Last week was a busy one! On Monday I spent some time with Denis Gayte and his dad Philippe, helping him press. It was a big job and they needed one more set of hands. My job was to shovel the skins into the trailer after they came out of the press. Denis was down in the big 120 hl vat, and his dad was running the press. Phew, I got some good exercise, filling that trailor up! That's one of the best things about harvest, it gets you in pretty good shape before winter sets in and you have a tendency to stay inside and eat and drink!
Then it was off to Paris for a quick trip, with an over-night in Gevrey-Chambertin on my way up. I spent about 3 years living in Burgundy, working in the vineyards and in a lab, so I like to stop over at my friend Mme Bartet's for a visit from time to time. It's always good to catch up with her and her friend Monsieur Boillot. Both spent their lives working in the historical vineyards of the Côte d'Or, it's amazing to think about. I rented a room from Mme Bartet and worked with her in the vineyards off and on for 3 years. She is the mother of Bruno Clair, a highly respected winemaker with amazing vineyards from Marsannay to Savigny-les-Beaune, with plots of Clos de Bèze, Corton Charlemagne and Bonnes Mares along the way. Mme Bartet's house is at the foot of the famous Clos Saint Jacques vineyard in Gevrey-Chambertin. I wonder if they ever really comprehend the reverie that their vineyards conjure up for wine-lovers the world over?
There's something very moving about visiting world-famous vineyards. Driving along the Route des Grands Crus from Gevrey-Chambertin, through Morey Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, arriving at the Clos de Vougeot and then on towards the mythic vineyards of Vosne-Romanée. I do it every time I go there. If you ever doubted the notion of terroir, or a "sense of place" all you have to do is drive along that ancient road and ponder the fact that wine has been made here for centuries, wine that has such a powerful effect on people that it is known throughout the world. It's a pretty amazing feeling and I recommend it to all wine lovers. The same sort of feeling is conjured up when visiting the magical vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or Château Latour, or the Côtes des Blancs in Champagne, the sense of their importance can be overwhelming for a wine lover.
But I digress... On to Paris for a meeting with the whole team of writers at Bettane & Desseauve. I was of course late and practically running through the streets of Paris, I finally decided to get into a cab, but that in the end wasn't much faster. The driver was great, trying his best to help me get there, but we hit every light, were behind every newbee riding one of the new "Vélib" bikes on the Paris streets, and finally we got stuck at a construction site waiting through 3 lights while a semi tried to load a container onto the back of his truck!! Finally I made it, a good 20 minutes late, but it turned out I hadn't missed a thing, and I wasn't even the last person to arrive.
We had a sort of debriefing on the guide, how the process worked, how we could make it better, what they expected from us this year etc. The guide is selling quite well, it's number 2 only behind the Guide Hachette, which is not surprising at all, and ahead of Gault & Millau and their old guide that La Revue du Vin de France still publishes. It was all very pleasing to hear, and great to meet the other people that worked on the project.
That evening there was a cocktail party to celebrate the release at Caves Legrand. It was a rather small gathering of friends and colleagues and a few vignerons. There was lots of great wine to be tasted including the 2003 Chambertin from Domaine A. Rousseau. Eric Rousseau, who is pictured here in the background with Michel Bettane on the right, generously brought 6 bottles to the party, so we all got to enjoy a glass! It was a great way to celebrate the fruition of this colossal project, and great for me to get to meet all of the people that I had heard about and had been working with but didn't necessarily know in person. Today I've been working on translating certain parts of the guide into English to show to an American publisher, so hopefully, sometime next year, it will be available in the US!