Harvest Day Four

Cool slightly cloudy morning which cleared off and warmed up wonderfully.  Working with a small team (7, 8 or 9 depending who was counting!!) who all knew one another well by now, was really very pleasant.

In this vineyard, as in some others, there were a few odd vines, which being ripe were harvested and thrown in with the pinot noir.  In this case, three lovely bunches of  chardonnay.

We finished the Richebourg, a bit on the lower ground and then the entire upper parcel.  As we were walking back to the cars, Pascal pointed out Lalou Bize-Leroy’s vines in Richebourg.

I hope you can see – the vines are not pruned off across the top, but rather wrapped round in big spirals.  Lalou Bize-Leroy was one of the earliest proponents of bio-dynamic methods in Burgundy.  I have had her St. Vivant, and my notes have it triple starred as my favourite of that night’s tasting of a range of Vosne Romanée wines.  We also passed by the domaine Romanée-Conti’s parcel of Richebourg, and the vines are incredibly old, huge things, someone said close to 100 years old, some of them.

Before leaving Richebourg, we took a (most of the) team photo.  Most importantly, the front row is comprised of Jean-Luc, Elodie and Anne Gros.

From there to Vosne-Romanée Les Barreaux to finish the last of that parcel.

Adjacent to Anne’s parcel are some vines that are thoroughly neglected; apparently whoever owns them decided hard drinking was easier than hard work and the parcel has just gone to wrack and ruin.  There were a few evil looking grapes, but it was a heartbreaking sight.  We were trying to figure out whether amongst us we could raise the money to buy it and set it to rights.  Lottery winnings in four countries ought to just about suffice.

We finished up the Vosne-Romanée and headed back to the domaine.  When we got there, we found Anne and Patrick at work on the sorting table, and deliveries of grapes being made.  This year, for the first time, Anne will make two wines as a negoçiant, and these were the Nuits St. Georges village grapes being delivered and sorted.  They were arriving in small tea crates which Pascal and Jean-Luc were tipping out onto the table by hand, so they could be very carefully sorted.  Sadly, there was a lot of pourriture and unripe grapes that had to be weeded out to meet Anne’s standards.

As the work had to be completed before we sat down to lunch – you can’t stop and start – we all pitched in to do what we could to help.  On the sorting table in the photo are Anne, a woman whose name I don’t know, and the backs of Simone and Patrick.  Madame Gros is using a sort of window washing squidgy to make sure the grapes that drop down from the de-stemmer get onto the little conveyor belt to take them up into the vat, and Anne’s youngest daughter, Marine (perhaps about 8 to 10 years old), is busy stamping down the stems and discarded grapes to make more room in a vat which will later on be emptied on a compost heap somewhere.  Off stage are other folks, emptying bins of reject grapes and stems from the sorting table and de-stemmer into Marine’s vat, tipping tea crates full of grapes into the sorting table, washing the emptied tea crates, etc. etc.

In this view Elodie is standing ready to clear down stems from that chute into the bin.  The two stainless steel vats on the left are the new ones – I’d seen them standing outside the day I arrived – for the negoçiant wines.  The one in progress is the Nuits St. Georges, as I said, and the left hand one will be used for a Savigny (due to arrive Monday).  The right hand vat contains Anne’s Echézeaux, and then you can just glimpse the first of her concrete vats, painted that bright blue, containing (or about to contain) all her other wines.

When the sorting was completed and all grapes in the vat, all the equipment was  washed down and made ready for the next batches of grapes to be sorted – the last of the Richebourg and Vosne Romanée – after lunch.

And then we had quite a lunch!!  To celebrate the conclusion of the first part of the harvest work, we started with a NV Cremant de Bourgogne Vitteault Alberti – excellent – nice delicate citrus and yeast notes and lovely persistent but delicate petillance.  Then – from slightly hazy memory – we had 2007 Haute Cotes de Nuits Blanc Cuvée Marine (very rich dense orchard fruit, a little citrus, dry of course, nice lingering finish) we had some of the bourgogne rouge 2007, and I think there were bottles of 2007 Clos Vougeot.  What does stand out in memory is the 1995 (yes really! That I DO remember clearly) Vosne Romanée  and 1999 Chambolle Musigny Combe d’Orveau.  Oh sublime… The Vosne Romanée all earth, stone, herbs blended in with the ripe fruit and the Chambolle just wonderful dense spice, fruit and smoke.  The pain all went away again…

Anne decanted the Vosne Romanée, and the Chambolle Musigny was served from its bottle.  At dinner (roughly five or six hours later I’m guessing), when we finished the two older vintages, the Vosne had opened a bit further but was by no means falling over, and the Chambolle was holding rock steady.

Final image to sum up the day and in fact the whole four days of harvest work :