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MONTRACHET 2016 : FIRST AND FOREMOST A STORY OF MUTUAL FRIENDSHIP
The online world was shaken last October by the news of our project to jointly vinify the Montrachet of the seven estates most affected by the frost of April 27. This initiative is first and foremost a story of mutual friendship. It is Dominique Lafon who first had the idea, ''with the frost, we are unlikely to have enough to vinify our Montrachet. What if we did it together?'' addressing Aubert de Villaine and me at the Musique et Vin Festival at the Clos Vougeot. And why not indeed!
This wonderful idea became reality on Wednesday, September 28th when we harvested the seven (*) estates 1,255 hectares of Montrachet. The impact of the frost is severe: we harvested the equivalent of two barrels where generally we get about twenty of them. It shows how severe was the impact of this late frost. This is a good example of solidarity among vignerons. It is also the story of mutual friendships between us and between families that allowed this exceptional endeavours.
For my part, one of these friendships developed about twenty years ago with Aubert, through a common friend whom we both admired and who passed away in 2010. It is also the story of friendship with Dominique Lafon, a long term friend of the Leflaive family, who welcomed me generously when I took over Domaine Leflaive, providing me with advice and encouragement. I also remember last year, how kindly and with such openness Sébastien Caillerat from Domaine Lamy-Pillot shared its research and technical trials on corks and closures. I also remember the warm and straight forward enthusiasm with which Nicolas Fleurot, Mrs Petitjean and Mr. Amiot associated with this project.
These stories of mutual friendships are a reflection of this exceptional terroir of Montrachet.
Vineyard Profile Appellation: Burgundy/ Location: 1 parcel in Chassagne-Montrachet / Cultivation: 100% biodynamic/ Size: 0.082 hectare (0.2 acre)
Vine Age: Planted 1960 / Soil: Calcareous clay
Vinification Long, gentle pneumatic pressing, “débourbage,” or “settling of the juice,” over 24 hours; then racking and running the must into cask. Alcoholic fermentation in oak casks, 100% new (origin Allier). Matured 12 months in new oak, followed by 6 months in 1-year-old oak, then prepared for bottling. Homeopathic fining and very light filtering, if necessary
The 2015 Harvest - The grapes maturation was exceptionally swift this year. This will lead us to start the harvest on August 28. This is the third time in history that we will begin the harvest in Puligny in August and the second earliest harvest ever (2011 began August 25 and 2003, on August 30).
After a flower that went very well, under a bright sun, at the beginning of June, the vines grew rapidly, helped by a few days of rain fall in the middle of the month. July brought a strong and lasting heat wave in Puligny for most of the month. Temperatures rose steadily with many days above 30 degrees Celsius during the day and often up to 35°C and 36 °C.
The rainfall of early August re-started the maturation process in Puligny. The Macon estate, on the other hand, did not benefit from the rainfall and berries were a little less fleshy than Puligny. The fact remains that, just before the harvest, the vines were beautiful in both vineyards and in an excellent state of health.
The Domaine team fully anticipated this early harvest and organised a seamless logistical support for the team of over 70 pickers plus a dozen people in the winery.The harvest began in Puligny in a scorching atmosphere the first three days. It continued in a cooler environment after a slight stormy episode punctuated with a few raindrops initially announced as more violent and abundant than it eventually arose.
The yield in Puligny this year is very satisfactory and above that of the previous three years. The heat wave during the summer and low rainfall in the spring limited the yield of the Premier and Grand Crus while the vineyards at the foot of the hill (Bourgogne and Village) have maintained a good performance. In Macon, the yield is slightly more modest than that of last year as the estate did not benefit from the June rainfall as Puligny did.
The grape's health was simply spotless this year with no trace of botrytis, oïdium or mildew. Maturities across both are accomplished with an excellent degree and a good acidity given the accelerated maturation of the end of August. All the right conditions are met to make of 2015 a great vintage.
The 2015 Harvest by Clive Coates MW
The bad news is Chablis. In the early hours of Tuesday 1st September a severe storm hit the Chablis area. From Irancy up to the grands crus of Blanchots and Les Clos a swathe of hail – some hailstones as large as golf balls – has affected some 100 hectares of the vineyard. In all 97 mm of rain fell in six hours. The weather then cleared, threatening rot, and most growers rushed out to harvest before it was too late. Thankfully most of the grands crus have reverted to picking by hand, so a preliminary triage could be accomplished before the fruit arrived at the winery.
Elsewhere Burgundy has been spared. It did not rain. A token amount of Chardonnay harvesting began in the week of August 31th, and by the following Monday the harvest was fully under way. The weather then cooled, not only conserving the acidities, but making life more pleasant for the pickers. I can attest from my experience with the 1964 crop over forty years ago that it is not much fun picking grapes in unrelenting heat. The first week – that is the week of September 7th – the weather was fine. Later in September the weather cooled a little. It stayed dry until the weekend of 12th September, when the first serious rain for two months or more fell in the Côte d'Or and further south. For two or three days during that week the picking was interrupted. By Saturday 19th September the harvest was all but over except for a few vineyards in the Hautes Côtes.
All the way from the Côte d'Or down to the Mâconnais the fruit was in splendid condition. Michel Lafarge reported that he has rarely seen such magnificent grapes, and his comments have been echoed by others. Aromas in the cellars are intoxicating. A further bonus is that after several years of short crops the 2015 harvest is reasonably abundant. For this much thanks.
Prices, however seem destined to be high; perhaps the highest in real terms that they have ever been. The Hospices auction will give us an indication of this. But when we read that Henri Jayer's Vosne-Romanée, Cros Parentoux, 1996 now fetches £90000 a case one can hardly expect comparable wines of the 2015 vintage to sell for peanuts.
September 1st 2015
The splendid weather in July has been followed by an August, which, if not quite so continuously hot and sunny, has been for the most part equally good, particularly towards the end of the month.
And it has continued dry. There have been, thankfully, no storms, no hail, and no threat of rot. Indeed the vines are in magnificent condition. The advance weather forecast for September tells us that it will cool over the first ten or so days, but then warm up again. The harvest will start during the next week or so, and all indications are that it will be both plentiful and successful. Just what Burgundy needs. It's all smiles here!
August 1st 2015
The weather has been splendid for a the whole of the month of July: day after day of warm, sometimes very hot temperatures, and almost a complete absence of rain. While this has made the lawns look rather dispiritingly brown and parched, the vines, with their deep root systems, have suffered no drought stress, and those people with swimming pools have been able to indulge in their fortune. For once, while there have been a couple of thunderstorms, the vineyards have escaped any hail damage.
The vintage is due to commence around the week of September 7th. Keep your fingers crossed that the good weather continues. The long range weather forecast indicates that, though not as hot or as dry as July, the weather in August will be mainly sunny and warm.
July 1st 2015
The weather has been splendid for a month now, and the projections continue promising. Slowly but surely during the month the temperatures rose, and in this last week they have reached well above 30°. Meanwhile it has been dry but not excessively so. The vines have flowered successfully, indicating a plentiful crop, bar disasters. As I indicated a month ago, the harvest should commence around September 10th.
June 1st 2015
It was an uneventful winter. When it was cold – and it was never very cold – it was dry. When it rained the temperatures were mild. So there was no problem with icy roads. April was warmer and drier than usual, as it often has been recently, and this encouraged a bud-break a little earlier than usual. But May, apart from a couple of days in the middle of the month when it reached 32°, was characterised by sunny mornings, clouding over by lunchtime, and temperatures which struggled to exceed 20°. But it has been dry. The vines began to flower around the 25th. So we can expect the harvest to commence around the 10th September.
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