The Montrachet family consists of grand five Grands Crus grown in the two villages of Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. These two share the Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet appellations. Chevalier and Bienvenues belong to Puligny, Criots belongs to Chassagne. These Grands Crus are the most southerly of the Côte-d'Or, and lie between Meursault in the north and Santenay in the south. Their origins go back to the Middle Ages - the work of the Cistercian abbey of Maizières and the Lords of Chagny. The wines of Montrachet (pronounced Mon-rachay) came fully into their own in the 17th century. There is no argument : this is the finest expression of the Chardonnay grape anywhere on earth. The Grand Cru appellations date from 31 July, 1937.
The underlying rocks date from the Jurassic, 175 million years BC. Exposures lie to the east and the south. Altitudes: 265-290 metres (Chevalier) ; 250-270 metres (Montrachet) ; 240-250 metres (Bâtard, Bienvenues, Criots). In the " Climat " of Montrachet, the soils are thinnish and lie on hard limestone traversed by a band of reddish marl. In Chevalier, the soils are thin and stony rendzinas derived from marls and marly-limestones. In the Bâtard " climat " soils are brown limestone which are deeper and, at the foot of the slope, more clayey.
The power and aromatic persistence of these lofty wines demands aristocratic and sophisticated dishes with complex textures : « pâté » made from fattened goose liver, of course, and caviar. Lobster, crawfish, and large wild prawns, with their powerful flavours and firm textures, pay well-deserved homage to the wine and match its opulence. Firm-fleshed white fish such as monkfish would be equally at home in their company. And let us not forget well-bred and well-fattened free-range poultry whose delicate flesh, with the addition of a cream-and-mushroom sauce, will be lapped up in the unctuous and noble texture of this wine. Even a simple piece of veal, fried or in sauce, would be raised to heavenly heights by the Montrachet's long and subtle acidity.
Serving temperature : 12 to 14 °C.
1997 will be remembered as a vintage where extremes of cold, heat and humidity never stopped meeting, a vintage that began with anxiety and difficulties, but ended with smile and excitement, and everything you need to achieve an exceptional wine.
The bud was very early, favoured by an extraordinarily warm month of March, but in April the cold weather returned with intensity and frost slowed down and even here and there destroyed the vigourous vegetation that had developed.
May and June were warmer, but very rainy. The blooming began from the end of May, but unlike last year when it was extremely rapid, this year it spread over nearly three weeks, which explains the irregular growth of the berries that could be observed until the harvest, of the "coulure" (flowers that had not been fertilized) and "millerandage" (small berries). At this stage, we already knew that yields would be small.
During these three months, the threat of mildew, always present, was one of the strongest of these last few years. As usual, we stuck to our biological treatments and had to repeat the operation several times while being as careful as possible.
However the great earliness of the bud was still noticeable and veraison began from the end of July with at least 10 days ahead of last year.
The scorching heat of August first accelerated the ripening of the grapes, then, as often happens when vineyards go through extreme and stressful climatic conditions, the process of vegetation and maturation was stopped.
Fortunately, a rainy period began on August 26 and lasted, with sunny intervals, until September 6. These warm rains which could have been a disaster if they had lasted a few more days, were in fact beneficial. The vegetative process started again and vineyards ideally entered the beautiful period of dry and hot weather that continued without interruption until the harvest, during the harvest, and is actually just over.
Stimulated by these ideal conditions, the grapes started ripening very fast, extremely fast in fact since, between September 10 and 15 for instance, degrees rose by 1°5 ! We were afraid that at the same time as the sugar level was rising so high, acidities might be falling, but, on the contrary, they did not stop strengthening, just like last year, thanks to a phenomenon of concentration of sugars and acidities resulting from the Sun and the North Wind.
With this persistent anticyclone, it was not easy to decide when to start harvesting. As usual, we waited as long as possible in view of the sugar and acidity contents. The harvest of the red wines began on September 16 and ended with Romanée-Conti on September 23. During this week, the sky remained cloudless and it was so hot that the last two days we only harvested in the morning.
The grapes are perhaps the most perfect we have ever picked these last few years, real "jewels" offering the "cuit and rôti" of the very great years and skins of a deep black that the fight against the weather conditions had made very thick. May the wines reach the same level of perfection !
It is yet too early to know definitely if the 1997s will be good or very great wines, but the first devatting show coloured and fruity wines that should be extremely charming.
As for Montrachet, it was not harvested until September 29. The Chardonnays were indeed throughout the year very late compared to the Pinots. The excellent sanitary condition of the grapes allowed us to wait until maturation was at the maximum - we were the very last ones to harvest - and the grapes we pressed contained 14°5 sugar. We expect a great 1997 Montrachet.
The only drawback : small yields are confirmed - It is one of the smallest crops of these last few years, even inferior to 1995.