Grand Cru Echezeaux is mythical and rare, and in the right hands can reach near perfection. Intense and alive with black cherry and cocao, it is fine and velvety and finishes on dark bitter chocolate. The vineyard is relatively new to the Maison Capitain, but their long experience with a classy holding in the Clos Vougeot puts them in the neighborhood. It's a jewel in the Capitain crown. Never a hesitation!
Anybody who has followed us since our start in early 1996 knows the Maison Capitain-Gagnerot in Ladoix-Serrigny. We have seen three generation now. Roger Capitain was our first mentor in Burgundy, and we learned our craft leaning against a wine barrel, soaking up his wisdom and discussing his inimitable wines. His sons Patrice and Michel, and now Patrice's son Pierre Francois (the whole family, really), carry on a tradition that is most easily described as a style. There is no mistaking a Capitain wine. Once you know it, you can pick one out just in the bouquet. It's a purity. And it's our benchmark in Burgundy.
BURGUNDY 2018 VINTAGE
There has been talk over the past year of the 2018 vintage in Burgundy being one of the greatest of all time. Comparisons with the mythical 1947, and all that. But let’s be careful and take a closer look.
We’ve tasted some marvelous wines, both white and red, and from all of the appellation levels. Purity and concentration would be the key words across the board.
But lest we forget, 2018 was the hottest vintage in Burgundy since 2003. And frankly, we were expecting wines like we got in 2003: flabby whites and Cote du Rhone-like reds. But that did not happen. And the secret to understanding 2018 Burgundy lies in understanding the difference between these two very hot years.
If you look at 2018 from start to finish, not only was it hot, it was dry: 50% less precipitation than the annual average over the past 30 years. However, if you were here in the early part of the year, you’ll certainly remember the rain.
After a very dry summer in 2017, winter 2017-18 was wet. It rained nearly every day through March and into April. And the vine was slow to bud.
That all changed in the middle of April. Wet soil and higher temperatures brought on explosive growth in the vineyards that the vignerons had a tough time keeping up with. In a week we went from bud burst to unfurled leaves.
The first flowers burst in mid-May. The crop set regularly with very little disruption, and summer settled in. The early wet conditions followed by April’s warmth saw the onset of mildew, but the fungus never stood a chance.
It was a hot and sunny summer. Some would say it was a heat wave and a drought. And we started to see signs of stress in vineyards in certain sectors. Things were better where there was a little rain. But August was bone dry. In fact, there was no rain from June 15th to the end of October.
It was about this time that comparisons to 2015 cropped up. You could see ripeness rapidly approaching, and there was talk of harvest starting at the end of August.
The vines were incredibly healthy; no moisture means no threat from mildew or odium. No rot. Good ripeness.
And, for the first time since 2009….a normal yield! So, let the harvest begin!
And it did, in the last days of August. What was most astonishing right from the start was that the perceived acidity levels seem OK. Granted, there’s no malic acid, but the levels of tartaric acid seem to be compensating, and there is an over-all impression of balance.
Also amazing was the amount of juice the crop produced. Not only was the yield bigger than the past 10 years’ average, but the amount of juice set a record for Burgundy. So there will be a lot of 2018 around.
And all this in a year that felt more like the south of Spain than Burgundy as we know it. The only thing we can attribute the quality of 2018 to is the abundant winter rains, and the vine’s ability to go searching for water when it needs it.
ECHEZEAUX and GRANDS ECHEZEAUX
COTE DE NUITS
The village of Flagey-Échezeaux lies in the plain between Vougeot and Vosne-Romanée in the Côte de Nuits. Facing east, the Grands-Échezeaux vines are a prolongation of Musigny following the axis of the Côte. At the bottom end, the Combe d'Orveau separates them from Musigny. The Échezeaux vineyards divide the Clos de Vougeot from the premiers crus vines of Vosne-Romanée. Like the Clos de Vougeot (from which they are separated only by a wall), these vineyards were founded by the monks of the abbey of Cîteaux and date from the 12th and 13th centuries.
Producing commune: Flagey-Echezeaux.
Echezeaux and Grands Echezeaux are red wines only. Generally ruby in color, with darker purpley tones in youth. Classic Cote de Nuits spice and undergrowth aromas, with concentrated plum notes, almost prune, that evolve as musky, leathery and mushroomy. When young it is floral with fresh fruit cherry. These wines can be dense and tight to start out, giving way as the tannins soften (usually 4-5 years) to full round flavors.
Geologically jurassic, the Grands Echezeaux vineyards are fairly homogeneous and lie close to the upper part of the Clos de Vougeot at 250 meters and on a slight gradient. The soil is clay-limestone overlying bajocien limestone. The Échezeaux climats have more diverse soils (largely bajocien marls with pebbly overlay). Altitudes vary from 230 to a little over 300 meters with a 13% gradient at mid-slope. The upper slope soil is deep (70-80 cm). Gravel, red alluvium and yellow marl make up a complex sub-soil.
Red wines only - Pinot Noir
Production surface area :
Area under production* :
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Echezeaux : 34.79 ha
Grands Echezeaux : 7.53 ha
Wines so full and powerful should be served with full and powerful dishes. Autumnal and winter dishes of game and roast meats will match the meatiness of these wines. Soft-centered cows' milk cheeses will work well.
On the label, the words Grand Cru must appear directly below the name of either appellation in letters of exactly the same size.
The following specific vineyards, known as climats, are classified as Echezeaux Grand Cru:
Echézeaux du Dessus
Les Beaux Monts Bas (partly premier cru)
Les Champs Traversins
Les Cruots ou Vignes Blanches
Les Quartiers de Nuits
Les Rouges du Bas