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.
Words fail us when we try to describe the perfection of the grapes that were passing on our sorting table in 1999 ! We already saw superb grapes during the last decade, in 1990 or 1996 for instance, but this year, in our opinion, they surpass them all in finesse and maturity. We could see a lot of small grapes, of « millerandage », and, as a sign of the great years, the older vines, not very productive in general, yielded this year a generous harvest of extremely fine grapes, sumptuous examples of the finest Pinot Noir.
The story of a vintage is so full, so rich, that it is not easy to define the most important factors, those which decided the course of events.
Once again, the scenario was disconcerting : who would have thought in Spring with the rain falling every day and mildew threatening, with the grass growing in the vineyards without our being able to plough, that on September 20, that is to say very early in the season, we would harvest grapes that rank among the most beautiful of the century ? !
It was precisely thanks to the exceptionally rainy Spring that the vineyards could reserve enough water to get through, without suffering, the very hot and dry period we experienced in Burgundy between August 15 and September 20. This consecutive balance permitted the leaves to fully function in their role of sugar producers and the grapes could completely and harmoniously ripen. We observed this year the almost miraculous combination of high contents of sugars (very high degrees), good acidity (concentration in the berries) and perfectly healthy grapes. It is interes¬ting to underline that the combination of these three factors in the same harvest only occurs very rarely.
Another exceptional phenomenon : the grapes that were right in the sun had « roasted » and contained concentrated sugar which released during the fermentations only. All the vats had some sort of natural « sugaring», ending with higher degrees than those, already high, that we noted at the beginning of fermentation.
Moreover, although the grapes were in a totally perfect health, we had a very selective harvest, leaving aside for a second picking the vines that were overloaded or the young ones that were replanted recently.
Only one regret : the fine weather abandoned us after a few days of harvest and the rain disturbed the second part of it, but on the one hand the rain fell mostly in the night, which enabled us to harvest normally during the day, on the other hand they arrived too late to create an appreciable dilution.
As regards quantity, it is exceptional too : thanks to the beautiful bunch setting and the favourable conditions during the flowering, the production is about the same as in 1990 or 1996.
It is therefore a vintage of very high lineage that seems to prepare in vats. Fermentations are slow and reach high temperatures naturally, colours are garnet-red, nearly black, typical of great years. We shall know in a few days, after the wines are drawn, whether they are equal to the splendour of the grapes we harvested. If it is the case, it is by offering a great vintage that the vineyards will have greeted the end of the millennium.