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The Richebourg 2016 is showing gorgeously – so vibrant, pure and energetic – with a sensual touch rarely seen from a Richebourg. The bouquet is offering layers of cool energetic fruit – an explosion of detailed forest berries, Vosne spices – effortless, detailed and delicate. On the palate very fine intensity without feeling powerful or dense – it’s just caressing you palate with multiple layers of cool and juicy fruit – infused with a detailed minerality and spiciness. At the moment hard to surpass even for the mighty La Tâche.
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.
2016 RED BURGUNDY VINTAGE REPORT
The 2016 harvest was, of course, later for Pinot Noir in the Côtes de Nuits, and some climats had different productions depending on how they weathered the frost of April 26th. In this report I will talk about each of the producers’ allocations to illustrate the variations between the totals from the 2015 and 2016 vintages. I will also seek to give you an idea of the style of the 2016 red wines versus those of the 2015 vintage.
Depending on the producer, some growers actually preferred the 2016 red wines to the 2015s. There are definitely stylistic differences. The 2015 wines are more structured and powerful, and I consider the top 2015 wines to be superior to the top 2016 wines. However, this does not mean that there are not some fabulous 2016 red wines. I do feel that 2016 was a better vintage for red wines than for white wines, which is opposite of the 2015 vintage. And from what I heard and observed during my visit, the 2017 will also probably favor the whites. I actually think that 2017 could be the best vintage for white wines in quite a while, with the wines showing much more concentration than those of the 2014 vintage but possessing similar acid levels. Needless to say, it will be exciting to try them in June.
The Pinot Noir harvest in 2016 varied from as early as September 22nd for some villages in the Côte de Beaune to as late of the first week of October in the Côte de Nuits. The only other harvests that lasted into October in the past twenty years were those in 1998, 2001, 2008, and 2013. 2016 is by far better than any of those vintages. Looking on the flip side, there have been four harvests that started in August: 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2017. It appears as of now that 2017 will be the best of those. When I tasted the 2016 red wines, I was surprised by the supple textures and abundance of fruit. This fruit was very fresh and the ripeness and lovely acidity made the fruit last long on the palate. The acids were strong on the finish due to the high levels of tartaric acid. The wines are never alcoholic due to the quite cool weather throughout the growing season. Since there were no real heat spikes, no grapes were harvested with a potential alcohol level of over 14.5%, no matter when they were picked. That was not the case in 2015 where some growers that like to push the limits of ripeness went overboard and made top-heavy wines with too much tannin and too much alcohol. What is nice about the 2016 red wines is that even in areas where the frost was severe, it did not affect the quality, although the growers definitely did have to do a lot of work in the vineyards to prevent mildew after the frost and due to a very wet May. Luckily the mildew affected the leaves more than the grape skins. June weather returned to normal and flowering began midway through the month. This meant that harvest would start the last week of September. The areas that did not experience frost, such as Santenay, Morey-Saint-Denis, the northern side of Nuits-Saint- Georges (Vosne-Romanée side), some parts of Corton, and some plots of Bourgogne Rouge, had a larger harvest than in 2015. Some climats of Morey-Saint-Denis, such as Clos de la Roche and Clos de Tart, had their best harvest since the 2009 vintage. Happily, due to dry conditions in July, August, and September, there was beautiful weather for harvest. Rains on September 15th and 19th provided relief from hydric stress that had arisen from the lack of rain from August 5th until September 15th
(5 inches total fell in a month and a half ). So if the grower waited just a little bit after the last rain on September 19th, there was very little rain afterwards, except for about 3 inches on October 2nd. After this it did not rain again until October 14th at which point harvest was over for the vast majority of growers.
What was depressing was seeing so many upright barrels at the Domaines in many areas. Some producers in villages such as Pommard, Volnay, much of Nuits-Saints-Georges, and Vougeot had tiny harvests. Mongeard-Mugneret was down 58%, but given that they had normal crops in their Bourgogne vineyards, the drastic drop in quantity was in vineyards such as Échezeaux (down 70%) and Clos Vougeot (if your parcels were towards the back). Grands Échezeaux was a disaster, as was Savigny- lès-Beaune, which produced no villages level wines (thus we received no villages level Savigny-lès-Beaune from Mongeard- Mugneret). Another example, our allocation of Savigny-lès-Beaune Premier Cru Les Narbantons, which is usually around 170 cases, was only 15 cases in 2016. Also from Mongeard-Mugneret, Pernand-Vergelesses was down from an average of 45 cases
to just 14; Grands Échezeaux, down to 27 cases from the usual 85; Échezeaux, normally 100 cases was just 30; and Vosne- Romanée Premier Cru Les Orveaux, which is usually 87 cases was down to 37. Villages level Vosne-Romanée from vineyards that were lower in altitude also suffered terribly, as did Richebourg. In the end, it all depended on the wind currents, clouds, and if the vineyard was protected from the currents by walls.
My growers in Nuits-Saint-Georges that mostly have holdings in the southern side of the village gave me half of the 2015 allocation. Concerning Domaine Henri Gouges, I got half the allocation of Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru Les Saint- Georges as well as half the allocations of Premier Cru Les Vaucrains and Premier Cru Clos des Porrets Saint-Georges. While not as drastic as the previous appellations, I also received less Premier Cru Les Pruliers and villages Nuits-Saint-Georges. In the case of Thibault Liger-Belair, some vineyards in the Hautes-Côte de Nuits had to be combined into one cuvée because there were not enough grapes to fill a fermentation tank. In 2017, Liger-Belair only produced 8 barrels of Premier Cru Les Saint- Georges compared to 24 in 2017. To really get a picture of the situation, in 2009 he made 30 barrels. He has produced a few new wines in 2016. We will be introducing a villages Chambolle-Musigny made from purchased grapes, as well as a Corton Grand Cru Clos du Roi. He made 2 barrels of this wine, as well as 2 barrels of Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru. Thibault
is one of the growers who likes his 2016 wines almost as much as his 2015s. With regards to Thomas Morey and Vincent & Sophie Morey, the allocations are almost the same as in 2015. Domaine Matrot will be slightly less. Domaine Henri Boillot is almost identical to the 2015 vintage, but with more Pommard and Volnay. And, finally, Alain Gras and Domaine Michel Briday allocations are pretty much equal to those of the 2015 vintage.