Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée-Saint-Vivant 2016

Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée-Saint-Vivant 2016

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"Miracle of femininity and delicacy, she has this desire to seduce which one cannot resist." - JF Bazin

La Romanée-Saint-Vivant is a seductress: we can only love her. Behind grace expresses a power so perfectly balanced that it had not been seen at first glance.

2016 Harvest Report

2016: a vintage where extremes clashed and which we can say once again that we have never seen such a thing ...

Calm has now returned to the Côte after the noise of the harvest , the clicking of the secateurs and the songs of the grape pickers. Today the winegrower lives in his winery where the grapes turn into wine ... at the beginning they growl ... then they sing ... the winery is the scene of the great concert of the year.

Outside, the vines slowly change color, as if every night a painter was throwing red here, there purple and there gold, a lot of gold ... which we discover in the morning, a bright and changing picture.

The devatting is barely finished or close to its end. The wines gradually settle in the barrels, cool in the cellars, where they will live during the 18 months of aging, so important, which separate them from bottling.

The time has come to go back and try to understand the phases of the incredible scenario that took us from the prospect of total defeat, as we envisioned it in the spring, to, finally, an unexpected success that puts now 2016 among the most perfect vintages of recent years.

When a Burgundian winegrower meets another, where does their conversation begin? “Ah, if the April frost (and the hail in addition for some) hadn't taken so much of our harvest, what an exceptional vintage we would have had! ".

Indeed, in the spring, the winemaker was like Ulysses in his Odyssey, when Poseidon, furious, throws him into a storm that nearly sinks him ... but fortunately other gods are with him and a loving goddess will save him. ..

The year had not started well, with a very mild winter during which we did not experience any of those periods of frost and / or snow which "clean" the vines of the remains of the bad miasmas of the year. past.

Result: bud burst is early and it takes place in mild and humid weather which will develop and continue throughout the spring and even until mid-July. 516 mm of rain fell between January and May in the town of Vosne-Romanée! which exceeds all the accumulations noted since the famous year 1910 remained legendary by precipitations which had involved an almost total loss of the harvest. It feels a little hopeless that the rain will never stop!

In this context where there are very few days without rain, tillage and phytosanitary protection are very difficult to organize. You have to jump on the short “windows” of dry weather that open from time to time and not miss them, otherwise you are overwhelmed by grass. It is above all absolutely necessary to defend the vine, because the presence and the pressure of one of the worst enemies of the vine, downy mildew, are reaching unprecedented levels.

In the spring, we counted around 35 cycles or “transplanting” of mildew, whereas normally there are only a few and sometimes hardly any, as in 2015!

At the same time, as if nature had resolved to make us fall from Charybdis to Scylla, at the end of April the north wind blows away the clouds and brings in the sun, which we have all been waiting for, but in reality it is is to offer us three days of very strong morning frosts and, to our great sadness, unfortunately, on April 27 in the morning, we find our vines of Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Echezeaux and Grands-Echezeaux devastated, frozen. From the following days the young branches turn black, dry and begin to fall. Fortunately for us, Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, Richebourg, Romanée-St-Vivant and Cortons are little or not at all affected by this frost.

As for the mildew pressure, it is not weakening. We have to deal often. The fight will not cease until mid-July. It will be carried out relentlessly and with total dedication, on Saturday or Sunday if necessary, by Nicolas Jacob and his team while remaining within the framework of our choice of biodynamics where the only authorized defense products are copper. in measured quantity and sulfur.

Staying true to the organic options we chose over 30 years ago now represents a loss in quantity, since the preservation of the crop cannot be as completely assured as it is with chemicals, but the gain in quality by the concentration of constituent elements of the resulting grape is much greater than this loss!

These conditions are of course very unfavorable for flowering. This begins on June 9, that is to say rather late compared to previous years, but above all it lasts until June 25, which gives rise to fears of a heterogeneous maturity of the grapes ... we will not finally see thanks to the heat that will finally come.

In fact, from July 15, the rains stop and summer weather sets in which will not stop until the harvest and even beyond.

This hot and dry weather will be maintained in Burgundy by its surest ally, the north wind, which will hardly cease to be present. Some days are very hot, close to a heatwave, but the danger of a real drought, which loomed and began to manifest itself by toasted berries on the side most exposed to the sun of certain bunches, was averted by a short rainstorm episode. around August 15, then by two small beneficial rains which arrive at the right time, at the beginning of September for the first and from September 16 to 18 for the second, a few days before the harvest.

These rains released certain vines fearing drought where maturity was starting to block, they also led to swelling of the berries and restored a good balance between the progression of sugars and phenolic maturity, that of stalks, skins and seeds.

These ideal conditions also allowed the vines to "recover" after the spring fighting. The frozen vines in particular have developed new branches which will allow to have pruning wood for next year and therefore to be able to envisage a normal harvest in 2017.

The winegrower believes in miracles when he remembers the state of the vines end of April, after the frost!

These same ideal conditions make the grapes ripen very quickly, whether Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, and we check once again how much, at the end of the cycle, in hot weather, these two grape varieties experience elevations of the potential degree that can go extremely fast. At the same time, we see accumulations of anthocyanins and tannins higher even than 2015!

Our analyzes and tastings of the grapes show us an already ripe harvest around September 15, but the magnificent sanitary quality of the grapes encourages us not to hurry and we wait until Thursday, September 22, taking advantage of the last rain, to harvest our wines. Corton which, located in the Côte de Beaune, are always the first to mature.

Then, from September 23, we go to Vosne-Romanée where we harvest every day in good weather until September 30 black grapes, of perfect sanitary quality, full of juice and sugar, without the slightest botrytis attack for the second consecutive year after 2015 and in a festive atmosphere. No more fears! we only hear the songs of the grape pickers under the sun and this muffled breathing of the earth which warms up and gives us joyfully the fruit it gave birth.

Here is the order of the harvest and the very approximate yields observed:

Corton: harvested on September 22, yield around 22hl / ha
Richebourg: harvested on September 23 and 24, yield around 24 / ha
Romanée Conti: harvested on September 25, yield around 24 hl / ha
La Tâche: harvested on September 24 and 25, yield around 31 hl / ha
Romanée St Vivant: harvested on September 27 and 28, yield around 27 hl / ha
Grands-Echezeaux: harvested on September 29, yield around 7hl / ha
Echezeaux: harvested on September 29, yield around 6hl / ha.

Yields are average to normal in Romanée-Conti, La Tâche and Corton which have not been affected by frost. They are a little lower in Romanée-Saint-Vivant and Richebourg where the northern part of each of these climates has been slightly affected. They are only 6hl / ha to 7hl / ha in Grands-Echezeaux and Echezeaux, but we expected it and this yield is rather a good surprise compared to the impression of absolute disaster that we had in the spring. In addition, the few grapes harvested are magnificent.

Le Montrachet, as you can see, has been left out of the above list. It is because the frosts particularly overwhelmed him. In the spring we even thought that there would be no harvest at all ... Finally there were still some grapes, but in tiny quantities, which decided us to launch a solidarity operation with six other estates with the vines on half of Montrachet located in the town of Chassagne-Montrachet (the Montrachet in the town of Puligny-Montrachet was more spared). These seven estates (Amiot, Comte Lafon, Fleurot-Larose, Lamy-Pillot, Leflaive, Petitjean and ourselves) harvested the few kilos of grapes collected by each in his vineyard and entrusted them to Domaine Leflaive which took charge to press these grapes and vinify them. We should end up with 2 pieces of wine, or around 600 bottles. Each will receive in return the number of bottles corresponding to the weight of grapes brought. The idea is to have a common label and, at least for a certain quantity of these bottles, to put them up for auction for the benefit of a charity which makes a consensus.
2016 is therefore a year with two faces which are totally the opposite: one, the one we saw in the spring when nature wanted to overwhelm the winegrower - but he of course did not let it go! - and the other, that of the summer when, on the contrary, the sun came to the end to bring its blessing to the vine as if it wanted to help this same winegrower to win a deserved victory! We could sum up by saying that in 2016 nature wanted to overwhelm the vineyard, but decided to be indulgent with the grapes that it allowed to ripen in the best possible conditions ...
The Burgundian miracle does exist and the winegrower will keep 2016 long in his memory ...!

But, once again, it is advisable to look at the whole cycle which brought the vines from bud break to harvest as a whole. We were desperate in the springtime and cursed a hostile nature that set all its negative forces in motion against us. But today, once the harvest is in, it must be considered that it is surely the water reserves accumulated during this wet period that allowed the vines to pass the period when the drought threatened without damage. As for downy mildew, we fought it, but it left its mark and it can be regarded as positive for the final quality since the approximately 10% of natural thinning observed reduced the number of bunches and helped to concentrate the grapes. elements that make the quality of the grape.
In the winery, these grapes delivered from the vine are perfectly healthy and require almost no sorting. They are subjected to a very light scratching. The pre-fermentation maceration of a few days is obtained naturally and the vinifications, under the attentive and devoted leadership, day and night, of Bernard Noblet and his team, proceed smoothly, in peace and harmony. The color of the juices comes out black from the first days of vatting and the aromas which develop during fermentation are fine and generous at the same time. The fermentation temperatures allow the desired balanced extractions. The vatting lasts 20 days on average.
At the time of writing, most of the wines are devatted. They show unusually deep coats. Behind the still primary aromas and their spicy character, we can already perceive this noble character of the grand cru in an exceptional vintage and, on the palate, they show a balance of fruit / acidity / tannins which should lead them towards a rare finesse.


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