Burgundy 1996 Vintage Report by DRC: Burgundy exults in the sun, tempered by a subtle autumnal haze. These ideal conditions, that have set in our region since the beginning of September and went on during the whole harvest, turn today the hills into a fairy picture, where all the shades of gold, red and green dance in the fresh air of October. In the village streets, as far as in the vineyards, more than ever, we can smell the opulent fragrances coming from the winery and revealing the outstanding richness of the vintage. The winegrower knows a perfect happiness and becomes lyrical ! Forgive him : he is not used to such a celebration !
It is indeed to a celebration the Burgundian winegrowers were invited. Who was able to say at the end of August, when a starting grey rot was already arising anguish, that, a month later, we would harvest a great vintage combining to such a point quality AND quantity ! In 1996, Burgundy found itself in a climatic "bubble" it enjoyed nearly alone, while it was raining almost everywhere else in France.
As usual, afterwards, when we look back, we realize that this miracle is the fruit of a strange logic, full of meanders, that of the vintage, and we begin to understand the original factors :
- an exceptionally fast flowering that lasted a few days only around June 15th and ensured both the beautiful quality and the equal ripeness of the grapes.
- the "famous" rains that we went through with anxiety at the end of August gave in fact the quantity of water necessary to ensure the ripeness of the grapes during the whole period of drought that came after.
- and above all, a real godsend, the persistant North Wind that appeared at the very beginning of September. It maintained the cold climatic conditions, but also the luminous skies that were favourable to photosynthesis, and, even more important, dried and made all the signs of rot disappear.
If we can speak today of a miracle, it is because the rest of the year the climatic conditions were far from being excellent : late start of vegetation. April was not bad, but it was raining a lot and there were great risks of mildew - fortunately controlled in May. The Summer was rather cold, without hot weather, nor rain. The conditions were close to drought, except at the end of August, as described above, the thirsting grapes having absorbed the water they needed to ripen.
At that moment, the North wind, and the drought concentrated sugars and acidity, which remained very high until the harvest. As faithful disciples of our ancestor DUVAULT-BLOCHET, ardent defender of late harvest, the Domaine harvested as late as possible and gained in every respect : percentages of alcohol are superb (exceeding 13° for Romanée-Conti and La Tâche harvested last) and acidities, as mentioned above, are exceptional. The wines will consequently be very well balanced.
Yields are for once exceptional too - over 30 hl/ha in almost every wine. We are delighted about this as, once again, Nature was exceptionally generous this year in every respect and it was "natural" we made the most of it ! [ Never mind the "pisse vinaigre" ("grouchy ones" ?) that shall not miss to criticize the generosity, yet so rare, we received from the ruling Gods ! ].
The harvest began on September 25th (except for the young vineyards that were ripe and harvested some days earlier) with Montrachet and ended with La Tâche on October 3rd. Romanée-Conti was harvested on the superb morning of October 1st.
To summarize, we think we have today a great vintage in the cellars. The barrels are just being filled; it is too early to determine the level of the vintage or to try to make comparisons with others. We shall have a more precise idea about it in a few weeks, as well as about precise quantities. We shall then allow ourselves to complete this report with further information.