2014 Gevrey-Chambertin, Aux Combottes, 1er Cru, Domaine Dujac, Burgundy
Neal Martin - 31/10/2017
About this WINE
Jacques Seysses created Domaine Dujac in 1967 having decided to turn his passion into his vocation. He purchased, a somewhat rundown, Domaine Graillet in Morey-St Denis and quickly turned things around to make a showstopping debut with the 1969 vintage.
About Domaine Dujac
This is every bit the family business. Jacques’ wife Rosalind arrived from California to work the harvest and never left. They married in 1974 and today their sons Jeremy and Alec, together with Jeremy’s wife Diana, run the estate day to day. They remain under the watchful eye of their parents.
In the vineyard
Jacques first purchase was a small estate of 5ha, which today has grown to around 17ha. The jewels of the domaine are the seven plots in Grand Crus. Away from these exalted sites there are impeccable village vineyards and magnificent 1er crus, including Aux Combottes in Gevrey and Les Malconsorts in Vosne. Both of which are immediate neighbours of Grand Crus and produce extraordinary wines.
Jacques and Rosalind began running the vineyards according to the principles of lutte raisonée (where minimal chemicals are used) in 1987. Working consistently towards a more natural approach, in 2001 they experimented with organic viticulture in 4ha of their prime sites. Then adding biodynamic farming principles to the repertoire in 2003. They were so encouraged by the results in the bottle they made the switch to organic for the entire estate in 2008, earning certification in 2011. Their intensive work to create a natural and varied ecosystem is driven by their belief that the health of the soil is the key to unlocking great quality and producing more expressive wines.
In the winery
The evolution of the winemaking at Dujac has been guided by the principle that the largest imprint on the wines should be from the vineyards themselves. The approach is all about simplicity. The use of whole bunches in fermentation is a distinctive feature here and something for which Jacques has been a leading advocate. Jeremy feels that they add complexity and give silkier tannins, but they must be ripe so the approach is carefully adjusted according to the vintage.
In the winery they have sought to reduce manipulation wherever possible. After crushing the must is gravity fed into the cellar, avoiding the need for pumping which can exert too much force on the nascent wine. They have also been able to regulate alcohol and malolactic fermentations more precisely with improved temperature control. Dujac’s wines are not renowned as the most powerful and nor do they want them to be. These are wines of polished finesse and restraint, elegant aromatics, and depth of fruit. They are nothing short of beguiling.
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.
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Tasted blind at the Burgfest 2014 tasting, Dujac's 2014 Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru aux Combottes obviously has a lot of whole-bunch fruit, and the stems protrude too much, defining the character of this wine rather than the terroir or fruit. The palate is very stemmy from the start, quite hard and certainly uncompromising, and I wonder if it has sufficient fruit to see it through? It is a wine that could go either way at this point, although I remain optimistic as it did improve in the glass, that stemmy note receding and replaced by an attractive spiciness. Not quite as compelling as the superb Morey-Saint-Denis premier cru at the moment but still a fine wine. Tasted September 2017.
Neal Martin - 31/10/2017
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