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.
A vigneron's challenge again !
At the time of this writing, the vineyards, relieved of their fruit, have begun to change colour. The soft October sun is caressing the red and gold hills. The villages are quiet again after the hubbub of the harvest. The streets are filled with generous fragrances coming from the wineries where fermentations are proceeding. The birth of this new vintage is a real pleasure to the senses !
The climatic conditions in 2006 were a little crazy and at first such a great source of anguish before restoring, against all expectations, our optimism and confidence, that they would deserve to be described in detail.
In brief, what did we see ?
- a long totally unusual heat-wave in July which had the effect of stopping the vegetative cycle of some vines, even though most of them showed their amazing ability to stand the stress.
- the coolest and rainiest August since 1986, favourable to botrytis that set in very early.
- in this strange scenario, what was the behaviour of the vineyards ?
In fact, after those extremes of heat, cold and humidity that succeeded one another in a scattered upside down order, a decisive factor appeared that brought the vintage towards a happy end : hot weather, without any rain at all, that from September 1st lasted for the whole month, except for a short stormy episode on September 23rd and 24th. These ideal conditions permitted the vineyards to efficiently use the water retained in the soil thanks to the rains of August and therefore to accelerate in a totally outstanding manner the ripening of the grapes. In September the sugar levels increased sometimes by almost 2 degrees in one week, especially during the third week.
Finally, the grapes that we picked were as ripe as in 2005. Of course the botrytis that had set in with the rains of August, but had stopped developing when the fine weather had returned, was still present. Lying in wait, it reappeared during the harvest on the bad stormy day of Sunday September 24th. Luckily, it was too late and the episode was too short, to cause real damage.
The year was therefore difficult, but it gave the vigneron the opportunity to make great wines, as long as he had used the right means to harvest ripe grapes before the botrytis did too much harm. First, the control of the yield was essential. The fine "Pinot Noir fin" which bears small clusters with small berries showed how its predominant presence is important in our vineyards, even though it was also necessary to thin the young vines at the time of the "veraison". In such climatic conditions, only low yields could first allow the vines to fight the heat and later the attacks of botrytis, then to obtain the precocious maturity that was necessary to enable us to harvest before the rain came back.
The "philosophy" of the harvest itself was a major factor in the quality of the grapes we brought in. An ultra-meticulous sorting was crucial in order to eliminate the botrytis. Our experienced team of pickers did a great job. Day after day, the work was done to perfection. In the vineyards, Gérard Marlot, our vineyard manager, who is about to retire, and his successor, Nicolas Jacob, admirably managed to maintain the vigilance of the pickers. Then in the winery, Bernard Noblet's team performed once again « haute couture » selection on the sorting table and put the finishing touches to the pickers' work.
In summary, the conditions were admittedly difficult, but excellent at the end of the growing season, which gave us the possibility to bring in ripe sugar-rich grapes.
We ourselves feel as though we adjusted everything as correctly as it was possible to do. First, regarding the date of the harvest - it was necessary to wait until the grapes were fully ripe, but to bear in mind that the rot was spreading. Then the yields had to be quite low and it was essential to have a final selection by the sorting of the grapes.
We harvested in the following order :
Richebourg ....................... 20th and 21st September
La Tâche .......................... 21st, 22nd and 23rd September
Romanée-Conti ................ 22nd September (morning)
Romanée-St-Vivant ......... 23rd and 27th September
Grands-Echezeaux ........... 25th September
Echezeaux ....................... 25th and 27th September
The Montrachet was harvested on the sunny morning of September 26th. The low yields and the amazing ripeness of the Chardonnay grapes, gold and juicy, full of sugar and slightly "botrytised" - just what is needed - should give a great 2006 Montrachet.
The yields of the red wines do not exceed 28hl/ha.
The beginning of the fermentations were rapid and spontaneous, the vinifications proceeded without any difficulty. The vatting lasted as usual, around 18 days.
It is too early to give a definitive opinion about the quality or to make comparisons with other vintages, but the first wines seem to come up to our expectations : the beautiful deep colours, the generous fragrances and the silky texture in the mouth promise wines with great finesse.