The 1959 vintage was exceptional by any standard, acclaimed for a bumper yield of outstanding quantity and quality despite a year of extremes: severe spring frosts; spectacular temperature variations; violent hailstorms; and months of sunshine with almost no rain at all.
April and May saw frosty nights, with temperature fluctuations of more than 20-25 degrees that delayed early season growth in many areas and caused localised damage in the Aube vineyards. Warmer temperatures then saw active shoot growth that made up for lost ground. Overall yield potential looked good so there was every hope of a bumper crop assuming the long-awaited rain finally materialised. The vines were slow to bloom (10 June) but fruit set was quick to follow thanks to hot, dry sunny weather that persisted through July and August and into September. In the event, rain remained largely absent throughout the campaign but hailstorms pounded the vineyards in May and June, damaging plantings in the Marne Valley and the Côte des Bar. Elsewhere the heatwave created ideal growing conditions for the grapes, which ripened to perfection come harvest time.
Picking commenced in the Grand Vallée de la Marne on 9 and 10 September, extending to most of the other First Growths by the end of the week and finishing in record time on 25 September. The magnificent weather helped as did flawless grapes that required no sorting. Yields averaged 6,832 kg/ha, totalling 254.000 205-litre pièces — a bumper crop albeit not quite as large as growers had been expecting due to the absence of rain. On the plus side, the continuing dry spell also led to higher sugar levels (12.2 % ABV) and lower acidity (6.3 g/l H 2SO4) producing robust wines with all the makings of an outstanding vintage.
CIVC Bulletin Number 51, Fourth Quarter 1955
Analysis conducted by the AVC-CIVC technical and oenological services