A year on the Hill of Corton

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In Don McCullin’s footsteps

October last year brought the weekend of Paulée de Chalon-sur-Saône with its vignerons’ parade, the big dinner, the exhibition of photos from my Chalonnaise book in the city’s streets and the opportunity for me and Emmanuel Mere and to play authors signing books. You never know what that will throw up. Well it was more of throwing down than up !

Friday evening’s tastings in Rue Luxembourg went well. I had brought my wife and daughter to enjoy the weekend’s fun and games and it was a great opportunity for them to meet some of the Chalonnaise’s finest. Vignerons not gendarmerie I hasten to add. Sadly the next day dawned damp and just got wetter. Not a book-buying morning and hardly an afternoon to parade through the old town following banners. But it takes more than rain to dampen spirits in Chalon-sur Saône. You’d have to go a long way to find more wet people smiling ! Sadly it was a problematic afternoon for the French TV crew filming for a popular travel programme. The Paulée itself was splendid and we were pleased to be sharing top table with Mr Gilles Platret, the mayor and a party of visitors from the Jura.

Friday and the powers that be in the Chalonnaise vineyards gather for a quick one before the official start of the weekend’s celebrations
No not posed, just lucky ! I found them the year later at the same event to get permission.
A little street entertainment !
Saturday afternoon. The guys from Montagny are glad of their cloaks this year, but are still smiling in true Chalonnais style !
The music goes on.
Rain, camera, action !
Lucky brass does not rust !
Huntsman are always part of the scene here, even in St Vincent’s Cathedral
“A table” at the Paulée
The brilliant winemakers’ choir making their TV debut at the Paulée .

Home 24 hours and then off to Argentina ! Arrive Tuesday, leave Thursday was the plan…… Visiting Catena Zapata I was hoping to get a portrait of the boss Laura Catena but sadly she was elsewhere. Never mind, I got to stay a couple of nights in Mendoza and pick up a Messi football shirt for my grandson as well as enjoying roaming the town for a couple of evenings. I wonder what its like in daylight ! I left before dawn and did not leave the vineyards until sunset.

You get great hospitality in South America and very well looked after.

“Another coffee, Jon ?”

The winery view west.
And find Don McCullen has been here too !
Pretty strong light but little on the vines…
Hitting the road to the Adrianna vineyard at election time.
A hole in the ground, one thing it is good to shoot when the sun is high !
Have a cup of mate while you wait.
Back to cellar.
Back in Mendoza the big match is on tonight, but I’ll be asleep ! Another early morning awaits.
Perhaps another time….
But first supper in the street. Wherever it was and whatever I ate and drank, I went back for more the next day !

Sweeping Mendoza streets with a palm leaf.
Another early morning at the Pyramid

After another good morning I was off at 11am to Weinert in Mendoza for a quick portrait en route for the airport and home.

HubertWeber and boss Iduna Weinert and, yes that says 2004 !
Any way you look at it, I have a long wait.

Iduna kindly dropped me at the Mendoza airport in time to do some lunch…

Yes a freelance does exist but it comes at a price – and its not worth it !
If there’s nowhere to sit in the airport, try the chapel…
The Latam team that found me my hotel !

It came courtesy of LATAM as my flight home had not only been delayed but rerouted. There were problems at Santiago where my flight was starting due to riots. So after a long wait we were flown to Chile for the night to catch a direct BA flight the next morning. So a safe bed at the Holiday Inn.. ( 2 king size doubles actually ) over the road from the airport, ( “don’t worry sir, you are perfectly safe, the army have surrounded the hotel and the CIA are on the floor above…… oh, and the restaurant closes in 30 minutes….” )

No football on the restaurant TV, just riots
Another “free meal” but not the beer that was oh so needed !

The problem was they gave you $30 US and the menu was in Chilean $ pesos… That lead to a slight “discussion” in the morning !

I do wish I’d bought some at Santiago airport as a souvenir of a surreal journey home !

Livres en Vignes 2019

I can only say blogging has not been a priority for some time. I am irregular at best and do not want the expression of my thoughts and pictures to become a treadmill, a virtual pet that needs feeding constantly. I hope to share, but on my terms. It is an outlet for me, not a marketing tool.

Coronavirus has brought normal life to a halt, so I have time to catch up.

It will give me a chance to relive, and reflect on, an interesting few months that now seem part of a former life I have lost contact with. Maybe it will bring it back to life and keep me going. We all need to keep going. We all need to realise the necessity to adapt, to change not only our lives, but ourselves. To reexamine our values from the new perspective forced on us. We have made mistakes, taken wrong turnings. Sometimes we do it out of thoughtlessness or selfishness. But we can start to improve things by doing the simple things with more thought for each other. Those small kindnesses that when we are able to perform them make others feel better and us too. We must appreciate what others do for us, how important are these small things that we are too busy to notice.

If we were worried about global warming, nature has told us off, put us in detention and given us time to adjust our thinking and behaviour. It seems as if it all comes down to a choice between possessions and people. Perhaps its time to worry less about what WE need and recognise the needs of others.

.Its not the economy, stupid, its your neighbour that counts. Not what he has and you don’t, but what you have and he does n’t.

Four years after my first experience with Une Année en Corton, I was asked back to this annual book fair to sit behind a pile of my second book “4 Seasons in Côte Chalonnaise”. It had been a much less traumatic birth as I was prepared for the labour of the final hours. However Laurent Poyol the designer was great to work with and was as kind as one can be when there are pictures to be culled. I took a look at initial layouts, rich in the designer’s input and recommended him to look at Ralph Gibson’s book of black and white photographs “The Spirit of Burgundy”. Beautifully clean pages prevent any distractions for the eye. Of course Gibson’s is an art book, the unintelligible preliminary text tells you that, so no captions are required.

4 Seasons is not “Art”, it is intended to communicate on a somewhat lower level. In an interview with Journal Saône et Loire, Emmanuel Mère the writer of the text, describes the book as a “vulgarisation”. Not a kind word to use on a book you have have contributed to I thought. On consulting numerous sources I found a definition that left me feeling a little less slandered: “to make intelligible.” In fact what users anything that is unintelligible I ask myself. Art in its many forms is, I confess, sometimes unintelligible. Paul Delaroche thought that the Daguerreotype had killed painting in 1839. I did n’t, it just sent it mad ! Or at least very angry. Its as if photography sent art or painting into a sulk and it would no longer talk to people wanted intelligibility. Of course photography, however much the English photographer Snowdon saw it as a craft, has become an art form and cut off relations with its forebears. So I am not an artist. I hope to introduce, to explain, to clarify, to admire,to amuse. But not to confuse.

Livres en Vignes you may recall from my last post on the subject is a wonderful weekend of meeting book buyers and authors under the hallowed roof and at the wonderful tables of Château du Clos de Vougeot.

Great fun and a “novel” experience for an Englishman ! Let the pictures tell their story…

Optimistic pile of books
This will do nicely !
Cécile Tremblay and Philippe Charlopin are interested in my neighbour’s book.
French author from “Central Casting “?
A visit from Les Muzards of Santenay
Apero ?
The Japanese love books about Burgundy
Jacky Rigaux draws the crowds
As does Jean-Robert Pitte
Can’t argue with that !
Meanwhile the kitchen is hard at work preparing for dinner tonight
Summoned by trumpets !

Time to mingle before dinner.
Some of us have been intronised !
Cheese madame …?
Time for a song
Or a speech
Or a chat with Jean-Nicolas Meo
Then another song…
Before the traditional finale
And Loic and the rest play a departing fanfare !
Everyone on their buses please !
Sunday morning we are ready to go again !
Under the watchful eyes of the monks.
and Vincent from L’Athenaeum !


Leonardo da Vinci on Wine

” I believe that great happiness awaits those men who are born where good wines are to be found” said Leonardo.

I have visited the Côte Chalonnaise for my book nine times since last March and after twenty years focussed on the Côte d’Or and I quickly noticed the change. A landscape that is somehow more intriguing, however much you vineyards, but also a greater openness among the people I met. I realised the pressure that exists in the Côte d’Or and its absence south of Chagny.

I won’t try to explain it, I expect you can work it out for yourself. I find the Chalonnaise a more relaxing experience. It is certainly not brought about because people don’t care or try. Believe me they do, but somehow they manage to perform the trick of smiling at the same time ! Even the farmer, feeding his cattle their winter feed in September because of a very dry summer, has an air of acceptance and can smile.

It seems Leonardo da Vinci sums it up for me. Note he does not say “great”. Chasing extremes is perhaps not the route to happiness for most people.

After the trip in September to cover the harvest, came the attempt to represent autumn without too many clichés but beauty is beauty and the colours and light are irresistible. It was good to observe the Paulée de Chalon from the outside and watch my Burgundian photographer Michel Joly and English wine writer and photographer Tim Atkin MW being intronised and entering into the fun of the event. It happened to coincide with a motor rally that blocked off sections of the Vaux valley at times and also lead to someone crashing into a parcel of Faiveley’s vineyards on the Rully to Mercurey road !

For winter I was intent on catching the harshness of the weather, so I spent what time was available in December watching a forecast which showed nothing but rain. So I stayed at home. January would bring a weekend away for the local St Vincent celebrations the week before the Tournante at Vezelay near Chablis. Its a wonderful place but there was need to be there for a book on the Chalonnaise.

It was impossible to be in 5 places at once for the parades, masses and meals but I somehow managed Mercurey, Rully and Montagny, all quite different in character.

I got some frost on my last morning and plenty of fog but no snow. I suspect I will have to do without it….. I am off shortly for the February trip with my fingers crossed. It is already a struggle to fit all the pictures into the space I have and book design is a complex thing.

Life lately has been full of distractions, not least the book itself and I don’t seem to be able to finish this post ! The experience has been wonderful and I just have the time to write it all down so I’ll just bombard you with pictures and hope they entice you looking further at the idea of visiting and tasting the Côte Chalonnaise.

The winemakers take to the streets of Chalon to celebrate the Paulée
The intronised trio of photographers can’t seem to choose which glass they want! Justo Rodriguez, Michel Joly and Tim Atkin.
The winemakers’ choir put in some rehearsal before the Paulée dinner.
Not everyone enjoys the band !
Winemakers’ choir practice…
Pruning in the Vaux valley
Pruning in Mercurey
A new way. These pruning are going to be recycled, not burnt 🙂
But they still toast barrels.
“Lulu” made this sculpture in St Vallerin for the Vincent Tournante celebrations in 2002, it was built to last, so was he !
Unexpected encounter at Jambles !
Another in Mercurey.
Quite a downpour on the plain east of Meursault
St Vincent’s day 2019 in Montagny
Serious business 1
Serious business 2
Ready for the parade in Mercurey
Montagny still eating at Buxy
Back to work, taking care of the future in Mercurey.
“A pied” in Chalon-sur-Saône
Chalon’s famous son, Nicephore Niepce started life here.
Bottling it !
Celebrating it!

The journey over, the job done. Almost. Now its time to edit a year’s pictures and put together the book. More triage, more culling, this is the hard part. Thank you to everyone in the Côte Chalonnaise for their great kindness, cooperation and good humour, its been a wonderful journey. Please look out for “A Year in the Côte Chalonnaise in the autumn

Anyway the good news is that a shot from the book has already won me the Pink Lady/Errazuriz wine photographer of the year 2019 and it could hardly be a less glamorous image. But then the Chalonnaise is about reality not glamour and I love it. Leonardo, you were so right !

Why do we drink Burgundy ?

The first bottle of Burgundy I bought, over 25 years ago, was an inexpensive white Mâcon from a co-op. I can only say it was not love at first taste. A later tasting of Mercurey red on its home territory did not lead to a purchase.

In the early days of any relationship, ignorance and inexperience are big factors in our decision making. As far as Burgundy is concerned my later introduction to it was  much more pleasurable, but then I was not having to struggle with the idea of any financial commitment.

Subsequent encounters have been easier as I gained a little knowledge and experience. However the reassurance of a “brand”, be it a vineyard, producer or “millesime” was useful guide as long as one stayed in the same area. For me and no doubt many others that was Chablis and the Côte d’Or, with occasional surprising forays into the Maconnais.

Not being vinously curious or needing to make regular purchases, I stayed where I was comfortable.  Until last year, when I was sent to the Chalonnais to photograph a few winemakers.

While I had come across very good individual producers in Givry and Rully, the other appellations were unknown to me.

Well, Montagny was a revelation, Mercurey was a surprise and Bouzeron a delight.

We should remember what changes there have been in winemaking over the last twenty years.

So I wonder what keeps so many of these wines a secret… Ignorance and inexperience was my excuse but I suspect for many it is the reassurance we gain from a high price and the constant repetition of “brands” by experts in the media. If we have the money we are tempted by the caché of these “brands”, but how many have the experience and knowledge to justify our choices. We are “sitting on the shoulders of giants” and following received wisdom.

As fashions change around the world and scarcity becomes a factor in increasingly high prices some people are protesting that their beloved Burgundy is no longer within reach.

Well all I can say is, go south, to the Chalonnais and start tasting.

I have been working there for a week every month since last April for my next book and I can tell you there is a lot to be discovered and enjoyed. Winemaking is as serious and as committed as further north but life is more real and relaxed and I’ve heard more than one winemaker whistling. High end it may not be, but its certainly more fun.

Time to think about why we drink Burgundy……

Meanwhile here is an introduction to the Côte Chalonnaise and what I found.

More to follow, but the best stuff goes in the book, out next September in French but with an English edition for those 20pp of text amongst the 220pp of photographs.

Vaux Valley in March
St Denis de Vaux in Spring
My “canteen” in Givry
Working above the mist at Montagny. Or is it Napa ?
Rully and its château. Have n’t seen much rain since,,,,
I fancy something simple tonight.
An artistic blacksmith in Buxy
Drama st Bouzeron
Making Brioche at Russilly during their Fête du Pain
A rustily local on his way to the entertainment
Elsewhere, at Lalhue a contest for working horses means the owners do the work !
Domaine de la Folie preparing the cellar for harvest.
Bringing in the Chardonnay at Domaine de la Monette
Hurry up, the rain’s coming !
Told you so !
Punching down at Domaine Joussier

Grands Jours and exploring the Chalonnais

On paper “Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne” is not really the best time ( March ) for a photographer to visit Burgundy. The vigneron are busy with their bi-enniel home  fixture with the world’s wine buyers and wine press. They must be transported, fed, entertained and, apparently, protected from the elements.  I’m told one journalist arrived at Mercurey during the deluge on Thursday and, on seeing the next available asking space was some distance from the venue, turned round and went away!  Well he missed a good tasting, excellent value and an excellent lunch ( prepared for 950 visitors !).  The old adage of rain following a view of Mont Blanc should have made him think of taking the navette from Beaune on Thursday.

The week began as usual at Dijon station at lunchtime an I headed for a session with Gregory and Antoine Gouges in Nuits.

Consider how many people have rung that bell,including all the Burgundy aficionados you could name.

Gregory and Antoine finally relax !

Tuesday: Its the Palais de Congrés in Beaune today to get mt GJs accreditation and hopefully use the press room’s wifi to email my Gouges portrait back to UK. Then cruise the Volnay, Beaune, Pommard tastings for old friends and new subjects.

BIVB press room facilities.

Brian Sieve from de Montille and François Bitouzet discuss Volnay

Jean-Marc Cachat reminds me where we met last time.

Yes he was planing new chardonnay vines above Beaune, not Pommard as I thought. Close to the border no doubt !

While Pierre Cornu’s cousin Manu holds the fort in Beaune as he is at Terriors de Corton in Latour’s cuverie.

Look what I find at Terroirs de Corton and I meet a lady “subjugée” by the pictures !

The Latour cuverie, a national monument seems to be where everyone wants to be.

I’m lucky to catch up with the new man in charge at Bonneau du Martray and get a few pictures

Off to Meursault’s renovated leper hospital and a greeting from Marie-Anne Bouzereau-Gruere.

Meursault has its own show and expects plenty of visitors

Quite a sandwich at Meursault !

That’s enough crowds for the day, I’m off to the south in search of some drama !

An odd corner in Bouzeron.

Wednesday promised to be the best day of the week and I’m lucky to have a B+B in the vines

Mist over Buxy.

with a grandstand view over Buxy and I was lucky to have a guide as Thierry Daventure from the B+B to take me around Montagny.

Montagny les Buxy. Home to some of my favourite whites.

Working above the mist at Montagny.

With Jully les Buxy in the distance.

A lunchtime walk in Buxy.

metalwork in Buxy 1

Metal work in Buxy 2

José in Moroges.

What goes with a good Chalonnais red…?
Charolais !

Exploring Givry.

Not sure anyone’s home though.

But plenty to see.

The perfect time to tour the Vaux valley.

St Denis de Vaux.

Only shadows in the streets at St Jean de Vaux.

Thursday in Mercurey brought a different story…

Water into wine ..?

What they are all here for.

Paul Jacqueson serving wine at lunchtime.

No shortage of choice.

Anyone for cheese?

Something sweet and sticky?

Have pencil, will travel.

Heading off to Rully I see a Mercurey name I recognise.

Champ St Martin on the road to Rully.

Vincent discusses Rully.

Friday. Homeward bound after a final call at the GJs

Burning prunings at Gevrey – after the rain.

Inside at the GJs at Gevrey

Gendarmes from Gevrey told me they were just looking…  So was I ! Time to catch my train.

Burgundy: changing places. .

Onward and upward is a good theme. The last few months have seen some changes. Of course Burgundy changes seamlessly most of the timeDomaines are born or disappear as their owners do.

New hyphenated names appear just when you are not looking. What has been one domaine for hundreds of years can be divided by siblings. The tax man has to be paid so vineyards are sold off. New domaines are born, others are strengthened. With the wines achieving such fame and unheard of prices a  leading domaine can change hands of excruciating sums of money partly because the majority do not come on the market but just stay within families. But the increasing price of the land means that a livelihood that is sometimes precarious, as we have seen all to often in recent years, produces for many an income that bears little relation to the value of the property. That cannot be a good thing. Sooner or later even the successful estates come onto the market if there are problems of succession and the region suffers a small tremor as new forces are felt.

Even when a succession is secure we still lose great winemakers. But we all have our allotted span…

For these reasons there have been new faces appearing at familiar addresses over the past year.

It seems  like quite a shake up but Burgundy with its long history has a way of just continuing in its usual way. Some people worry new people will change Burgundy’s direction but that direction is controlled not so much by people as its history and its nature. Wine makers throughout Burgundy know that they do not control their lives. Their terroir does.

Chardonnay in Pommard..?! Monsieur Cachat says “Why not, this is Beaune !”

Meanwhile Denis Berthault in Fixin has handed over to daughter Amelie but is still helping out a bit.

Thierry Brouin is saying goodbye at Clos Des Lambrays after 37 years.

Thierry will stay on while Boris Champy late of Louis Latour settles in

And this “ecusson” will be coming down under new owners.

Sylvain Pitiot too has retired, I shall miss his patience, smile, craggy face, piercing eyes and those glasses

New man Jacques Devauges comes all the way from Domaine de L’Arlot

This memorial in Domaine Leflaive’s Bâtard Montrachet marks Anne-Claude’s sad passing.

Brice de la Morandiere is in charge now.

So there are developments and new investments.

But the ethos remains the same.

So these promotional thermometers are a rarity but speak of times past. The girl in the vineyard look as if the pay was pretty good and the work easier !

As do the windows in the former cuverie at Close de Vougeot.

Elsewhere things go on as usual as Franck Grux, Olivier Leflaive and Jean Soubeyrand pose in the shade of a Puligny roundabout.

Jerome Flous and Erwan Faiveley show me round the Faiveley cellars in Suits St Georges.

The tourists make the most of June sunshine.

And Pierre Duroché of Gevrey-Chambertin indulges in some evening climbing above Chambolle-Musigny.


Plus ça change…..



Arinzano, a Vino de Pago in Navarra.

At Arinzano they are very proud to be a Vino de Pago, a vineyard recognised as a specific site, a superior appellation within an appellation is the simplest way to put it. Their name may not be one  you are not familiar with but wearing my non-expert hat I loved it, especially the white ( my usual weakness ).  My trip to the estate in Navarra was the repeat of a visit for the Finest Wines of N Spain book,which was in itself a wonderful eye-opening experience. The estate is now under new ownership but the gate and its view are still stunning, only this time I arrived after a two hour taxi ride from Bilbao which should not be seen as a drawback but very much a bonus. The scudding dark clouds were too. Its a dramatic spot that would have looked a little tame under a clear blue sky. The guest accommodation was perfect, with vines all around and I was spoilt with lunch and dinner at a variety of suitably good but relaxed local restaurants in the company of the wine maker, Diego Ribbert and  the general manager Manuel Lozada. What could go wrong…? Is n’t there always a downside, a hiccup …?

No not here.

That was saved for another job….

The kind of shot that needs the light coming from just the right direction and means an early morning.

On the other hand the location of the vineyards in a valley running north to south means the ‘hero’ shot will have to wait until mid morning which gives me time to get breakfast before I scramble up through the scrub and thorns to a suitable viewpoint.

Breakfast, deserved and needed. In Spain lunch is mid afternoon.

3 cameras ready to go.

Dramatic light means heavy rain is on the way.

The valley channels the wind and the rain moves on. Rot is not a problem here.

Eventually it rains and its time for lunch.

Followed by some indoor work in the cellars.

Clearly looking forward to having their picture taken, José, Manuel and Diego.

More of the team Diego with Ana and Iván.

My fun transport among the chardonnay !

An attempt to do a slightly different ‘bottle shot’ Shooting a moving target and getting the labels sharp was not as easy as I had thought !

Ana realises that modelling is hard work !

Coffee and cake was our reward.

Manuel hard at work in the cellar.