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.
The making of a vintage is like a voyage, an adventure, whose final destination is unknown. Nature has its own, often capricious, rule. Our only skill is to learn, with humility, to adapt to it.
The fruit that we saw passing by on the sorting table during these eight days of harvest was the most beautiful we have seen since 1999. Who would have predicted this, after an excessively hot Spring and a cold and cloudy August, even though there was no rain ?
The drought conditions during the vegetative cycle of the vineyards and the North wind were among the main factors that « governed » the growing season of this 2005 vintage that can already be ranked among the great ones. The North Wind, dominant and even triumphant all during the year confirmed the adage which claims : « the wind that blows on Palm Sunday will be the wind of the year ». The North wind blew every day around Easter and kept on blowing throughout the year until today when, to our great satisfaction, the indomitable anticyclone is again chasing clouds away. After the glorious weather we experienced during the harvest, the Indian summer is setting in over Burgundy, making the vineyards shine with splendid colours through a light autumnal mist.
Rainy spells that are frequent in Burgundy during Spring and Summer have been inexistent except in April when the rain and warmth resulted in a rapid growth of vegetation. On May 4th, the Grands-Echezeaux and Echezeaux areas were hit by hail, which disturbed the vegetative growth of the vines for some time, but had no other effect than a slight reduction of the crop. Then, May, June and July brought a few light cloudbursts. There was hardly any rain in August and finally on September 7th, shortly before the harvest, the rain that fell was favourable as it accelerated ripening. Another characteristic of the year : rains were sporadic and varied according to the areas: on the same day, it might rain in the Côte de Nuits and not at all in the Côte de Beaune, it might rain twice as much on Echezeaux as on Romanée-Conti and vice versa. The worst happened in Santenay and Chassagne where violent hailstorms did much damage, but Puligny and Le Montrachet were spared.
In 2005 the vineyards proved once more that they like warm and dry conditions and that they do not require much water.
We experienced heat spells all along the year, but they were short and in fact the hydric stress of the vineyards, that was visible on the leaves and confirmed by measurements, was provoked by drought rather than by heat. These conditions are very different from what they were in 2003, more favourable, this year, to a balanced ripening of the grapes. In 2005 the vineyards never stopped feeding their grapes while in 2003 they sometimes had to in order to survive. Even though some very young vines and those planted in shallow soils lost their leaves very early and did not ripen their fruit properly, the greater part of Burgundy and in first place the grands crus have easily kept the necessary freshness despite dry conditions. It is obvious when you look at the leaves today.
When trying to compare 2005 with another vintage, we also thought of course of 1976, a legendary year of drought, but they have, in fact, nothing in common : 2005 was very dry but not as hot as 1976 and, most important, profited from a few precious rains. As previously written, vineyards need little water to give their best fruit.
Again, with such unusual climatic conditions, what did the vineyards do ?
The two principal stages of the vegetative cycle are flowering and veraison. Flowering started early and well on May 25th, but soon became slow and uneven under the influence of the drought, which greatly affected veraison and ripening. As a direct effect of this disturbed flowering, there was a lot of millerandage. We know that it is an essential factor to great quality.
Veraison began on August 5th, but as the drought and heat were an obstacle to photosynthesis, its progression was comparable to that of the flowering : slow and uneven. We already knew at that time that we would have to wait until the maturity of all the berries came into balance.
Our fine Pinot vineyards, as well as our cultivation and pruning methods tending towards the achievement of low yields fitted with this context. The vineyards resisted stress without suffering and from early September ripened their grapes very fast. At that time heat returned after an unusually cold August. The berry analysis we made showed progressions between 1 to 1°5 per week and the characteristics of the grapes appeared more clearly : thick skins of an intense black colour, little juice, a lot of millerandage, loose clusters, resistant to botrytis which in any case did not set in because of the lack of humidity. As soon as the analysis showed that the grapes had reached a potential of 13° in perfect sanitary conditions, we made the decision to begin the harvest. Rare indeed are the years when we can take advantage of such beautiful, dry, cool and clear weather. The selection that we asked, as usual, from the pickers was simple this year and as a consequence the harvest was exceptionally short : eliminate the very few grapes infected by botrytis, those which had dried after hail or burnt in the sun, and leave the few bigger grapes produced by vines of lesser finesse.
It was a rare pleasure for those who « inspect » at the sorting table and put the finishing touches to the pickers' work, to see, before the grapes went their way to the vats, how ripe and coloured they were, each of them being a perfect example of fine Pinot Noir.
The vineyards were harvested in the following order :
La Tâche ........................... September 15th, 16th & 17th
Romanée-Conti ................. September 15th & 16th
Richebourg ........................ September 17th & 18th
Grands-Echezeaux ............ September 18th & 19th
Echezeaux ......................... September 19th, 20th & 21st
Romanée-St-Vivant .......... September 21st, 22nd & 23rd
Yields reach an average of 28 to 30 hl/ha for the red wines. In other words, 2005 is quite satisfactory in quantity. Montrachet was harvested last, on September 23rd, with very high sugar content, beautiful acidity and low yield. It should be a great wine.
Fermentations were perfect, active, releasing an exceptional range of aromas.
Devattings are in progress. Wines, that are little by little put into barrels and lined up in the beautiful cellars of the Saint-Vivant winery, are black, show plenty of fruit, but are tannic as well. With usual precaution, since the wines are hardly finished, we can already say that it is a beautiful vintage both in red and white. Needless to say that the vigneron is happy, he feels that the vineyards, accompanied all through the year by very favourable weather conditions, have given their grapes all possible richness and that the "child" born from this effort can only be gifted with great talents !