2014 Echézeaux, Grand Cru, Emmanuel Rouget, Burgundy
Neal Martin - 28/04/2016
About this WINE
Emmanuel Rouget, a tractor engineer by training, was given a job by his uncle, the legendary Henri Jayer, in 1976. Uncle Henri instilled an unbridled enthusiasm and knowledge of winemaking in his young nephew and in 1985 Emmanuel set up on his own operating out of cellars in Flagey. He took on vines from Henri's brother, Lucien, in Echézeaux and Vosne-Romanée on a share cropping basis, which in effect meant that Emmanuel worked the vines and vinified the wine, and then gave half the wine to Uncle Lucien, while keeping the other half for himself. Rouget’s son Nicolas has joined his father and another, Guillaume, is showing interest.
By 1996 Emmanuel was producing wines from the vineyards of three of his uncles - Henri, Lucien and Georges, as well as from the vineyards of the Michelin star chef, Jean Crottet. By and large, Emmanuel has remained faithful to the techniques employed by Henri Jayer - namely an insistence on ultra low yields, a pre-fermentation cold maceration and the maturation of the major wines in 100% new oak barrels. The grapes are sorted both in the vineyard and again in the cuvérie, before being destalked and fermented after a cool pre-maceration. Emmanuel Rougeot favours pumping over ahead of punching down. The wine is matured in barrels from Francois Frères and Taransaud. One year old barrels are used for Bourgogne Rouge, 50% new oak for Vosne Romanée but 100% for Savigny-lès-Beaune, Nuits-St-Georges and the crus.
His wines are now very highly rated and keenly sought-after by connoisseurs worldwide. They continue broadly in the same style as those of Henri Jayer without perhaps touching the same heights – it may be a question of meticulousness, or just of green fingers – though they can still be breathtakingly good, and continue to command high prices in secondary markets. They are luscious, red-fruited wines with a perceptible oak aspect.
The small commune of Vosne-Romanée is the Côte de Nuits’ brightest star, producing the finest and most expensive Pinot Noir wines in the world.. Its wines have an extraordinary intensity of fruit which manages to combine power and finesse more magically than in any other part of the Côte d’Or. The best examples balance extraordinary depth and richness with elegance and breeding.Situated just north of Nuits-St Georges, Vosne-Romanée boasts eight Grand Cru vineyards, three of which include the suffix Romanée, to which the village of Vosne appended its name in 1866. The famous La Romanée vineyard was formerly known as Le Cloux but was renamed in 1651, presumably after the Roman remains found nearby. In 1760 the property was bought by Prince de Conti, and subsequently became known as Romanée-Conti.
Vosne is the home of the phenomenally fine wines of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti; divine wines that are, as they say, not for everyone but for those who can afford them. The region also boasts some of the world’s most talented, quality-conscious and pioneering producers: Domaine de la Romanée-Conti of course, but also Henri Jayer, Lalou Bize-Leroy, René Engel, as well as the Grivot and Gros families, to name but a few.
Vosne-Romanée has the greatest concentration of top vineyards in the Côte d’Or, including the tiny Grand Crus of the astonishing La Romanée-Conti (a monopoly of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti producing about 600 cases a year), the classy, complex La Romanée (a monopoly of Vicomte Liger-Belair, but until 2002 bottled under Bouchard Père et Fils, producing a minuscule 300 cases or so a year) and the little-known La Grande Rue. As the name suggests, this runs up the side of the road out of Vosne. Originally a Premier Cru, it was rightly upgraded in 1992, although its rich, spicy, floral Pinots are yet to reach their real potential under Domaine Lamarche who hold it as a monopoly.
By convention the wines of neighbouring Flagey-Echézeaux are considered part of Vosne-Romanée. These include the large, very variable 30-hectare Echézeaux (divided between 84 different growers) and the more consistent, silky, intense, violet-scented Grands Echézeaux Grands Crus.
La Tâche is another monopoly of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. It is explosively seductive with a peerless finesse, and is almost as good as their legendary eponymous wine. Richebourg is one of Burgundy’s most voluptuous wines and is capable of challenging La Tâche in some years, while Romanée-St Vivant, which takes its name from the monastery of St Vivant built around 900AD in Vergy, has a lovely silky finesse but is slightly less powerful.
If that wasn’t enough, Vosne-Romanée also boasts some absolutely magnificent Premiers Crus headed by Clos des Réas, Les Malconsorts (just south of La Tâche, and arguably of Grand Cru quality) and Les Chaumes on the Nuits-St Georges side, Cros Parantoux (made famous by Henri Jayer), Les Beaux Monts and Les Suchots on the Flagey-Echézeaux border. The old maxim that ‘there are no common wines in Vosne-Romanée’ may not be strictly true, but it is not far off.
Drinking dates vary, but as a general rule of thumb Grand Crus are best drunk from at least 10 to 25 years, while Premier Crus can be enjoyed from 8 to 20 years, and village wines from 5 to 12 years.
There are no white wines produced in Vosne-Romanée.
- 99 hectares of village Vosne-Romanée.
- 56 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards (14 in all). Foremost vineyards include Les Gaudichots, Les Malconsorts, Cros Parentoux, Les Suchots, Les Beauxmonts, En Orveaux and Les Reignots.
- 75 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards: Romanée-Conti, La Romanée, La Tache, Richebourg, Romanée St Vivant, La Grande Rue, Grands Echézeaux, Echézeaux.
- Recommended producers: Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Leroy, Cathiard, Engel, Rouget, Grivot, Liger Belair.
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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The 2014 Echzeaux Grand Cru, matured entirely in new oak, has a gorgeous black cherry, raspberry coulis and mineral-infused bouquet, coiled tightly at first but unfurling with each swirl of the glass. The palate is well structured, a Grand Cru with admirable backbone. There is patently impressive depth with multi-layered red and black fruit, edging towards something more rich and dense towards the persistent finish. Emmanuel Rouget was surprised when I opined a preference for his Cros Parantoux this year, so obviously he is a big fan. And yes, this is an excellent grand cru, yet it does not possess quite the same nervosit as the Parantoux.
Neal Martin - 28/04/2016
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