9 September 2020

The winning photos from this year’s Louis Roederer Artistry of Wine award

Veteran photographer Jon Wyand has been unveiled as the 2020 winner for the work in his book, Four Seasons in Côte Chalonnaise
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Jon Wyand has been photographing the world’s vineyards and wineries for 40 years. Over the last 20 years, he has focused specifically on Burgundy. In his latest book, Four Seasons in Côte Chalonnaise, he sought to document the daily life and routine of the region in the vineyards, wineries and villages that make it so characterful.

“The area is much larger and more diverse than I imagined,” says Wyand, “and as I hardly knew it, I wasn’t sure how I should approach it. I knew I had to explore, to introduce myself and to understand as much as I could.”

The book took over a year to put together, and left Wyand with a fondness for this often overlooked part of Burgundy.

“What is special to me about the Côte Chalonnaise is that it is such a friendly and open place. The region introduced itself to me at every opportunity and showed me its gentle beauty in ways I could not have expected. It made me smile unexpectedly so many times every day.

“You can be in the most beautiful place in the world but without being welcomed you will appreciate very little. I was pleased to discover so many relaxed and helpful people who allowed me to do what I asked without any problems and with such good humour.”

Below is a selection of photos from the book, together with a commentary from Wyand on what went into each photo.
Four Seasons in Côte Chalonnaise is published by Bamboo Edition and available for £35

“Basing a book on the four seasons makes you a hostage to fortune. It never did snow, but the frost was a lucky break. When certain conditions strike, it’s a race against time to find what you need – both for photographer and vigneron. The ‘brouette’ in the middle of this shot is used for burning pruned vines, and is a Burgundian winter icon. It’s essentially an adapted oil drum and bicycle wheel.”

“Rows of winter vines in the fog always look so photogenic. But the actual act of pruning is brutal, and involves constantly bending your back and either being chilled to the bone or burnt from the heat of the brouette. If you’re downwind, it’s even worse. It’s also a lonely job – which is perhaps why so many workers, as here at Faiveley, were so ready for a chat when I stopped by.”

“I frequently drove over from Mercurey to Rully, and one day came across a pick-up truck loaded with pruning. I stopped to enquire what was to become of them, and was told these were going off for recycling, which I’m glad to hear seems to be a growing trend. The usual practice of burning the prunings was to prevent the spread of disease but a few growers, happy they have healthy vines, grind them down for compost.”

“You don’t need to spend long in Burgundy to realise that winemaking is a family affair – often a bit of vineyard is home to the children’s swing or slide. Dogs too are ubiquitous. A timely arrival at an estate in Givry presented me with a combination that had me smiling all day.”

“Vineyard labour is hard graft, and the point of maximum effort is the time to shoot – just watch and wait (having asked permission first, of course). Here, a vigneron is tightening wires to support the burst of summer growth.”

“I joined the Château de Chamilly harvesting team one morning around 7am with little introduction, but was readily accepted into their midst. I caught sight of a lady wisely doing her stretching exercise before setting to work, which I thought would make for a fun shot. As I took the first frame, the group on the right began to pose, thinking they were my subject. I added them to the shot, rather enjoying the knowledge that I had a double image that no-one else was aware of.”

“The ‘coupeurs’ (above) cut, the ‘porteurs’ (below) carry. The latter collect the grapes from the former and carry them to whatever means of transport is employed. It often involves climbing a short wooden ladder and tipping the ‘hotte’ full of grapes over one shoulder into a tractor-towed container – a guaranteed route to a bad back. The rest of the time the workforce seem to stand around smoking or checking Facebook while the ‘coupeurs’ are searching for the grapes – often with great concentration, other times singing at the top of their voices.”

“If you keep your eyes open, hands frequently tell a story in themselves. In each of these four images (above and below), it is fatigue, dexterity, labour, and precision.”

“Here, a young apprentice is learning the ropes of pigeage from an old hand. I was amused by the legs, the one pair pushing down hard as the other appears to just stand and watch.”

“’Pigeage à pied’ is not easy to shoot, with the protagonists balancing on planks, but observation and patience will bear fruit. I got my unguarded moment as these two workers started to tire – the collapse after the peak of effort.”

“Each wine village celebrates the feast day of the patron saint of winemakers, St Vincent, at the end of January. A bit of food and drink, a procession to church, mass, another procession and then lunch, and quite often a big dinner in the evening too. Often the celebratory lunch and celebratory dinner are separated only by the time it takes to shower and change.”

“In Mercurey, mass was held at the Romanesque church in Touches, a long climb up from the main street. The leading party got a little ahead of the procession and band, and, having indulged in the pre-mass refreshments, the banner-carrier wisely decided to take advantage.”

“Curiosity brought on by a not-quite closed door led me to this Aladdin’s cave at a winery in Russilly. No longer used to make wine, it’s like a time capsule that would bear exploring over many an hour.”

“Château de Rully is a classic Burgundian location that you can’t miss, an imposing turreted fortress with vines right up to its walls. A cliché of the first magnitude but integral to Rully’s identity. Fortunately, Rully is one of those villages that offers multiple opportunities to get lost. So it was one January afternoon when I discovered the château from a less familiar angle – and beautiful as an essay in brown.”

“The Paulée is a traditional post-harvest celebratory meal and general letting down of hair. It is seldom a grand affair but always a great release.”

“It can put a bit of a dampner on the atmosphere to get a camera out, unless the person wielding it is known and trusted. I wanted to show that the people of the Chalonnaise are not slow to enjoy themselves once the wine sets the fun in motion – in moderation, of course.”