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 Geoff Kruth 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.
Same idea for us. PY uses the same company to organize his harvest workers for 10+ years so they know the deal. The stages actually slow them down. Our French sucks and we aren’t fast enough for them. Mostly we are working in the winery doing triage on the grapes and running the pressoir because the harvesters can work faster without us
Hey y’all. Its midnighf on Thursday here in Chassagne, and I’m going to try and post a proper harvest report tomorrow with pictures but if you have specific questions please put them here so I can ask PY and Caro. Harvest is incredible, the grapes are beautiful and PY and Caro are comparing the 2018 harvest to 1985. They say compared to the past 3-5 vintages this year is incredible. Very happy with the quality and quantity of the fruit.
Its Friday night in Chassagne and just like an average Friday night in San Francisco our little village of less than 500 people is completely rocking and loud, by which I mean its 23:09 not a sound can be heard for miles and its absolutely pitch black out…
I have to admit that despite everything I’ve studied about Burgundy I never really realized just how far off the grid the village of Chassagne-Montrachet is.
A view of Chassagne in the distance from the dining room at the winery.
There is 1 cafe, a smattering of houses, a church, the school, the Abbye Morgeot, City Hall and thats about it. Part of the reason I haven’t updated as much as I’d like is that there is only internet connection in two rooms at the winery and when I ask why we don’t have better WiFi, their answer is: “Because this is Burgundy.” Which is the general answer to a lot of things around here
Its important to consider the way these wine making families view their birthright. As Caroline Colin-Morey said last night over dinner, “No matter how hard you try, you cannot change Burgundy.” PY and Caroline view themselves as stewards of a tradition, nothing more.
Our team at PYCM/CCM consists of PY/Caroline, their eldest son Mathis Colin-Morey, two assistant wine makers; one French and one from Chile doing her degree in winemaking, and 3 harvest stages, myself included. There are a few people each day, brokers, cavistes, sommeliers, and wine makers who also work with us. In addition we have two teams of harvesters, one completely French, the other from Morocco, a total of 70 people.
With the assistance of our harvest teams the fruit is harvested by hand and placed in bins which are then brought back via tractor to the winery. From what I hear we are extremely lucky at PYCM because we don’t have to spend the majority of our time in the vineyard cutting grapes. Another American I met is staging at Domaine Lamey in St. Aubin and has spent the majority of his time in the vineyard cutting fruit, which is not an easy job especially in the St. Aubin 1er cru vineyards. On the maps its hard to understand but a vineyard like Chatenière 1er cru is like almost 30 degrees slope so spending 2-3 days working those vines is not as we might say here “super bon.”
This isn’t to say we haven’t spent time in the vineyards.
Cutting fruit with French seasonal harvest workers could be an entry in itself and probably should be. There are the 3 guys who speak some English, Marcel the most French (and most drunk) of all the septuagenarians leading the harvest crew, “Monsieur Bob” the French-Rasta guy who likes to “bless up mon” before we enter the vineyards and a collection of other “harvest specimens,” seasonal workers who make up the core of the team. They go out once in the morning after breakfast, come back for lunch, and then go out again until 17:00-18:00. I wont say I’m even close to good at cutting the fruit, I’m definately not as fast or as thorough as the more practiced harvesters but they tolerate the loud American, mostly because they take pity on my French.
Monsieur Bob doing his pre harvest smoke and dance routine.
On Tuesday l went with the French team and picked Chassagne 1e Crur Chaumée, 1er Cru Chenevottes, and then the entire team went to the vineyard to pick the Grand Cru.
"Completely Batarded" or A Sweaty American Touched All Your Grapes...
Imagine, just for a moment, that you are standing in the middle of Criots Bâtard-Montrachet. The crazy looking overgrown vines of Lalou Bize-Leroy are to your left, the beautifully pruned vines of Caroline Colin-Morey are to your right, and just behind you while you cut fruit a an older Deux Chevaux pulls up and out comes CCM’s 80+ year old father Jean Marc Morey.
Assuming you’re a Burgundy nut like I am, this scene would be like watching Paul McCartney or someone like that walk into any band’s rehearsal studio and saying “Oh sick, you guys have a band too??? Thats pretty cool, I make a little music myself.”
JM Morey and his generation of vigneron really created the Burgundy that we love today. As I was pulling the pebbles out of my beard from when my chin had been in the dirt, I stopped to realize what was actually in front of me. The past Jean Marc, the present CCM, and the future Mathis C-M, three generations of Burgundian winemakers working in the grand cru vines, a perfect encapsulation of what these wines mean here. Family.
CCM taking a picture of her father JM Morey next to the press with her Criots-Batard.
And now for a bunch of grape porn:
Puligny Garenes and Chassagne Morgeot
Beaune Greves Blanc and Rouge
Really expensive trash
100 Year Old Santenay VV Vines from PYs family
Are the berries much larger on the bunch from Criots or is that an illusion of the photo?
Thanks for that info. I know different estates tend to go for different staff. North Africans are popular I assume as most of them would be native french speakers, but I am not sure how the visas work as opposed to going with an all EU harvest crew....
Good catch Geoff. That’s the old “hold your grapes close to the camera so it looks bigger in a picture” trick...
So I can give a more nuanced answer now having had my hands on all the fruit from hautes cotes all the way up to the grand cru.
The basic difference is in ripeness obviously but also purity of flavor of the juice. The GC’s are generally the oldest vines so they give the best fruit. The Santenay VV 100 year old Pinot from PY was maybe the nicest Pinot I’ve ever seen but we don’t have any GC reds.
The other difference is quality. This is an incredible vintage for Côte de Beaune wines. In the GC’s I think we had a few bunches in the trash but not a lot. Mostly removing leaves. In the lesser St. Aubin stuff and HCB you are all sorts of things from millerands to botrytis and sun strike as well. Absolutely none of that in the better 1er and GC but it was there in the Bourgogne as well. We sort it out by It’s a tiny percentage less than 5% of the overall fruit gets tossed out because the terroir is that good
Thanks for sharing. Love reading this!
Let me know if you have specific questions. We’ll finish at Chez Pierre Yves tomorrow night probably then I’ll start making visits. First up is Ramonet and Vincent Dancer
Wow. Just WOW! How exciting!
Friends, it’s Wednesday mid-morning and we’re slowly wrapping up the harvest at PYCM/CCM we have a party planned for Friday so that should be it.
To say we’ve been going hard in the paint for the last 10 days hardly covers the reality of it. The pace is hectic, especially when you have the sorting line for the rouge going at the same time as the pressoir for the blanc.
A brief aside about French.
In my opinion, and if others have had different experiences please chime in, it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL that you have some facility in the French language and experience with French culture. I am by no means fluent in French and they make fun of me for it non stop but I can carry a conversation and understand about 75% of what is being said to me. This is not only important because of the whole “when in Rome do as the Romans do” aspect of things, but its also practical. Winemaking can be very dangerous with a lot of moving parts and big chunks of steel moving about. I can’t imagine how dangerous it would be if I didn’t speak French at all.
For purposes of brevity I’ll discuss the white wines in this post and the reds in a second.
The Mise en Place for whites.
First allow me to dispel any rumors that PY makes all the wines for both his and Caroline’s domaine, because that is 100% not true. The work together side by side, though Caroline takes the lead on the reds because PY just isn’t that into it.
The grapes are picked by hand and start arriving at the winery around 8:30 am via tractor. Contrary to what people seem to think about what we do here we do not do anything to control the temperature of either the grapes or the juice from the pressoir until its done. We sort of course but its not an intense sorting, basically the grapes get a once over on the vibrating truck as they fall into the giraffe and then into the pressoir.
The process of transporting the grapes as well as the frenetic pace of the belt churning away causes the grapes to be crushed a little bit as they go so we don’t stomp them or anything, even for the reds.
There are two sorters on either side of the bin checking as the grapes go past and then two on top of the press spreading the material in an even layer. The idea is to get close to “vendange entiere” on the whites. The press runs about 3 hours in total.
The juice off the pressoir is allowed to oxidize a bit to deepen the color in a vat directly beneath it outside before it is pumped off into tanks for the night to slightly cold stabilize during which a bit of So2 is added. The next morning the juice is sent via gravity down to the cave for entonnage. There are absolutely no added yeasts and the wines ferment naturally in their barrels or in the case of some of the lesser wines in large format stainless. Interestingly this year Bâtard was the first to start fermenting but not the first picked.
Again we add nothing until the wines have finished Malo sometime in February and then a little more So2. Around harvest the next year the previous vintage gets taken back into the cuverie and placed into stainless tanks to settle before bottling.
Super straight forward.
I am constantly impressed that the list of things we do to the wine, vs. the list of things we DON’T do is heavily swayed towards the don’t side. Its remarkably hands off wine making. There is a confidence here in the terroir and also the process of just being Burgundian that we can all learn from. When you are born into something great, don’t fuck it up. Simple as that.
The other remarkable thing is just how modern almost Californian PY’s winery is. He says that the biggest influence on his winemaking after his own father Marc Colin was the time he spent making wine in California with David Ramey. The oxidization of the juice before settling which I’ve always thought was the “Jean Marc Roulot” method, PY says he learned from Ramey and Kongsgard in the 90’s.
Its a wild and tiny world we live in.
PY in the cellar
Just a quick note from PY Mnsr. Bob and myself to announce the completion of the 2018 harvest. The whites are all barreled down and when the reds finish fermentation they are up next. I have a backlog of posts about the wines so this is by no means over just wanted to show you the face of an enextremly happy wine maker, a very sweaty sommelier, and one righteously stoned Rasta names Jean-Pierre
Great stuff Max, it is an awesome insight to give, as not that many people will get the chance to work a harvest in France, or anywhere else for that matter. I would echo a couple of your points. First, if you want to go work a harvest or spend any meaningful time in France it is essential to have some basic facility with the language. And second, I am always shocked to read otherwise educated wine writers talk about how oxidising juice is some sort of Burgundian innovation developed in the last few years in response to prem-ox. This has been absolutely standard practice in California wineries making Chardonnay and most other white wines since the late 1980s, largely due to work David Ramey did with Zelma Long at Simi Winery. Hardly surprinsing that PY learned about this key aspect of juice handling from the master, David Ramey.
The surprising part to me was not that he does it, but just how willing he was/is to give credit for it to Ramey. Last time I heard anybody in Burgundy say anything nice about another winemakers technique, let alone an American was...well...let’s just say it doesn’t happen a lot.