The wine-growing village of Flagey-Échezeaux lies in the " Plain ", so-called, between Vougeot and Vosne-Romanée in the Côte de Nuits. Facing east, the Grands-Échezeaux vines are a prolongation of Musigny following the North-South axis of the Côte, but more regular and less broken in their layout. At the bottom end, the " Climat " known as La Combe d'Orveau separates them from Musigny. The Échezeaux vineyards, for their part, divide the Clos de Vougeot from the Premier Cru vines of Vosne-Romanée.
Grands-Échezeaux and Échezeaux both date their Grands Crus AOCs from July 31, 1937. Like the Clos de Vougeot (from which they are separated only by a wall), they were founded by the monks of the abbey of Cîteaux and date from the 12th and 13th centuries. Their name derives from chesaux, a word of Gallo-Roman origin meaning a group of dwellings, presumably referring to an ancient hamlet.
Belonging geologically to the Jurassic (175 million years BC), the GrandsÉchezeaux vineyards are fairly homogeneous and lie close to the upper part of the Clos de Vougeot. Gradient: 3-4%. Soil: clay-limestone overlying Bajocien limestone. Altitudes: 250 metres. The Échezeaux Climats have more diverse soils (largely bajocien marls with pebbly overlay). Altitudes vary from 230 to a little over 300 metres (13% gradient at mid-slope). Up-slope, the soil is deep (70-80 cm). Gravels, red alluvium, yellowish marl, etc., make up quite a complex mosaic.
Red: its colour is ruby, shading towards the darker tones of magenta and purple. Its bouquet is redolent of animal, spice notes, underbrush, and prune, evolving with age towards musk, leather, fur and mushroom. When young, its aromas suggest rose, violet and fresh cherry. On the palate, there is a heightened attack and an agreeable balance between supple tannins and fully-rounded flavour. The dense texture and tight grain of these wines fully open after 4-5 years in the cellar.
Wines so powerful and full demand to be matched with dishes of the same calibre. Virile, four-sided tannins cry out for roast lamb, rib steak, or joints of game. Autumn and winter dishes in the right setting match the profound and meaty personality of these great wines : braised beef or pork, for example, or any other good red meat. Fine, whole-milk, soft-centred cheeses will also do them proud.
Serving temperature : 15 to 16 °C.
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.