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.
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.
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.
Next stop lunch and Marie-Luce is promising great value/quality. She was n’t wrong!
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.
Highlight of the afternoon, what was left of it, was a return to Meursault to visit Alix and Etienne de Montille
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.
Then over to Cornu in Ladoix – triage again…
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.
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.
Time to move on and as I got near Dijon I just had time for a quick visit to Eric Rousseau at Gevrey_Chambertin.
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 :-)….?
Anyway there is now a publication date of 5 November so we’re nearly there !
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 !
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…
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.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.
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,harvest style ! Great morning views of Pernand but sadly the Church roof is under repair for a while so I’m glad I already have that.
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-Belairto 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.
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.
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. 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. .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!