August 29, 2014

Volnay is a very peaceful, quiet town of about 350 residents, almost all of whom are

involved in the wine trade. This morning it appeared the entire village was outside my

door: trucks, vans, cars of all sorts. Upon arriving at work I surprised to be told to grab

my cellar boots and hop in the van with the rest of the crew: this was straight out of the

A-Team, but in French. I was soon back in front of my house, joined the throng of wine

workers and was shaking hands and exchanging “bonjours” with dozens of folks.

It turned out that back in 2012 there was an outbreak of Flavescence Doree (a nasty

disease mainly found in Europe that kills vines) in the Maconnais which is south of

the Cote D’Or and just north of Beaujolais. So how does one combat such a lethal

opponent? Why, by having all the vignerons band together, bring out all their crews,

and examine every vine in the entire region. Remarkable. There was an unbelievable

sense of community and purpose among the group. Maps were handed out to all of the

chief vignerons, more people from other domaines leaped into our van (making about a

dozen) and off we sped to the first vineyard. And by jingoes, if it wasn’t exactly where I

had taken my reconnaissance stroll the night before.

By hiking through vineyards for the next four hours I quickly came to appreciate the

difference between Volnay premier cru vineyards (great work-out up and down big hills)

versus the village or regional Bourgogne vineyards (flat and easy to walk through). Our

crew finished up our sections just before noon and headed to the communal “casse-
croute” at a meeting hall across from my house. Normally “casse-croute” is a snack

break taken every morning around 9:30 a.m. Today’s casse-croute, however was at

noon and much more substantial.

My first mistake was thinking that I might not find enough to eat, and my second was

wondering if there would be any wine involved. There were platters of cured ham

(along the lines of prosciutto, but there are dozens of local varieties in France), dried

saucissons (like salamis and such), vegetables, and of course baguettes at every table.

One of my co-workers grabbed the baguette, broke it into sections, passed them out to

everyone at our table, and the feast was on. Turns out all the vignerons brought a few

bottles from their respective domaines for the occasion.

I started with a white which someone poured me out of an unlabeled bottle, then moved

on to a Pommard (also unlabeled) which was from the domaine of the gentleman sitting

next to me. Somehow over the next two and a half hours my glass was never empty

(without my pouring a single drop for myself) and just when I was wondering how I was

going to be able to roll barrels later that afternoon, my boss walked over and set down

a bottle of his wine in front of me. What would you have done? Right. And then he

brought over a premier cru Volnay from one of the other finest producers in town. And

of course there were platters of cheeses and jambon persille (parsley encrusted ham)

that appeared, followed by plum tarts that were the size of large pies. The clean-up

process was most impressive: much like the dwarves after feasting at Mr. Baggins’

home. A hundred hands quickly removed all the dishes, disassembled and stowed

away all the tables, stacked all the chairs, and swept the floors clean—in minutes…

Back at the cellar I lifted, rolled, and prepped many barrels before the church belled

mercifully tolled 6:00 p.m. And that was when Monsieur Lafarge, the elder, appeared

and invited me to join in a tasting with some visitors from the United States. Enjoying

wine from the vineyards I had worked in that very day was a pleasant way to finish my

first week of work in Burgundy.

The mightiest of vans Hey Ray, here's from the 29th (6 pics). Premier cru hills Good place for a morning hike Used to check barrels Volnay sunrise

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