A year on the Hill of Corton

How will the Covid Harvest of 2020 be remembered?

Well I’ve been sitting here, in quarantine, so have had time to think and write.

I made a quick dash on 31 August and returned on September 4th, a 5 day trip that would not force me to quarantine in France if Mr Macron responded to Boris in like fashion again.

A short but delightful visit to Laurent-Perrier

I had only found out by research before my trip to Champagne in early July that he allowed corroborated business trips up to 5 days duration.

Anyway I missed the Côte de Beaune harvest but caught the tail end of Nuits up in Vosne and Gevrey. The word you will have heard no doubt is that the harvest is small but excellent if you make good use of your sorting table.

Triage at Domaine Champy

Since my travels to the Chalonnaise I really enjoy the break from green stripes going this way and that. Its nice to see a cow now and then so it was enjoyable ride except for the homeward rush of Côte d’Or pickers anxious for me to eat their dust.

Its not 2003 by a long way, or 1976 but they know the wine they will make they will be proud of.

My first visit hot from Dijon Gare having spent 8 hours travelling in a mask with Eurostar’s idea of social distancing spoilt by people not sitting where they should and finding that SNCF was rather similar. I had 30 minutes free of steamed up glasses to get to L’Etang-Vergy in the Hautes Côtes de Nuits.

Laurent Delaunay gets my week off to a good start

At an 19c château in L’Etang-VergyLaurent Delaunay is rebuilding the House of Edouard Delaunay having bought the house, winery and brand name back from Jean-Claude Boisset, it will be worth following his progress I’m sure.

The rest of the week from Tuesday early (7.15 in Nantoux ) to midday Friday, was a patchwork of visits up and down the Côte d’Or, to Chablis for a quick visit to Chablis and another to the Maconnais.

In Hautes Côtes de Beaune the winemaker previously at Louis Latour and Domaine de Lambrays, Boris Champy has found his dream organic and biodynamic estate in Nantoux. It was set up by Didier Monchovet in the 1980s and Didier was looking for a suitable buyer. Well he certainly found one. Domaine Boris Champy will be getting regular visits from me !

Both Laurent and Boris are raring to make the most of what the Hautes Côtes can offer in a warmer climate.

Meanwhile down the road in Pommard Michael Baum is spending his Silicon Valley millions ( it looks more like billions ! ) in renovating the vineyards and facilities at Château de Pommard, a series property that has not had much stability until Michael arrived. Stability may not have arrived yet actually. A huge crane, the sound of falling walls and the cutting of new stone and a large whole in the ground man there will be work going on here for a while and winemaker Emmanuel Sala is in temporary accommodation out at St Marie Le Blanche for a little while. I can imagine Burgundy is going to have an interesting few years ahead.

Winemaker Emmanuel Sala is happy with 2020

Another American, Mark O’Connell has teamed up with Pierre Meurgey to run Domaine de La Chapelle based at Château de Bligny to develop an estate around the Volnay premiere cru vineyard. It has recently caught the attention of Wine Spectator.

Mark O’Connell checks fermentation at his Domaine Clos de la Chapelle

After the day spent with these three it was off to try to get a picture of Frank Grux as he coped with the harvest at Olivier Lelaive. Always a warm welcome from Frank despite his discomfort in front my camera !

Frank Grux says its time for an apero.

Wednesday. Another early start to get more at Château de Pommard before returning to see Boris Champy for a little cassecroute of coffee and crepes with his young and enthusiastic team and to be introduced to Boris’s new acquisition, a state of the art vertical press and shoot some pipeage a pied.

Pigeage the hard (but safe ) way.
Bringing in the Pinot

. Then I head south through the Chalonnaise to see how my friends down there have got on before heading for my Maconnais rendez-vous with Gautier Thevenet in Quintaine before he starts his harvest

First up Clemece and Baptiste Dubrulle at Domaine de la Folie in Rully.

Happy its turned out well !

In Rully itself the Jaquesons finished yesterday.

Domaine de Villaine in Bouzeron still have pickers to feed.
Domaine Paul Jaqueson and friends in their “bubble”

Always late pickers, the Thevenets. Gautier’s father Jean explained when I first met him nearly 20 years ago that it used to be the way in the Maconnais.

Gautier Thevenet impatient to prepare for tomorrow’s harvest

Afterwards I return north via St Vallerian to see Didier carton-Vachet then to Rosey to collect some demi-sec goats cheese from Marie-Therese Bourjon and sign her copy of the book then on to Mercurey to Meix-Foulot to see how they enjoyed the “4 Seasons” and find myself signing another for Michel, another “rencontre par hasard”

Didier is always smiling !
In Rosey, just follow the signs.
Marie-Therese, super fromage de chevre.
Touches,one of my favourite views.
A stageur at Meix-Foulot has bought a souvenir,

A 6 pm cancellation allows me to meet my good friend from Bourgogne Aujourdhui magazine, Thierry Gaudillere and introduce him to the delights of an Italian made pizza in Mercurey at Basilicum. I was a regular there during my Chalonnaise visits, along with Mme Michelot’s bakery over the road and I wanted to give them both a copy of my book.

Thursday. The new Boisset winery, spectacularly as it is,covered in grass and vines I found the interior equally impressive. Greg Patriat has been in place there 17 years he tells me. He occasionally reminds me of previous visits as we tour his new facility. Its been a time he is very proud of.

Greg Patriat in his new “office” at Boisset

But its his busy time and he’s trusting me to work quickly and head off back to Meursault to catch Eric Germain at Domaine Vincent Girardin. Its another brief visit but its not long since I spent a day there for Vigneron magazine so I know Eric and the estate well. There’s even time for a coffee with Eric and marketing man Marco.

Eric Germain at Domaine Vincent Girardin.

Next, quickly back to Comblanchien to meet a new face for a change. And also, as it turns out, an older face too. I had read about Camille Thiriet on Jancis Robinson.com and decided I should get some portraits. She was busy with décuvage and pipeage when I arrived so I shot some action. Who was there, giving a hand and some advice but Bernard Noblet once of Domaine de la Romanée Conti and now retired. It speaks volumes to find that sort of help on hand.

Bernard and Camille doing some decuvage.

So to Chablis to see Didier Seguier at William Fevre after lunch. His harvest had just finished but his time was still precious. I have been coming to Burgundy for a long time and my reward is that I am taken seriously by such busy men. But you still must know what you want and work quickly.

A reminder of the 2020 vintage and William Fevre’s rigorous approach

Its a long drive to Chablis and back for half an hour’s work but I was happy to take a leisurely drive back to Beaune and have time to see old friends. Mounir from Lucien Le Moine is down in Châteauneuf du Pape taking care of harvest down there so I double back to Ladoix to see how things are going with Pierre Cornu. Its smiles all round there, what a lovely family they are. Ladoix is full of strong family domaines. I suddenly find its beer’o’clock and head over to see Serge the bee keeper to have a quick one and see if he has honey left. Sadly there’s no one in so I do a quick tour of Corton Hill where harvest has finished it seems. Can it really be seven years since I was working on the Corton book….?

Pierre Cornu and the next generation, Lucie and Paul
Pierre Cornu’s winemaking timetable.

Friday. I’m off home today after a morning touring the Côte de Nuits in search activity and a visit to Domaine de l’Arlot to photograph Geraldine Godot before heading for Dijon station.

Christophe Roumier in full swing so I don’t hang around !
Guillon’s Gevrey-Chambertin Champonnet
Odile at Domaine Michel Noellat in Vosne – the spirit of Burgundy 2020
Geraldine Godot at Domaine L’Arlot in Premeaux-Prissy unmasked !
I found some interesting light but the location was tricky !

Here there are a number of delays caused by an electrical problem and the concourse is filling up. Everyone has a mask on despite the warmth and you just have to find a quiet, socially distanced corner and hope for the best.

Fortunately the delay causes me no problems at Gare du Nord. Everyone is reminded to complete their locator forms ready to get into the UK. Trouble is if you chose to ignore the form there seems to be no one at St Pancras to enforce it. I take the tube home to start my two weeks’ quarantine amid a train full of people not bothering to social distance or wear masks properly, if at all….

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