Young leaves and tendrils glow iridescent under the late morning sun. A white-van rattles through the vines kicking up a billow of fine dust dispersed with the dandelion seeds that parachute lazily back to earth.
April 2014 and Burgundy is dry. There has been little rain in the last few weeks and the vines of ‘Meursault Charmes’ are well advanced. Tender leaves are already busy sucking in the sunlight and the juvenile scarlet-tipped buds that will become this year’s harvest are already visible.
The unpredictable nature of Mother Nature, mean Jean-Pierre and Nathalie’s working year is at least three weeks ahead of last years and the de-budding (L'ébourgeonnage) and clearing (L'épamprage) of the vines are well underway.
A meticulous task that can only be done by hand, this selective process involves the inspection of each and every vine in order to determine which young buds will go on to produce the years vintage and which will be cut away to enable the vine to focus all its efforts into its remaining branches.
Thirty years of working these vines allow Nathalie and Jean-Pierre to move efficiently from vine to vine cutting, pruning and scraping with a seemingly second-nature. The age of every vine is remembered as well as how it behaved in the previous year.
These years of experience have also allowed Jean-Pierre to invent and build ‘his and hers’ motorized chariots that make this laborious task a little less back-breaking. Fitted with a radio salvaged from the breakers yard and a tool-box fashioned from a hot chocolate container, the couple move quietly and efficiently along the rows of the vineyard.
If the definition of ‘terroir’ can be expanded to include elements that are controlled or influenced by humans, this is a perfect example.