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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.
The making of a vintage is like a voyage, an adventure, whose final destination is unknown. Nature has its own, often capricious, rule. Our only skill is to learn, with humility, to adapt to it.
The fruit that we saw passing by on the sorting table during these eight days of harvest was the most beautiful we have seen since 1999. Who would have predicted this, after an excessively hot Spring and a cold and cloudy August, even though there was no rain ?
The drought conditions during the vegetative cycle of the vineyards and the North wind were among the main factors that « governed » the growing season of this 2005 vintage that can already be ranked among the great ones. The North Wind, dominant and even triumphant all during the year confirmed the adage which claims : « the wind that blows on Palm Sunday will be the wind of the year ». The North wind blew every day around Easter and kept on blowing throughout the year until today when, to our great satisfaction, the indomitable anticyclone is again chasing clouds away. After the glorious weather we experienced during the harvest, the Indian summer is setting in over Burgundy, making the vineyards shine with splendid colours through a light autumnal mist.
Rainy spells that are frequent in Burgundy during Spring and Summer have been inexistent except in April when the rain and warmth resulted in a rapid growth of vegetation. On May 4th, the Grands-Echezeaux and Echezeaux areas were hit by hail, which disturbed the vegetative growth of the vines for some time, but had no other effect than a slight reduction of the crop. Then, May, June and July brought a few light cloudbursts. There was hardly any rain in August and finally on September 7th, shortly before the harvest, the rain that fell was favourable as it accelerated ripening. Another characteristic of the year : rains were sporadic and varied according to the areas: on the same day, it might rain in the Côte de Nuits and not at all in the Côte de Beaune, it might rain twice as much on Echezeaux as on Romanée-Conti and vice versa. The worst happened in Santenay and Chassagne where violent hailstorms did much damage, but Puligny and Le Montrachet were spared.
In 2005 the vineyards proved once more that they like warm and dry conditions and that they do not require much water.
We experienced heat spells all along the year, but they were short and in fact the hydric stress of the vineyards, that was visible on the leaves and confirmed by measurements, was provoked by drought rather than by heat. These conditions are very different from what they were in 2003, more favourable, this year, to a balanced ripening of the grapes. In 2005 the vineyards never stopped feeding their grapes while in 2003 they sometimes had to in order to survive. Even though some very young vines and those planted in shallow soils lost their leaves very early and did not ripen their fruit properly, the greater part of Burgundy and in first place the grands crus have easily kept the necessary freshness despite dry conditions. It is obvious when you look at the leaves today.
When trying to compare 2005 with another vintage, we also thought of course of 1976, a legendary year of drought, but they have, in fact, nothing in common : 2005 was very dry but not as hot as 1976 and, most important, profited from a few precious rains. As previously written, vineyards need little water to give their best fruit.
Again, with such unusual climatic conditions, what did the vineyards do ?
The two principal stages of the vegetative cycle are flowering and veraison. Flowering started early and well on May 25th, but soon became slow and uneven under the influence of the drought, which greatly affected veraison and ripening. As a direct effect of this disturbed flowering, there was a lot of millerandage. We know that it is an essential factor to great quality.
Veraison began on August 5th, but as the drought and heat were an obstacle to photosynthesis, its progression was comparable to that of the flowering : slow and uneven. We already knew at that time that we would have to wait until the maturity of all the berries came into balance.
Our fine Pinot vineyards, as well as our cultivation and pruning methods tending towards the achievement of low yields fitted with this context. The vineyards resisted stress without suffering and from early September ripened their grapes very fast. At that time heat returned after an unusually cold August. The berry analysis we made showed progressions between 1 to 1°5 per week and the characteristics of the grapes appeared more clearly : thick skins of an intense black colour, little juice, a lot of millerandage, loose clusters, resistant to botrytis which in any case did not set in because of the lack of humidity. As soon as the analysis showed that the grapes had reached a potential of 13° in perfect sanitary conditions, we made the decision to begin the harvest. Rare indeed are the years when we can take advantage of such beautiful, dry, cool and clear weather. The selection that we asked, as usual, from the pickers was simple this year and as a consequence the harvest was exceptionally short : eliminate the very few grapes infected by botrytis, those which had dried after hail or burnt in the sun, and leave the few bigger grapes produced by vines of lesser finesse.
It was a rare pleasure for those who « inspect » at the sorting table and put the finishing touches to the pickers' work, to see, before the grapes went their way to the vats, how ripe and coloured they were, each of them being a perfect example of fine Pinot Noir.
The vineyards were harvested in the following order :
La Tâche ........................... September 15th, 16th & 17th
Romanée-Conti ................. September 15th & 16th
Richebourg ........................ September 17th & 18th
Grands-Echezeaux ............ September 18th & 19th
Echezeaux ......................... September 19th, 20th & 21st
Romanée-St-Vivant .......... September 21st, 22nd & 23rd
Yields reach an average of 28 to 30 hl/ha for the red wines. In other words, 2005 is quite satisfactory in quantity. Montrachet was harvested last, on September 23rd, with very high sugar content, beautiful acidity and low yield. It should be a great wine.
Fermentations were perfect, active, releasing an exceptional range of aromas.
Devattings are in progress. Wines, that are little by little put into barrels and lined up in the beautiful cellars of the Saint-Vivant winery, are black, show plenty of fruit, but are tannic as well. With usual precaution, since the wines are hardly finished, we can already say that it is a beautiful vintage both in red and white. Needless to say that the vigneron is happy, he feels that the vineyards, accompanied all through the year by very favourable weather conditions, have given their grapes all possible richness and that the "child" born from this effort can only be gifted with great talents !