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.
A national daily ran today as a headline : « Sumptuous harvest in Burgundy ». It is true indeed that the end of the Summer was glorious with sunny days that we no longer expected and that fulfilled the most demanding dreams of the vignerons.
Never more than this year have we felt how much a vintage in Burgundy can depend on two or three days only : if these days are rainy, there will be an explosion of botytris, complete maturity will never be reached and the harvest will be doomed to mediocrity ; but on the contrary, it they are fine, they will open the door to a great vintage.
This is what happened this year. In the calm of the Indian summer', that creates a wonderful setting for the vineyards whose colours are changing to purple red and gold, it is a pleasure to the senses to walk in the village streets, to stand in front of the wineries and to smell the intoxicating fragrances revealing the richness of the great wine that is being made.
Let's have a quick look at this year's story, that was once again chaotic, and let's try to find the elements that can be considered the factors that gave rise to the vintage :
The bunch setting was very early and abundant. Spring, in general, was not very rainy, nor very sunny, but with significant temperature changes.
The flowering began with cold weather causing some coulure (flowers that had not been fertilized) and millerandage (small berries). The heat returned on June 10th and most of the flowering was completed in the space of barely three days.
From the beginning, it was clear that the early flowering vines could only produce a reduced crop because of millerandage and coulure.
The late vines whose flowering was perfect, produced bigger and tighter grapes, which formed generous and juicy bunches at the time of the harvest.
The first bore a perfectly balanced crop and this formed the heart of each appellation.
The second, that were often a little too loaded, had to be reduced by removing the excess buds and grapes, and necessitated also a selection at the time of the harvest.
Another important factor : the rainy and sunny periods, the cold and heat that took place over the year, made the skins thicker and the grapes could better resist mildew and rot.
Indeed, in late August rot developed in the vines that were loaded with grapes as it rained a lot in the southern part of Burgundy. However the rains were milder in the Côte de Nuits.
By early September, there was a difference between the old vines that remained perfectly healthy and the others, where rot could be observed in many places. The worst was to be feared : only a few more days or hours of rain would be sufficient. But luckily, early in September, the anticyclone returned and the beautiful weather, that was cool in the morning, clear and warm during the day, set in for good over Burgundy.
As a result, the sugar contents significantly increased, without provoking any drop in acidity, and we witnessed the near-miracle of a crop that was about to sink into mediocrity if rain had lasted, but instead, thanks to this new summer, totally ripened and prepared itself to give an excellent vintage.
Maturation progressed rapidly and some of the young vines were ready to be picked from September 15th. Our real harvest started on September 18th and lasted around 10 days. It was divided into two parts : the differences in maturity, load and consequently quality, that could be seen, as described above, in the vines of a same cru, led us, this year again, to pick the finest grapes only and leave aside for a second picking the grapes that were less fine or lacking in maturity. Our teams of harvesters now have a good experience of very selective harvests and once again they met this challenge with success.
The harvest proceeded in fine weather, sometimes cool, but without rain at all.
Here are the picking dates for each cru :
Echezeaux ..................... September 18th
Grands-Echezeaux ......... September 19th
Romanée-St-Vivant ....... September 20th
Romanée-Conti .............. September 21st
Richebourg .................... September 21st, 22nd
La Tâche ....................... September 22nd, 23rd
Montrachet ................... September 24th
The vinifications were rather rapid. The first devatting shows beautiful colour, the aromas are elegant and in the mouth one can already detect a lot of fruit and fine tannins. What will be the character or the level of quality of this vintage, we don't know yet, but we feel that the year will have "built" a great vintage through difficulties, risk and luck too ! What we know for sure : it is a small crop in quantity.