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1997 Vintage Report by Angelo Gaja:  This is a vintage that we had five weeks with hot weather, 32° C. This had never happened before. This vintage signaled the beginning of climate change.

The quality can be different in 1997 because some producers were unprepared to ferment high sugar levels and the grapes were coming to the winery very hot because even during harvest the weather was hot. There were wines that had stuck fermentation and residual sugar. High volatile acidity. Some wines were not at a high level. But the large majority were beautiful. Much more approachable and with a new character.

In the restaurant, the wines were easy to drink and gave a lot of satisfaction. I remember that we quickly sold our 1997.It also signaled the first conflict among the America and European wine writers. The Americans welcomes it as “the greatest vintage made in Piedmont.”

It was actually an unusual vintage in its approachability and its pleasure. It had perfectly integrated tannins. Not sweetness. But it was similar to sweetness. We had only had this in 1961 and 1971. Not residual sugar but the consequence of perfect ripening.

“This is a vintage that will last a lot of time,” said American wine writers. The European writers said this is a mistake. Yes, it’s an unusual vintage, never seen before. But it is too early to judge and to say that it will be able to keep for a very long time. This is a mistake by American writers who don’t know enough. The 1997 is good but not as good as has been described and it will not be able to age thirty or forty years. 

 

Italy Vintage Report by Tb: In 1997 the entire Italian wine industry was rejuvenated by one of the greatest vintages of all time. The only negative aspect of the year involved sub-zero night temperatures in April and May that damaged the unusually early buds and blooms. As a result, the crop yield was smaller than desired. Otherwise, the summer season was graced with sunny, warm weather. Temperatures climbed higher in August and September and the grapes ripened two weeks earlier than normal. This caught Piedmont by surprise, as the Nebbiolo ripened ahead of the Barbera, which was unprecedented. The small grapes were so well balanced that there were only four other Italian vintages like the 1997 in the 20th century. Otherwise, the acidity of the grapes fell below normal levels due to their ripeness. In Tuscany the situation was the same as in Piedmont – there had not been a crop of such quality since 1947. The wines can still take years of cellaring and as long as decades for the Barolos and Barbarescos.

 

 

 

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Vintage Report

St-Emilion by Château Cheval Blanc: 1997 was a difficult vintage hampered by a certain dilution calling for careful sorting of grapes. The wine is nevertheless expressive and without herbaceous aromas. It is easy to drink and has aged fairly quickly.

Après After very cold weather the first ten days of January, with temperatures as low as -9°C, late winter and early spring were mild and dry.  May was warm and fairly wet. The showers continued into June, accompanied by unseasonably cool temperatures. The rain gradually let up in July, but started up again in August (over 100 mm). It was exceptionally hot in August, along with high humidity.   September was beautiful and warm, with very strong insolation. Only 11 mm. of rain fell all month.

WATER BALANCE

In order to grow well, the vine needs for water stress to set in slowly so the grapes to ripen well and become concentrated. Due to the significant precipitation in May, June, and August, there was no significant water stress in 1997. This did, however, appear in late September, although part of the crop had already been picked by then.

GROWING SEASON

Bud break was exceptionally early: on the 15th of March for Merlot and the 17th of March for Cabernet Franc. Flowering started in the first few days of May and was spread out over a long period due to the unfavourable weather. Mid-flowering was observed on the 19th of May for Merlot and the 22nd of that month for Cabernet Franc. This was three weeks ahead of the usual date.  The fact that flowering was very spread out was later reflected in uneven véraison and ripening. Mid-véraison occurred on the 23rd of July for Merlot and the 29th of July for  Cabernet Franc.
The heavy rainfall in August led to prolonged vegetative growth, consequently delaying ripening. The uneven degree of maturity called for a very long harvest (21 days at Cheval Blanc). Faithful to the château style and in order to put forward its intrinsic qualities, i.e. fresh fruit and elegant aromatics, Cheval Blanc does not seek overripe grapes.

A few patches of grey rot showed up in August because of the strong humidity. Fortunately, though, these did not spread because of the return of dry weather.

 

FEATURES OF THE VINTAGE

1997 was a hot, wet year. The berries were especially weighty due to the lack of water stress during most of the growth cycle. Ripening was slow because of competition from shoots that grew right up until the beginning of the harvest. Therefore, sugar levels and the concentration of phenolic compounds were low, accompanied by higher-than-average acidity.  In fact, the grapes were more affected by a certain dilution than a lack of maturity, as proved by the absence of herbaceous aromas. 

It was therefore important in 1997 to control yields, which amounted to 38.8 hectolitres per hectare at Cheval Blanc. Sorting was severe since only 44% of the crop ended up in the grand vin.

CELLAR WORK

Consisting of 12% press wine, 1997 Cheval Blanc was aged in 100% new oak barrels. 

 

 

 

 

Bordeaux by Château Palmer: Early budding took place at the end of March. This was followed by a cool, damp spring, which resulted in an extended flowering period accompanied by coulure and millerandage. The veraison was slow and patchy due to warm, humid conditions in August, which also led to the constant threat from cryptogamic diseases throughout the summer.

 

As the vintage approached, there were differing levels of ripeness in the vineyard and the selection and sorting of grapes throughout the harvest was crucial. Harvest dates: from 09/10/1997 to 09/27/1997

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Vintage Report

Napa Valley Vintage Report: The season started when the warm, dry soils at the end of February triggered budbreak a full month early. Bloom followed in early May. As the fruit set, growers recognized that the outstanding weather of the previous year would result in an exceptional crop. A temperate summer with moderate, steady temperatures allowed the fruit to reach optimal maturity with good hang time for the full development of character and flavors. 1997 was a vintage of great quality and quantity — 144,000 tons compared to the 10-year-average for the region of 121,000 tons.

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Vintage Report

Burgundy:  A vintage which has presented pleasant and attractive red wines from day one. The whites were of the same high quality as the 1996s, but with more charm and seductive fruit masking the acidity. 

After a wet and cool June and July very warm weather arrived in August, and with it occasional rain. September made the real difference in the growing season compared to 1996, with high temperatures and sunny skies from the first week allowing everyone to finish the harvest at a leisurely pace. A classic high-quality white wine harvest to cherish and enjoy for many years to come.

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Vintage Report

Australia / Good early season growth and spring rains, followed by a warmer than average January and a very hot February, resulted in stressed vines but a low incidence of disease. The vintage produced very good quality Barossa Valley and Eden Valley reds – powerful Shiraz and very good Cabernet. It was also a very good year for Eden Valley Riesling, producing wines with balanced alcohol levels and full flavours.

In 1997 there were 6,899 hectares of vineyards in Barossa and 53,944 tonnes of wine grapes were crushed in that vintage.

Plantings of vines continued to increase and the demand for viticultural land, particularly land with a proclaimed water supply (dam or bore) forced prices above $25,000/ha. Wineries started to become concerned about lack of processing capacity and investment turned from vineyards to building crushing, fermentation and storage facilities.

Orlando celebrated its 150th Anniversary by re-purchasing and restoring Johann Gramp’s original cellars and replanting the original vineyard with bush-vine Riesling.

On February 11 a meeting of 98 Barossa Valley grapegrowers approved the Geographic Indications of the Barossa Zone and the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley regions. On the following day a meeting of Eden Valley Winegrowers also approved the regional identification. The GI was then presented to the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation’s Geographic Indications Committee and approval was granted later that year.

The 1997 Barossa Wine Show Auction set a benchmark price for an Imperial of Barossa Shiraz, when St Hallett’s Bob McLean paid $8000 for a blend of Penfolds Grange, Saltram No.1, Henschke Mt Edelstone, Peter Lehmann Stonewell, Yalumba The Octavius, St Hallett Old Block and Grant Burge Meshach. The wine was re-offered to UK cricket legend Ian Botham’s annual Leukemia Foundation auction.

Irvine Wines’ Grand Merlot won the inaugural Swiss Academie du Vin and “Wein Wisser” magazine world Merlot tasting for The Best Merlot in the World, defeating international competition such as Chateau Petrus.

Vigneron of the Year – Prue Henschke

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New Zealand / This was a year that started well, but flowering was somewhat drawn out and crop management, particularly bunch thinning over the summer, was a very important quality factor.  February was warm and humid, as was most of March.  We were nervous about our crops, but decided to wait and keep the canopies very open.  We then had a prolonged Indian Summer of dry, warm weather, enabling us to harvest grapes without pressure.  Our practice of hand harvesting our crops meant that bunches/berries of lesser quality could be omitted, so that for us vintage ’97 was one of small crops of high quality, giving wines with lifted aromatics, pronounced ripe berry flavours, and long palates.  The wines are elegant, a word not being used as a euphemism for ‘light’, with great concentration and, in the case of the reds, fine and long tannin structures.  We think they’re very good, but there are not large quantities of them.

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Gas was $1.22 a gallon in the US and 2 Pounds 70 pence in the UK , Great Britain handed back Hong Kong to China and the Dow was at less than 8000. The first signs of the dreaded Bird Flu in China where the first documented case of the jump to humans causes Hong Kong to kill 1.25 million chickens. In the UK Tony Blair is the prime minister and Princess Diana dies in a car accident. 
 

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The best wines of the 1997 vintage

Name Tb Producer Location
1 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 100 Bryant Family Vineyard Napa Valley, United States
2 Harlan Estate 100 Harlan Estate Napa Valley, United States
3 Screaming Eagle 100 Screaming Eagle Napa Valley, United States
4 Maya 100 Dalla Valle Napa Valley, United States
5 Château Gilette 100 Château Gilette Bordeaux, France
6 Herb Lamb Cabernet Sauvignon 99 Colgin Cellars Napa Valley, United States
7 Chapoutier Ermitage Le Méal Blanc 99 M. Chapoutier Rhône, France
8 The Napa Valley Reserve 99 The Napa Valley Reserve Napa Valley, United States
9 Echezeaux 99 Henri Jayer Burgundy, France
10 Nacional Vintage Port 98 Quinta do Noval Douro, Portugal
11 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon 98 Shafer Vineyards Napa Valley, United States
12 Proprietary Red 98 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley, United States
13 Redigaffi 98 Tua Rita Italy, Italy
14 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 98 Château Montelena Napa Valley, United States
15 Montrachet 98 Domaine Ramonet Burgundy, France
16 Vintage Port 98 Churchill Graham Portugal, Portugal
17 Montrachet 98 Domaine Leflaive Burgundy, France
18 Montrachet 98 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Burgundy, France
19 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 97 Heitz Cellar Napa Valley, United States
20 Masseto 97 Ornellaia Tuscany, Italy
21 Dominus 97 Dominus Estate Napa Valley, United States
22 Madrona Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 97 Abreu Vineyards St.Helena, United States
23 Insignia 97 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley, United States
24 Hermitage Blanc 97 Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Rhône, France
25 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon 97 Philip Togni Vineyard Napa Valley, United States
26 Richebourg 97 Anne Gros Burgundy, France
27 Chambertin 97 Domaine Denis Mortet Burgundy, France
28 Vosne-Romanée Les Beaux Monts 97 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
29 To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon 97 Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley, United States
30 Meursault-Perrières 97 Coche Dury Burgundy, France
31 Chardonnay 97 Kongsgaard Napa Valley, United States
32 Mazis Chambertin 97 Maison Leroy Burgundy, France
33 Barolo Sperss 96 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco, Italy
34 Montrachet 96 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
35 Corton-Charlemagne 96 Coche Dury Burgundy, France
36 Messorio 96 Le Macchiole Bolgheri, Italy
37 Romanée St.Vivant 96 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
38 Château Haut-Brion Blanc 96 Château Haut-Brion Bordeaux, France
39 Vintage Port 96 Fonseca Douro, Portugal
40 Puligny-Montrachet 96 Domaine Ramonet Burgundy, France
41 L'Extravagant de Doisy Daëne 96 Château Doisy-Daëne Bordeaux, France
42 Kiedricher Gräfenberg Riesling TBA 96 Weingut Robert Weil Rheingau, Germany
43 Vieilles Vignes Françaises 96 Bollinger Champagne, France
44 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 96 Weingut J. J. Prüm Mosel, Germany
45 Azelia Barolo San Rocco 96 Azelia Piedmont, Italy
46 Barolo Bricco Rocche 96 Ceretto Piedmont, Italy
47 Barolo Cannubi 96 Paolo Scavino Piedmont, Italy
48 Dalsheimer Hubacker 96 Weingut Keller Rheinhessen, Germany
49 Shiraz Viognier 96 Clonakilla Canberra District, Australia
50 Pahlmeyer Merlot 96 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley, United States
51 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Réservé 96 Château Rayas Rhône, France
52 Joseph Phelps Backus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 96 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley, United States
53 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 96 Heitz Cellar Napa Valley, United States
54 Barolo Rocche 96 Paolo Scavino Piedmont, Italy
55 Chateau Margaux Pavillon Blanc 96 Château Margaux Bordeaux, France
56 Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses 96 Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé Burgundy, France
57 Salon 95 Salon Champagne, France
58 Cristal 95 Louis Roederer Champagne, France
59 Barolo Monfortino Riserva 95 Giacomo Conterno Piedmont, Italy
60 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 95 Biondi Santi Tuscany, Italy
61 Cuvée Alexandra Rosé 95 Laurent-Perrier Champagne, France
62 Vouvray Cuvée Constance Moelleux 95 Domaine Huet Loire, France
63 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon 95 Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz, United States
64 Vintage Port 95 Taylor's Douro, Portugal
65 Vintage 95 Ferreira Portugal, Portugal
66 Puligny-Montrachet Pucelles 95 Domaine Leflaive Burgundy, France
67 San Leonardo 95 Tenuta San Leonardo Trentino , Italy
68 Sorí San Lorenzo 95 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco, Italy
69 Barolo Bricco Rocche Prapo 95 Ceretto Piedmont, Italy
70 Barolo Cannubi Boschis 95 Luciano Sandrone Piedmont, Italy
71 Réserve Spéciale Cabernet Sauvignon 95 Arrowood Sonoma Valley, United States
72 Barolo Mosconi Percristina 95 Domenico Clerico Piedmont, Italy
73 Hill of Grace 95 Henschke Eden Valley, Australia
74 E-raised 95 Sine Qua Non California, United States
75 Vintage Port 95 Quinta do Noval Douro, Portugal
76 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 95 Bertani Verona, Italy
77 Chambertin 95 Domaine Leroy Burgundy, France
78 Musigny 95 Jacques-Frédéric Mugnier Burgundy, France
79 Kallstadter Saumagen 95 Weingut Koehler-Ruprecht Pfalz, Germany
80 Astralis 95 Claredon Hills South-Australia, Australia
81 Shiraz Heysen 95 Veritas Vineyards & Winery Barossa Valley, Australia
82 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey 95 Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey Bordeaux, France
83 Costa Russi 95 Angelo Gaja Barbaresco, Italy
84 Excelsus 95 Castello Banfi Tuscany, Italy
85 Beaulieu Georges de Latour Private Reserve 95 Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley, United States
86 Barolo Arborina 95 Elio Altare Piedmont, Italy
87 Hochheimer Stielweg 95 Weingut Franz Künstler Rheingau, Germany
88 Clos des Capucins Tokay Pinot Gris Vendanges Tardives 95 Domaine Weinbach Alsace, France
89 Brunello di Montalcino "Montosoli" 95 Altesino Tuscany, Italy
90 Chevalier-Montrachet 95 Domaine Michel Niellon Burgundy, France
91 Chassagne-Montrachet "Les Ruchottes" 95 Domaine Ramonet Burgundy, France
92 Barolo Bussia 95 Prunotto Piedmont, Italy
93 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 95 Etude Napa, United States
94 Pinot Gris Clos St Urbain Rangen de Thann 95 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Alsace, France
95 Grange Hermitage 94 Penfolds South Australia, Australia
96 d'Yquem 94 Château d'Yquem Bordeaux, France
97 R.D. Bollinger 94 Bollinger Champagne, France
98 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 94 Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley, United States
99 Romanée Conti 94 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Burgundy, France
100 Château de Fargues 94 Château de Fargues Sauternes, France

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