Plan B

Further re April trip to Vosne Romanee

When Anne Gros and I finally had a chance to talk, she said she could perhaps offer me odd days of work, but nothing steady.  She was incredulous that I wanted to work in the vineyards, warning me it was hard work, in the rain and all; she had imagined that if I were to go into the trade I would look at working for a caviste or importateur.  I finally convinced her it was the vineyard work that most interested me, and she picked up the phone… the upshot was that later in the afternoon I went to Beaune and met with a gentleman at the CFPPA – Centre de Formation Professionnelle et de Promotion Agricole – to discuss the viticulture et oenologie course which begins in September.  This is the one year course required for all wine makers in Burgundy.  Bless him, M. Deboibe spent considerable time with me to explain the course, to understand my motivations, and to show me over the school.  Entirely in French.  I think I understood most of it… and took the application to complete.

So… that night, lay awake and formed a rough plan to swot up on French like a madwoman all summer, then take the course – September through June – and take it from there… And the course content is such that I would be well prepared to do other things as well … so if a few years of working in the vineyards knackers me utterly I will have a qualification and experience that would be attractive to negociants, cavistes, etc.  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

The next day (Tuesday, 21 April), I visited David Clark in Morey St. Denis.  I called and introduced myself on the slenderest of pretexts – a mutual acquaintance in Jan van Roekel with whom I had worked the vendange, and having tasted his wines at Berry Bros’ en primeur in January – and David welcomed me to visit.  He showed me over his barn and cave, and then we walked through several of his vineyards, while he patiently answered all my questions about tending the vines, ploughing, etc.  David also told me a great deal about how he started up – including attending the course at the CFPPA.  What he told me – in English – reassured me I had correctly understood the French explanations the prior day, which was a relief!!

When we returned from the tour of the vineyards David offered me a tasting.  I hadn’t dared ask, knowing how minute are the quantities he makes, but said I wouldn’t turn down the offer.  Wise girl.  I tasted some of the Morey St. Denis 2007, which he bottled the next day, and then we went down to the cellar to taste a couple of the 2008s.  This was the first time I have tasted from cask, and it was fascinating.  The first two wines had not yet begun their malolactic.  What I tasted was very young but very good and interesting and balanced red wine – rather as you would taste en primeur but perhaps a bit rougher around the edges – but overlaid with a very distinct layer of tart crisp apple flavour.  If you can visualise how a layer of oil will float on top of water or vinegar, and translate that image to the experience of flavours in the mouth – you had a layer of apple floating over red wine – two very distinct taste sensations in one mouthful.  Absolutely fascinating.  But best of all was his Morey St. Denis 2008 – when he poured it into the glass it was bubbling like soda pop – it was in the throes of its malolactic.  And again, the taste sensations reflected that state exactly – the red wine was beginning to lose its rough edges and smooth out, but there was still a layer of apple flavour – though not as “thick” a layer of apple, going back to the visual image.  And what a lovely wine – wonderful earthy notes on nose and palate as you would expect from a very mature pinot noir together with all the lovely red and a little black fruit.  That night I e-mailed my beloved salesman at Berry Bros and asked him to save a case of this for me in the upcoming en primeur in January.

When I left, David said he was off to plough his Brochon vineyard.

One thing that impresses me over and over again – everyone I have met in the wine trade has always been very gracious and friendly to wine loving strangers – I’ve not yet met a cranky or inhospitable wine maker.

Image du jour:  Baby Richebourg, newly planted this winter, I think this is in Anne’s plot.  That pale brown bit just below the leaf sprout is a seal of wax to protect the join between vine and rootstock.