September 17, 2014
September 16-17, 2014 Volnay Harvest Begins: The Arrival of the Harvesters and
On Tuesday, we made the final preparations for the arrival of the vendageurs
(harvesters) who would number between 20-26 over the course of the harvest. The
vendageurs hailed from the Bresse region of Burgundy, south and east of the Cote d’Or.
Bresse is famous for having the most delicious chickens in all of France.
At the end of the work day I was invited to join the recently arrived harvest crew for a
welcome feast prepared by Chef Annie (also from Bresse). Three hours, five courses,
and many wines later I walked back home to rest up for the first full-scale harvest of
Volnay fruit the next day.
On Wednesday morning, all the vendageurs were gathered behind the winery, buckets,
and clippers (secateurs) at the ready. At 7:30 the harvest of the monopole premier cru
vineyard between my house and the winery, Clos du Chateau des Ducs (acquired in
1900) commenced. I went with my coworker Guy (who is the younger brother of the
chief of the vendageurs) and Jean-Paul, who worked for the Lafarges over 30 years and
retired several years ago, into the winery to prepare for the processing of the grapes
and to perform pump-overs (remontage) on the premier cru tanks we filled last week.
The processing set-up was similar to what we used in Fleurie on Monday: clusters
dumped from picking bins onto a vibrating table, moved along onto the sorting table,
into the destemmer, and up the giraffe into the awaiting concrete tank. We generally
had six people on the sorting table including the ever-present Monsieur Michel Lafarge.
I was surprised how quickly we processed the Clos du Chateau des Ducs vineyard.
Before lunch the crew had moved over to the premier cru Clos des Chenes vineyard
and the fruit was sent into a large, open-top wooden fermenter. At noon the harvest
crew came back to the domaine for a three-course, multi-wine lunch before returning to
the vineyards to finish the Clos des Chenes parcel and move onto the premier cru Les
I was delighted to learn that I would be joining the harvest crew every evening for dinner
throughout the harvest. Chef Annie did not disappoint. Once again we had a multi-
course/hour repast accompanied by fine Domaine Lafarge wines. By this time I had
been accepted into the lively throng of vendageurs as part of the dinner group. The
dining room is only used during harvest, so over the years the wallpaper has been
decorated in pencil with various quotes, and seat assignments for several of the senior
harvesters. I was placed next to the indomitable Coco who provides good humor for
the group and has been harvesting at the domaine for decades. My nearly perfect level
of non-understanding of what he was saying to me was somewhat explained the next
day when I was informed the he and the others were speaking in the local patois of
Bresse (a bit like trying to understand a Cajun speaker from Breaux Bridge, Louisiana).
Nonetheless, there was much cheer and revelry to conclude the first full day of harvest