A year on the Hill of Corton

Archive for September, 2014

From Charlemagne to Romanée-Conti via the old N6

THURSDAY started with a visit to Claude Chevalier in Buisson, a little hamlet at the northern end of Ladoix and we were quickly off to see his pickers in Aloxe-Corton as the cloud gave way to the morning light that makes the east side of Corton Hill such a beautiful place.

Unstoppable Claude Chevalier at Aloxe

Unstoppable Claude Chevalier at Aloxe

The Chevalier triage team awaiting that Aloxe -Corton delivery

The Chevalier triage team awaiting that Aloxe -Corton delivery


I had a rendezvous with my friend Marie-Luce who was supervising the picking of her Charlemagne by the negoce who is purchasing. But en route I was brought to a halt just before the Latour cuverie by David Croix’s team enjoying their cassecroute and I felt obliged to join them!

Two pickers from Touraine extolled the virtues of the Loire and I was offered a tasting of delicious,aromatic Sancerre to accompany my bulging baguette.
I met up with Jean-Paul who I last saw swinging his pioche last December in thick fog and hoare frost not 100 metres away from where I was now enjoying the other end of the thermometer’s scale.

Jean-Paul enjoying the sun.

Jean-Paul enjoying the sun.

A Sancerre enjoyed in Corton!

A Sancerre enjoyed in Corton!

I don't know where the bottles came from but it was all good

I don’t know where the bottles came from but it was all good


Over the road the guys from Latour were taking their break too.

Over the road the guys from Latour were taking their break too.


Onwards and upwards to Charlemagne. Just near Les Chaumes, on the road to Pernand-Vergelesses from Aloxe-Corton, there is a pleasant picnic spot with drinking water, shade and a little parking. The pickers had already arrived but I managed to get a space and hiked up past the parcels of Bonneau du Martray and Jean-Francois Coche-Dury with a feeling I must be near to the original Charlemagne plot and found the work well underway. Memories of my last visit in July came back as I remembered Marie-Luce teaching my wife the work of that season.
sunshine in Charlemagne

sunshine in Charlemagne


Charlemagne'sChardonnay

Charlemagne’sChardonnay

When you get to the end of a row on a hot day...

When you get to the end of a row on a hot day…


But there's no rest for some.

But there’s no rest for some.

Keeping track of the crop

Keeping track of the crop


Next stop lunch and Marie-Luce is promising great value/quality. She was n’t wrong!
Welcome to the Pont Du Paris, another "bonne adresse" in Chagny

Welcome to the Pont Du Paris, another “bonne adresse” in Chagny

Find it on the N6 or whatever its called now

Find it on the N6 or whatever its called now

Not easy to miss!

Not easy to miss!


What are you doing on the 4th October ?

What are you doing on the 4th October ?

Madame takes care of dessert

Madame takes care of dessert

While Chef stays happily  in the kitchen

While Chef stays happily in the kitchen

Returning to the Hill I found a scene reminiscent of Charles O’Rear’s shot “Bliss” that used to be used as Microsoft’s screen saver.
"Bliss" Burgundy style

“Bliss” Burgundy style


Highlight of the afternoon, what was left of it, was a return to Meursault to visit Alix and Etienne de Montille
Alix and Etienne in the white wine cellar@ Meursault

Alix and Etienne in the white wine cellar@ Meursault


Alix discusses the dinner for her team

Alix discusses the dinner for her team

FRIDAY
Actually, for once the week’s work was done without a Friday morning sprint so all I had to do was organise a sensible schedule (one that allowed time for the unexpected!) and get to Dijon station in time for the 14.41 TGV to Paris.
It was a grey day and I called first at the Latour cuverie for a quick chat with Boris Champy and to see what was going on.

sampling at Latour 180 year old cuverie in Aloxe

sampling at Latour 180 year old cuverie in Aloxe


Then over to Cornu in Ladoix – triage again…
Triage and a dose of vertigo.

Triage and a dose of vertigo.


Time allowed a call at Gouges in Nuits and I tried without success to remember the route through the premier crus to their back door, but I’m not as clever as I think and I ended up paying my last 50c for half an hour’s parking and walking through the streets looking for a grassy side alley. During harvest, the front door often does not get paid much attention in most wineries.
Gregory and his father Pierre pleased with enough grapes for a barrel of Côte de Nuits white.

Gregory and his father Pierre pleased with enough grapes for a barrel of Côte de Nuits white.

As good luck would have it I saw some action in Romanée Conti as I entered Vosne so it had to be worth a quick visit.

The visitors are more visible than the pickers at Romanée Conti but none dare cross the wall !

The visitors are more visible than the pickers at Romanée Conti but none dare cross the wall !


Didier from Corton helps out in Vosne

Didier from Corton helps out in Vosne

The small baskets are important at Domaine de la Romanée Conti

The small baskets are important at Domaine de la Romanée Conti


So is careful handling of the grapes

So is careful handling of the grapes

Time to move on and as I got near Dijon I just had time for a quick visit to Eric Rousseau at Gevrey_Chambertin.

Rousseau had finished but there no time to share the celebrations unfortunately.

Rousseau had finished but there is no time to share the celebrations unfortunately.


Then it was a dash under a darkening sky to the TGV…
Looking forward to being back in October.

A little later when I got home…
I received the design for the cover of THE BOOK !

Seems OK, the only question is, is my name big enough :-)….?
Corton_CV1-150
Anyway there is now a publication date of 5 November so we’re nearly there !

Advertisements

Why was it not like this last year ?!

So shooting for the book is finished. But its harvest time again and I’m here shooting for other clients. Everyday seems to be a good day, with plenty of activity but appointments tend to get moved… I’m on the road around 7 a.m., just before dawn here to make the most of the morning light. I does not always work but here I’m never tempted to stay in bed !

Franck, the baker, with Gilles and Fred at Vival in Ladoix, the place for a coffee and the latest news

Franck, the baker, with Gilles and Fred at Vival in Ladoix, the place for a coffee and the latest news


SUNDAY was a glorious morning and after coffee in Ladoix and a lucky meeting with Mme Cornu which yielded an invitation to lunch with the harvesters, I headed off to visits in Puligny and Chassagne before coming back to check out the Côte de Nuits. I had several winemaker portraits to make and harvest is not the best time, but, if you working for a magazine they know, its just necessary to track them down…
Ballet in Champs-Gains

Ballet in Champs-Gains

Lining up in Musigny

Lining up in Musigny


Pascal Marchand is one of the dynamic breed which it can take good luck to locate, but this time not only was he only 10 minutes away from his Nuits base, but Murray Tawse his Canadian partner was there too. Both guys are very passionate about their business and easy to talk to.
Triage at Marchand-Tawse

Triage at Marchand-Tawse

A surprisingly successful end to a good day as we parted in Musigny.

MONDAY Vival at Ladoix, my usual breakfast coffee stop, was closed but I was off to Meursault so I headed for the Café/Tabac next to the church of St Nicolas in the centre. There have been some changes there this year, the fountain has been moved nearer to the Mairie and a lawn laid and trees planted. Plus a large metal fence….
I arrived to find that the car parking area outside the church that hosts the weekly market is now following the same process. This must be costing a bit !
And I have to say it is apparently not to everyone’s taste with its wall and wrought iron fence reaching up 3 metres…. Meursault is beginning to look like a tourist destination (if they can find pa parking place), not a working wine village. I guess we’ll learn to love it, but I can’t see the pickers being allowed to celebrate the end of their harvest by frolicking in the fountain.
In a break from work I call in to see Jacques and François Carillon at Puligny in their separate but neighbouring domaines.

Jacques Carillon in his cellar was in good spirits

Jacques Carillon in his cellar was in good spirits

Lunch with François Carillon and his cuverie team

Lunch with François Carillon and his cuverie team

Francois has the builders in for an expansion to his cellars but they are both thinking more about this year’s harvest and happy with quality, even if quantity is down again due to the storm in June. A less than promising August was followed by 2 good weeks of sun and a gentle north wind that has kept things healthy, even concentrated the juice.
Puligny has always cherished its tourists and provided an elegant atmosphere but I now see a couple of small art galleries too. I do wonder if the new “cabotte” bus shelter in Chassagne means they are following the trend…
Somehow I doubt it.
Another pickers lunch courtesy of chez François before getting back to work. That was all over by 4pm due to the necessity of meetings for my subject so on an increasingly hot afternoon my thoughts turned to the Grappe. Before I could get there I was stopped in my tracks by the Pavelot team unloading their beautiful baskets to attack a parcel of Corton beneath Pernand, an island of pinot amidst the Charlemagne.
Carrying 40k is hot work!

Carrying 40k is hot work!

I imagined these baskets were being used until they could no longer be maintained but I was told the domain has just bought 10 more from the Jura costing 100 euros each. Fully laden they weigh over 40 kilos! After chasing the porters up and down the slope I was even more ready for a beer.
But sadly La Grappe were sticking with there normal evening opening hour of 6pm so I paid a social call in Pernand before heading along the mud track through Charlemagne. Back on the tarmac I turned left at the cherry tree to take a look at what still might be happening above Aloxe and Corton. There below was Maurice Chapuis, easily recognised with his charabanc of a trailer for his pickers. I drove down to say hello just as they were finishing and whom should be doing triage but his brother Claude, the last man to write a book about Corton and who I very pleased to say has written the preface to “Une Anné en Corton” for us.
Claude(L) and Maurice Chapuis checking out the crop in Corton Clos du Roi

Claude(L) and Maurice Chapuis checking out the crop in Corton Clos du Roi


Maurice takes his pickers home.

Maurice takes his pickers home.


My next call, at the distillery in Ladoix was unsuccessful but as I headed back to Pernand with only a cold drink in mind I came across Serge the dedicated beekeeper who immediately invited me in for that beer!
There followed the sad story of his acacia flowering during a wet week in May which meant no honey as his bees would not come out. It seems one of his hives has mysteriously been vacated and his mortality rate is still steady at 20-25% a year, all bad news. No wonder he needed a bit of company. Still it was 7pm when I left, and a glorious evening so I did n’t take his concerns with me, this harvest is so much better than last year.

TUESDAY was another bright morning and after a coffee with Gilles and Fred at Vival,along with Franck the baker next door, I found Jean-Charles De La Morinère quietly smiling as their Charlemagne harvest started. He was constantly checking the rows to see that his pickers remembered his instructions on the first day of work, supervising the level of the grapes in each grey box and then helping to shift them to the trailer.

Jean-Charles de la Morinère likes what he sees in Charlemagne

Jean-Charles de la Morinère
likes what he sees in Charlemagne

Jean-Charles and Claude load the precious chardonnay

Jean-Charles and Claude load the precious chardonnay

All done with a smile that hid his great concentration on the job in hand. That was around 8 a.m. and as I saw that evening after the dinner with the pickers prepared by the 3 lady cuisine’s ( I called them Les Trois Gorieuses but they said they preferred LesTrois Graces !) that while we finished off our wine, Jean-Charles was still supervising in the cuverie, yet to eat.
The 3 Graces at the Bonneau du Martray kitchen door wait the pickers.

The 3 Graces at the Bonneau du Martray kitchen door wait the pickers.


Success with a great terroir requires such dedication all the year round.

The Pavelots were out again,this time in En Caradeux with one or two the porters enjoying an “Ice bucket challenge,

Cooling off on Caradaux

Cooling off on Caradaux

harvest style !
En Caradaux from Charlemagne

En Caradaux from Charlemagne

Pernand-Vergelesses seen from Caradaux

Pernand-Vergelesses seen from Caradaux

Great morning views of Pernand but sadly the Church roof is under repair for a while so I’m glad I already have that.
Off to lunch

Off to lunch

Lunch was enjoyed with some of the cuverie team from Latour in Aloxe before I set off for my afternoon in Vosne Romanée.
If you are unlucky at harvest time you might spend sometime avoiding the tractors and trailers, the vans and beaten up pickers’ Renaults as you circuit the village twice looking for a parking space. But its the same everywhere but usually the drivers (of the tractors and vans at least) are old hands who drive with patience, humour and courtesy. Perhaps its my hired Renault Kangoo that encourages them to think I am one of their own! Its the occasional peloton of cyclists, both the colourful lycra enthusiasts and the wobbling tourists that really cause me to curse; neither seeming to have a thought for what is going on around them, slicing through groups of pickers like saucisson.

Sadly a vineyard problem at my next visit meant my visit was postponed 24 hours, which turned well in the end so I was free to call in to see Louis-Michel Liger-Belair

Louis-Michel at the triage table

Louis-Michel at the triage table

to see and hear how it was all going before calling in to see Pierre Vincent at Domaine de la Vougeraie at Premeaux-Prissey.
Its biodynamic here and they prepare their treatments in a wonderfully atmospheric barn.
Vougeraie's drying barn

Vougeraie’s drying barn

Filling the press at Vougeraie

Filling the press at Vougeraie

Washing the press.

Washing the press.

WEDNESDAY dawned a a little grey but I was due to do some work for a producer in Buisson and a blanket of cloud evens out the shadows in the vineyard making the job easier.

Looking good in Ladoix-Serrigny

Looking good in Ladoix-Serrigny

Porter at Domaine Ravaut

Porter at Domaine Ravaut

Pierre Ravaut at work in Ladoix's Bois Roussot

Pierre Ravaut at work in Ladoix’s Bois Roussot

More Pinot Noir arriving.

More Pinot Noir arriving.

Time for cassecroute

Time for cassecroute

After starting at 7.30, by 9.30 you are ready for a break.

After starting at 7.30, by 9.30 you are ready for a break.


The afternoon is again very warm with better light and I picnic late watching the harvest in La Tâche from up on the road above.
Harvest in Vosne-Romanée's La Tâche.

Harvest in Vosne-Romanée’s La Tâche.

then spend it around Vosne before chasing off to see if three “micro-negociants” can give me a few minutes in the middle of there harvest for a few urgently requested pictures.
Jeremy Seysses, after a quick change of shirt!

Jeremy Seysses, after a quick change of shirt!

Mounir Saouma at Lucien Lemoine - the perfect host ! Its a welcome home brewed beer this time.

Mounir Saouma at Lucien Lemoine – the perfect host !
Its a welcome home brewed beer this time.

Nicolas Potel - always on the move, always smiling.

Nicolas Potel – always on the move, always smiling.

.
That’s it, a typically fluid day in Burgundy.


Back for the harvest

I arrived in Burgundy from Champagne just after lunch today to find some harvest was already started on the Hill and in glorious weather, such a difference from the year before. I decided to drive around briefly but was quickly drawn into the old routine. On a visit to my friend Gareth at the Domaine Denis triage table in Pernand I found him happy with what passed in front of him.

Gareth shows how the Welsh do it...

Gareth shows how the Welsh do it…

He will be working, along with most others doing triage, until maybe 7 pm so I left him for a thirst quenching beer down at La Grappe de Pernand with Christian and Elizabeth, the bar owners.

Christian and Elizabeth prepared for the 6pm rush.

Christian and Elizabeth prepared for the 6pm rush.

Freshly kitted out with new tables and benches, they were ready for the imminent invasion of local “vendangeurs”.
I then took the dried mud track back through Charlemagne to find Domaine Dublère’s crew just finishing off their day.

Gathering in Blair Pethell's Corton Charlemagne

Gathering in Blair Pethell’s Corton Charlemagne

Lance leads the way !

Lance leads the way !

Just enough room ?

Just enough room ?

"Blair knows how to pick more than grape" said a porter !

“Blair knows how to pick more than grapes” said a porter !

I must be getting old but the “vendangeuses” are looking much younger these days! I carried on down to Aloxe-Corton and spotted pickers in Les Chaumes et Le Voi Rouge (named for its red stony soil). Here was Vincent Rapet very happy with the balance of his Pinot Noir in front of wonderful view of Corton Hill.

Even Vincent Rapet looks pleased.

Even Vincent Rapet looks pleased.

Corton Hillis quite a backdrop.

Corton Hill is quite a backdrop.

What a pity the design is finished, approved and the book goes to the printer in Milan on Monday 15th!

Embarrassingly I have felt the need to suggest my name on the cover is in slightly larger type than those of François Perroy who provided 20 of the 28 pages of text and Claude Chapuis who kindly contributed the preface.
It seems that certain book selling websites do not believe photographers can be authors. On two sites François is named exclusively as responsible. Not what I was hoping for after over three years of planning and shooting!
Anyway its all over bar the noise we must make around publication date (5 November) and I can now think of other things… like where to shoot next!