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.
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 ?”
After another good morning I was off at 11am to Weinert in Mendoza for a quick portrait en route for the airport and home.
Iduna kindly dropped me at the Mendoza airport in time to do some lunch…
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….” )
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 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…
” 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 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 !
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.
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.
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.
Wednesday promised to be the best day of the week and I’m lucky to have a B+B in the vines
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.
Thursday in Mercurey brought a different story…
Friday. Homeward bound after a final call at the GJs
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.
Plus ça change…..
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….
If I have a favourite part of Bordeaux I think it is St Emilion, in spite of its touristic tendencies, but when asked to go to Pomerol I was not too unhappy!
I was off to Château Petit Village, a name I had often passed by and was going to spend a whole 24 hours exploring it and meet….. It looks a small property but then I don’t know Pomerol vineyards so well despite several visits. All the houses seem more like farmhouses than châteaux although some are grander than others. That of Lafleur would surprise most people, across the road as it is from the famous Petrus.
Anyway Petit Village at least has a small avenue of trees and modern extension. And some guest accommodation that is always so welcome. One glance out of the window tells you whether to get up or not ! Of course its flat but there are no distractions, no frills. Everything is for the wine.
Diana meets me on the drive and I given the tour. The modern extension is impressive but simple, everything is functional and well thought through. I am left to wander the vines alone as the sun drops before showering and meeting up with Diana and her husband to have dinner in St Emilion. The next morning is grey and I’m grateful I made the most of the previous evening. I have only the morning to shoot some more portraits, the tasting room, barrel room and cuverie and time passes quickly until I am summoned to my taxi to return to Bordeaux. It seems there had hardly been time to blink but in fact it was a very pleasant opportunity to enjoy a little corner of Pomerol and friendly hospitality.
Over close to twenty years I have been visiting Burgundy to photograph, either to build my archive or to fulfill commissions. Consequently I have got to know many domaines. And I guess they have got to know me. Some relationships died on the vine, but most, happily, have flourished. It is sad when there is a parting, for whatever reason. I will miss Sylvain Pitiot at Close Tart and soon his neighbour at Domaine des Lambrays, Thierry Brouin is handing over his reins too.
In early June I was invited to the leaving party for Jean-Charles Le Bault de la Morinière at Close Vougeot.
If you follow Burgundy you will think know all about the sale of Bonneau du Martray. But I doubt you do. I don’t but an internet petition or crowd funding were never going to change the course of events. I have too much respect for the estate and everyone there to dissect events and gossip.
I had never been to a ” Cocktail dinatoire” but thought it best to pack my suit. Jean-Charles requested I leave my camera behind and I was all in favour of that. No doubt there would be plenty of people I knew to occupy me. So there were, but far more I did not. I was carrying my phone in order snatch a few souvenirs of this much anticipated evening and it came in quite useful. It proved impossible, until I was queueing to make my farewells, to speak to Jean-Charles and his wife and I found myself meeting more and more people I did not know and having to explain my presence.
Early in the evening my eye was caught by the Cuban boots of Bonneau’s vineyard manager Fabien so they were snapped and I started noticing the variety of footwear on display in the chateau’s gravelled courtyard. It seemed both an alternative way of recording the event that might amuse Jean-Charles and a good way of meeting anyone in interesting shoes!
Paul Bocuse R.I.P.
Today the chefs of France and elsewhere have gathered in Lyon to say farewell to Paul Bocuse.
Note that I do not have to explain who he was. Such are legends.
I was vey fortunate to meet him in April 1996 at his restaurant where I was photographing. I was on a 3/4 week assignment to shoot France’s Michelin 3* chefs’ and their restaurants. Back then it was a new area for me so there was a fair bit of trepidation in the blood stream. 3* chefs may be used to publicity but you don’t get 3* while suffering fools gladly. HoweverPaul Bocuse had seen it all and got the cordon. When he realised he was only my second chef subject (ever!) he was kindness and patience itself. Perhaps his great interest in photography helped him understand. I remember him setting up a magnificent shot full of copper pans and all kind of fare with himself and his cordoned chefs arrayed behind.
Having broken down all my kit and cleared the kitchen to prepare for service Bocuse invited me to sit at his table in the kitchen for lunch. Taking a trip to freshen up I spotted the shot I had just taken, hanging, framed in the corridor……
Over lunch I decided I had somehow to get another portrait, even if it meant a return trip. And it did.
However my second visit coincided with the arrival of the Bocuse giant chocolate Easter egg which he asked me to photograph. He then proceeded to snap me with his Leica. Surprise enough that was only only greater when, a few weeks later, 3 small autographed black and white prints arrived in the post !
I was not a famous photographer to be wooed, just a beginner, but he was a friendly, generous, kind and extremely helpful and thoughtful. He will be fondly remembered for much more than his food.
My 1996 Michelin guide contains 17 dedications from 3* chefs, here are the first two.
What is the link here between these two? They sound like a pair of Wagnerian characters or a European version of Gilbert and Sullivan. Well one makes wine and the other makes something to store it in, but the link here is that both of them had me working in Tuscany earlier this year.
Ornellaia wanted pictures to show what a great place their winery and vineyards near Bolgheri were to visit and not long after I was on another flight to Pisa again. This time to photograph Marc Almert, the 2016 Gaggenau Sommelier award winner enjoying a visit to Tuscany with two renowned sommeliers, his Gaggenau mentors Annemarie Foidl and Serge Dubs, to hone his skills.
Part Uno: Ornellaia
Sorry for the watermarks but they are meant to discourage unauthorised use !
We’ll have to wait and see, good luck with the book Andy.
Part Due : Chase the sommelier.
Well it was a bit like joining a circus; PR, facilitators, two more photographers, three sommeliers. Everyone with their own job to do for Gaggenau, would it work out for me..?
Well yes, it seems, it did. The trick, get in first and get ahead.
I arrived ahead of everyone else and asked to go straight to see Giovanni and his vineyards at the Fattorie del Dolfi.
It was a very useful one to one meeting with the taciturn Giovanni aided by Maggie Wang from Gaggenau who knows him well. A quietly passionate man who knows his land and vines inside out and is no great lover of silly questions I would guess. We spent a lovely hour or two exploring two of his vineyards ready for my proposed early morning tour with Giovanni and Marc, the award winning sommelier, the next day.
Its a happy coincidence when two short jobs can be dove-tailed together. Its not so bad to get from Dijon to Sion in the Valais and I was looking forward to seeing it for the first time, even if a little concerned to be shooting in the vineyards in early March ! I had a few portraits to make in Burgundy and was lucky enough to line up four people for my one day before I had to take a train ( 3 actually ) to get to Sion by lunchtime.
So off to spend a couple of days with Valais Mundi in Sion.
Day one was drizzle, steep paths and getting to know locations.
I was informed they were so excited by my visit that it was to be featured in the house magazine of their parent company Provins. They had even called on their local photographer Olivier Maire to accompany us the following afternoon ! Not quite worldwide fame awaited me but it would be a new experience and probably fun. And good for me to experience being the other side of the camera.
That evening was raclette time with a cheese tour of Switzerland with Johanna and Damien the winemakers.
The first morning was early and wonderful. Stunning scenery and beautiful light do wonders for vineyards in 50 shades of brown.
Jean-Blaise, the vineyard manager was my chauffeur and location finder.
After lunch and being memorably introduced to Petite Arvine, it was time meet up with Olivier and finish the shoot in the vineyards.
I am very grateful to Olivier for his professionalism, friendly patience and flattering photographs ! I appreciate now how much easier it is to be photographed doing your job than being posed.
I made the front cover ! I had to be interviewed for this too and a tricky question was “my favourite wine region”…..? Well, Valais takes lot of beating and Swiss wine…. well just try it when you have the chance.
When the call came to visit Château Palmer in the Medoc, I got in touch with the Ducourt family in the Entre-Deux-Mers to see if they had need of my services again. Happily marketing boss Jonathan told me there had been plenty of developments since my last visit and I would be busy, even if February was a quiet month.
As I drove into Margaux I was surprised to see sheep in the vineyards to my left – could this be part of the biodynamic approach at Palmer I wondered. Of course it was and my afternoon was off to good start. Good to see Thomas Duroux again and be introduced to his cows ! More biodynamics.
In two hours I was on my way to Famille Ducourt with, for February, a surprising range of pictures in the bag.
Then followed two days with Jonathan and his grandmother, parents, uncle and brothers and touring their new facilities. A very strong family that is making great moves forward with their estates. In this years Decanter World Wine Awards their Château Larroque Bordeaux Superior 2015 was awarded 95 points and voted “Best Value Bordeaux Red”.
The February weather was best described as “interesting” but we got a lot done. Jonathan works you hard !
PS its the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards on Tuesday 12 September and this image from the 2017 Paulée de Meursault is shortlisted.
See all the shortlisted images here http://www.theroedererawards.com/categories/artistry/
Wish me luck !
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.
I’m not a habitual visitor to wine bars in Beaune but a job to visit and shoot five was too good to turn down. Down from London one day and back the next seems a bit busy but thanks to cooperative and hospitable patrons everything was successful and fun, and delicious. And these five are just a few of what you can find. The article, by Jane Sigal, was published in the October issue of Wine & spirits magazine in the U.S.
I arrived at Maison du Colombier early and stayed most of the evening, with a visit to La Lune just down the street that was 40% of the job done. An early start at Cave Madeleine where I have been going for years was followed by a trip to Dilettante and then Table du Square before returning to Madeleine to shoot customers and food before catching the 4 ish TGV well and deliciously fed. As I said in my Cabotte post, I am not a restaurant reviewer, more the everyday customer so all I’ll say is none of these places will disappoint. Depending on your taste you will feel you have to return to some and see others next time, but these are all places that help give Beaune such varied evening and lunchtime options with good choices and value. Just get there early or reserve if you can and make the most of being in Burgundy !
A visit to the Rhône is not, sadly, an annual job, but this year I was lucky. Normally I can combine it with work in Burgundy but this year client no.1’s deadline was earlier and the Burgundy job delayed. Organising visits and the availability of my favourite accommodation (Ampuis, Hermitage and Châteauneuf du Pape) was only partly successful but a small hotel in Ampuls recommended by Philippe Guigal was fine but did no evening meal and on some nights Ampuis restauranteurs goes to bed early. On such occasions pizza and a cool beer is more than welcome after a drive up from Châteauneuf.
My first visit, after arriving by TGV at Lyon, was to the Seyssuel vineyard near Vienne on the east bank, a wonderful SW facing combe originally planted by the Romans but never granted an AOC, yet.
Cheze and others will make sure it performs. It has both syrah and viognier and, what do I know, but I found the viognier pleasantly distinctive.
Then a quick call near Chavannay to see Lionel Faury up in the hills, before heading to Mauves, near Tournon for the night. Streets in Tournon was closed for its annual onion fair until 8 pm with an armed guard 100 metres behind the gendarmes in case somebody tried to get through ! I arrived rather late for dinner, but nothing is ever a problem for my hostess Monique so I ate well as usual and enjoyed sharing a Cheze St Joseph with her other guests. Delighted to see she had invested in the Corton book!
The following morning Fabrice Gripa took me on a tour of his St Joseph vineyards high on the west side of the Rhône. The steep descent by 4×4 was exhilarating even though I had done it a couple of years ago with the Gonon brothers. back at the cellars we managed to talk Fabrice’s father Bernard join us for a picture. Always good to get the generations together when possible. Grabbing a sandwich from the baker in Mauves I headed for the Sentier des Tours in Tournon for a scramble through Guigal’s terraced St Joseph vineyards for a view of the Hill of Hermitage.Then the A7 south to Chateauneuf du Pape. It was somewhat alarming to see the north bound side at a standstill for several miles around Montelimar but happily it had all gone when I returned later in the early evening.
Meanwhile my route took me from Courthezon, past Beaucastel on an abortive effort to locate Rayas in the hope of gatecrashing for a recently requested portrait of Emmanuel Reynaud. No joy, he was away for a couple days. There was time for a shot of CdP from the approach from Courthezon and to eat my sandwich at Sabon before meeting winemaker Roger Negron and then calling in on Paul Avril at Clos de Papes and Isabel Ferrando at St Prefert.
Back in Ampuis the next morning at 8 I was scaling La Mouline with Philippe Guigal under grey skies that were fine for portraits but I hoped for better afterwards for my landscape shots of Côte Rôtie before my 11.00 with Julien Pilon down in Condrieu. In the end patience proved worthwhile and soon I was happily on my way home.
Well its been a while and I will come back with news of trips to Burgundy and the Rhône shortly, but first news of a new restaurant in London, Cabotte, at 48 Gresham Street EC2, a short walk from Bank underground station.
I was flattered to be asked to supply images of Burgundy for their walls and finally got there today to take a look. Came home very happy ! I’m not a restaurant reviewer but I recognise good service, happy customers and food and wine I enjoy that I can afford to revisit without a second thought. For all Burgundy fans, “venez nombreuses!” as they say, but book ! Now you can enjoy Burgundian “restauration” in London.
Here are a few fresh pictures, prepared this morning to whet your appetite.
Well it was quite a trip, covering between Mercurey and Chablis with a few 5 a.m. starts required. Its that time of year when vignerons are busy, up early and the best light, if you get it, means a pretty early start. I was shooting for three different magazines, a total of 19 winemakers and a fromagerie in 4 1/2 days. Sometimes you get an hour, sometimes its got to be several.
Everything was arranged before I left on Eurostar but en route a call to my french mobile and an email started to make life interesting…. C’est la vie, these vignerons have lots of more important things on their mind and different priorities.
I once arrived at an estate in Marsannay for an appointment to shoot some portraits for a book. After some delay in my subject appearing I was told that some wine-writing demigod had rung for a tasting and I was therefore put on hold. For an an hour and a half as it turned out….
I guess no one can compete with that sort of important visitor, least of all a photographer.
I have to say it does not happen often.
Anyway, no such problems this time, just some juggling required and the winemakers involved were happy to oblige.
Monday started annoyingly at St Pancras Eurostar terminal where, unusually my suitcase required a search involving a complete emptying. No offending item was found but as I was repacking my case a middle-aged oriental couple had two bottles of wine confiscated.
It seems on that particular day no alcohol was being allowed through, something to do with England playing a football match at the other end of France that evening.
There had been no warning signs when I booked my ticket or at the station on the day.
High-handed, knee-jerk and badly handled. Something that seems to be happening more and more. When I pointed out to the security man that there was no warning and this man’s wine could be worth ( but was n’t) hundreds of pounds there was attempt to see sense. We are all happy to endure security these days but it can be so inconsistent.
Enough moaning !
You’ll see that in Burgundy, while I like to leave time for things to happen serendipitously, life without a moment to spare is good too !
An evening meeting at Aloxe-Corton last night meant I must leave Beaune at 5.30 to be in Chablis comfortably by 7.
I visited Christian Moreau who wanted to talk Brexit. Oh dear, I didn’t. It was only his way of winding me up. Christian has seen the world and has a great sense of humour. I was waiting for a reference to the Euros 2016 and England’s efforts at football.
He had a point, we were shamed by the progress of numerically smaller nations like Wales and Iceland who have bigger hearts.
Again, enough moaning !
Christian and his son Fabien were in good form and made a good team for the camera. I was done and off to enjoy the late arrival of the sun in the vineyards by midday.
Off to Morey St Denis at a civilised hour for a change. Not the weather for any early start anyway, but the day looks promising…
A busy but well organised morning at Domaine Dujac gets most things done. I have to pass on a kind lunch invitation as I am expected in Nuits. Shame, such invitations can be rare…
But lunch with someone I see rarely and admire greatly is never cancelled.
Hardly were we sat down at the table but Greg produced the bill for this lunch – would I kindly do a podcast interview on my Corton book..! With ego almost under control I manage half my delicious duck lunch. Did Greg realise I could talk so much, probably not !
Perhaps most of it will end up on the cutting room floor, ( as did my interview with Jonathan Nossiter for Mondovino all those years ago – too much passion! ).
Anyway I have an even greater respect for Greg and his way of thinking and seeing. And cooking.
One the highlights of this trip was visiting the new Framboisiere winery of Faiveley in Mercurey. I needed portraits of Erwan and had been invited to join an evening of tasting followed by a buffet in the winery. Apparently its an annual event that a group of nearly thirty growers gather together to share a bottle of the previous years vintage.
Well I tried. but young reds are a job for the professional or someone with far greater tasting ability and experience than I. Whites were “easier” but I was still way out of my depth and could not pretend otherwise in front of the likes of Lafon, d’Angerville, Gouges, Rousseau, Tollot-Beaut, Bonneau du Martray, Raveneau, Lafarge, the incredible list went on. Enjoy the photo and see who you can spot.