The Good: eight days in Chile and Uruguay, two visits, one a joint venture between a renowned Chilean estate and a Bordeaux château, the other a family estate in Uruguay with such a grounded passion for their vineyards and wine, I thought I was in Burgundy ! But first to shake off the jet lag, a day trip to visit my friends at Errazuriz before I start. All will be revealed eventually in World of Fine Wine….
The Bad: the news of frosts in the Côte d’Or and later floods around Chablis. See what these winemakers have to accept as part of their lives? As a winemaker in Rioja whispered to me once “Never ask a farmer to smile…”
The Fair: I called in at the London Wine Fair, met a trio of winemakers, Dr Ernie Loosen from the Mosel, Lyne Marchive from Domaine Tremblay-Marchive in Chablis, a regular supporter of Chablis in London, and Rotem Saoma, one half of Lucien Le Moine in Beaune, showing off the wines from their new venture in Châteauneuf du Pape.
Finally, who should I run into but a Facebook friend, Ricardo Bernardo from Portugal. He’s a great person, I’m grateful he speaks such good English, I’ve never mastered Portuguese beyond “good day” and “good night”. A charming and open guy, he suggests wine photographers should be more friendly to each other. I do too, if we share the same point of view, and many of us do.
Anyway here are a few snaps to keep you going until I get back to Burgundy in June.
After Chile and Uruguay, the long journey home.
Finally, some of you will have already heard of the passing of one ofBurgundy’s icons/legends, call the great man what you will, Charles Rousseau of Domaine Aemand Rousseau in Gevrey Chambertin.
Its nearly twenty years since I first met him and he apologised then for not speaking English. Ten years on we crossed paths in Chambertin and he immediately started speaking in English. “You told me you could not speak English…” I said. “Of course I do, he smiled, “and German, and Spanish… and Italian… and American ! I just thought you needed to practice your French, I was right was n’t !”
He certainly was. A very wise man.
Here are some pictures to remember him by.
The headlines on jancisrobinson.com, Decanter and Wine Spectator are all about the passing of Paul Pontallier
of Château Margaux. I have visited there several times and its a special place with great people and Paul was special to them.
Its some pair of shoes to fill. Only 59 and always seeming full of life. Still can’t believe it….
Less well known perhaps was Bernard Dubreuil of Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine. I only heard today of his funeral this afternoon. He had been ill for a while and I had hoped he was going to win his battle, but sadly not.
He was a great supporter of my Corton book and it is he you will find raising the tricolour from a balcony at the domaine in Pernand-Vergelesses on Bastille day.
Here is the dear man looking typically jolly in a cellar in Pernand.
Of course he was retired, leaving his daughter Christine run the estate for a while now, but he was often to be seen helping out. A warm and kindly man I wish I had known better, but was lucky to know at all, a proud Frenchman and Burgundian. I shall miss very much.
Back in 2003 Wine Spectator asked me shoot a story on Châteauneuf du Pape. It was not my first visit but I was looking forward to staying several days.
The magazine often made suggestions regarding portraits but with Henri Bonneau I was told to go gently and do whatever he wanted.
On the morning of the appointment I was met at my hotel, La Mere Germaine, by Isabel Ferrando from Domaine St Prefert who was to introduce me to her much loved mentor. Henri lived high up in the village and I went fully prepared with my lighting, dragging it up the steep narrow cobbled street to his cellar.
On my my arrival, there was coffee as we all sat to discuss what was needed.
Isabel had warned me that this appointment had been difficult to arrange after he had sworn never to be photographed again. He had suffered at the hands of some Parisian photographer who made him look rather tired and ill-tempered…
After a brief tour of the small, cramped but rambling cellar, I realised an extension cable was required to power my lights. His son Marcel was dispatched to find one while we stood at the cellar door chatting. I already understood that the cellar was going to be a long and complicated shoot and was concerned Henri would relive his previous experience.
In truth I had arrived expecting a prickly old man, demanding and difficult to please, but Henri was nothing like that, relaxed and jolly with a twinkle in his eye. Still I had decided once I had my best shot I would call it a day and not risk outstaying my welcome.
Within a matter of minutes the light at the cellar door had changed. The sun had risen sufficiently to hit a nearby white wall that reflected it back onto Henri. A quick test showed it was balancing nicely with the interior light in the cellar. This was all pre-digital for me so I showed Henri the polaroid and he liked what he saw. By the time Marcel returned with the cable I was satisfied with what I had and my model was still happy. Job done. I never did get back to taste his extraordinary wines but I had at least met and got to know the great man a little.
After my success with the OIV last year I have asked to read and comment on one of this year’s entries. Very honoured to be asked.
Work wise I missed The Grands Jours in Burgundy this year, it seems the weather is being as kind as two years ago when I nearly got sunburnt eating my lunch on steps in Ladoix !
In April I’m off to work in Uruguay briefly then on to Chile to shoot harvest there. Looking forward to it !
Meanwhile I’m still trying hard to help Glénat find a US publisher for Une Année en Corton. I’m told its too “niche”…. Well, we’ll see about that !
I have not been back to Burgundy for some time. I was hopeful I would be returning in early March but that requirement was dealt with by stock photos. Another regular client will not want me there before mid May, by which time I may have other commitments.
Anyway that means another blog looks a some way away…
I have been told by the book’s publishers that at the Frankfurt Book Fair it was seen as a little specialised and consequently it was not shown at all at the London Book Fair last year. Having spoken to my US clients it seems that they would both be prepared to review “Corton” if there was an English language version. One of them claims a worldwide readership of 3.5 million so that would be a help !
I next set about researching US publishers that might be interested…. Sometimes its difficult to get past an automated switchboard but you just have to persist and keeping looking and asking. So that’s where we are, I am in touch with two US publishers in New York and must now be patient.
I have spoken to publishers in the UK but we all seem to agree that English wine lovers are much less interested in photographs than the US may be. Personally I think it would do well in Asia, but let’s take one step at a time. If any of you have any suggestions, I’d be very happy to hear them !
Meanwhile, I know you came here to see photos of Burgundy so here are some portraits of those 67 helpful Corton owning growers who subscribed to “Corton”
It’ll be a few months before I’m back there but in my absence I am enjoying following Bill Nanson and Greg Love on Facebook.
Last Friday I had a half-written post about a recent overnight visit to Paris with my wife to collect an award for “Corton” from the OIV (see http://www.oiv.int/oiv/info/enprixOIV ) which, after Friday is now irrelevant. It was a couple of days with friends enjoying the city guided by locals. Near the Luxembourg Gardens I had found this.
A few days later, on a visit to friends in Burgundy, we were shown this, in the village of Comblanchien, north of Beaune.
Both items I had felt best left out of the post I was writing.
Now they are horribly relevant, reminders of what France has suffered in the past and has had the strength to recover from.
A small sign of hope for the future perhaps…
Ever since I won an award sponsored by Vina Errazuriz from Chile in 2014 I had wondered when and if I’d ever get back there…
My previous visit had been in in 1989 so I was very pleased to have the opportunity to return recently.
Like Argentina earlier this year its a day’s flying to get there and the job was only three days. Still I knew the people at Errazuriz will look after me and plan sensibly. So it was that I arrived on a Tuesday lunchtime at Panquehue where Errazuriz has its Icon winery. We were due to work inside as it is still Spring there and the vines were not showing much life from a distance.
It was also chilly Chile near Andes but further along the Aconcagua Valley towards the coast at Vina Sena things were a little further on. Anyway meeting Eduardo Gonzales the vineyard manager there would warm anyone’s day. Wednesday was an early morning as we had to arrive at the spectacular viewpoint high in the vines around 6 am. Happily it was well supplied with coffee and Chilean “Jammy Dodgers” !
Sunrise was a little less than spectacular but we managed.
Eduardo Chadwick arrived for his shoot at 8 pleased to find we were not getting the rain he had left behind in Santiago. The clouds duly began to break and by 10 a couple of layers of warm clothing had been shed and some blue sky was available, even if the sun was in the wrong place by now !
Lunch back at Panquehue was without Tuesday’s gas heaters and the light was wonderful by 4pm.
By 6pm I was being escorted to Aconcagua Costa down by the coast and a seafood dinner was provided after a quick dusk tour of a huge rolling vineyard that looked, for once to have been designed for photography.
Again we were on hand for Thursday’s spectacular photoshop style sunrise no one believes was real.
Even in the cloudy morning that followed there were views everywhere and when you have to shoot a soil expert and geologist down a metre deep hole, bright sun is not desirable.
Françoise and Emmanuel were there on a second soil survey as the vineyard, with its many directional exposures will be home to a number of grape varieties.
Would you believe these experts were Burgundians so a few names were dropped and a little gossip exchanged. I felt right at home !
Again by late morning the sun appeared but after a picnic it was time to head back to Santiago and a crowded flight home.
It was worth every minute of that journey !
When I first had the idea for my book about Corton back in summer 2011 I had no idea the friends it would introduce me to and the new experiences it would lead me into.
I did look forward a little egotistically to the idea of signing books for an army of enthusiastic purchasers at Athenaeum in Beaune. In fact just having MY book on a shelf there ( as opposed to the several books by others I have illustrated ) gives quite a feeling of accomplishment. However when you are a foreigner and completely unknown it is best not to expect too much !
However I did receive an invitation to join more than eighty authors for a two day signing at Château du Clos de Vougeot over a weekend at the end of September. To share that with such people as Jean Robert Pitte, Jean-François Bazin, Dominique Loisseau and Remi Krug to name but a few big names was quite something. As was the inaugural dinner laid on by Alberic Bichot, a wonderful host with a great sense of humour.
How about enjoying that meal sat next to the former press secretary to Gorbachev! I must have bored him but Andrei Gratchev and his wife Alla are charming company and I was able to repay the debt by guiding them the following morning from our accommodation at the Hotel André Ziltner ( the weekend was full of new experiences ! ) in Chambolle-Musigny through the vines of Musigny and Les Amoureuses in glorious sunshine to our tables at Clos de Vougeot.
I have to confess business was a bit slow on Saturday but it was interesting to meet the other authors, even if I felt a little out of my depth!
Lunch was fun, sat between Jean Robert pitta and the local Euro MP I kept very quiet!
I then found I had been put on a panel for a discussion about Burgundy in relation to the New World. Claude Chapuis got me through that one. Did I say the debate was in French!!
That night, a Chapitre at Clos de Vougeot! My first time in a bow tie and dinner jacket for a while. I had photographed them before but to be a guest is very special. The Chevaliers du Tastevin know how to do things and it was fun to be a guest while local photographer Jean-Louis Bernuy had to work!
Sunday afternoon was the busy time signing and I left to walk back to Chambolle in the evening sun hoping I might be invited again next year, but very grateful for the experiences of the weekend if that was to be the last time.
Friday had been a working day in Chablis in a continuation of the glorious September weather. A visit to the Raveneau family was followed by a sandwich by the River Serein and my first sighting of a Kingfisher, that azure bullet with an orange tip that flashes past at great speed and leaves you feeling altogether happier for the encounter. Then on to see Vincent Dauvissat and Domaine des Hâtes in Maligny before taking up my weekend residence at Chambolle-Musigny.
So on Monday back to work again. To see Chantal and Florian Remy in Morey-St-Denis and Vincent Gros in Vosne-Romanée before spending the afternoon with Dominique Laurent in and around Flagey-Echezeaux enjoying the ride in his Ferrarified Fiat 500 !
On Tuesday before catching my train I was able to meet up with two new winemakers; Jane Eyre-Renard,an half Australian, half Norwegian young lady ( Jane, don’t argue, at my age you are all young! With one or two notable exceptions….) and Anne Morey, Pierre’s daughter. Jane was getting a helping hand from Dominique Lafon to move her wine over to new premises at Château de Bligny, part of the new Wine Studio development set up by Dominique Lafon and Pierre Meurgey to offer facilities to up and coming winemakers just starting out. A great idea!
After that I went off to catch up with Tom ( The Hungry Cyclist http://www.thehungrycyclist.com) Kevill-Davies who has done an amazing job setting up his cycling holiday business in Auxey-Duresses.
Back in the Côte d’Or the sun continued to shine while the harvest action had moved north. So must I, with work to do in Flagey-Echezeaux, Vosne-Romanée and Gevrey-Chambertin.
Harvest time is a difficult time to distract a winemaker for photographs. This is when being known and trusted can make the difference.
Meanwhile the team are hard at work in La Tâche
I manage to infiltrate and get invited to lunch !
On to Gevrey-Chambertin in an effort to gatecrash their harvest!
Every so often my harvest visit to Burgundy merges with another assignment in the Rhône and this year there was a third client, Flint Wines in London. Consequently when I arrived back in Burgundy I had missed most of the Côte de Beaune. I still had a very interesting time in the Côte de Nuits enjoying great weather and meeting very happy winemakers.
I had planned to visit Chablis but the dreadful hailstorm meant that trip was best delayed.Can you imagine trying to photograph someone who had just lost 85% of his Grand Crus a week before harvest…?
I managed to catch Jean-Michel Chartron harvesting their Chevalier Montrachet before having to head south to Avignon before returning.
Well it was not really a wine summer for me. A very brief trip to Château Clinet and the friendly folk there in Pomerol and another to Vosne Romanée to visit Cros Parentoux and the Henri Jayer connection in a shoot for Libers the auction house. The latter was interesting but I am staggered by the prices people will pay for wine when so many people are in need. But then the same goes for cars or any other luxury item. I guess high end craftsmanship should be supported, but selling a bottle of wine at auction prices is not really supporting the winemaker, just the ego of someone with a great deal of money. My apologies if I have missed something here but I am happy to listen to anyone with the opposite point of view… The same goes for all forms of art but here the artist’s reputation, if he is still alive, benefits and a queue forms for his work. I have seen it happen to a child prodigy and I wonder whether that is good for him as an artist, or as a person…
The photographer/subject relationship builds over time. Sometimes you taste together, sometimes (very occasionally) eat together. The basis of the relationship for me is trust. Winning trust is important and very satisfying.
I am very sad that I will never again meet up with Anne-Claude Leflaive or Joseph Henriot. The suddenness of their passing holds a lesson for us all. It also reminds me of a sign I saw in a photographer’s shop window in the north of England a very long time ago: “Secure the shadow, ere the substance fade…”
Their substance may have faded but their achievements were so important to Burgundy.
Before this sad news unfolded I had good week in Burgundy shooting a couple of days for the UK Burgundy specialist Flint Wines with Jason Haynes. I am so happy that someone is making a serious attempt to introduce their clients to the sources of the wine they are drinking. The growers all like him and appreciate his knowledge and his many visits. He has even managed to win the hand of a wine makers’ daughter Aurelia Gouges.
So rather than illustrating the usual faces for books and magazines I was being introduced to the less celebrated, often younger, but always excellent winemakers that abound in Burgundy if you are prepared to go looking.
Here are a few:
Another part of a busy week was to visit Mme Lalou Bize Leroy
in both Vosne and her home near St Romain. We both staggered to find it was 35 years since I had first photographed her !
Aubert de Villaine got a visit too, another long time subject.
Romanée Conti’s reception
is not the only place I came across my book !
Which reminds me that over a quarter of the print run was sold in November and December last year and it has reached the Amazon.fr top ten wine books 8 times in 2015 !
While in Vosne-Romanée I got a call asking me if I was free to go to Argentina after Easter for “a couple of days…”.
I was due to do a similar trip to Switzerland first but I was surprised to anyone would bring me to Argentina just for two days !
My Swiss trip was the idea of Charles Rolaz of Hammel Wines and although it was not the perfect time in the vineyards, there was plenty of activity there and in their cellars. The vineyard settings are both dramatic and majestic with their backdrop of snow covered mountains and shining lakes. Quite different from Burgundy on those days when you can’t see Mont Blanc !
I have not seen Argentina since 1988 and I imagine much has changed but the journey has got no shorter! 10.30 pm on Easter Monday and I’m off to Mendoza via Sao Paolo and Santiago and happily with an entire row of four seats to myself. I am due in Mendoza around 5pm on Tuesday and will go straight to work. Sadly I’ve just missed harvest but there still plenty of activity in winery. Once more I’m looking at mountains with snow on but this time with warm sun on my back. By midday on Thursday the job is done and I’m off to Mendoza airport.
No, no, its not me!
My son Joe has decided, on a brief trip to Spain, that he wants to walk the Camino de Santiago. But in order to fit it in before he set off for Oz as part a six month sabbatical, he went straight to St Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenees and started from there. On hearing that good friends of his had gone to Sierra Leone to help the fight against ebola, he has decided to try to use his effort to raise money for one particular organisation. He is about halfway and enjoying it, mostly,
and suffering a bit as well no doubt.
I’m glad he was able to pass through Rioja and take the day off to sightsee. His next wine stop will be Bierzo and I’m hoping he can link up with at least one winemaker I know in Villafranca. In 2010 while shooting for “the Finest Wines of Rioja and NW Spain” I often thought of trying the Camino and now my wife has caught the idea so it looks like it’ll be on the agenda soon! But 780km is a loooong way…
Having got up this morning to one too many emails suggesting I spend too much money on expensive presents for people who don’t need them, just because “its Christmas”, I thought I might suggest people spend that money in a different way. Does your dog really need a new collar for £33/40euros/$50, or should we be looking to spend it in other ways…? I love dogs, but none of mine ever worried about the caché of their collar…
So if you don’t need a new collar for your dog, you may choose to use the money here:
Here is the link to Joe’s Facebook page:
Fight Ebola in Sierra Leone: 400km of Camino Joe
Just don’t expect too many posts after tiring days!
I’m amazed how many views this blog gets from different countries around the world that are interested in Corton and Burgundy. No doubt everyone’s country is trying to help, but if you want to do something personally, here is your chance.
While you’re thinking about it, here are a few pictures from my 2010 visits that introduced me to the region.
Incidentally for people who like points, I see a Godelia Mencia Bierzo from 2010 scored 92/100 with WS and made 68 in their top 100 most exciting wines of 2014, only 8 places behind Nik Weis’s 2012 Reisling QbA Mosel Old Vines, 90 points.
No more advertising now, I promise, just pictures.
For me the weekend started on Wednesday evening! I arrived at Pernand and was off straight away to dinner with Marie-Luce chez elle. Delicious Jura Morteau sausage with potatoes, salad and camoillotte cheese and a Jura white.
Thursday was an early start for a French magazine shoot followed by a quick signing session at Domaine Claude Chevalier and Domaine Dubreuil-Fontaine in Pernand, a major subscriber to the book and a great support of my work on the Hill.
The afternoon was a visit to Domaine Jean-Marc and Anne-Marie Vincent in Santenay, good pictures and a lot of chat. J-M claims to talk a lot, but I think he has met his match ! A very enjoyable visit and another lesson in how Burgundians think.
Then followed a race around to deliver promised books for several boys and girls who appear in the book.
Finally dinner and some French tuition with friends we’ve made in Magny-Villers, Christian and Anne-Marie. Magny is very close to Corton and some say I should have visited more, but its not on the Terroirs de Corton map…
A very nice dinner “en famille” is always a great pleasure and it was a change not to be talking about wine. Except that we did enjoy a 1983 Côte de Nuits Villages from a domaine sadly since disappeared. Village wines continue to astonish me. Of course it will depend on the vintage as with the two 1976 villages I had in 2013 from Aloxe and Chorey. The dry year provided the tannin needed for such longevity.
After a postponement in Vosne I was free for a couple of visits to thank subscribing vignerons and sign a few books. Dedicating in French is a new challenge, can’t say “large soif !” every time. I hope they will forgive my mistakes…
My visit to Clos de Tart was a mixture of sharing a tasting with a bunch of German professionals and half an hour with Sylvain Pitiot whose map of Corton adorns the endpapers of the book. Sylvain is always calm and very photogenic and has known me a while so it was a successful but fairly brief session.
I was then free until a session with Jean-Charles Boisset in Nuits at 5.30 so I went back to Auxey-Duresses to see how my good friend Tom ” The Hungry Cyclist” is getting with his business showing cyclists a good time on the roads and at the tables of Burgundy. He has converted a ruined watermill into guest accommodation over the summer and begun receiving guests.
I found him clearing out the millpond, hoping for interesting finds !
Having cycled from NY across the US and all the way south through Mexico in search of the perfect meal, Tom is the epitome of good humour and indefatigability.
After a brief visit to the Palais de Congrés in Beaune, its off to catch JCB as he passes through Burgundy.
Then a dash back through the rain to Beaune to enjoy a tasting, concert and dinner with Neil Beckett and Philippe Marquezy from World of Fine Wine magazine, courtesy of an invitation from Olivier Halley, new owner of Château de Meursault and Bernard Hervet.
Quite a late night 🙂
Saturday morning meant a more serious visit to Palais de Congrés before a lunch at La Dilettante in Beaune.
Walking through Beaune during Hospices weekend is always entertaining after the travails of finding somewhere to park!
All followed by a little shopping and people watching before I looked in at Roland Masse’s last tasting of Hospices wines before he retires and Ludavine Grivault takes over…
Slightly nervous, I am anxious to keep busy before my signing début at 3pm in l’Athenaeum. So I gatecrash the Hospices Sunday morning press conference. Normally its pretty chilly but I find myself down to my shirtsleeves – nervous energy ?
At the recommendation of Sylvain Pitiot (our third rencontre in 3 days!)I enjoyed a glass of Pouilly Fuissé from the winner of this year’s Jeune Talent, Romain Cornin of Chaintré. Then foregoing the press lunch I went back to my friend Thierry’s for a snack before my big moment…
Outside meanwhile, the auction continued but the crowd was a little smaller.
Monday and Tuesday: life returns to normal.
Except for my son Joe who today started the Camino de Santiago from St Jean-de Pied-Port. Bon courage et bonne route! On Corton Hill I am on the same road it seems, just a long way behind.
A good way to end the day smiling !
Today I joined the hundreds of thousands (millions?) who have been to the Tower of London to enjoy and admire the display of ceramic poppies conceived by ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper that has captured the imagination of the country. It comes from an idea that was so simple but so effective. I hear that over 4 million people will have visited it.
My wife and I decided to walk the Thames down to Millbank to see the Turner exhibition. It work was brilliant of course but I’m sure the audio guides are a success. They are not complete and seem to send the viewer the wrong way round the room.
Anyway a really memorable, thought provoking and enjoyable day. Which is why its here.
Another type of ephemeral installation by artist Luc Valvona on the river’s beach.
There is a suggestion that the poppies be given an extended life at the Tower, then go on some fund raising tour. That it is a shame so many people who wanted to see it would otherwise miss it.
I feel that is disrespectful of the artists’ work. it will be a much less effective piece if broken up and sent to another location. What it is now is what it was supposed to be, and is a wonderful thing. The artist intended it to be temporary, these ceramic poppies cannot last forever. The sadness many people will feel because the opportunity to see it has been lost, is nothing compared to the feelings of those whose loved ones lost their future opportunities in dying during The Great War. All 888,246 of them.
My last trip to Burgundy was followed by a quick two day assignment in the Mosel for winemaker Nik Weis of Leiwen, not far from Trier, a comfortable hop from London via Luxembourg. I had photographed him for Stephan Reinhardt’s book the Finest Wines of Germany, part of the “Finest Wines of…” series for which I was fortunate enough to be the photographer. Nik then invited me back to shoot his harvest a year later and again the following spring. I have always enjoyed the wines of the Mosel and the landscape and winemakers interest me a lot. Perhaps it could make a book…. A 200km stretch of winding river would be quite a different challenge after the intimacy of the Hill of Corton where one is constantly seeing familiar faces and always familiar with the lie of the land. Anyway here are some images from a rapid visit in mixed weather.
My next post will be after a book signing at Athenaeum in Beaune on the afternoon of 16 November, Hospices Sunday, and a book launch on 18 November in Paris. Let’s see if its all as much glamourous fun as it sounds…. I have 3 days of photography as well so that should keep my feet on the ground I hope !
My October visit was split between shooting for a specialist Burgundy importer from London, Jason Haynes, and a French magazine. Jason wants his website to include to include more than bottle shots and I am pleased that someone is trying to give their customers more background to Burgundy and its producers. I also had a couple of shoots for The World of Fine Wine so its been a busy week up and down the Côte D’Or.
There was plenty of sunshine and warmth most days after a couple of misty starts and in places the autumn colour was very pleasant. but I was here for people and people I got.
November 5 is definitely the big day of publication for Une Année en Corton from Editions Glénat. I’ll be in Beaune at the Athenaeum book and wine shop in Place Carnot during the afternoon of Sunday 16th for three hours of signing duties! Apparently its also available at both Amazon.fr and Amazon.uk. Don’t be concerned if the book appears to have another author. François Perroy provided most of the 30 pages of text and often, it appears, writers are automatically regarded as the author, no matter the size of their contribution.
It seems photographer authors are quite a rarity…
Happily its my name on the book !
The text is all in French of course, but perhaps it will one day be available in English (or Japanese, or Chinese) Corton and Burgundy are well known all over the world as visitors to this blog have proved. As the French say, “On verra”….
I’ll be sure to let you know !
It was on a sunny afternoon back in September 2002, as I drove through Puligny’s premier crus during the harvest, that I was slowed to a halt by a group of pickers milling about in the road. As I waited for the way to open up I was suddenly aware of Etienne de Montille approaching with a cameraman at his shoulder.
“Bonjour Jon, how are you ?” was probably what he said. My mind was already telling me to:
1. not look into the camera
2. not to say to too much, particularly in French! Heaven knows where this will end up.
In fact it ended up as 5-10 seconds of Mondovino!
Not because of anything I said but because, as I drove off,
Etienne turned to Jonathan Nossiter and said “Ca c’est le photographe du Wine Spectator….”
I am not, and never was, an employee of Wine Spec. I just contribute stock and occasional assignments. Proudly.
Who does not want to have there work seen by so many readers?
There is no fame attached among wine drinkers, I have received one letter in 25 years!
No, the benefit is the doors that it opens. Why would a busy vigneron give you an hour for some stock photography if he did not take your professionalism seriously?
I mention this just to say that the success of my time in Burgundy results from a lot of help along the way. It has not been possible to thank everyone on my Remerciements page in the book so I thought I’d mention a few people here for their contribution.
When you start out trying to find your way around Burgundy a visit to “Les Grands Jours de Bourgogne” in March of alternate years,is essential. And not just once, there is so much to take in.
I won’t give you the info here, just Google it.
It was during such a visit to Fuissé that I first saw ploughing with horses in Burgundy. What a great shot, I thought. Two years later, on the day after the next GJs I was shooting an early morning view of Pommard when a horse box drove past. I quickly followed and there followed a meeting with Erik Martin, a legend in horse ploughing who was one of the first of a now regularly seen band of ploughers with their horses. Erik moved on to Bordeaux for a while, then back to Burgundy and now I think is somewhere in Spain. Wherever he is, it will be lively. Such friendly contacts are really important when you start to shoot in a new area and he was very helpful.
Talking of horses, back in 2010 I was asked to spend 10 days shooting the harvest at Château Pontet-Canet in Pauillac. A photographer friend told me I would go mad spending 10 days in the same place shooting the same thing. But he did not know about the harvest! There is always something different going on and over 10 days you build better working relationships with everyone. You have the opportunity to look at everything afresh after a few days. The Tesserons are not only great hosts, I was given complete freedom on how to approach the job.
I think the experience taught me to look more deeply at a smaller space and to take my time – I’m still not good at that! But I’m sure it benefited my work on Corton.
When you are not fortunate enough to have a room in a chateau, then where to sleep and eat are high priorites. On my first visits to Burgundy I regularly stayed at a friendly and comfortable chambre d’hôte in Chassagne-Montrachet and was quickly pointed in the direction of L’Auberge du Vieux Vigneron at Corpeau for my evening meal.
Le Chassagne restaurant next door to my B+B had recently opened but I did not have the budget to eat there every night.
At Corpeau, not being on the tourist route, Vieux Vigneron’s clientele was a mix of canny tourists in search of quality and value as well as local winemakers. So it was, one Sunday evening, around 9.30, as I paid my bill and finished my glass of M. Fagot’s Bourgogne Rouge, that five local winemakers arrived and, before sitting down at a nearby table, made a tour of the room shaking hands with friends. Pierre-Yves Colin was one of the group, the only one I had met before and he kindly came to say hello. Minutes later I was invited to join them for a glass. They had just returned from playing for, or supporting, Chassagne’s local football team at a match in Chagny.
We left there at midnight….
So finding John-Charles Fagot’s restaurant was something else that helped me feel less of a stranger. And I keep going back.
THURSDAY started with a visit to Claude Chevalier in Buisson, a little hamlet at the northern end of Ladoix and we were quickly off to see his pickers in Aloxe-Corton as the cloud gave way to the morning light that makes the east side of Corton Hill such a beautiful place.
I had a rendezvous with my friend Marie-Luce who was supervising the picking of her Charlemagne by the negoce who is purchasing. But en route I was brought to a halt just before the Latour cuverie by David Croix’s team enjoying their cassecroute and I felt obliged to join them!
Two pickers from Touraine extolled the virtues of the Loire and I was offered a tasting of delicious,aromatic Sancerre to accompany my bulging baguette.
I met up with Jean-Paul who I last saw swinging his pioche last December in thick fog and hoare frost not 100 metres away from where I was now enjoying the other end of the thermometer’s scale.
Onwards and upwards to Charlemagne. Just near Les Chaumes, on the road to Pernand-Vergelesses from Aloxe-Corton, there is a pleasant picnic spot with drinking water, shade and a little parking. The pickers had already arrived but I managed to get a space and hiked up past the parcels of Bonneau du Martray and Jean-Francois Coche-Dury with a feeling I must be near to the original Charlemagne plot and found the work well underway. Memories of my last visit in July came back as I remembered Marie-Luce teaching my wife the work of that season.
Next stop lunch and Marie-Luce is promising great value/quality. She was n’t wrong!
Returning to the Hill I found a scene reminiscent of Charles O’Rear’s shot “Bliss” that used to be used as Microsoft’s screen saver.
Highlight of the afternoon, what was left of it, was a return to Meursault to visit Alix and Etienne de Montille
Actually, for once the week’s work was done without a Friday morning sprint so all I had to do was organise a sensible schedule (one that allowed time for the unexpected!) and get to Dijon station in time for the 14.41 TGV to Paris.
It was a grey day and I called first at the Latour cuverie for a quick chat with Boris Champy and to see what was going on.
Then over to Cornu in Ladoix – triage again…
Time allowed a call at Gouges in Nuits and I tried without success to remember the route through the premier crus to their back door, but I’m not as clever as I think and I ended up paying my last 50c for half an hour’s parking and walking through the streets looking for a grassy side alley. During harvest, the front door often does not get paid much attention in most wineries.
As good luck would have it I saw some action in Romanée Conti as I entered Vosne so it had to be worth a quick visit.
Time to move on and as I got near Dijon I just had time for a quick visit to Eric Rousseau at Gevrey_Chambertin.
Then it was a dash under a darkening sky to the TGV…
Looking forward to being back in October.
A little later when I got home…
I received the design for the cover of THE BOOK !
So shooting for the book is finished. But its harvest time again and I’m here shooting for other clients. Everyday seems to be a good day, with plenty of activity but appointments tend to get moved… I’m on the road around 7 a.m., just before dawn here to make the most of the morning light. I does not always work but here I’m never tempted to stay in bed !
SUNDAY was a glorious morning and after coffee in Ladoix and a lucky meeting with Mme Cornu which yielded an invitation to lunch with the harvesters, I headed off to visits in Puligny and Chassagne before coming back to check out the Côte de Nuits. I had several winemaker portraits to make and harvest is not the best time, but, if you working for a magazine they know, its just necessary to track them down…
Pascal Marchand is one of the dynamic breed which it can take good luck to locate, but this time not only was he only 10 minutes away from his Nuits base, but Murray Tawse his Canadian partner was there too. Both guys are very passionate about their business and easy to talk to. A surprisingly successful end to a good day as we parted in Musigny.
MONDAY Vival at Ladoix, my usual breakfast coffee stop, was closed but I was off to Meursault so I headed for the Café/Tabac next to the church of St Nicolas in the centre. There have been some changes there this year, the fountain has been moved nearer to the Mairie and a lawn laid and trees planted. Plus a large metal fence….
I arrived to find that the car parking area outside the church that hosts the weekly market is now following the same process. This must be costing a bit !
And I have to say it is apparently not to everyone’s taste with its wall and wrought iron fence reaching up 3 metres…. Meursault is beginning to look like a tourist destination (if they can find pa parking place), not a working wine village. I guess we’ll learn to love it, but I can’t see the pickers being allowed to celebrate the end of their harvest by frolicking in the fountain.
In a break from work I call in to see Jacques and François Carillon at Puligny in their separate but neighbouring domaines.
Puligny has always cherished its tourists and provided an elegant atmosphere but I now see a couple of small art galleries too. I do wonder if the new “cabotte” bus shelter in Chassagne means they are following the trend…
Somehow I doubt it.
Another pickers lunch courtesy of chez François before getting back to work. That was all over by 4pm due to the necessity of meetings for my subject so on an increasingly hot afternoon my thoughts turned to the Grappe. Before I could get there I was stopped in my tracks by the Pavelot team unloading their beautiful baskets to attack a parcel of Corton beneath Pernand, an island of pinot amidst the Charlemagne. I imagined these baskets were being used until they could no longer be maintained but I was told the domain has just bought 10 more from the Jura costing 100 euros each. Fully laden they weigh over 40 kilos! After chasing the porters up and down the slope I was even more ready for a beer.
But sadly La Grappe were sticking with there normal evening opening hour of 6pm so I paid a social call in Pernand before heading along the mud track through Charlemagne. Back on the tarmac I turned left at the cherry tree to take a look at what still might be happening above Aloxe and Corton. There below was Maurice Chapuis, easily recognised with his charabanc of a trailer for his pickers. I drove down to say hello just as they were finishing and whom should be doing triage but his brother Claude, the last man to write a book about Corton and who I very pleased to say has written the preface to “Une Anné en Corton” for us.
My next call, at the distillery in Ladoix was unsuccessful but as I headed back to Pernand with only a cold drink in mind I came across Serge the dedicated beekeeper who immediately invited me in for that beer!
There followed the sad story of his acacia flowering during a wet week in May which meant no honey as his bees would not come out. It seems one of his hives has mysteriously been vacated and his mortality rate is still steady at 20-25% a year, all bad news. No wonder he needed a bit of company. Still it was 7pm when I left, and a glorious evening so I did n’t take his concerns with me, this harvest is so much better than last year.
TUESDAY was another bright morning and after a coffee with Gilles and Fred at Vival,along with Franck the baker next door, I found Jean-Charles De La Morinère quietly smiling as their Charlemagne harvest started. He was constantly checking the rows to see that his pickers remembered his instructions on the first day of work, supervising the level of the grapes in each grey box and then helping to shift them to the trailer.All done with a smile that hid his great concentration on the job in hand. That was around 8 a.m. and as I saw that evening after the dinner with the pickers prepared by the 3 lady cuisine’s ( I called them Les Trois Gorieuses but they said they preferred LesTrois Graces !) that while we finished off our wine, Jean-Charles was still supervising in the cuverie, yet to eat.
Success with a great terroir requires such dedication all the year round.
The Pavelots were out again,this time in En Caradeux with one or two the porters enjoying an “Ice bucket challenge,harvest style ! Great morning views of Pernand but sadly the Church roof is under repair for a while so I’m glad I already have that.
Lunch was enjoyed with some of the cuverie team from Latour in Aloxe before I set off for my afternoon in Vosne Romanée.
If you are unlucky at harvest time you might spend sometime avoiding the tractors and trailers, the vans and beaten up pickers’ Renaults as you circuit the village twice looking for a parking space. But its the same everywhere but usually the drivers (of the tractors and vans at least) are old hands who drive with patience, humour and courtesy. Perhaps its my hired Renault Kangoo that encourages them to think I am one of their own! Its the occasional peloton of cyclists, both the colourful lycra enthusiasts and the wobbling tourists that really cause me to curse; neither seeming to have a thought for what is going on around them, slicing through groups of pickers like saucisson.
Sadly a vineyard problem at my next visit meant my visit was postponed 24 hours, which turned well in the end so I was free to call in to see Louis-Michel Liger-Belairto see and hear how it was all going before calling in to see Pierre Vincent at Domaine de la Vougeraie at Premeaux-Prissey.
Its biodynamic here and they prepare their treatments in a wonderfully atmospheric barn.
WEDNESDAY dawned a a little grey but I was due to do some work for a producer in Buisson and a blanket of cloud evens out the shadows in the vineyard making the job easier.
The afternoon is again very warm with better light and I picnic late watching the harvest in La Tâche from up on the road above. then spend it around Vosne before chasing off to see if three “micro-negociants” can give me a few minutes in the middle of there harvest for a few urgently requested pictures. .
That’s it, a typically fluid day in Burgundy.
I arrived in Burgundy from Champagne just after lunch today to find some harvest was already started on the Hill and in glorious weather, such a difference from the year before. I decided to drive around briefly but was quickly drawn into the old routine. On a visit to my friend Gareth at the Domaine Denis triage table in Pernand I found him happy with what passed in front of him.
He will be working, along with most others doing triage, until maybe 7 pm so I left him for a thirst quenching beer down at La Grappe de Pernand with Christian and Elizabeth, the bar owners.
Freshly kitted out with new tables and benches, they were ready for the imminent invasion of local “vendangeurs”.
I then took the dried mud track back through Charlemagne to find Domaine Dublère’s crew just finishing off their day.
I must be getting old but the “vendangeuses” are looking much younger these days! I carried on down to Aloxe-Corton and spotted pickers in Les Chaumes et Le Voi Rouge (named for its red stony soil). Here was Vincent Rapet very happy with the balance of his Pinot Noir in front of wonderful view of Corton Hill.
What a pity the design is finished, approved and the book goes to the printer in Milan on Monday 15th!
Embarrassingly I have felt the need to suggest my name on the cover is in slightly larger type than those of François Perroy who provided 20 of the 28 pages of text and Claude Chapuis who kindly contributed the preface.
It seems that certain book selling websites do not believe photographers can be authors. On two sites François is named exclusively as responsible. Not what I was hoping for after over three years of planning and shooting!
Anyway its all over bar the noise we must make around publication date (5 November) and I can now think of other things… like where to shoot next!
Just heard Château Corton André, that Burgundy icon, has been bought by Bejot of Meursault.
Of course its holiday time and difficult to find news, but one suggestion I read was that Bejot, having bought Maison Pierre André and Reine Pedauque will sell off the famously tiled château and some vineyards to the Frey family of Switzerland who already successfully run Château La Lagune in the Medoc and Paul Jaboulet in the Rhône.
Personally I just hope it means the Reine Pedauque winery in Aloxe-Corton will be improved in some way. That’ll be some job.
Bill Nanson kindly forwarded me this:
I guess we just have to wait and see……
Theoretically the job is done and my deadline was the end of June…
So, when I had a Burgundy assignment to complete by the end July, I went back to inspect the hail damage but try to keep out of the way of those busy vignerons who I knew had suffered yet again. Their trials are really beyond the understanding of anyone who does not tend vines and there was nothing I could say to them. We must not forget how much other regions of France have suffered or that the damage often lasts for more than one vintage. Let’s hope the French government shows the necessary support.
In Burgundy its the next few weeks that will dictate the size of what can be harvested and as usual the weather in July and August is paramount. However while new leaves have time to grow and ripen what is left, they can only work on those berries that survived.
The assignment gave me the time to shoot some needed stock at the Burgundia testing lab in Beaune, to visit winemakers I had not seen for a while and even photograph one or two.
While the shooting is finished and captions are being checked its difficult to put this book down and stop looking for ways to improve it. We’re all doing it, the editor and I listen to any comments from our growers’ committee whose job it was to make sure I got things right.
I am well aware this book is my interpretation of the Hill and what contributes to it, but I’m also aware my talents for book design are untested and the locals have much to teach me about the Hill. Most interesting of all is the “tweaking” of an Englishman’s view for the French language
Hopefully we will be able to publish in the US and Asia and no doubt what does not work for the French market will interest other parts of the world who know France less well.
So after a little email conversation with the editor during the week I managed to set up one last photo courtesy of Louis Latour’s tractor drivers. You have to marvel at the skill required to drive a tractor through those rows without damaging valuable vines. Just another job for the vigneron whose work already demands so many talents.
I just hope the book will interest people enough to encourage them to visit vineyards and take the time to understand some of what goes on.
I was very pleased last month to be asked by Decanter magazine for photographs of Grand Cru white wine vineyards for their “Joy of Terroir” feature. Obviously I sent pictures from the Hill and they seem to have been interested in both these:
Unfortunately, through the wonders of, and the speed of, modern technology, the right picture got the wrong caption. Or vice versa, depending on your taste. Perhaps there will be room for a correction in the next issue, perhaps not.
These things happen ” in the best regulated homes” as my parents used to say.
Still I’m happy that the Hill got a DPS in Decanter!
In the end they used the the ploughing shot with Pernand in the background.
My June visit was very brief. The weather was good part from one damp day and everyone seemed very satisfied with this year’s flowering. Talk is of harvest starting around mid September. But as they say , “its August who decides.”
My work on the Hill finished with a couple of portraits of growers who had subscribed to the book, thereby meriting a tiny “mugshot” at the back of the book. I had a busy time with assignments in Vosne-Romanée, Puligny and Chassagne, all of which you may see before the end of the year, depending on what you read.
Here are a few images from that short stay.
Evening light in Aloxe-Corton on a “precocious” vine.
In november a French text version of The Book will be out! Less than 5 months and counting… Here’s hoping one in English follows before too long.
Meanwhile, I shall be back in July but not sadly for the Balade Gourmande in Ladoix, I hope the weather stays kind for them this weekend.