(Allen Meadows, burghound.com, Issue 33, Jan 2009)
Olivier Bernstein is a new name but one that is unlikely to be overlooked for long. This self-styled 'micro négociant' doesn't bother with wines as lowly as those labelled Bourgogne or with a simple village name. He produces only six premiers crus (two of them white) and four grands crus, helped substantially by Richard Seguin of Gevrey-Chambertin, who, as part of the same family as own Domaine Dugat-Py, has access to some superb vineyards, many of them with 70-year-old vines.
(Jancis Robinson, New brooms in Burgundy, jancisrobinson.com, Jan 09)
About this WINE
In a very short space of time Olivier Bernstein has established himself as a new star in Burgundy, receiving superb press notices from his very first vintage, 2007 from both Jancis Robinson and Allen Meadows among others.
The range focuses on six grands crus from the Côte de Nuits: a trio from Gevrey-Chambertin, specifically Charmes-Chambertin, Mazis-Chambertin and Chambertin Clos de Bèze; along with Clos de Vougeot, Bonnes Mares and Clos de la Roche. These are supported by three 1ers crus, three white wines and a single village cuvee from Gevrey-Chambertin. Naturally, production of each wine is tiny, considering the low yields coming from old vines.
Bernstein comes from a family of music publishers, but left a promising corporate career to study oenology in Beaune. After working harvest at Domaine Rouget, which enabled him to meet the late Henri Jayer, during the 2002 vintage, he moved to Roussillon to found his own Domaine, Mas de la Deveze. He returned in Burgundy in 2007 to establish a négociant business.
Since then, Olivier has managed to get close to his vineyard sources. He now manages the vineyard work for all but one of his sources and – a wonderful opportunity – has managed to buy two of the vineyards he has worked with since the start: Gevrey-Chambertin Les Champeaux and Mazis Chambertin. It is rare for grand cru vineyards to change hands so this is a major coup.
These vineyards follow the common thread of old vines – more than 80 years old in the case of the Mazis – which enables Olivier to work with excellent raw material. During vinification the wines are very lightly handled, with a good proportion of stems included to maintain a lively thread throughout, while the barrels are made to order by master cooper Stéphane Chassin, who comes to taste the new vintage before deciding what type of toasting will suit each individual wine. The 1er and grand cru wines are matured in new wood from the start. This takes place in the new Bernstein headquarters, some marvellous reconditioned old cellars in the heart of Beaune.
Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook
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)
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.