Day 5 Wed 1 Oct

That gentle splashing sound you hear is teardrops on my keyboard.  It is over.  Suddenly, all done.  Just as I passed the threshold and no longer felt any pain, just as I got the hang of flicking small bits of pourriture out of a bunch with the point of my secateurs, just as I was nearly keeping up with the others, it was all over.  >> Sob! <<

I think we did four different little vineyards this morning, all east of the village, which get blended for the bourgogne rouge, varying degrees of clay versus stony soil, all big fat juicy grapes in big voluptuous picture perfect bunches, as I was cutting them that phrase “easy drinking” kept coming to mind – they were easy drinking personified.

In the afternoon we returned to the Haute Cotes du Nuit, and did a small parcel of white and then finished the red begun yesterday.  Day was milder than yesterday, not so chilly, but high overcast, and we finished just as a minor shower began.  At the first sprinkle Pascale and Patrick had a huge sheet of plastic out to cover the bins, lest the wine get watered down by raindrops on the grapes.

Back to the domaine, we all gathered to celebrate the end of the vendange.  Madame Gros made some wonderful cakes – a plain yellow gateau, a couple dozen apple tartlets, and a honey and spice cake which is a speciality of Dijon.  Anne opened some white Haute Cotes de Nuits Cuvee Marine (named for her youngest daughter) and some of the Bourgogne Rouge.  On Saturday and Sunday, for the start, we had had about 30 vendangeurs, Monday perhaps 20 with the loss of the school and university students, Tuesday I think we had a dozen as most of the family members concluded their long weekend breaks, and today we were down to nine.

After the cakes and wine, I was again kindly tolerated on the sorting table for the last of bourgogne rouge, and that was that.

To add to my desolation, it turns out that because Burgundy was a bit late, and the Minervois was a bit forward, there is actually no need for me to go down there to harvest – it’s all over except one little vineyard, not worth my going down for.  So, tomorrow I pack it all up and will again walk back as far as Gevrey Chambertin before picking up the bus to take me to the Dijon Ville train station to take me to Paris etc. and back to old blighty.

One interesting side bar – Elodie, Anne’s assistant who had taken me on the tour of the vineyards in July, was telling me that with one of their wines, I think she said the Haute Cotes de Nuits rouge 2005, they decided to split the bottling one third traditional cork, one third capsule (screwtop) and one third plastic “cork”.  She said the screwtop was for the American market, because that’s what they want, the cork for the French and restaurant market, because that’s what they want, and the plastic will go to anyone else after that.  She said that on another wine – I am not sure which one – they had done a trial of a some small percentage of bottles with screwtop, and a couple years on opened the screwtop and the same vintage in cork, and compared.  She said the screwtop wine had a nose like petrol, whereas the traditional cork bottle had a proper nose of the scents they would have expected.  She said the taste of the screwtop was good, but the cork was better, more subtle.  I gather they favour cork, themselves, but the demand from America is for the screwtop.

All told, no doubt I will do this again and again, as long as I can drag my sorry old self down the rows.  This is not a job for the physically shy or fastidious – you spend most of the day bum uppermost, or humping along on your knees using your bucket as a zimmer frame – personally I still need to master the full squat duck waddle move.  You are very quickly very filthy and sticky – and this was in good weather on clear days – and you will gets cuts (which means blood wiped on your jeans or shirt) and bruises and a very sore back and knees – I shall never forget the words “dos” and “genoux” as long as I live – and leaves and twigs in your hair and dirt under your nails and quite a lot of grape juice squirted in your face till you get the perfect hang of flicking those bits of pourriture with the point of the secateurs.

On the other hand, I won’t forget Arnaud’s beautiful whistling while he worked, Bernard’s disquisition on the beauties of the different regions of France one afternoon, Guillaume’s almost nonstop cheerful banter and teasing (even unable to follow most of what he was saying, I was in stitches) as well his bellowing of “Pannier!” which raised echoes in the Combe d’Orveau, or my tormentor gently catching all my errors and teaching me better with a twinkle in his eye.  Or the smokey scent of the grapes, or the sting of grape juice squirted in my eye, or the sound of the tractors going home in the evening.  Or the tremendous kindness of all these people whose language I mangled.

Closing image – the road to Vosne Romanée as seen from the hill above Les Musigny, and the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot just on the left.