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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.
1996 Harvest - 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.
When a vintage like 1996 passes and 13 moon chages take place in the year many growers expect difficult moments to come.
Eventhoug the spring was marvellous and the very arly springbut was not affected by any frost.and due to the high tepertures the flowering rarely ever seen before (only one generation !)
The arrival of the summer ...warm and dry in June, cooler but still dry in July and August. A perfect weather with short periods of rainfall each time followed by intense suneshine untill the harvest helped the grapes to finish maturation (Wonderfull natural degrees from 12° to 13°9).
The weather during the harvest was relatively cold, cloudy but dry allowing the growers to harvest each parcel at the best moment of maturity.
The cold nights stabalised the level of acidity in the grapes and most important protected the grapes from rot.
Our first impressions on the Red wines are very promessing with deep colours and good and intense aromas
For the White wines we detect the sugar/acidity balance of a “ Great ” vintage. Despite of the relatively high yields the wines show power and complexity remembering of the 1990 vintage (equal yields).
One very distinctif sign of a very promessing vintage is the smile in the faces of the growers.