1997 Vintage Report by Angelo Gaja:  This is a vintage that we had five weeks with hot weather, 32° C. This had never happened before. This vintage signaled the beginning of climate change.

The quality can be different in 1997 because some producers were unprepared to ferment high sugar levels and the grapes were coming to the winery very hot because even during harvest the weather was hot. There were wines that had stuck fermentation and residual sugar. High volatile acidity. Some wines were not at a high level. But the large majority were beautiful. Much more approachable and with a new character.

In the restaurant, the wines were easy to drink and gave a lot of satisfaction. I remember that we quickly sold our 1997.It also signaled the first conflict among the America and European wine writers. The Americans welcomes it as “the greatest vintage made in Piedmont.”

It was actually an unusual vintage in its approachability and its pleasure. It had perfectly integrated tannins. Not sweetness. But it was similar to sweetness. We had only had this in 1961 and 1971. Not residual sugar but the consequence of perfect ripening.

“This is a vintage that will last a lot of time,” said American wine writers. The European writers said this is a mistake. Yes, it’s an unusual vintage, never seen before. But it is too early to judge and to say that it will be able to keep for a very long time. This is a mistake by American writers who don’t know enough. The 1997 is good but not as good as has been described and it will not be able to age thirty or forty years. 


Italy Vintage Report by Tb: In 1997 the entire Italian wine industry was rejuvenated by one of the greatest vintages of all time. The only negative aspect of the year involved sub-zero night temperatures in April and May that damaged the unusually early buds and blooms. As a result, the crop yield was smaller than desired. Otherwise, the summer season was graced with sunny, warm weather. Temperatures climbed higher in August and September and the grapes ripened two weeks earlier than normal. This caught Piedmont by surprise, as the Nebbiolo ripened ahead of the Barbera, which was unprecedented. The small grapes were so well balanced that there were only four other Italian vintages like the 1997 in the 20th century. Otherwise, the acidity of the grapes fell below normal levels due to their ripeness. In Tuscany the situation was the same as in Piedmont – there had not been a crop of such quality since 1947. The wines can still take years of cellaring and as long as decades for the Barolos and Barbarescos.




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Vintage Report

St-Emilion by Château Cheval Blanc: 1997 was a difficult vintage hampered by a certain dilution calling for careful sorting of grapes. The wine is nevertheless expressive and without herbaceous aromas. It is easy to drink and has aged fairly quickly.

Après After very cold weather the first ten days of January, with temperatures as low as -9°C, late winter and early spring were mild and dry.  May was warm and fairly wet. The showers continued into June, accompanied by unseasonably cool temperatures. The rain gradually let up in July, but started up again in August (over 100 mm). It was exceptionally hot in August, along with high humidity.   September was beautiful and warm, with very strong insolation. Only 11 mm. of rain fell all month.


In order to grow well, the vine needs for water stress to set in slowly so the grapes to ripen well and become concentrated. Due to the significant precipitation in May, June, and August, there was no significant water stress in 1997. This did, however, appear in late September, although part of the crop had already been picked by then.


Bud break was exceptionally early: on the 15th of March for Merlot and the 17th of March for Cabernet Franc. Flowering started in the first few days of May and was spread out over a long period due to the unfavourable weather. Mid-flowering was observed on the 19th of May for Merlot and the 22nd of that month for Cabernet Franc. This was three weeks ahead of the usual date.  The fact that flowering was very spread out was later reflected in uneven véraison and ripening. Mid-véraison occurred on the 23rd of July for Merlot and the 29th of July for  Cabernet Franc.
The heavy rainfall in August led to prolonged vegetative growth, consequently delaying ripening. The uneven degree of maturity called for a very long harvest (21 days at Cheval Blanc). Faithful to the château style and in order to put forward its intrinsic qualities, i.e. fresh fruit and elegant aromatics, Cheval Blanc does not seek overripe grapes.

A few patches of grey rot showed up in August because of the strong humidity. Fortunately, though, these did not spread because of the return of dry weather.



1997 was a hot, wet year. The berries were especially weighty due to the lack of water stress during most of the growth cycle. Ripening was slow because of competition from shoots that grew right up until the beginning of the harvest. Therefore, sugar levels and the concentration of phenolic compounds were low, accompanied by higher-than-average acidity.  In fact, the grapes were more affected by a certain dilution than a lack of maturity, as proved by the absence of herbaceous aromas. 

It was therefore important in 1997 to control yields, which amounted to 38.8 hectolitres per hectare at Cheval Blanc. Sorting was severe since only 44% of the crop ended up in the grand vin.


Consisting of 12% press wine, 1997 Cheval Blanc was aged in 100% new oak barrels. 





Bordeaux by Château Palmer: Early budding took place at the end of March. This was followed by a cool, damp spring, which resulted in an extended flowering period accompanied by coulure and millerandage. The veraison was slow and patchy due to warm, humid conditions in August, which also led to the constant threat from cryptogamic diseases throughout the summer.


As the vintage approached, there were differing levels of ripeness in the vineyard and the selection and sorting of grapes throughout the harvest was crucial. Harvest dates: from 09/10/1997 to 09/27/1997

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Vintage Report

Napa Valley Vintage Report: The season started when the warm, dry soils at the end of February triggered budbreak a full month early. Bloom followed in early May. As the fruit set, growers recognized that the outstanding weather of the previous year would result in an exceptional crop. A temperate summer with moderate, steady temperatures allowed the fruit to reach optimal maturity with good hang time for the full development of character and flavors. 1997 was a vintage of great quality and quantity — 144,000 tons compared to the 10-year-average for the region of 121,000 tons.

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New Zealand / This was a year that started well, but flowering was somewhat drawn out and crop management, particularly bunch thinning over the summer, was a very important quality factor.  February was warm and humid, as was most of March.  We were nervous about our crops, but decided to wait and keep the canopies very open.  We then had a prolonged Indian Summer of dry, warm weather, enabling us to harvest grapes without pressure.  Our practice of hand harvesting our crops meant that bunches/berries of lesser quality could be omitted, so that for us vintage ’97 was one of small crops of high quality, giving wines with lifted aromatics, pronounced ripe berry flavours, and long palates.  The wines are elegant, a word not being used as a euphemism for ‘light’, with great concentration and, in the case of the reds, fine and long tannin structures.  We think they’re very good, but there are not large quantities of them.

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Gas was $1.22 a gallon in the US and 2 Pounds 70 pence in the UK , Great Britain handed back Hong Kong to China and the Dow was at less than 8000. The first signs of the dreaded Bird Flu in China where the first documented case of the jump to humans causes Hong Kong to kill 1.25 million chickens. In the UK Tony Blair is the prime minister and Princess Diana dies in a car accident. 

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The best wines of the 1997 vintage

Name Tb Producer Location
1 Maya 97.3 Dalla Valle Napa Valley, United States
2 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 97.0 Bertani Verona, Italy
3 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 96.8 Bryant Family Vineyard Napa Valley, United States
4 Harlan Estate 96.5 Harlan Estate Napa Valley, United States
5 Chapoutier Ermitage Le Méal Blanc 96.5 M. Chapoutier Rhône, France
6 Screaming Eagle 96.4 Screaming Eagle Napa Valley, United States
7 Redigaffi 96.0 Tua Rita Italy, Italy
8 The Napa Valley Reserve 96.0 The Napa Valley Reserve Napa Valley, United States
9 Vouvray "Cuvee CC" 96.0 Domaine Champalou Loire Valley, France
10 Masseto 95.8 Ornellaia Tuscany, Italy
11 Nacional Vintage Port 95.8 Quinta do Noval Douro, Portugal
12 Proprietary Red 95.8 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley, United States
13 Madrona Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 95.8 Abreu Vineyards St.Helena, United States
14 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 95.5 Château Montelena Napa Valley, United States
15 Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling TBA 95.5 Weingut Robert Weil Rheingau, Germany
16 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 95.5 Weingut J. J. Prüm Mosel, Germany
17 Barolo Sperss 95.4 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco, Italy
18 E-raised 95.3 Sine Qua Non California, United States
19 Herb Lamb Cabernet Sauvignon 95.3 Colgin Cellars Napa Valley, United States
20 Sorí San Lorenzo 95.0 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco, Italy
21 Meursault-Perrières 95.0 Coche Dury Burgundy, France
22 To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon 95.0 Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley, United States
23 Brunello di Montalcino "Montosoli" 95.0 Altesino Tuscany, Italy
24 Richebourg 95.0 Anne Gros Burgundy, France
25 Chambertin 95.0 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
26 Messorio 95.0 Le Macchiole Bolgheri, Italy
27 Clos des Capucins Tokay Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives 95.0 Domaine Weinbach Alsace, France
28 L'Extravagant de Doisy Daëne 95.0 Château Doisy-Daëne Bordeaux, France
29 Chambertin 95.0 Domaine Denis Mortet Burgundy, France
30 Shiraz Heysen 94.9 Veritas Vineyards & Winery Barossa Valley, Australia
31 San Leonardo 94.9 Tenuta San Leonardo Trentino , Italy
32 Conteisa 94.7 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco, Italy
33 Hermitage Blanc 94.7 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Rhône, France
34 Montrachet 94.6 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
35 Azelia Barolo San Rocco 94.5 Azelia Piedmont, Italy
36 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon 94.5 Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz, United States
37 Astralis 94.5 Claredon Hills South-Australia, Australia
38 Puligny-Montrachet Pucelles 94.5 Domaine Leflaive Burgundy, France
39 Costa Russi 94.5 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco, Italy
40 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 94.4 Biondi Santi Tuscany, Italy
41 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 94.4 Heitz Cellar Napa Valley, United States
42 Puligny-Montrachet 94.2 Domaine Ramonet Burgundy, France
43 Réserve Spéciale Cabernet Sauvignon 94.1 Arrowood Sonoma Valley, United States
44 Vouvray Cuvée Constance Moelleux 94.0 Domaine Huet Loire, France
45 Eric Stevens Purbrick CS 94.0 Tahbilk Winery Victoria, Australia
46 Chateau Margaux Pavillon Blanc 94.0 Château Margaux Bordeaux, France
47 Reserve Shiraz 94.0 Fox Creek Wines Mc Laren Vale, Australia
48 Vintage Port 94.0 Quinta do Noval Douro, Portugal
49 Vieilles Vignes Françaises 94.0 Bollinger Champagne, France
50 Barolo Rocche 94.0 Paolo Scavino Piedmont, Italy
51 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 94.0 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey Bordeaux, France
52 Corton-Charlemagne 94.0 Coche Dury Burgundy, France
53 Barolo Arborina 94.0 Elio Altare Piedmont, Italy
54 Barolo Cannubi 94.0 Paolo Scavino Piedmont, Italy
55 Vintage Port 94.0 Taylor's Douro, Portugal
56 Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses 94.0 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Burgundy, France
57 Luce 94.0 Luce della Vite Montalcino, Italy
58 L'Apparita 94.0 Castello di Ama Tuscany, Italy
59 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 94.0 Domaine Hubert Lignier Burgundy, France
60 Chardonnay 94.0 Kongsgaard Napa Valley, United States
61 Number 7 94.0 Kracher Neusiedlersee, Austria
62 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon 94.0 Shafer Vineyards Napa Valley, United States
63 Grans Muralles 94.0 Torres Penedès, Spain
64 Trockenbeerenauslese 94.0 Lenz Moser Neusiedlersee, Austria
65 Barolo Bricco Rocche 94.0 Ceretto Piedmont, Italy
66 Case Via Syrah 94.0 Fontodi Tuscany, Italy
67 ILR Reserve Semillon 94.0 Brokenwood Hunter Valley, Australia
68 Il Caberlot 94.0 Podere Il Carnasciale Chianti, Italy
69 Cuvée Alexandra Rosé Grand Siecle 94.0 Laurent-Perrier Champagne, France
70 Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moelleux 94.0 Domaine Huet Loire, France
71 Pinot Gris Clos St Urbain Rangen de Thann 94.0 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Alsace, France
72 Barolo Bussia 94.0 Prunotto Piedmont, Italy
73 Shiraz Rayner Vineyard 94.0 Brokenwood Hunter Valley, Australia
74 Barolo Cannubi Boschis 93.7 Luciano Sandrone Piedmont, Italy
75 Vin Santo 93.7 Isole e Olena Tuscany, Italy
76 Barolo Bricco Rocche Prapo 93.7 Ceretto Piedmont, Italy
77 Barolo Mosconi Percristina 93.5 Domenico Clerico Piedmont, Italy
78 Dominus 93.5 Dominus Estate Napa Valley, United States
79 Richebourg 93.5 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Burgundy, France
80 Musigny 93.5 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Burgundy, France
81 Mezzanella Amandorlato Recioto Classico 93.5 Masi Vapolicella, Italy
82 Barbaresco Bricco Asili 93.5 Ceretto Piedmont, Italy
83 Vintage 93.3 Ferreira Portugal, Portugal
84 Cristal 93.2 Louis Roederer Champagne, France
85 Solaia 93.2 Antinori Tuscany, Italy
86 Barolo Monfortino Riserva 93.2 Giacomo Conterno Piedmont, Italy
87 Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir 93.0 Felton Road Central Otago, New Zealand
88 Château Raymond-Lafon 93.0 Château Raymond-Lafon Bordeaux, France
89 Bonnes Mares 93.0 Dominique Laurent Burgundy, France
90 Corino Barolo Vecchie Vigne 93.0 Corino Piedmont, Italy
91 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 93.0 Heitz Cellar Napa Valley, United States
92 Charmes-Chambertin 93.0 Domaine Armand Rousseau Burgundy, France
93 Barolo Cerequio 93.0 Roberto Voerzio Piedmont, Italy
94 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon 93.0 Philip Togni Vineyard Napa Valley, United States
95 Mount Eden Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 93.0 Mount Eden Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains, United States
96 Syrah di Manzano 93.0 Fattoria di Manzano Tuscany, Italy
97 Barolo Cannubi Boschis 93.0 Luciano Sandrone Piedmont, Italy
98 Joseph Phelps Backus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 93.0 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley, United States
99 Stradivario Barbera d'Asti 93.0 Bava Piedmont, Italy
100 Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 93.0 Domaine Dujac Burgundy, France


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