design I didn’t have to pick close by her for the rest of the vendange which was ‘handy’, nor for whatever reason was she to be present at all on our last day (Day 8 to come) ! I’ve seen some naughty pickers in my time, and some who are notably slow (simply as the way it is) whom I’ve been generally happy to help (I was poor myself once upon a time !) , but I’ve never seen anything so overtly devious as Martine’s practices & hope I never come across again. The inference was also that Gilles was aware of it which I did find ‘disturbing’ hence resolved to ‘keep my distance’ from him for what working time remained other than suitable politeness etc. I can hardly credit I’ve typed this but it was a notable happening.
Eventually we’d done with ‘En Clomee’ and in still iffy weather we embarked transports and moved up the D122e towards, then upwards through the village on the Rue Noisot until, as we came to the Restaurant et Bar a Vins “Au Clos Napoleon” we turned right onto a narrow road past the aforementioned, and then almost immediately right on to the Rue des Hervelets, passing a large property set back within trees, shrubs etc, stopping within yards on the right hand side grass verge. Above us was Fixin 1er cru ‘Les Hervelets’ and a little further along, also above the road, Fixin 1er cru ‘Les Arvelets’. However, our attention was directed at the vines below the road on quite a decent slope, bordered to their right with a fence, and with a large wall along the bottom of the plot (see photos). Little difficult to be precise but now I think we must have been about to descend village climat– I can’t think we’d gone far enough to be in ‘Les Entre-Deux-Velles’. Standing on the roadside looking over and beyond the above premier crus one could see just the top & spire of a church – the Eglise Saint-Martin de Fixin which we were to almost come to when driving away later. We all descended the plot so as to pick upwards, back towards our transport.
My Gilles sub-team ended up on the left side (looking back upwards) of the plot. I moved to the very far left bordered by the fence mentioned above so I had the last/edge row of vines, Francoise being on my inside. We set to with it very quickly becoming apparent within yards that the row of vines I ‘had’ were carrying a very sparse level of fruit – indeed several vines had none at all. Am fairly sure this must have been location and immediate micro climate, affected by the substantial mass (and height) of the trees and shrubs beyond the fence. The inevitable happened, with my wincing inwardly to myself, in that I very quickly was yards ahead of anyone else, with it clearly apparent something ‘dramatic’ would happen if I carried on – even going super slowly ! Initially I contented myself by slowing my progress by picking both left (my row) and right, the row of Francoise. Her row, whilst not affected to the same border extent as mine, also didn’t have overly prolific vines either so we were both moving steadily ahead of anyone else ! I decided to seize the initiative before any potential ‘telling off’ so called to a slightly distant Gilles with the suggestion that I take over Francoises’ row as well as my own – doing both freeing her availability to assist across the rest of the team. Slightly to my surprise Gilles signified agreement by vigorous nodding and wave of acknowledgement so off I went ! Matters failed to change, other than slightly, in terms of volume of grapes I was seeing hence even ‘doing’ two side by side rows at what I regarded as ‘casual’ speed my progress continued to outstrip the rest. I was almost done, and only a few vines/yards from getting to the end, back to the road when Gilles, on his way back to the rest of the team from the truck, stopped adjacent to me and in almost conspiratorial fashion told me to report to Gerald who had a ‘top secret mission’ for me !!!! I was somewhat nonplussed at this, although realised Gilles must have been seeking to be funny (amusing) in using James Bondesque terms, but also confused that I was to stop everything there and then when so close to finishing my two rows – which seemed a little daft in context. However, doing as I was told I climbed back on to the road, emptied my bucket at the truck and reported to Gerald stood further along. He wanted nothing more from me other than to suitably (sensible at last !) use me on the far side of the whole team from where I’d been to help the stragglers of another sub team, pointing me to the precise row/individual I should go to. Not so ‘top secret’ ! Well, I told myself, here was something ! From ‘bollocking’ me three times in the first two days for being too fast Gerald seemingly had ‘seen’ the proper organisational ‘light’ and was suitably using the resource of your’s truly ! A vote of confidence and quasi acknowledgment the Englishman had ability/his uses? I could not possibly comment but I’ll have to confess it was a sweet moment of sorts !!!
Eventually, with the volume of grapes much more ‘like it’ normal in the vineyard proper away from the wooded/fenced boundary I’d been on, we all got out of the plot back onto the road. Weather still yuk ! Too soon to return to Vosne but we weren’t done yet as we walked en masse further along the road a ways then descended down plot again on a grassy sward/track gap in the vines, around a grassy mound/uneven unplanted area, to another more low lying plot than our first. Muddy here but picking this to completion took us up to time to return to Vosne for lunch, route back being along the rest of the Rue des Hervelets, right at its junction with Rue du Dr Laguesse, dropping down on the latter becoming Rue Abbe Chevalier, Domaine Clos Saint Louis up a road off to our left, to the Route des Grand Crus and so back to Vosne.
The afternoon ? Day Seven ? Errrmm, memory loss must have set in but I vaguely recall Bourgogne Rouge and Aligote vines taking up our afternoon and the next day, in several locations, including far below Chambolle, then later an interesting first visit to a plot we would come to again on Day 8 reached from the RN/D974, just past Vosne’s Restaurant La Toute Petite Auberge, down the Route de Boncourt de Bois, turning right before the railway underpass, past industrial units/sheds to the vines. The common theme for me from these ‘lesser’ vineyard sites across the Day Six p.m. & all Day Seven was the proximity of the main railway line and volume of traffic on it. The French railway system must have some smart signalling/control mechanisms to run all manner of goods & passenger trains at such regular intervals – impressive. Almost a train spotter vendangeur ‘paradise’! At one stage this ex British train commuter was startled to note a goods train, all the way down here in France, hauled by a British Diesel in the livery of EWR. I’d always, from years ago, understood the gauge of British and French railways were different/incompatible but clearly not the case now. So, drudgery for what was to take us up to a very different, eventually, Day Eight – just to show that a vendange can’t all be notable exciting premier and grand crus !!!
Day Eight to follow, to include sorties into them there Hautes-Cotes hills, an unexpected in vines finale and our evening Paulee ! That won’t quite be ‘my lot’ as I’ll also cover off, in separate pieces, my post vendange Day Nine & Ten ‘me time’ up and down the Cotes activities including domaine visits, wine finding & buying missions, some cuverie activity and then home !
It’s been a pleasure to be in the Côtes this week; the vines resplendent, though – photographically speaking – the light has been sub-optimal for the best photos, with mainly greyer skies. But still a pleasure!
The leaves in some places have dropped – whole sections – clearly there are places where clone type trumps the weather – but generally all is still beautiful – maybe the chance of some nice pictures over the weekend.
A platière is a shelf or a plateau, but in Pommard – high up in Pommard – is the lieu-dit of La Platière; 3.3 hectares of which is classified as villages, and 2.5 hectares premier cru. This is more of a gentle slope from high up on one of Pommard’s valleys than a real plateau – but hey!
Though not an official lieu-dit, practically all of the premier cru part is in a walled section next to Les Arvelets, whose portal/gateway proclaims Clos de Platière – well, almost!
The Clos de Platière was a place I discovered nearly twenty years ago whilst walking my dog – what a wonderful place I thought, with brilliant views back to Pommard – I also thought that this would be a great Clos/monopole to own, even if there isn’t such a climat! Back to the ‘almost’ – the stone gateway is almost illegible today – unlike 20 years ago!
But why was I back in Platière?
Well, yesterday, like waiting for a bus, having not tasted a Pommard labelled Platière for years, two came along at two domaines on the same morning. It jogged my memory of that place – so indeed why not take a jog up there?
Château de Meursault added quite a number of hectares to their exploitation in 2018, vines that had been rented by Bejot since 2009, but it is the de Mérodes that own them. Bejot took these on, plus other vines at the same time as the de Mérodes entrusted (some of their) vines in Corton to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Now it’s Château de Meursault’s turn with almost 4 hectares of Platière, including, seemingly all the 1er cru section. Shortly thereafter, I also tasted the Platière of Jacques Prieur – or rather their Labruyère-Prieur label which is used for contract purchases.
So these two buses arriving at the same time reminded me to drift up to the high plains (sorry Clint) of Pommard – I still love the combination of calmness and great views in that place!
Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Five, Mon 23rd Sept 2019
I suppose I could ‘sub title’ this day’s words as ‘Apres la Deluge’ or similar !
Day Five might otherwise be encapsulated as a.m NSG Village/Morey-St-Denis p.m – the latter notably interesting for your’s truly – and then there was the unexpected evening ! Days ticking past now albeit when one’s so busy and ‘in the (routine) groove’ one hardly notices the number of days and/or what day of the week it is, seriously ! Another ‘plus’ for the vendange for me is losing touch with reality, well not that actually, but what I mean is losing touch with what’s going on, news wise, in the big wide world beyond, in our case, Vosne-Romanee. Without, so far, internet access I had no opportunity to ‘catch up’ on any world news so was blissfully in my vendange ‘bubble’. Importantly, for this lifelong fan of the six times current Champions of Europe (soccer/football variety !), my youngest brother back in the UK kept me up to date by text with any games I was missing and/or material Anfield news. Via other texts and phone call though I had been advised of disquieting news of a ‘domestic’ problem involving a major leak at home from a roof space water tank which, with my wife and PhD student daughter both also away for a couple of nights, had seen water penetrate upstairs bedroom ceiling, landing ceiling and into the lounge below ☹ At first, a seemingly inevitable need to return to the UK loomed but family urged me to stay put with nothing I could do, beyond initially directing my wife to a seriously good plumber/bathroom fitter who, bless him, responded superbly with his ‘lads’ to quickly install a new tank to deal with the immediate issue. Beyond that, insurance company loss assessors were involved with nothing I could usefully contribute short term, meaning I was urged to, and could, stay in Burgundy. Needless to say, plenty of follow up & related admin awaited my eventual return and is ongoing !
As might be appreciated from our already reported being rained off late on in Day Four we had our own ‘water issues’ in Vosne ! The rain of biblical proportions which had driven us from the NSG vines the previous afternoon continued to lash down for a lot of the evening before settling into less heavy but steady rain throughout the night (I could hear it on the roof when not asleep). From memory it had stopped, or all but, as we gathered for our fifth day but very grey, misty, damp, cold & challenging it was. Cloud/mist lay along the top of the cote, and notably in the NSG Combe. Waterproofs and boots (UK Brand Hunter wellington boots for me !) now the order of the day – if you had them otherwise you’d struggle in the likes of trainers ! I could hardly wait (not !) to get into the doubtless dripping wet vines, and to have to put up with the sodden earth and its implications for footwear, buckets & subsequent cleaning ! Getting ahead of myself a little I was later to muse maybe the vendange, for us anyway, might almost neatly be divided in two weather driven parts i.e before Sunday’s storm/after it. Without sounding like a ‘clever arse’ though, but as always a big believer in law of averages, I’d considered several times ahead of coming to Burgundy 2019, that the likelihood, or odds, of a wet, or partly wet harvest must be strong – simply because of the exceptionally hot weather as had featured in prior years, and as a notably wet/bad weather harvest was some years back. As such I’d paid more than usual attention to suitable wet weather footwear and clothing.
Before I forget for later – a couple of things ! 1) Any readers of Day Three might take issue with my (now re-reading looks/is poor) reference to ‘CdN Villages’. I should stress I wasn’t referring to that AOC, or wine so designated, but was attempting to shorten reference to the villages of the Cote De Nuits – so apologies. 2) My photos of Day Five, or some of them, regrettably have an area which is blurred/looks out of focus, which I only noticed at the end of the day, or next, when downloading from memory card. Double drat annoying ! This related, with hindsight to one or more issues, namely something on the camera lens, and/or the use settings dial on top of the camera having been accidentally ‘caught’ and moved from the normal ‘Auto’ – the latter has happened before in other years. I’m not smart enough, nor is there opportunity, to use other than ‘Auto’ when working ! Careful cleaning and dial adjustment fortunately saw no repeat. Apologies for the blurriness spoiling any enjoyment. I’ve long marvelled at the ‘stick’/abuse my Canon G16 has ‘put up with’ for several vendanges now – it really has been quite something and really ideal for what it offers. For 2/3 years it has had a problem with the back screen which has something akin to a blurred, foggy, lines problem which makes it difficult to see what one might be wanting to photo or to suitably review photos taken. This seemed to occur after one wet, claggy, November walk around the Hill of Corton when I carried the camera in case under my jacket and fleece top layer – since, I’ve only been able to assume condensation (body heat and damp) or similar then caused the screen problem. I’ve never sought advice on the latter re a repair or similar as am fairly sure the latter would not be cost effective. A new camera is tempting but, for now, I can’t really justify cost nor have any real idea what a suitable replacement might be – any views/ideas welcome. I’ve no desire to ‘rely’ on any mobile phone camera even though I guess my phone is decent.
As Monday, with weekend over, we had Team Leader/Porteur/Chauffeur Gilles back from his Lyon family affair. I think it was this morning also, if not would be tomorrow, that I tried my contact lenses again and was delighted to have comfort and no adverse reaction – hurrah ! Now, if I could just sort the neck out I’d be marvellous ! Alain Noellat had also affected a repair of sorts on Jacques’ minibus tailgate broken spectacles so J was happier.
Our initial morning’s efforts were directed at another plot of Nuits-St-Georges Villages; slightly to my surprise not the one we’d evacuated in the hurry of the previous afternoon. Again, a bit tricky to actually put a name to our location this day but, as ‘in the middle’ of a sea of vines, some way from Vosne in the distance, but not as close to NSG as yesterday afternoon, and below a road through the vines, I reckon we must have been in maybe ‘Au Chouillet’/’Aux Tuyaux’ but quite possible could instead have been ‘Aux Saints Jacques’. There again none of those could be correct ! Another one for next year to pin down. As I’d feared the vines were indeed dripping wet and the ground very wet also & sticky/muddy. Unpleasant ! The earth in such a scenario is akin to great clods of gluey mud in attaching to one’s footwear such that one is ‘carrying’ substantial extra weight ! To remove this muddy earth is tricky, needing a combination of posts, wires and anything else available to scrape one’s boots – uppers and soles/heels. If vegetation, the thicker the better, is available once the main earth has been removed then walking through it also helps, as do deep puddles on vineyard tracks/roads. There was to be a cleaning ‘sting in the tail’ for Team Gilles later this day but that ‘surprise’ is for later !
From the above location we moved again, en vehicule I think, to another village plot. This was interesting as it ultimately went ‘down’ to the back gardens of houses on the northern periphery of NSG along the RN/D974. Again tricky to work out which climat it was – I reckon probably ‘Aux Tuyaux’, possibly ‘Aux Athees’. This plot took us up to lunch but before we departed a lady occupant of one of the houses who’s garden we were picking up to (which had one of those above ground swimming pools) had come out and was offering refreshment via glasses of white wine which some of my colleagues availed themselves of – not me, I was content to wait for lunch. I vaguely recognised her as having seen her before at the domaine, surmising she had a connection, maybe as the spouse/partner of one of the cuverie team – or maybe just a Noellat friend/relative. Another domaine team was only a few rows away from us but which wasn’t known.
Afternoon was pretty interesting – for me at least as our destination was dear ole Morey ! I’ve captioned some of my Morey photos as our being in ‘Sorbes’ (‘Les Sorbes’) but now realise this wasn’t actually true – at least not for the lower part vines we started with which are in ‘Les Sionnieres’. The last part of our route was at first sight odd in terms of where we ended up but I now realise Hubert, in the Mercedes van lead, was taking a long way round loop, probably for ease of entry off the road, facing the ‘right direction’. To this end, we approached the Morey RN974 junction from base then turned left as if to go up into the village towards the church via Grande Rue, but at the first junction proper turned right into Rue de Tres Girard, past Cecile Tremblay’s cuverie on the right, then on our left the hotel, ‘Castel de Tres Girard’, continuing a ways until the next junction where we took a right and dropped back down to the road between ‘Tres Girard’ and ‘Clos Solon’. At the junction we turned right back onto the main road towards the traffic lights again but just immediately past the busy courtyard Hubert Lignier premises and Gite de Cedre we descended the ‘ramp’ from road into the vines and right along a stony track aways before leaving the vehicles. Our first element of picking were the ‘Sionnieres’ vines on the right hand side (looking up towards the village) of the track. At the top there was a large residential property, difficult to see as it was very private behind a substantial (very tall and thick wide) leylandii type hedge to front and sides. This seemed to be a vigneron owned property, or certainly something to do with wine, as one could discern winemaking related artefacts e.g pallets of bottles etc outside additional modern looking outbuildings. As we first approached, what was presumably the owner was to the front of the property with a forklift truck which he seemed to have been using to do something hedge related before we arrived. He took said forklift inside the property and after shutting the gates obviously released a large vocal dog which triggered lots of canine ‘argy bargy’ between said dog and our roaming pack of three ! The forklift gent continued to move said vehicle around within the curtilage of the property using it for whatever commercial type purposes. Quite who’s property this is I’ve no idea but might have a closer look one day from the Rue de Tres Girard side which the property must back onto. By this afternoon the weather had improved immeasurably from the previous afternoon/the morning with blue sky, sunshine & fluffy white cloud, becoming quite warm. Having ‘done’ the lower village element we ‘shifted’ up & around the corner of the above property, alongside the hedge, up into the lower element of premier cru, Les Sorbes, Noellat ‘offering’ both Morey Village and Premier Cru from these vines. As we’ll come to in a later day’s words when I took the opportunity to purchase some domaine wines (all 2017s) I elected, as my premier cru selection, for NSG Aux Boudots. The domaines Vosne premier crus & the Morey 1er Les Sorbes were ‘sold out’ but for the future I’ll have an eye on some of the Morey. I recall being quite fatigued when the end of day call came (just might have been we ‘did’ some Bourgogne Rouge vines below Chambolle on our way back – can’t be certain) but do remember Gilles cautioning us before we left the Morey site as not to be too ‘enthusiastic’ at cleaning of our footwear, and where etc, so as not to leave mud, earth etc all over the gravelled road which might upset the property proprietor above who’s ‘private drive’ the road effectively was !
There was something of a shock and great misfortune (typical !) for Team Gilles when we got back to base in Vosne ! Gilles announced it was ‘our turn’ to do the cleaning i.e buckets, porter containers etc for the whole team. And we ‘copped’ for the first full day post last night’s storm with mud etc, doh! It hadn’t occurred to me previously there was a (sub) team rota for the end of day cleaning, again I’d not been told/heard. Yes, I’d seen folk cleaning daily in past days but had been happy to leave those folk to it as I’d been on the reverse end of for years at Arlaud where just a few of us had voluntarily/conscientiously done pre lunch & end of day cleaning for years whilst the majority ‘avoided’ it. As a lodger at Arlaud I’d been relatively happy to be a cleaner and had also thought those of us doing it had been paid extra. The mud/earth effect on the bottom of buckets adds a whole new dimension to bucket use on dry ground – they take some getting clean ! So, how unlucky could we be !!! No avoiding it though so we had to get on with it – or most of us did grrrr ! The notable exception was Martine ! This lady of advancing years arrived daily, I think with Gilles. She was very ‘bling’ in terms of jewellery, as well coiffed/made up etc as one could be in the vines, and always wore ‘naughty’ cut off denim shorts as if she were on a beach, regardless of weather !!! She also had a kneeler thing as one might use in a garden which she used all the time and this ‘contraption’, whilst creative, also had a lid/box section in which she kept goodies such as her personal water, secateurs etc. Moving her kneeler thing from vine to vine wasn’t exactly conducive to speedy productivity thought this 3x told off for being too fast individual ! I was to be severely annoyed by Martine’s outrageous cheating picking practice at a later date but that’s to come. Here, with some ‘brass neck’ (English expression for nerve !) Martine absented herself from the rest of us cleaning crew, doubtless taking advantage whilst Gilles was away taking the minibus to the cuverie for overnight parking. I say ‘absented’ herself but she was present – just choosing not to help because, with unbelievable chutzpah/brazen cheek, she ignored the rest of us whilst doing an incredibly thorough job of cleaning her own stuff (kneeler, footwear, clothing). I was stunned into incredulous silence so as to lose my powers of speech by all this, but I was not alone as a conspiratorially grinning, head shaking in shared disbelief, Francoise caught my eye – obviously reading my mind ! The others further down the garage, concentrating on material task in hand, seemed not to notice. To my shame I decided not to seek a full blown in garage confrontation with Madame but carried on amongst the buckets, jet hose water, scrapers with what we had to do. As Gilles returned Martine had miraculously finished her concentration on her own interests but that didn’t mean a fulsome, if belated, contribution to the team. No, not a bit of it. Instead she gave a loosest illusion sense of helping by simply picking up any available single cleaned bucket for upturned stacking, pyramid style, along the wall to dry. Pick up more than one bucket at once ? Not Martine ! Why bother when one could move at snail’s pace with one bucket and not even stack properly ! I was so tired I couldn’t even get suitably annoyed but her ‘card was marked’ by me from then on ! Return to base and cleaning might have been ‘it’ for the day, other than evening meal to come, but this day had another surprise, and more entertainment in store.
Initially, having cleaned myself up and changed I had no inkling of what was to come although if I’d paid more attention to the property ‘yard’ gazebo I might have ‘twigged’ this might be more than an ordinary evening. As it was, armed with the domaine’s wi-fi key, I was keen to attempt to log on for the second time. I’d had a very brief, unsuccessful, attempt the evening before this one when I’d had no real time. Madam Noellat and Sophie had told me the wi-fi router was in a back room behind the (closed for the vendange) domaine tasting room and shop which is on the right front of the property next to the office/bureau. I might have sought to go into the latter and make myself comfortable at a desk to log on but the office was always locked for the evening by the time I was ready. Given the router location I borrowed a patio chair and sat outside the tasting room door facing towards it, laptop on knee. Last evening, when I’d used the office window ledge, my laptop had detected a Netgear wi-fi router which I’d tried to log into. This evening two possible wi-fi sources showed up – the Netgear one and another, Livebox something or other – signal stronger on the former. In a quandary I tried both but was unsuccessful with multiple attempts trying to log on to either. Highly frustrated, whilst I was attempting all the above, I was conscious quite a number of folk were arriving, all smartly dressed for an evening out !
Drinks were being dispensed from the gazebo as not normally the case in availability, quantity etc. What I was seeing was the preamble to a grand affaire dinner. If my understanding was/is correct what was happening this evening was something the Noellat family do each vendange – in essence a sort of end of vendange Paulee, but which takes place only part way through the vendange, with wider family & friends invited alongside the rest of us. The number of attendees were such that an extra table or two were required in the middle of our room. Eventually we all filed in to take our places. I made a tactical error here and instead of my normal place I ended up by virtue of others coming after me wanting to sit down whereby I was boxed in right in the back corner and back against the wall. Worse, immediately around me came Gerald, Hubert and two mature lady vendangeurs whom G & H had taken a fancy to/set their sights on. So, with their concentrating on themselves, I was stuck in my corner unable to converse with those I normally did, doh ! The only saving grace until later in the evening, when I was able to extract myself as the evening wound down, was the ‘distraction’ of Alain Noellat (‘AN’) serving up some stellar wines, some in magnum. Niiceee! Alongside our staple Savigny Blanc AN produced mags of a 2015 Puligny-Montrachet village and extremely yum it was too ! The domaine has no vines in Puligny. I correctly surmised, confirmed later, that this wine must have been ‘bought in’ (or acquired via swap of Noellat wines) for the family’s own private cellar/consumption. Beyond the whites any number of reds graced the evening. These included NSG Aux Boudots 2008 & 2016, Vosne Suchots 2014 & 2016 (maybe also a 2017), I think a Vosne Beaumonts, Chambolle Village 2014 and maybe also an Echezeaux also snuck in somewhere. I did my best to photograph these various bottles – one photo annoyingly has a black line partly across which happened by accident whilst editing, which so far I’ve been unable to remove. As the evening moved to a close, and after much group singing, with guests & vendangeurs drifting away, a hardcore few of us remained sampling the various wines. To my slight amusement Gerald was slumped comatose in his table place – something must have had an effect although in the vines exertion surely couldn’t have been responsible. Telling myself I’d stayed up too long and might regret it I eventually left for bed leaving the ultra hardcore few to prolong their own evenings! Some night 😊 !!!
Day Six to be another highly indifferent weather day for Marsannay, more Fixin ( 3 x locations), and Chambolle/Vosne Bourgogne Rouge. Wot, still no Vosne Premier Crus ? No indeed.
Some very classy wine tasted this week – my thanks to the domaines that made some time available to see me – of-course all will be in the October report, published next month.
The week was a mix of sun and much needed rain – the latter, of-course, less photogenic. We also had the first day with typically autumnal weather – a misty morning that slowly gave way to sunshine – that was Wednesday. A week with 400,000 km on the clock of the scoobydoo too!
Domaine Michel Noellat et Fils, Vosne-Romanee – Vendange Day Four, Sun 22nd Sept 2019
Whither today ? A Chambolle morning then an afternoon with a real ‘sting in the tail’, if not a transformative moment for our vendange. Photos morning only, the absence of any from the afternoon will become clearer later !
Our second day with Jean-Claude2 filling in for the Lyon fleshpots absent Gilles. On this once more super morning of sunshine and restrained temperatures we were Chambolle Village bound again to similar, or the same, location we’d visited previously, just more rows. In essence, an unremarkable steady, hard working morning. Team J-C2/Gilles were initially selected by Hubert for an hillside elevated section of vines not far from the top of the slope, and as the hill started to curve around back towards Musigny etc. These vines were notable for being across slope, rather than up/down, and as such brought fond recollection of Arlaud’s Vosne Petit-Monts vines. After we’d finished our own specific ‘patch’ we worked downslope to meet/join another team coming up which took us ‘neatly’ to a circa 9.40 a.m. break.
After finishing the above we spent the rest of the morning, albeit getting there by only short walks first on tarmac then earth path into the vines, as best I can recall working quite different areas of vines, on essentially flat(er) land from those on the slopes we’d had two go’s at. I’m really struggling to identify now just where these latter vines might be, map wise. They were the other side of the road i.e just to the north of where we’d been but a little back on ourselves. ‘Climats & Lieux Dits’ almost suggests we could have been in a Chambolle 1er cru but I can’t think we were so we must have been in the quaintly named ‘Les Pas de Chats’, or possibly ‘Les Barrottes’. Assuming I return to Noellat in 2020 I must then make an effort to identify exactly the locations we visit (beyond the obvious Grand & Premier crus) & perhaps spend some brief time with Alain or Sophie and ‘Climats & Lieux Dits’ to get a handle on domaine vines locations. Mind, it some me some years to be ‘up to speed’ with Arlaud’s sites, and that with Herve always being helpful in answering my questions. The domaine’s website is no help in location of vines, even clicking in to the detail of each wine made. However, late afterthought that Bill might include detail has had me belatedly look back at BR’s domaine profile and tasting notes, one reference noting a little 1er cru for the Chambolle cuvee. If that indeed is the case then maybe we went to a bit of Les Feusselottes or perhaps Les Plantes ? Coming away from our late morning location I ‘snapped’ another unknown domaine’s yet to be picked Pino as we strolled past. Earlier as we’d come out of one section, crossing the tarmac road to another, we met two quite different ladies with a young boy on his scooter. These two ladies were adorned in vine leaf Roman like head adornments (fascinators the fashion term ?) and in very jolly mood. They were headed towards Chambolle but where they’d come from & quite why they had the ‘creations’ on their heads I’m totally unsure – a brief, amusing, diversion though !
Back to Vosne ! Lunch must have been unremarkable as no recall of it or photos, nor can I remember seeing a door affixed menu. Afternoon took us to Nuits Villages vines (Vosne side) – more towards Nuit than our Boudots and Aux Barrieres locations of Day 2. Possibly Aux Allots initially. Long rows so more slogging. I meant to mention when commencing typing re this day that there had been talk amongst my co-workers of the weather forecast suggesting rain, if not during the day then felt to be more probable for evening or overnight. Certainly the Chambolle morning and its ideal, sunny, conditions gave no inkling of any major weather deterioration to come. We moved on from our initial location(s) to another (village) location much nearer to Nuits than before, almost into the outskirts – perhaps La Petite Charmotte or La Charmotte. As the afternoon had moved on I could not help but notice the absence of the morning sunshine and gradually gathering/darkening cloud – particularly over the Combe behind NSG.
I think it must have been sometime after 15.30 that (fortunately) not too far down our latest NSG Villages rows, and not too far away from the vehicles on the road above us, that we felt the just occasional first large drops of rain. From then on it was only a matter of time and, with shocking suddenness, not only did almost semi-darkness descend but rain started to fall properly. There was no hesitation from whomever shouted at us to get outta there and get to the vehicles, and t’was a mighty good job we didn’t delay ! I’ve seen it ‘rain’ before several times in previous vendanges but this was ‘proper’ !! Trust me, it wasn’t far up our rows, and back to the vehicles, but in the short time it took us all to leg it there, what started as ‘rain’ turned into a storm & deluge of Noahesque biblical proportions ! If I’d seen people or animals going in two by two I might not have been surprised ! It was every man & woman for themselves, and in the case of our minibus at least, as the vehicle on its right hand side was parked tight to vines, several of us in our scrambling fell/tripped over the vines end of row wire, not exactly visible in semi-darkness, haste, rain deluge etc – which could be painful !! I know I tripped trying to throw myself into the front seat, not badly fortunately, and also saw Jean-Philippe, Jacques and Francoise all do similarly. By the time we were all in the minbus, panting to get our breath back, with the vehicle rapidly steaming up with hot bodies and wetness, it really had got dark, some thunder & lightning was evident, and good grief, WAS IT lashing down !!!! As ‘good’ as a storm I’ve seen in Burgundy in my harvest career. It was difficult to make out Nuits not too far away but lights were coming on.
We sat there a while, not too long, before somehow/someone communicated, phone call I think, that we call it a day and return to base ! Could not have been a difficult decision as one didn’t need to be a meteorogical genius to work out the lashing curtains of water weren’t going to stop anytime soon ! Our initial route, given the way we were facing, and as it turned out Hubert in the lead was heading initially for Nuits before taking a mainly concrete road back through the vines to Vosne, took us past the vendangeurs of another domaine who’d been a little beyond us. They were still out there, ok at first glance many of them seemed appropriately dressed, but goodness me it seemed recklessly crazy given the thunder and lightning. I assume they were just collecting what they’d picked and would soon be out of there !
The route back to Vosne was amazing in terms of the water on the road, gushing across it and coming down. The concrete road sections are a longitudinal v shaped gully with high edges, the latter I reckon to hold back vineyard soil erosion but the water in the centre of the road ‘v’ was incredible.
Back in Vosne, we ran for cover to the garage with gear for cleaning whilst outside the storm continued. Heavy rain lasted well into the evening, and ‘lesser’ weight of rain all night. Evening is gone from any memory, weather aside. Guess I was probably on laptop photo downloading, editing etc but, just ahead of our evening meal, I do recall a group playing tarot with my being invited to play but declining (wouldn’t have had a clue !). Jean-Philippe seemed a novice at the game, but Alain Noellat as not initially playing, although seemingly something of an ‘expert, was very keen to proffer advice to J-P and re-arrange his hand of cards !
The end then of a ‘climatic’ day. Maybe a defining one for our vendange in terms of conditions i.e days pre storm/post storm. Hereafter ground conditions would be much changed muddy/sticky with consequent effects on us, our footwear, buckets etc etc. Where would tomorrow take us ? We’ll see!