The Côte is now almost deserted, with only a few small groups dotted here and there in the vines. For us, the harvest ended at 2:30pm on Tuesday. The last 79 crates arrived with an accompanying fanfare of truck horns, and were welcomed at the winery with cries of joy. It took us almost a month to bring in all 37 appellations this year, which is unprecedented! This is due to the dual impact of the generosity of the 2018 vintage, combined with grapes now starting to flow from some recently replanted plots.
Days Twenty-Three and Twenty-Four – Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 September 2018
By 6pm, the grapes have usually stopped coming in and the cleaning is nearly done. But Saturday was different. The grapes just kept on coming and Alexis just kept on unloading them, his toned shoulders betraying his efforts. The day finally began to draw to a close, and fortunately, too, because Karine was exhausted to say the least, and there was still two hours of deep cleaning to be done before we could lock up for the night.
Day Twenty Two – Friday 14 September 2018
This year’s harvest seems never-ending, but we are delighted that quantity is going hand-in-hand with quality – two words that are often incompatible when it comes to wine, and just what we need after the lean years of 2016, when yields were down by half, 2010 and 2012. Today, we finished the whites of the Côte de Beaune Les Pierres Blanches and the Beaune la Montée Rouge. On the Côte de Nuits, we continued our high-altitude harvest on a plateau at 420 meters above sea level, taking in two hectares of the large plot of Hautes-Côtes de Nuits white at Chaux, and for our Bourgogne from the high-trained vineyard called Au Defois.
Day twenty-one – Thursday 13 September 2018
The weather is still summery, and the rain that was forecast never showed up, despite some big black clouds threatening the Côte as our pickers started their fourth and final week. In the winery, we were about to press our first red while freshly-picked grapes were still being brought in. That’s a first for the estate. In the vines, harvesting continued on the Côte de Nuits a few hundred meters from the winery in Premeaux-Prissey, with the big vineyard of Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Les Corvées Pagets.
day twenty – Wednesday 12 September 2018
Another day, another hard effort out in the vines and the winery! It has been three weeks now since we started harvesting, and the pace is still just as intense, the tasks demanding the same energy, both indoors and out.
Day nineteen – Tuesday 11 September 2018
Vine, winery, and cellar. For the past couple of weeks, life at the Domaine has revolved around these three locations. One week from now, the vineyards will be at rest, but activity in the winery and cellar will still be going strong. We started the day at 7am, with a frisky 12°C in the vines. Dew pearled on the leaves, dropping from the fingers of the pickers. Meanwhile, the winery was getting into gear with the first pressing of the day, Beaune La Montée Rouge white, the first of three.
DAYS SEVENTEEN AND EIGHTEEN – SUNDAY 9 AND MONDAY 10 SEPTEMBRE 2018
What a funny place for a rendezvous! Sylvie had arranged to meet Jean-Claude, the head of our team on the Côte de Nuits, in the cemetery at Premeaux at 7am to hook up with the elusive Romanians. The minutes ticked by, with no sign of anyone. Apparently, they, too, were at the cemetery, only it transpired they were at the one in Quincey, over a mile away! An amusing start to the day…
Day sixteen – Saturday 8 September 2018
It was still dark when our seasonal workers rose from their beds. Daybreak is a little later every day, but a glimmer of pink tinged the sky ahead of sunrise as they gathered at 7am on the hillsides already dotted with groups of pickers. Did they know that today, they would be tackling some of the most prestigious climats in Burgogne, impacted by the extreme weather?
Day fifteen – Friday 7 September 2018
There was a lounge atmosphere in the winery this morning, with soft jazz playing to start the day off gently. Vinifying in whole bunches has obliged us to slow down the pace to cut off the green stalks. Dawn saw the vines bathed in a lovely light and pure air as we finished the Charmes-Chambertin Les Mazoyères, our historic plot of grand cru begun yesterday. These very old vines, some of which were planted in the 19th century, are spectacular.
Day Fourteen – Thursday 6 September 2018
Today marks the start of the third week of picking and it’s clear that a certain fatigue is starting to set in, even though we are all still smiling. We are all in this together, both in the vines and in the winery, but the long days are tiring the team and the end is still not yet in sight...
Day Thirteen – Wednesday 5 September 2018
The sun was barely up on the Côte by the time the winery was in action with the first pressing of the day, Vougeot Clos du Prieuré, one of four. Everything started well, with eight willing workers at their posts and the first crates of Clos du Prieuré white on the sorting table, when suddenly boom! Two of the legs gave way. Fortunately, only the table suffered any damage...
Day twelve – Tuesday 4 September 2018
It was 15°C this morning and temperatures topped out a 27°C over the course of the day, with dazzling light making for very pleasant harvesting conditions. In the winery, it’s still cool, which is great for the freshly-picked grapes. Camille was smiling broadly, thanks to the brand-new pump for the white grapes press which is now up and running. This is exactly the kind of birthday gift a wine professional like her would appreciate!
DAY TEN AND ELEVEN- Sunday 2 and Monday 3 September 2018
After a little rest on Sunday, it was back down to business on Monday, as 12 million French pupils returned to school, midway through the harvest period. The gray, chilly weather confirmed the onset of fall. The team of pickers on the Côte de Nuits had now swelled to 23, and the day began with the plot of Bourgogne Les Cornillots, partially picked on Saturday. It yielded one press of Pinot Noir for our premium crémant, Fête de Famille.
DAY NINE – Saturday 1 September 2018
Camille reported that it was just 5°C in Nantoux at the top of the Hautes Côtes this morning. Up there, the vines are trained higher to protect them from the frost and we can see why. At the bottom of the hill, it was less chilly, but still weather for a sweater. Sylvie welcomed the team in the winery at 7am to the strains of La Vie en Rose, causing everyone to break into song. This is our new technique for ensuring a good atmosphere on what was promising to be a busy day.
Day Eight – Friday 31 August 2018
On the last day of August, we have already been harvesting for a week. It was a cold, gray morning, just 12°C when the small team on the Côte de Beaune made their fourth foray into our plot of Savigny-lès-Beaune Premier Cru Les Marconnets, this time to finish the job. Back in the winery, the grapes filled the bins, alternating between destalked and whole bunches, before being carefully tipped into the vats. On the sorting table, five young women – Sylvie, Karine, Eva, Julie and Camille – were attentively removing the woody part of the stalk when it is still green to avoid it giving bitterness during maceration.
Day Seven – Thursday 30 August 2018
The Côte was swathed in chilly gray clouds this morning and we were certainly missing the sunshine. The temperature was 13°C at 6am according to Sylvie, already up and on her way to the winery, and it barely rose above 19°C for the rest of the day. But we were rejoicing as such temperatures are perfect for picking grapes, and cooler weather is better to delay the start of fermentation...
Day Six – Wednesday 29 August 2018
The wind has picked up, with storms forecast. It was already very warm and heavy this morning, with threatening dark clouds in the west. Fingers crossed that we can escape the tempest… The team on the Côte de Nuits finished the last few rows of Vougeot Premier Cru Les Cras, before attacking the next-door vineyard, the Vougeot Premier Cru Clos Blanc de Vougeot, this time on its southern side along the wall by Clos Vougeot.
Day Five – Tuesday 28 August 2018
The heatwave weather was back in force today, and the light was dazzling. This morning, the pickers were not far from the Domaine, in Ladoix-Serrigny, with one of our five red grand crus reds, Corton Clos du Roi. They started work at 7:00am on its steep east-facing slope. Cordon Hill, which is the link between the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits, is like a huge hemisphere offering a thousand nuances to the great red and white wines produced there. It looks down over the plain of the River Saône, from 300 meters above sea level, providing a unique location for these fine wines to flourish.
Day Four – Monday 27 August 2018
As the full moon hung over the Clos Vougeot at first light, Sylvie was already on her way to the Domaine. A little farther south, and a little later, in Chassagne-Montrachet the sun rose over the cool dew, offering a splendid spectacle to Bénédicte, our photographer. The team was preparing to attack the first of our two plots of Bâtard-Montrachet – that golden-hued grand cru whose natural opulence we strive to capture. Despite the hail which hit the vines in mi-July, the bunches were in perfect condition and ripe, and were pressed upon arrival at the winery.
Day Three – Saturday 25 August 2018
Today is the feast day of St. Louis, and a popular Saturday for weddings. But, as forecast, the Côte was hit by some rather wintry weather today. It was 11°C at 8:00am this morning, the sun was nowhere to be seen, and the sky totally covered with thick gray cloud. We rummaged for sweaters and anoraks as our fingers grew numb. This sudden cold snap – albeit temporary – was quite a shock for systems more used to the heatwave weather that has been so stifling for the past three months. This was the first tangible sign that fall is on its way. Our rubber boots won’t be far behind.
Day Two – Friday 24 August 2018
Work began today at dawn for Sylvie and François, who were hard at work in the winery by 6:30am. The morning sun was a little hazy, but it felt cooler this morning at 17°C, and it barely climbed above that during the course of the day. The pickers continued harvesting the young vines. They finished the Volnay this morning, bringing in the last 28 crates. Then they set to work on the Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Clos de Thorey Monopole. Half of this three-hectare plot is just six years old.
Day One – Thursday 23 August 2018
Summer vacations are distant memories and it’s battle stations on the Côte: Samples taken at the beginning of the week told us that conditions are right, and it’s time to start picking. It feels like 2003, when harvesting began on 21 August, much to everyone’s surprise. This year, we were expecting to begin in August, but perhaps not quite so early. But we are in good shape, the team is ready, and everything is organized, down to a ‘T’.