Red, Ready, but will improve

2007 Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos St. Jacques Domaine Armand Rousseau

2007 Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos St. Jacques Domaine Armand Rousseau

Red | Ready, but will improve | Domaine Armand Rousseau | Code: 2311 | 2007 | France > Burgundy > Cote de Nuits > Gevrey Chambertin | Pinot Noir | Medium-Full Bodied, Dry | 13.5 % alcohol

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The Producer

Domaine Armand Rousseau

Domaine Armand Rousseau

Domaine Armand Rousseau is revered as one of the grand old domaines of Burgundy, resplendent with 14 hectares (half Grand Crus) and noble old vines.

This is one of Burgundy’s greatest domaines any way you want to look at it – in history, in holdings and in quality of wine. The original Armand Rousseau was at the forefront of the first wave of domaine bottling in the 1930s. He was succeeded by his son Charles (born 1923) in 1959, shortly after they had bought a significant slice of the Clos St Jacques vineyard. Today Eric (born 1957), grandson of Armand, is in charge of the vines and cellar.

While Charles Rousseau may still be in evidence, his son Eric has taken over wine making responsibilities, producing pale, finely structured wines of great elegance and stamina. The simple principle of old (but not ancient) vines and sensible yields dictates the Rousseau style. Sometimes the wines can appear light in their youth but they nearly always take on weight as they age.

Eric has changed little in the cellar but a lot in the vineyards. Compared to twenty years ago the viticulture is significantly more precise and yields are now mastered through green harvesting where necessary. The vineyards have always been ploughed here, avoiding the use of herbicides, and the practice of over fertilising with potassium is now ancient history. Today only the occasional anti-disease spray is not organic.

Rousseau retains around 15 per cent of the stems, giving tannin and structure to his wines and aerating the juice and skins. After de-stemming, the grapes are cooled to 15°C then macerated for 18-20 days, without heating or other temperature control. Punching down and pumping over are both used. The wines are then sent to barrel, with the same percentage of new oak being followed each year, except for the Clos St Jacques which may vary. Otherwise it will be 100% new wood for Chambertin and Clos de Bèze, and 100% one year old wood for the other grands crus, though Eric is now experimenting with a little new oak on his Clos des Ruchottes. The prime barrel supplier is François Frères, supported by the tonnelier Rousseau – possibly a distant cousin.
 
It used to be said that the three ‘special’ wines, Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze and Gevrey Chambertin Clos St Jacques were among the greatest in Burgundy, but that the rest of the stable was relatively unexciting. In recent years there seems to be a much greater consistency of quality across the range. Though Eric’s influence is evident in this respect, the actual style of the wines has changed not a jot from the previous generation.

Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.

The Grape

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.

Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.

Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.

The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.

The Region

Gevrey Chambertin

Gevrey Chambertin

Gevrey-Chambertin is the largest wine-producing village in Burgundy’s Côte d'Or, with its vineyards spilling over into the next door commune of Brochon.

Located in the far north of the Côtes de Nuits above Morey-St Denis, classic Gevrey-Chambertin is typically deeper in colour, firmer in body and more tannic in structure than most red Burgundy. The best can develop into the richest, most complete and long-lived Pinot Noir in the world. This is largely thanks to the iron-rich clay soils, though much depends on whether the vineyard is located on either the steeper slopes (Evocelles, Clos St Jacques) or the flatter, richer soils (Clos Prieur, Combottes).

Whereas in the past there have been numerous underperformers in Gevrey-Chambertin exploiting the reputation of this famous village and its iconic Grands Crus, today there are many fine sources to choose from, and overall quality is higher than ever.

Gevrey-Chambertin’s greatest Grand Cru is named after the field of the monk Bertin (Champ de Bertin). In 1847, Gevrey appended the name of this illustrious vineyard, Chambertin, setting a trend for the other principle villages to follow. Le Chambertin may not be quite as sumptuous as Musigny or Richebourg, or as divinely elegant as La Tâche or Romanée-St Vivant, but it is matched only by the legendary Romanée-Conti for completeness and luscious intensity.

In all, Gevrey boasts an impressive nine Grands Crus, with the name of Chambertin retaining a regal omnipresence throughout its finest vineyard names. The other truly great Grand Cru is Chambertin-Clos de Bèze which has the right to sell its wines simply as ‘Chambertin’, and is the only wine allowed to put the Chambertin name before, rather than after, its own. Situated slightly further up the hill, the wines are fractionally less powerful yet full of sensual charm and finesse.

Quality-wise the next best are generally acknowledged to be Mazis-Chambertin and Latricières-Chambertin. The former is incredibly concentrated and very fine, but its structure is a little less firm than Le Chambertin. Latricières is less about power (although it can be explosively fruity) and more about an entrancing silkiness.

Situated slightly higher up the slope, Ruchottes-Chambertin is impressively rich, stylish and slightly angular. The tiny Griottes-Chambertin, which owes its name to the grill-pan shape of the vineyard rather than the wine’s griotte cherry aroma, is lower down the slope and boasts a velvety texture and rich fruit reminiscent of Chambertin itself. It is generally better than the lighter, although wonderfully fragrant Chapelle-Chambertin and Gevrey’s largest Grand Cru, the pure and seductive (if variable) Charmes-Chambertin.

Gevrey also has some outstanding Premier Crus on the south-east-facing slopes above the town. Les Cazetiers and especially Clos St Jacques produce some exceptional wines. Indeed Armand Rousseau, who pioneered domaine bottling here in the 1930s and is still one of the region’s very best producers, often sells his Clos St Jacques for more than several of his Grand Crus.

Drinking dates for these wines vary, but Grand Crus are generally best from at least 10 to 25 years, Premier Crus from eight to 20 years, and village wines from five to 12 years.

  • 315 hectares of village Gevrey Chambertin
  • 84 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards (20 in all). The foremost vineyards include Clos St Jacques, Lavaux St Jacques, Combottes, Corbeaux, Cherbaudes, Cazetiers.
  • 55 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards: Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Latricières-Chambertin, Ruchottes-Chambertin, Mazis-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Mazoyères-Chambertin, Chapelle-Chambertin, Griottes-Chambertin..
  • Recommended producers:  Bachelet, Dugat, Esmonin, Mortet, Rossignol Trapet, Rousseau, Serafin, Bernstein
  • Recommended restaurants : Chez Guy (good wine list), Rôtisserie du Chambertin (and Bistro)

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