An Exploration of Gevrey-Chambertin
My first trip to Burgundy was in the Spring of 2016, and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Not only did I feel honored to share the experiences I shared, to meet the people I met, and to have access to the cellars that were opened to me, but I was also humbled by the knowledge that was shared with me. The tastes, smells and aura of Burgundy have stayed with me since that trip, and I long to return.
When I think back to the most lasting impressions, three stand out more than any other. First, it was the food, and how each village seemed to have its own flavor, which also paired perfectly with the local wine. Next, it was warmth and the humble ways that these truly famous winemakers embodied, as I never imagined I would feel so welcomed walking into cellars such as Mugneret Gibourg, d’Angerville or De Montille. Lastly, the impression that inspired this article was how the village and wines of Gevrey-Chambertin fixed themselves on my palate and in my mind as the Core of Burgundy.
Making a statement like this may get me into trouble with some Burgundy lovers, but it is truly how I felt and remains my opinion to this day. When I think of Burgundy, its essence, its flavor, its structure, its fruit, I think of Gevrey-Chambertin. Volnay, Vosne-Romanée, Morey-Saint-Denis, Chambolle Musigny and all of the others have a distinct character and attributes that I love, but when I’m in the mood for Burgundy–It’s Gevrey that I want.
For one thing, it’s their structure–like silk on the palate, backed by sweet tannin and balanced with limestone-inspired acidity. And speaking of balance, Gevrey seems able to achieve it perfectly between its fruit sweetness and savory-earthy profiles. Although the wines of today are achieving more vibrancy with brighter cherry and inner florals, they are still hearty, warming and satiating. Their aromas seem to come in layers, with a persistent note of fruit, presented within a collage of sweet spices, herbs, florals and all manners of earth. As for aging, these wines communicate an ability to last over decades in the cellar.
The best part is that even with nine Grand Crus and twenty-six Premier Crus within Gevrey-Chambertin, the village-level wines can be amazing. Wines from the smaller and lesser-known terroir, which are often contiguous with the surrounding Grand and Premier Crus, are the ones that had the largest impact on me, as I recall one of my favorite tastings at Duroche, where Pierre took us from barrel to barrel, which was like tasting a kaleidoscope of Gevrey terroir.
Short History and Profile of Gevrey-Chambertin
The village of Gevrey, located along the Route des Grands Crus in the Côte de Nuits, has a documented history of vine-growing going back to 630 AD, when a man by the name of Bertin began planting vineyards. He took his inspiration from the monks of the surrounding villages. It’s believed that the Grand Cru Chambertin was named “the Champs de Bertin” in his honor (or “the fields of Bertin”). However, going even further back, archaeological digs have turned up proof of Gallo-Roman vineyards within the village, meaning that Gevrey may have been the first location in Burgundy to even make wine.
The terroir of the village is defined by a convergence of Mediterranean, Continental and oceanic influences, with Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards on the hills of the Côte d’Or, which sit on a strip of Jurassic limestone. As we move toward the village, we find more brown calcic, limey soils and, in some parts, clayey marls, which contain rich deposits of fossil shellfish. These diverse soil types are what make the village-level wines so diverse and interesting.
With all of this in mind, I’m sure you can imagine my delight when the CEO of Morrell Wine Group, Jeremy Noye, announced that he would be organizing a tasting of Gevrey-Chambertin. Jeremy, one of the most knowledgeable Burgundy lovers that I’ve ever met, also happened to be on that same trip with me in 2016, and many of the wines we would be tasting were wines that we tasted together from barrels at that time.
The lineup represented the who’s who of Gevrey-Chambertin producers. It started with the under-the-radar Marc Roy and moved on to a number of house favorites, such as Duroche, Bachelet, Mortet, Serafin, Arlaud and more. As for the scope of the tasting, we went from village-level to Premier Crus, and we even finished with a lineup of three Grand Crus, with vintages as far back as 2009 and right up to 2016.
The tasting was eye-opening, educational, but also thoroughly enjoyable, and it allowed me to recapture some of that magic that I felt while on our trip to Burgundy. It was a evening to be remembered and solidified my belief that Gevrey-Chambertin is truly the Core of Burgundy.
Tasting Notes & Producer Profiles
Alexandrine Roy is a fourth-generation winemaker from the village of Gevrey-Chambertin. Her holdings consist of only four hectares, which she tends to personally with precision and care. The fruit is destemmed entirely, crushed by foot, and it sees only a small amount of new oak. Alexandrine is compelled by purity of fruit and the character of each vintage.
Domaine Marc Roy Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2016 – The nose was intense with crushed cranberry, strawberry, woodland earth, herbs, florals and undergrowth, as saline-minerality came forward over time. On the palate, I found soft textures, showing feminine lift and purity with hints of spiced cherry, herbal tones and spice, turning savory toward the finale. The finish was long with zesty red berries, lingering spice and pretty floral tones. The ‘16 is incredibly fresh with great acidity and pure ripe cherry fruit. (92 points)
Domaine Duroche has holdings spread throughout the vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin. This is far from a new name, with five generations of family winemakers to speak of. However, what’s new here is the life and energy that has been breathed into this Domaine by Pierre Duroche, who started working alongside his father in 2005 and is now overseeing the entire operation.
The Duroche range consists of a number of riveting micro-parcel bottlings from throughout Gevrey’s Premier Crus, along with a highly-limited number of Grand Crus, which have all received high marks in recent reviews. However, I believe that the real gem of this house can be found in the small parcels from around the village that Pierre bottles and sells at a fraction of the price.
Domaine Duroché Gevrey-Chambertin Champ 2016 – The nose was dark, with moist earth tones up front, savory herbs, dried florals, crushed ripe cherry, and minerals. On the palate, I found soft textures offset by zesty cherry with sweet spices and mouthwatering acidity that created an easy-to-like and juicy expression. The finish was medium in length with lingering mineral-tinged sweet cherry, a twang of unruly acids, and hints of spice. (89 points)
Domaine Duroché Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaut St. Jacques 2015 – The nose was wonderfully perfumed, showing spicy sweet florals, with marine-inspired minerality, wild herbs, and woodland berry. On the palate, I found silky, soft, fleshy textures an sweet tannins, contrasted by tart black cherry, spice, minerals and exotic inner florals. The finish was long with lasting black cherry fruit, minerals and a twang of savory herbs with lingering fine tannin. It’s a gorgeous wine with a bright future in store. (94 points)
Louis Boillot (Located in Chambolle)
Louis Boillot is the husband of Ghislaine Barthod, and he makes the wines for both domaines with Ghislaine in the mix at Barthod. However, the style of the two houses is very different. Louis makes a large selection of wine from vineyards acquired over four generations throughout Burgundy. He’s renowned for his work in the vineyards, with over thirty years of experience. The house style is one of tension and balance, with a limited use of new oak.
Domaine Louis Boillot et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Champonnets 2016 – The nose was dusty and slightly restrained showing minerals up front, with animal and earth tones, followed by woodland cherry and green botanicals. On the palate, I found soft, feminine textures with silky tannin, offset by a twang of acidity with a mix of tart cherry, savory herbs and minerals. The finish was medium-long with lasting herbal tones, bitter-savory minerality, and a lingering, almost soapy flavor. (87 points)
Domaine Rossignol-Trapet was an early proponent of Biodynamics (certified in 2004). The Domaine is relatively young by Burgundy standards, having been created when the original Trapet Domaine was split in 1990. Brothers Nicolas and David Rossignol took their share and began on the path to fully understanding the possibilities of their terroir. In 1997, the decision was made to convert their parcels in Chapelle-Chambertin to Biodynamics, and over time, the rest of the Domaine’s holdings followed suit.
Today, Domaine Rossignol-Trapet is regarded as one of the purest expressions of Gevrey Chambertin terroir. Nicolas and David Rossignol will tell you that it’s simply a respect for the land that informs their style, that and a soft touch in the cellar.
Domaine Rossignol Trapet Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2015 – The nose was rich, showing savory cherry with earthy minerals, animal musk, and savory herbs. On the palate, I found soft textures, lifted by brisk acidity, showing a mix of strawberry and cherry, offset by savory herbs, mineral tones and hints of spice. The finish was long with a mix of fine tannin and mineral smokiness collecting on the senses, as lingering acidity added vibrancy to its notes of bright cherry. (92 points)
The Mortet family has been tending vines in Gevrey-Chambertin since the 1950s, yet in those days, they were only farmers, not winemakers. It took the succession from father to his son, Denis, before the family began to try their hands at bottling their own production, and through that time they also had their sights set on choice parcels around the village, which the family slowly acquired over three generations. Denis Mortet always saw himself as a farmer first, and with that, organics were introduce early by Burgundy standards, along with an emphasis on each individual terroir. Today, the winery is run by his son Arnaud, along with the help of his mother, who is still closely tied to the family business.
The Mes Cinq Terroirs hails from five distinct parcels from around the village of Gevrey-Chambertin. It’s a blend which Arnaud feels creates the perfect expression of the village, bringing balance to the palate, while capturing the bouquet of their surroundings.
Domaine Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin Mes Cinq Terroirs 2015 – Here I found a pretty, lifted and exotic mix, showing bright cherry, sweet red florals, spice and hints of dusty earth. On the palate, I found soft fleshy textures, showing ripe cherry complemented by zesty acidity, with sweet spices and mounting inner floral tones. The finish was medium-long with hints of tobacco, sweet cherry and resonating bitter herbal tones. (90 points)
Denis produced his first vintage in 1981, but he didn’t take full control of the winery until 1983, when he immediately took to an organic and non-interventionist approach in both the vineyards and winery. Granted, his parcels exist in some of the greatest vineyards of the region, all of which are tended to prudently, even down to his village-level wine. For Denis, it’s all about the transparency of Pinot Noir, which he culls from his old vines, such as the vines planted between 1932 and 1937 that are used to produce the Gevrey Chambertin Vieilles Vignes. In the winery, he practices a light touch, using only 25% new oak for aging and bottles by hand.
Domaine Denis Bachelet Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2015 – The nose was remarkably pretty, showing sweet red florals and dusty earth with woodland berries and lifting minerality. On the palate, I found silky textures contrasted by brisk, vibrant acidity with mineral-laced black cherry, sweet inner florals, hints of spice and fine tannin. The finish was long and spicy with masses of minerals, lingering tart cherry, and an herbal twang. It was so balanced, energetic and enjoyable already. (93 points)
Serafin Père et Fils
The Serafin family came to Burgundy from Poland before World War II, working to establish themselves in their new surroundings. Stanislaus Serafin took a job as a mason, and he began to look at the land around Gevrey with the intent of farming and winemaking.
Fast forward to 1988, when Stanislaus’ son, Christian, took over the family business and began to refine the processes from the vineyards to the cellar. The reality is that Christian had been making the wines for 20 years prior, but with firm control over the operation, he was able to employ new techniques and experiment to his heart’s content. Switching to organics, lowering yields, destemming and the best French oak were all added over the course of the following years. The Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes is made from a choice parcel of 70-year-old vines, fully destemmed and then refined in 100% new French oak.
Serafin Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2010 – The nose was wonderfully rich and deep with masses of black cherry, brown exotic spices, and sweet florals, along with zesty herbal tones coming forward over time. On the palate, I found soft textures with savory minerals and acids giving way to tart cherry, hints of spiced orange and inner herbal tones. The finish was medium-long with lasting tart cherry, lifting minerality, tary tannin and lingering spice. The 2010 may come across as move evolved on the nose than the 2009 next to it, but both are truly stunning. (92 points)
Serafin Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2009 – The nose was dark yet lifted by crushed stone minerality, with masses of black cherry, savory herbs, dusty earth, and hints of animal musk. On the palate, I found deep fleshy textures with masses of ripe black cherry, a mix of minerals and zesty spice with hints of balsamic and saturating tannin. The finish was long, with saturating black cherry, minerals and spice. (94 points)
Cyprien Arlaud took the reins of the Domaine from his father Herve in 1997, a Domain that encompassed vineyards in Morey St. Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Gevrey-Chambertin, and Vosne-Romanee. It wasn’t long before he realized that the key to success was in the farming and treatment of the vines, followed by a low-impact approach in the cellar. Plowing by horse, and a conversion to biodynamic practices were quickly adopted. In the cold cellar of Domaine Arlaud, Cyprien continues his work with partial-whole clusters and a minimal reliance on new wood.
Domaine Arlaud Charmes-Chambertin 2016 – The nose was dark with crushed stone minerals up front, giving way to hints of animal musk, followed by exotic floral and herbal tones, black cherry and spice. On the palate, I found silky, elegant textures with pure ripe black cherry fruits, mixed with minerals and spice as inner florals created lift. The finish was wonderfully long and pretty with lingering spiced cherry, hints of savory herbs and grippy tannin. (95 points)
Located in Fixin, the style of the Pierre Gelin is a throwback to the old-school red Burgundy that I have come to expect from the nineties. Here, the focus was on fruit, oak and spoke more to me of winemaking than terroir. However, every style has its place, and if I were served a medium-rare steak with the Clos de Beze, there would be no complaints. This hails from two parcels within the Grand Cru, one with 40-year-old vines and the other with vines up to 100 years old.
Domaine Pierre Gelin Chambertin-Clos de Bèze 2015 – The nose was dark and spicy, showing masses of ripe cherry offset by a mix of confectionary spice, brown sugar, burnt orange peel, and exotic floral tones, On the palate, I found soft, silky textures with ripe spiced cherry offset by citrus-infused minerals and brisk acids. The finish was long with saturating black cherry, lingering spice, zesty acids and fine tannin. Unfortunately, this came across as too spicy, sweet and ripe fruit-forward for my tastes. (90 points)
Domaine des Chezeaux
The Grand Cru Griotte Chambertin is produced through a sharecropping arrangement with Laurent Ponsot, where only two-thirds of the Griotte Chambertin that Ponsot made when he ran Domaine Ponsot were with his label. The other one-third was bottled as Domaine des Chezeaux. Meaning, this should be the same wine, just bottled at a different time with different labels.
Domaine des Chezeaux Griotte-Chambertin 2014 (Ponsot) – The nose was gorgeous, showing sweet mineral-infused black cherry and spice with dusty earth and hints of animal musk. On the palate, I found soft textures contrasted by zesty acidity in a poised expression, showing tart cherry and savory herbs. It finished medium-long with lingering acids and tart cherry with hints of fine tannin that lasted long. The dark, earthy minerality on the nose of the Chezeaux Griotte was mesmerizing. (93 points)