Having enjoyed a few days pre-Christmas a few years ago we returned in February with friends, and I promised to be less seduced with is photographic potential…… Well I tried.
On our first trip I avoided the gondolas, this time our friends were not to be denied the experience and it happened that one of them knew how to bargain ! Get the right gondolier and it really is worth it. A damp day means business is slow and negotiation is easier.
The trouble, I have found with blogging, is that to do it regularly requires time, discipline, and something to post…
Well I have had not enough of the first two and too much of the third. Just when I think I can take a break and blog a bit, something comes up. You, dear visitor, are only here for the wine stuff and that, we all know, is only part of life. So be prepared for a sunami of posts. Perhaps not all about wine.
First off, if I can remember, is Chile. Its always exciting to get a trip there, especially to Errazuriz who sponsored an award won in 2014. Not only that, there are are always beauty, hospitality, lots going on and great people.
A few days before my return to Chile for Vinedos Chadwick it was terrible to hear about the forest fires that were threatening vineyards and other agriculture there.
I did the haze of smoke even in Santiago and small areas of singed vineyards to the west but my trip was otherwise unaffected.
I was collected at Santiago airport and taken straight off to the coast to document the start of the Aconcagua valley at Vina del Mar. That started with lunch overlooking the Pacific and a bunch of pelicans!
As is often the case its often the photographs you miss that stick in the memory. As Raimundo scoured the streets of Vina del Mar for the restaurant he had been recommended to I spotted a straw-hatted man pushing an old wheelbarrow in the gutter, as we passed I caught sight of what it carried; a large framed portrait of the madonna and child in what seemed like fifty shades of purple !
I did not have the heart to disturb his concentration and ask Raimundo to turn round. And regretted it for quite a while ! He does n’t mind my occasional bouts of extra mural snapping, but not when lunch is overdue.
I rarely talk about the wines I encounter, I have no qualifications to pronounce on things vinous. However… this was my first meeting with Carmenere and I was smitten, much as I was with late picked Sauvignon Blanc last time. While many years devoted to Burgundy have formed my taste, my travels give me the chance to experience other things and that is something we should never stop doing, exploring the wine world. It is growing faster than we can keep up with !
For example, in Uruguay, Bouza’s chardonnay/albarino blend is a New World wine I will look for in future.
Enough chat, let’s have some pictures or I’ll never catch up, the Chile trip was in January!
Altogether a beautiful place, rolling hills that give a photographer no time off.
My discovery here this time was the Carmenere.
Next, on to Panquehue and more slopes and friendly faces.
And so to Caliterra for some more shots of Mai and another stunning location.
Chileans love horses and my next visit was to Vinedo Chadwick, once the polo field of Eduardo’s father, Alfonso, long time captain of Chile’s national polo team. Eduardo knew this site in the Maipo valley was good for Cabernet Sauvignon and persuaded his father to turn his polo field in a vineyard in 1992.
One thing I’ve learnt about blogging is that posts with a good name attract readers, so please forgive me Jancis. Otherwise I was going to entitle this one “Shooting the messenger” !
One element of December and January was photographing three tastings and a book launch before I had to start travelling again. So here is an album of some of your favourite wine writers at work.
My first was a morning at a wine shop like no other in London – Hedonism. Handily placed in Mayfair if you run out of Y’quem or Lafite. I was there to shoot a tasting put on by Andrea Franchetti for his IGT wines from Tenuta di Trinoro in the Orcia valley in Tuscany.
Stephen Brook was one of the first in.
The Cabotte Restaurant in London organised a blind tasting of wines from Nuit St Georges later in December.
During the Burgundy tasting week in London Flint Wines asked to record their event. More cries of “Not you again!” from the tasters so I concentrated on the winemakers.Good to see so many familiar faces.
The wine media were on hand at the Berry Bros offices in St. James’s for the launch of Ch’ng Poh Tiong’s new book “50 Bordeaux chefs:Top Chinese Restaurants in the World”. Simon Berry was on form as the host and Poh Tiong had provided some Château Yquem 2013.
Now I’m looking forward to seeing the vineyards again.
Next stop Chile !
My apologies for a protracted silence, but as you will see later its been a busy winter/springtime visiting four different countries. That all coming soon.
Back in November (!), the day after the Paulée I made a quick return to shoot these guys or a Wine Enthusiast story about up and coming negociants in Burgundy. Rain had been predicted so we worked on and under the balconies of the courtyard at the Hospices de Beaune.
All great guys but put them together… Not so easy to control! Perhaps they knew me too well. A great time anyway.
Thanks to the people at the Hospices for helping us to shoot in such wonderful surroundings, Lee-Anne and Jean-Thierry.
If you have not been, you must !
Rain arrived on time.
Another tough day at the office !
Having suddenly become a (publishable) writer I arranged to refresh my memories of the Paulée before writing a piece for Norwegian magazine Vin Forum. Its always great fun to see winemakers from elsewhere to enjoy the event but I think it may not belong before guests need napkin waving lessons, it was not quite as enthusiastic this year, perhaps fatigue had set in or there were too many shy first time visitors. I certainly noticed a US male still wearing jacket and tie at the end !
Making his debut, but far more enthusiastic were Dan Keeling and his Noble Rot team who fully emerged themselves ! Honoured to be asked, I gave them a good deal on photos of the event, so look out for the next issue !
Also noticeable was a strong contingent from Côte de Nuits with Mathilde Grivot and Eve Faiveley setting the pace.
The lunch in pictures :
Occasionally when I think I should take a rest from Burgundy, perhaps because there are no assignments in prospect or I have seen enough of one event or another for my view to become jaded, I will decide to take a rest. Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder….
And then suddenly, weeks after I’ve contacted potential clients, within 2 or 3 days and usually a week before they are needed, I must attend to the needs of four clients !
The jobs vary from a single portrait each( as you are in the area..,) for a magazine and a UK importer, to an eight page article with half a dozen portraits to shoot plus the need to bring everyone together for half an hour for a group shot.
Unlikely as this eventuality sounds you must remember this is Burgundy and anything is possible.
This time I all also find myself heading for Beaune’s big Auction weekend and the Paulée de Meursault to shoot and write two articles for a Norwegian magazine. The next day to spend my day around the courtyard of the Hotel Dieu itself hoping the tourists have all gone as I try to photograph six negociants for a US magazine.
Lets hope this post is not November 2014 all over again.
The writing is a new thing and very satisfying when it flows…. I cannot call myself a wine writer, no one would but apparently as a photographer I have a different way of see things. and I hope to bring some background to the world of tasting notes and scores, vintages and the preferences of experts with far greater ability, experience and discrimination than most of us will ever need, let alone achieve.
And the buyers are waiting.
Well we have heard so much this year about the disasters befalling Burgundy, indeed there was a double page drawing in Decanter of winemakers queueing to sell vineyards to negociants in order get through their grape famine. Frost, hail, rot, what a year. In the end the winemakers’ skill and tenacity along with a redeeming August come to the rescue and what grapes I saw and was given to taste looked excellent. We must wait and see how everyone survives. Winemakers don’t like to comment until the wine is in the barrel, neither should we.
Those negociants who I did serendipitously encounter (mainly by blocking their route with hurried parking in the vineyards!); Gilles de Courcel from Chanson, Erwan Faiveley, and Louis-Fabrice Latour were, as usual taking a positive stance, good quality being anticipated but small numbers…
One winemaker in Côte de Nuit was listing his losses on his fingers with some virulence, including all his Chambolle-Musigny premier cru but even he had not lost the 75% that I have come across.
There is no doubt these guys have had a hard time and have no alternative but to increase prices, but they know how that will be received, so this is a year to tighten the belt, shelve future projects and hope St Vincent and St Medard will look kindly on them in 2017.
I was to combine visits to Vincent Dancer in Chassagne and Chandon de Briailles in Savigny with other things that have cropped up to take me to Comblanchien, Vosne and Gevrey along with keeping my eye open for some harvest action.
It was difficult to anticipate what I would find but at least the weather forecast was promising.
My first encounter of the trip was a positive one, Etienne Julien in Comblanchien. The village is more known for its stone and a wartime massacre than its vigneron population and the Domaine Julien sign does not stand out very well. Which is a pity as it is well made and humorous, resembling many a vigneron sign I have seen in Champagne depicting the metier of the winemaker. One might say Etienne is well made and humorous himself, there is certainly enough of him ! I postponed a chance to taste as he was preparing for harvest but I am assured by two friends I trust that he is a “rising” star.
Rising but with two feet firmly on the ground.
After a quick ride around Corton Bressandes, finding new tarmac and tourist signposts but not much action, I headed through Aloxe-Corton past the dismal boarded up concrete bunker that was once Reine Pedauque and had my spirits lifted by the sight of Franck Follin’s cottage.
I was expected at Domaine Chandon de Briailles to discuss a day’s shoot tomorrow and in the gravelled courtyard in front of the magnificent house I am met by Claude Jousset-Drouhin and her terrier “Darling” who must once have escaped from a circus he (she ? I do not notice such things) is very agile, well trained and generally adorable.
A tour of the house where her parents still live and the gardens, where her children still play is followed by discussions about time and direction of sunrise and the possibility of shutters being left open all night for a dawn start and how to open the large front gate.
Tuesday dawned with clear skies overhead but cloud in the east for the sun to overcome. Never mind, I had wrestled with the gates and eventually got in.. You may be able to pick your hour, and your day, but seldom the season when you have an assignment to shoot and dawn in June would have given me a better angle at first light and shooting buildings is often about angles and timing. In September the sun must find its way through the trees and is almost right behind me when it appears. After an hour with the pickers harvesting Corton Blanc at the southerly end of Bressandes I was back to the house which was better but less interestingly lit. Never mind, casscroute comes to the rescue and there is plenty more to do and there is still the west facing side to shoot at dusk and beyond.
But first, lunch.
Waiting for dusk and an “all lights on” shot. A long wait….
Early mornings at harvest time are great and on Wednesday I was off to Chassagne to see Vincent Dancer for the day. Back in 1998 I asked JancisRobinson who would be good to photograph in Burgundy and Vincent was among the names so I have known him a while.
I am introduced to Marcel who is doing his 60th harvest and discover I photographed him in 2010 for a story about Chassagne-Montrachet’s St Vincent celebrations !
After a long day I am off to be fed at Table de Gregoire, aka Greg Love. Now resident, well he was then, at Domaine Jessiaume in Santenay, we are sharing a home cooked meal tonight.
I arrived bottleless (coals to Newcastle ?) except for two jars of honey from Serge, my beekeeper friend in Ladoix. I promptly forgot to give them to Greg !
Having done his harvest stint Greg departed later that week and is now sampling the delights of Nepal !
So to Thursday, a return visit to Chandon de Briailles and some free time to mop up other picture requests.
A horse ploughing pic, just for me ! A lovely morning with Prosper the Percheron and François the vineyard manager at Chandon de Briailles overlooking the outskirts of Savigny.
Friday. Another promising dawn followed me through the Côte de Nuit as far as Vosne-Romanée, where I had two appointments on my way to my lunchtime train at Dijon. At Nuit I turned up to the left towards the cemetery and followed the vineyard roads to Vosne. Here Romanée Conti are in Richebourg and I spot my friend Didier Dubois who followed his work for Merode in Ladoix-Serrigny when their Grand Crus of Bressandes, Clos du Roi and Renardes were leased to Romanée Conti. He occasionally emails me charming aquarelles he has made from my pictures in the Corton book like the one below
After Vosne I called at the shop in Château du Clos de Vougeot as the Chevaliers de Tastevin have promised to stock the Corton book. Its excellent news and I’m quietly proud to be on the shelf alongside some great books.
As I carried on through Morey St Denis I encountered Christophe Perrot-Minot and his Landrover and stopped to see how things are. He sadly counted off on his hand the appellations he had lost to the frost. I’m leaving Burgundy after very positive week but reminded it has been a very tough year for some.