Alas, I do not think Burgundy could get any better. This is how each morning begins…
& a trip to the local boulangerie for croissants & pain aux chocolate
Day 1 in Burgundy found us in Morey St Denis, specifically, Les Chaffots. Perfectly groomed vines with beautifully plump Pinot Noir trundled below. Get prettier.
What really struck me is how incredibly small each appellation is. The entire world’s supply comes from plots like those above. Teeny tiny parcels with just a few bunches per vine. It’s a wonder we get any at all outside of France
Today’s picking was a lot more civilized, and by that I mean I didn’t have to pick a thing. I just stood in reflective awe of the beauty of where I stood. Seriously, get prettier Burgundy.
We met the pickers in the field and supervised (“like a boss” says my dad, but more appropriately would be “watched”) as the grapes came flying in. What took Mark & I the better part of a day, took this group less than an hour.
Literally tasting the fruits of (their) labor. Les Chaffots is incredibly clean this year, meaning minimal, if any, rot. This is due to the hot summer and lack of rain and humidity and translates, for this parcel at least, into skipping the sorting table and heading straight into tank (1/2 stems, 1/2 de-stemmed) where fermentation will kick off in several days.
UnpackING the fruit into the truck. This is about a million times easier when you have a tractor to help. I say this as if I participated at all…. Refer back to “supervise” above.
There were 3 generations of vineyard owners on hand which Mark had me watch as a classic example of Burgundian family life. Patriarch comes first & grandpa showed everyone who was boss as he barked at his son and law and louder yet at his grandson, who was actually pretty entertaining to watch as he Austin Powers the tractor between the vines and stone walls.
Some hard earned pickled herring, onions, and carrots, pate &, of course, bread. I didn’t realize before this trip how crucial bread is to the French diet, but my goodness it pervades at every meal. I don’t think I ever went more than a couple of hours without a piece of totally delicious baguette.
But then it was back to the cuverie to make dat wine. The tanks are all cleaned prior to use to prevent any spoilage from bacteria & nasty bits. First with an alkaline caustic, and then with water, citric acid, and more water yet. The Alkaline keeps it clean but also adheres to tannins so it’s crucial to wash it all off with a base & water so as not to ruin your wine.
A big lesson I learned, at about minute 2 of working in a winery, is that there is a reason why this industry is so male dominate. There is a shit ton of heavy lifting involved. At every step of the way you’re
French law mandates a harness to be tethered above a certain height. It’s amazing to me that any winemakers live past the age of 30. There is something to kill you every step of the way. Whether it’s chopping off a finger in the vineyard, losing a hand in the destemmer, getting run over by a tractor, falling off a ladder…
Later that day we ran into Ray Walker (check out that creepy photography). Ray was also purchasing some grapes from MSD and turns out he has two interns from Hong Kong. Go figure.
Lunch in France is no joke. Kids come home from school. People stop doing whatever is it they are doing, and they come together to break bread. My first lunch at Pierre’s consisted of no less than 10 dishes. Breads, cheese, sausages, tomatoes, melon, cucumbers, & salad all fresh from the garden, fish…and some of Mark’s incredible wine.
2013 Mark Haisma Saint Romain. An incredibly fresh Chardonnay that is as natural & pure as it comes. It was absolutely stunning & vibrant, proving the perfect match for an alfresco lunch.
And of course, more eatING. We worked until ~8 every night and before dinner was ready we needed, because we were famished (kidding, there was not a moment on this trip I was hungy), a little pick me up. Sausisson, bread, & home brew.
This particular evening we were especially lucky for 2 reasons. First we had Mark’s mom on hand who was visiting from Melbourne. Annie is actually French and spent a lot of her adult life in Germany and Switzerland before moving to Melbourne. She was on an extended vacation through Europe and popped into Burgundy for a few days.
Craig is a friend of Simone’s, a dear friend of mine here in HK. When she went to visit him some 2/3 years back in the UK, Craig was hosting a dinner at which Mark was also present. This chance meeting led to my stay in Gevrey Chambertin all those years later. Thank you, Craig. And Simone. And especially Mark.