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Harvest in Burgundy or: How I learned to Stop Working Fine Dining and Love the Process

So I did a thing at a late night La Paulée after party...

A lot of us, especially Sommeliers who have decided to focus their studies and career on the wines of Burgundy, talk about the need to put boots on the ground in the region but few of us ever do.

Now I've made plenty of questionable decisions in my life, I did once single handedly try and bring disco back in 2003, and that night I made a decision that turned out to be only slightly less out there. I cornered one of the best winemakers of our generation Pierre Yves Colin, who (in full disclosure I've known PY for a few years now) allowed me to not only drunkenly accost him all full of 60's Taragona Chartreuse and wide-eyed enthusiasm, but is allowing me to come and live and work with him in Burgundy for the 2018 harvest at Domaine Pierre Yves Colin-Morey.

I reached out to  about the best way to document this and provide the community with a direct line to Burgundy as well as hopefully some inside information on the 2018 harvest and Burgundy in general. 

I'm going to try and check in at least 1-2 times a week with updates and to answer questions. There will be a lot to see on my instagram instagram.com/maxcoane, I promise it won't just be ridiculous bottle shots and food pics. 

Let me know what questions you guys have for PY and I'll do my best to get them answered.

MTC

  • Is there a conscious effort with things like managing solids to achieve the amount of reduction that they have in the whites? Love to hear more about their process. 

  • Just arrived in Paris. I leave for Chassagne in the morning. PY and Caroline are saying we won't start the harvest until Monday but you never know. If anybody has questions regarding Visa process or legal status thats probably something good to cover before we actually start getting our hands dirty in two days. 

  • Actually, yeah, I’ve considered a harvest abroad before but have no idea how the Visa process plays out. I assume you needed to formal job offer first, right? What happened from there?

  • Yes, you do need to secure a position with a winery before going further.

    Building relationships with Burgundian producers isn't the easiest thing in the world, but there are a lot of opportunities, La Paulee, Importer relationships, for you to get to know these folks. Once you have a place secured, usually 2 weeks minimum requirement to be considered, you can move onto step 2.

    As an American passport holder you can be in the EU for up to 90 days, at which point you have to literally just step out of the EU for a day and then you can come back, This however doesn't solve the issue of working, even for free. As it was explained to me the wineries are taxed based on the number of workers they declare. This means that if PYCM says we are going to harvest Chassagne Morgeot on 1 September at 6:00am and we have 10 harvest workers the tax man can check from the road and if they count more than your allotted employees you can be fined. So how to get around the man? 

     Become a "student." 

    PY having never had an American Stagierre had to ask around for the solution which came to us via Jermey Seysses. The CFPPB which is a professional education organization in Beaune offers a course for Americans pre-harvest which makes you a student. https://cfppa.lavitibeaune.com/cfppa/index.php They also handle all registration with the wineries and the government so you can work. The program is called Odyssey in Burgundy.

    Harvest begins tomorrow, tonight we have our "Petit Paulée Colin-Morey" for the harvest team. 

  • Woah and Amahhhhzing! Good for you! So envious. Enjoy it. Thanks for sharing. 

  • For sure. And please let me know if you have any question fo PY or Caroline. They are super sweet. We start tomorrow with Beaune Village and Meursault Village. Tonight we had a pre harvest dinner. There are 3 staggiere, Myself, the son of PYCM's German Importer and a Swiss winemaking hopeful. Together with PY, Caroline, and Mattis Colin-Morey our team of 3 with 70! harvesters begin tomorrow in earnest. 

  • Question:  Are most of the harvest workers from Northern Africa?  Or are they mostly EU citizens?

  • Yessss! just started following you on Insta! will show some stuff to some of my servers while doing a wine training soon. Actually had a bottle of PYCM in Vegas this week. Delicious . Keep up with stories s'il vous plait. 

  • In terms of solids no, at least not yet. The idea as best as was explained to me was to do “whole cluster” with Chardonnay as much as possible. Bunches are heavily sorted in the vineyard and then again at triage. Bunches, stems, grapes, free run juice all go into the press together for a very long very slow press. Depending on the vintage, today with Meursault village and Beaune Greves blanc we ran the press for 2+ hours. Juice comes off the press into stainless to settle from there TBD but there is a mix of large format oak, piece barrels and stainless in the cuvier

  • 50/50 so far. Today the team was Moroccan tomorrow all Burgundian. Apparently it’s just super hard to find people in general, EU or otherwise. In Chassagne alone are 30 domaines who may want to harvest in part or in whole by hand. Where do the workers come from? 

  • Just would hope to know perspective on variation of fruit quality depending on site (lieu-dit, village, Premier Cru, Grand Cru)...evenness of cluster in ripening and if full maturation is achieved for each wine. Any insight would be great to understand this vintage.

    So excited for you and this truly inspiring experience. Cheers.

  • When I see anything other than village and Chassagne lieu dit I’ll have some comparison. I didn’t take many pictures on the triage line because the pace is fact and you don’t want th old French ladies clucking at you. I’ll get some comparison shots today

  • This is really cool to see, and your headline of course immediately jumped out at me. I'm staying/working in Solutré-Pouilly for the harvest, and it's something I've been wanting to do for quite some time now (having never stepped foot in Europe prior). "Few of us ever do" has never made sense to me, yet I seemed to be one of the very few sommeliers in my community who practically felt obligated to give it all up and experience the lifestyle and true grit that goes into winemaking. But PYCM - very impressive, to say the least. 

    We're only four days in here, but I'd love to share some stories at some point!

  • Get down girl, go ahead, get down...

    It’s Thursday and it rained in Chassagne in and off yesterday. We took all of our grand cru fruit on Tuesday except for corton which will come next week.

  • I spent some time with Jadot for their harvest in 2016 and they hire the same crew of Polish natives every year to harvest all their high end plots and they just move from vineyard to vineyard each day until all the grapes are in.