Richebourg is a king of a wine: the colonnade of the Louvre, the Château of Versailles. You are impressed by its finesse, its length and its delicate sensations, endlessly changing. The fact that no element dominates the others enables you to appreciate all of its aromas, on the nose and on the palate. In any given vintage, Richebourg is always one of the last wines to be drunk. Not because it is too aggressive when young; simply because it needs time to reveal its full complexity.
Romanée-Conti lies on brown limestone soils 60 cm deep with a major clay component. Romanée-Saint-Vivant has similar but deeper (90 cm) soils. Higher up, La Romanée occupies a markedly sloping site (12%) and the soil texture is less clayey. La Tâche and La Grande Rue share brown limestone soils, rather shallow at the top end with deeper rendzinas lower down. The same is true for the Richebourg, depending on slope and aspect. The underlying rock is hard Premeaux limestone dating from the Jurassic (175 million years BC).
Lying between Flagey-Échezeaux (home of the ÉCHEZEAUX appellation) and Nuits-Saint-Georges, Vosne-Romanée occupies a middle position in the Côte de Nuits. The vines grow at altitudes of 250 to 310 metres and face east or, in some cases, slightly south of east. Vosne-Romanée, the central jewel in the necklace of appellations which is the burgundian côte, is not content with holding a mere four aces but boasts a total of six Grands Crus, each one famous the world over. A thousand years ago, it was the Cluniac monks of Saint-Vivant de Vergy and the Cistercians of Cîteaux who first realised the value of these very special plots of land.
One of these vineyards takes its name from Prince Conti who lost his heart to it in 1760. Romanée-Conti is one of the wonders ofthe world and has always been a singly-held entity. Next door to it, Romanée-Saint-Vivant recalls the medieval monastery of the Hautes-Côtes which is currently undergoing restoration and which is linked to it by its own path. La Romanée, La Tâche and La Grande Rue are also singly-held entities, as is Richebourg, whose mere name is enough to fill a glass.
These Grands Crus frequently give good results from long laying-down. As a general rule, they shouldn't be drunk under about ten years of age but sometimes they will be aged up to 20 or 30 years. Each appellation has its own distinct personality depending on its year of production and on the stage it has reached in its development. These flamboyant red wines fully express the subtlety and complexity of the Burgundian Pinot Noir grape. Their colour is a dark ruby turning crimson with age. Their wide-ranging bouquet is divided among small red and black fruits, violet, spices and, with time, underbrush. On the palate, this wine is well-defined with a powerful body. It is delicate, sensual, frank and full.
In addition to their powerful structure and exceptional longevity, these great wines develop tertiary aromas of truffle, underbrush, leather and fur. It goes without saying that strong-flavoured meats will do them justice : furred or feathered game, braised, in sauce, or simply grilled. Wild-fowl (eg Peking duck) or a nice cut of roast veal will be gently enveloped by the close-packed but elegant tannins of these mighty Pinot Noir wines.
Serving temperatures : 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.