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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.
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.