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.