The Longest Day starts early in St Aubin
Cassecroute and a glass of something around 6.30 a.m. is followed by the call for the porters and statues to take their usual position in the line-up in the street to begin a non-stop trail through the vineyards before being engulfed by the scrum of tourists waiting in the village. The event plays more to press photographers’ strengths than mine so a little preparation helps the decision making process. Having to follow a particular group, the groups from Aloxe, Pernand and Ladoix-Serrigny means I am on the move all the time but great light and location can be spoiled by the unexpected arrival of unwanted additions to the scenario such as first aiders in hi-viz gear or just enthusiastic fellow photographers leaping in. All you can do is accept it and keep shooting.
By the time we climb out of the village of Gamay the sky is lightening to reveal thin strips of pink edged cloud and we find ourselves among the frosted vines of St Aubin with occasional small christmas trees bedecked with white flowers dotted along the way.
The processional bands sound a long way back, coming it seems, from another, more rumbustious world than the remoteness and peace of the vineyard slopes.
Soon we arrive at St Aubin itself and it’s impossible to keep up with the statues among the crowds but the previous day’s visit has reminded me of the available shortcuts and I gain time to talk to the Gendarmes controlling traffic on the N 6. I am searching for an opportunity to represent this very French part of local life in the story of Corton and they are happy to cooperate.
Next stop its the war memorial and a stirring rendition of the Marseillaise.
Then its uphill to the church where the statues are tightly packed together in Dominique Derain’s courtyard while the porters are at Mass. By now St Aubin is filling up and the crowds around the church and `Dominique’s courtyard are waiting for the Mass to finish and the procession to descend back past the Monument Aux Morts and on to the old château in Gamay. There retired vignerons fom the village will be intronised into the Chevaliers du Tastevin.
The crowd however is causing a “bouchon” or traffic jam as porters struggle to get in to the courtyard and manoeuvre out with their statues. Slow going means my villages are standing around chatting rather than processing but the bands are great entertainment, especially that from Meursault.
At the memorial I call it a day, lunch is calling and that means queueing…
There will be over 20,000 here today, time to get ahead of the game and head for the food stands back up round the church of St Aubin (of course) in front of the tide coming up from the buses arriving from Chagny station that disembark at Gamay. After frites, sausage and a gauffre (waffle) I retrace my steps around the village and encounter winemakers smiling in the sun among the incoming crowds, each visitor carrying their 15 euro package of tasting glass and 7 tickets to various wine outlets dotted around the village. A very good day will go on for a long time yet and later these locals will be dressed in their best to enjoy another banquet tonight.
I have a ticket…. as chauffeur to my photographer friend Thierry, so its another late night before Sunday’s train home.
It was a good night, I was sat between the Best Sommelier in France 1994 and an English importer so I tried to keep my opinions to myself ! Here are some images…