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2008 Gevrey-Chambertin, Les Corbeaux, 1er Cru, Domaine Denis Bachelet
This minute Burgundy wine estate, now reaching just 4ha in size of vineyards in Gevrey-Chambertin, has been run almost single-handedly by the magical Denis Bachelet since 1983. His ability for making pure, graceful wines seems to be entirely natural and he exploits this gift to the full.
Denis was born in 1963 in the town of Spy in Belgium – his father had fallen in love with a local girl when he came to visit Spy on an outing with the Gevrey Chambertin choir! Denis would visit his grandparents in Gevrey in the school holidays and came to love the magic of the vigneron’s world. He became fully involved in winemaking from 1981, shortly after his grandfather’s death: whether fortuitously or not the Bachelet wines were outstanding in ’81, an otherwise damp and difficult vintage, and the Charmes Chambertin remained a joy to drink over the following fifteen years.
“La finesse avant tout” – finesse before all things – is Denis Bachelet’s watchword and this shows in every wine he makes. There is more attention paid to yields in the vineyard, a better selection of barrels in the cellar (about one third new oak for the Gevrey Chambertin and 50% for the crus), and a feeling of a man in control of his wines and winery.
Denis of course believes that the quality of the wine comes from his work in the vineyard, which now includes green harvesting whenever a patch of vines threatens to set too heavy a crop. At harvest time the grapes are sorted in the vineyard to remove anything rotten or otherwise dubious, and from 2003 a further triage has been carried out on a new vibrating sorting table.
The grapes are 100% destemmed, then crushed which Denis prefers for colour extraction. After a cool pre-fermentation maceration for up to a week, the vats get to work fermenting the juice with natural yeasts fermentation. As soon as fermentation has finished the contents of the vats are pressed off and left to settle in tank for a week before putting in barrel. Simple but sensible winemaking, amended according to intuition if need be.
Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.
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.
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)