” 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 !