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Bordeaux / The year 1985 was a tremendous vintage. Extremely cold winter followed by extremely hot summer and favourable harvesting conditions yielded high quantity and high quality crop, particularly in Pomerol and St. Emilion where the grape sugars were measured higher than in 1982. Margaux and Graves were superb on the left bank. L'Evangile, La Conseillante and Certain de May are all great examples right bank. To sum up the tasting experiences of this vintage, there is one wine over the others– Château Lafleur.

Surprisingly enough, the Haut-Brion Blanc, produced less than 1,000 bottles, is generally considered as the best wine of the vintage. Regarding the value of the top whites of Graves are about three times the prices of the reds. Domaine de Chevalier Blanc is another good example of the white Graves high quality. Also Sauternes succeeded well this year.

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Vintage Report

Italy Vintage Report by Tb: 1985 more than made up for the weak year preceding it. An extremely cold winter ensured that the vines would enjoy a full hibernation, until a warm and dry spring woke them, well-rested, thus giving them the energy they would need for the varied summer weather. The dry autumn set the stage for the harvest of one of the best vintages of the decade, both in Piedmont and Tuscany. Although it had a low crop yield, 1985 was an outstanding crop year and is above all remembered for the genesis of modern wine production, particularly in Tuscany. Led by the Super Tuscans, this saw the beginning of rapid development in the production of modern fine wines. It also spawned a wine that has gone down in history as one of the world’s finest – the Sassicaia 1985.

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Vintage Report

Champagne: Champagne year of the decade. One can forecast a long life still for these champagnes.The year 1985 turned out to be an exceptional harvest year. The frosts that plagued the area tested the residents of Champagne in a way that was last felt 150 years ago. In January, the temperature in the area was -25 degrees Celsius. As the vines were still hibernating, they were saved from massive destruction. When the vines finally awoke, the temperature had risen to -15 degrees. It was not enough, however, and about 10 percent of the vineyards froze.

The temperatures in the area were still many degrees below zero in April. Thankfully, the sensitive flowering phase was saved from the frosts, and the weather changed substantially. The summer temperatures were hot in August and September. The long Indian summer continued, and the harvest took place in late September. The result was a small harvest of concentrated grapes. Stylistically, the wines were still tight and vigorous. The high concentration of their taste and the aroma layers, however, reveal the potential of the wines. The wines are still young, and some are only opening up, so they will improve by being stored for 7–10 years.

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Vintage Report

1985 Burgundy by Clive Coates /  The 1985 vintage represents a watershed in the vinous history of Burgundy. Prior to this date, by and large, growers made wine, merchants bought it, assembled several parcels, where appropriate, and sold it. Subsequently, more and more domaines started to mature, bottle and market the wines themselves. Meanwhile many merchants had seized the opportunity to increase their own estates, so that, particularly at the top end, they were more or less self-sufficient. Back in the 1970s, and earlier, there were barely a couple of dozen growers or so – one thinks of Rousseau, Dujac, the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Gouges, Lafarge and Leflaive - who did not sell in bulk. Many of today's super-stars only bottled a token quantity, and were unknown even to the most perspicacious merchant or journalist.

The emergence of these new domaines transformed Burgundy. Within a very short space of time almost everyone who had grand cru and many who had good premier cru was bottling as much as they could themselves. There was the question of cash-flow of course. If you sold to a merchant you were paid in full by the time of the subsequent vintage. If you sold in bottle you did not receive the money until some two and a half years later, after bottling 18 months after the harvest and eventual shipping in the winter after that. So one could not, unless otherwise financed, move from selling in bulk to selling in bottle over-night. I remember the late, lamented Philippe Engel explaining to me that the transformation chez lui had taken ten years.

The process was encouraged by the locals on the spot. Burgundy is a generous wine region. Most growers are on very good terms with their neighbours and only too happy to help out if there is a problem. Naturally, the very best have a queue of potential buyers waiting to step in if one of the regular customers falls by the way-side. What could be more natural for the much-solicited important domaine proprietor than to recommend a hitherto unknown young neighbour who was looking for business. If he or she was a cousin or an in-law so much the better.

 

Moreover, quality was improving, and by leaps and bounds. The best growers had been to the Viti in Beaune and subsequently to the University at Dijon. Many went off to do a stage in California or Australia, or somewhere else in France. Tasting each others' wines with your neighbours became common-place. Firstly the fact of selling your wine under your own label compelled you not to cut corners, which you might have been tempted to do if you were merely selling off in bulk. Tasting your wine alongside those of your friends and reading a critique of it in some wine review would soon teach you if you were producing top quality or not. Secondly techniques of viticulture and viniculture had become more and more sophisticated. There was a return to ploughing and the elimination of herbicides and pesticides. There was rather more consideration to the size of the crop. And lastly the introduction of the sorting table: the greatest contribution to the rise of quality of all. Today everyone has aa sorting table. The first I saw was a the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti when I was making a video in 1987. Finally, after a disappointing run of vintages in the 1970s and early 1980s, 1985 ushered in a series of high quality years which has continued to this day. Burgundy has not had a bad vintage since 1984. Thirty years.

The consequence of all this is that it is increasingly difficult for everyone, not just the outside journalist, to keep pace. Every year there are new domaines, worthy of investigation, and waiting to be discovered. In 1985 I visited some six domaines in Gevry, four in Morey and Chambolle and perhaps eight in Vosne. Today I'd have to visit 25 in Gevrey, and so on. A marathon I no longer have the energy for. I am very lucky to have been on the spot at the time and to have lived through what was an exciting time in Burgundy. Now, with some relief, I am more or less retired.

 

But back to 1985. The 1985 growing season began with a bout of really savage frost. Fears were raised, particularly in Chablis, that the crop would be negligible as a result. Happily these proved groundless (in fact Chablis produced more in 1985 than in 1984). There was nevertheless some damage, and in Gevrey and other villages of the Côte d'Or as well as in Chablis, ensuring that in some cases several premiers crus would eventually have to be vinified together as there was not enough potential wine for them to be attended to separately.

Following the cold winter the spring and early summer passed without mishap. The flowering was a little late, but on those vines not affected by the frost a perfectly satisfactory crop of flowers set into fruit. May, June and july were avearge, but then from the beginning of August a perfect  fin de saison set in. August and September were almost entirely dry, and if the earlier month was only averagely warm, the latter month was really quite hot. This transformed the vintage from something uneven, behind-hand and unpromising to something ripe, uniform, healthy and concentrated. 

The collection of the fruit began in the last week of September. It was an easy harvest: no rain, no vinification problems, and no lack, it seemed, of either bunches of fruit or juice. At the Domaine Armand Rousseau in Gevrey-Chambertin 25 pickers were employed for six days. In 1986 it would requite 50 for 12.

Despite the fears at the beginning of the year, the size of the crop turned out quite substantial: 220,000 hectolitres in the Côte d'Or (excluding generics); similar to 1983, less than the prolific 1982, but much more than the short 1984.

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Port vintage report by Taylor: The 1985 vintage was preceded by an exceptionally cold, wet winter, with night temperatures at Pinhão well below freezing point between the 7th and 15th January.  Bud burst took place early in April and flowering around the end of May.  Berry set was excellent, and the young bunches perfectly formed.  The summer was hot throughout the regions, with no rainfall during July and August.

Picking began early at Vargellas and other Taylor vineyards in the Upper Douro Valley, the grapes having generally reached maturity by 15th September.  Picking took place under clear skies, with mild, warm days and cool nights.  The grapes were healthy and evenly ripened, giving well-balanced must with high sugar levels.  The cool night temperatures helped to produce long, even fermentations, allowing the musts to be well worked and producing rich, aromatic full-bodied wines with magnificent depth of colour and firm tannic structure.  By the close of the harvest it was apparent that the year had produced wines of exceptional quality in all areas of the Douro and there was justified optimism among the shippers as to the prospects of a declaration.

Wines with a very fine aroma. Exceptional quality. A classic Vintage, with intense aromas and a firm structure in fruit and tannins. Almost all producers declared production. Excellent weather. Cold start to winter, but warm February and March. Some rain in spring and normal temperatures until summer. A very hot June, followed by a normal summer. Harvest under perfect conditions.

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Napa Vintage Report: Weather Conditions After experiencing one of the earliest starts through an early budbreak, the season was relatively cool and ended by being one of the longest and best up to the time. The summer offered warm days, cool nights, and a cool August paved the way for a sunny September that brought the fruit to an even and incremental maturity rarely encountered in California. The Cabernets are as atypical as the vintage. The fruit maturity was achieved at relatively moderate sugar levels and the acidity was textbook perfect for balance. With Sonoma enjoying the same conditions as Napa, the vintage yielded an overwhelming number of successful Cabernets. Generally ripe and supple, the wines are well-proportioned and integrated with fine tannins. At the time this was the finest vintage since 74. With cellaring the best are displaying a refined fruitiness and elegance, but a number are maturing slowly. Silver Oaks' Alexander Valley Cabernet led the strong Sonoma contingent and was drinking well at the turn of the century.

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The best wines of the 1985 vintage

Name Tb Producer Location
1 Sassicaia 100 Tenuta San Guido Tuscany, Italy
2 Richebourg 99 Henri Jayer Burgundy, France
3 Romanée Conti 99 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
4 Dom Pérignon P3 99 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
5 Côte-Rôtie La Mouline 99 E.Guigal Rhône, France
6 Echezeaux 99 Henri Jayer Burgundy, France
7 Clos de la Roche 99 Domaine Ponsot Burgundy, France
8 Côte-Rôtie La Turque 99 E.Guigal Rhône, France
9 Cristal Rosé Vinothèque 99 Louis Roederer Champagne, France
10 Cristal Vinothèque 99 Louis Roederer Champagne, France
11 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Rosé 99 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
12 Clos du Mesnil Vinothèque 99 Krug Champagne, France
13 La Turque 98 E.Guigal Rhône, France
14 Côte-Rôtie La Landonne 98 E.Guigal Rhône, France
15 Barolo Monfortino Riserva 98 Giacomo Conterno Piedmont, Italy
16 Montrachet 98 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
17 Chambertin Clos de Bèze 98 Domaine Armand Rousseau Burgundy, France
18 Richebourg 98 Méo-Camuzet Burgundy, France
19 Clos-de-la-Roche 98 Domaine Dujac Burgundy, France
20 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réservé 98 Château Rayas Rhône, France
21 Hermitage Blanc 98 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Rhône, France
22 Champagne Charlie Vinothèque 98 Charles Heidsieck Champagne, France
23 Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles 98 Louis Jadot Burgundy, France
24 Château Laville Haut-Brion 98 Château Laville Haut-Brion Pessac Leognan, France
25 Dom Pérignon Rosé P3 98 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
26 "Y" 98 Château d'Yquem Bordeaux, France
27 La Romanée 98 Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair Burgundy, France
28 Chambolle Musigny Amoureuses 98 Domaine Georges Roumier Burgundy, France
29 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 98 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley, United States
30 Meursault Perrières 98 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Burgundy, France
31 Krug Collection 97 Krug Champagne, France
32 Krug Vintage 97 Krug Champagne, France
33 Krug Clos du Mesnil 97 Krug Champagne, France
34 Richebourg 97 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
35 Lafleur 97 Château Lafleur Bordeaux, France
36 Château Haut-Brion Blanc 97 Château Haut-Brion Bordeaux, France
37 Vintage Port 97 Graham's Douro, Portugal
38 Chambertin 97 Domaine Armand Rousseau Burgundy, France
39 Château L´Evangile 97 Château L´Evangile Pomerol, France
40 Vintage Collection 97 Palmer & Co Champagne, France
41 Clos St-Denis Grand Cru 97 Domaine Dujac Burgundy, France
42 Montrachet 97 Domaine Ramonet Burgundy, France
43 Vieilles Vignes Françaises 97 Bollinger Champagne, France
44 Dom Pérignon Rosé 97 Moët & Chandon Champagne, France
45 Chevalier-Montrachet 97 Domaine Leflaive Burgundy, France
46 Vieux Chateau Certan 97 Vieux Château Certan Bordeaux, France
47 Chambertin 97 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
48 Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 97 Domaine Dujac Burgundy, France
49 Comtes de Champagne Rosé 97 Taittinger Champagne, France
50 Cuvée William Deutz Rosé 97 Deutz Champagne, France
51 Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques 97 Domaine Armand Rousseau Burgundy, France
52 Château Lagrange 97 Château Lagrange Bordeaux, France
53 Pyrus 97 Lindemans South Australia, Australia
54 Echezeaux 97 Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret Burgundy, France
55 L'Eglise-Clinet 97 Château L'Eglise-Clinet Bordeaux, France
56 Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Clos Saint-Jacques 97 Maison Leroy Burgundy, France
57 Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux 97 Méo-Camuzet Burgundy, France
58 Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux 97 Henri Jayer Burgundy, France
59 Clos Saint-Denis Très Vieilles Vignes 97 Domaine Ponsot Burgundy, France
60 Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrieres 97 Domaine Guy Roulot Burgundy, France
61 Batard-Montrachet 97 Domaine Michel Niellon Burgundy, France
62 Bâtard-Montrachet 97 Domaine Leflaive Burgundy, France
63 Bousse D'Or 97 Domaine de la Pousse d'Or Burgundy, France
64 Ruchottes Chambertin 97 Maison Leroy Burgundy, France
65 Cheval Blanc 96 Château Cheval Blanc Bordeaux, France
66 Cristal 96 Louis Roederer Champagne, France
67 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 96 Heitz Cellar Napa Valley, United States
68 Château Margaux 96 Château Margaux Bordeaux, France
69 Champagne Charlie 96 Charles Heidsieck Champagne, France
70 Comtes de Champagne 96 Taittinger Champagne, France
71 Château Haut-Brion 96 Château Haut-Brion Bordeaux, France
72 Blanc des Millénaires 96 Charles Heidsieck Champagne, France
73 Belle Epoque 96 Perrier-Jouët Champagne, France
74 Cristal Rosé 96 Louis Roederer Champagne, France
75 La Grande Dame 96 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne, France
76 Salon 96 Salon Champagne, France
77 Romanee Saint Vivant 96 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
78 Sir Winston Churchill 96 Pol Roger Champagne, France
79 R.D. Bollinger 96 Bollinger Champagne, France
80 Bonnes Mares Grand Cru 96 Domaine Georges Roumier Burgundy, France
81 Grands Echézeaux 96 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
82 Barbaresco Santo Stefano 96 Bruno Giacosa Barolo, Italy
83 L'Apparita 96 Castello di Ama Tuscany, Italy
84 Château Gruaud-Larose 96 Château Gruaud-Larose Bordeaux, France
85 Musigny 96 Joseph Drouhin Burgundy, France
86 Barolo Cannubi Boschis 96 Luciano Sandrone Piedmont, Italy
87 Barolo Monprivato 96 Cantina Bartolo Mascarello Piedmont, Italy
88 Charmes Chambertin 96 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
89 Bonnes Mares VV 96 Domaine Christophe Roumier Burgundy, France
90 Cuvée William Deutz 96 Deutz Champagne, France
91 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 96 Groth Vineyards & Winery Napa Valley, United States
92 Clos-de-la-Roche Vieilles-Vignes 96 Domaine Ponsot Burgundy, France
93 Grands-Echezeaux 96 Rene Engel Burgundy, France
94 Clos de Tart 96 Mommessin Burgundy, France
95 Latricières Chambertin 96 Domaine Ponsot Burgundy, France
96 Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 96 Champagne Le Mesnil Champagne, France
97 Clos des Ducs 96 Domaine Marquis d'Angerville Burgundy, France
98 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru Clos de la Maréchale 96 Domaine Joseph Faiveley Burgundy, France
99 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon 96 Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz, United States
100 Dom Ruinart Rosé 96 Ruinart Champagne, France

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