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Posts Tagged ‘Gevrey-Chambertin’

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Denis Bachelet is one of those singular winemakers in Burgundy whose skills are most often spoken of in hushed, respectful tones and whose wines have achieved iconic status .  His Gevrey-Chambertin  and Charmes-Chambertin are so rarely seen on the market that the oft-heard comparisons to unicorns are only half in jest.

This status is palpably incongruous for a man who is himself soft-spoken, gracious and invariably polite.  A portion of his cult-like renown may be due to the scarcity of wines produced by such a diminutive estate:  at 4.28 hectares, it is only about one-third the size of Domaine Armand Rousseau, Bachelet’s co-regent of Gevrey.  But the greater reason for the Bachelet prominence is the incomparable quality of his wine.  As Clive Coates has written: “The Denis Bachelet style produces wines of intensity, great elegance, and subtlety, feminine in the best sense. They are concentrated, harmonious, pure and understated.”

The teenage Denis Bachelet must have been both a quick learner and an intuitive winemaker.  Born in 1963, he produced his first vintage in 1981, a notoriously difficult and largely uncelebrated year  in Burgundy, and drew rave reviews for his efforts. Taking full charge in 1983, Bachelet  quickly rocketed to stardom where he has remained.

As befits a great domaine, there is a solid base in superb vineyards, which are well-situated, prudently farmed, and are comprised of remarkably old vines: all together  4.28 hectares.   Bachelet’s  signature wines, the Grand Cru Charmes-Chambertin (.43 ha.) and the Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin Les Corbeaux (.42 ha.), both come from vines dating back to 1907-1917. The lieux-dit  Les Evocelles, acquired in 2011, consists of 17 ares of vines planted between  1961 and 1969. The villages-level Gevrey-Chambertin (1.43 ha.) comes from vineyards planted between 1932 and 1937, and situated in lieux-dits En Dérée, Sylvie, Les Jeunes Rois, La Burie and La Justice. The Côte-de-Nuits villages (1.04 ha.) vines mostly dates back to 1952, but also include a 9 are parcel in the  lieux-dit Créole in Brochon, which was planted in the early 1900’s.  Remarkably, even Bachelet’s Bougogne Rouge (.61 ha.) and his Aligoté (.19 ha.) are old vine, being planted, respectively, in 1977 and 1987.

Bachelet follows the precepts of lutte raisonée, a system of vine cultivation that is essentially organic and noninterventionist. Lutte raisonnée entails holistic and balanced management of the vineyard, with primary focus on the microbial health of the soil and the biodiversity of the vineyard. The governing policy is to support and maintain the natural ecosystem of the vineyard so that the vines can prosper without intervention, thereby naturally resisting pests and disease. The system pursues a reasoned and not absolutist approach, however, and practitioners of lutte raisonnée  will occasionally permit limited chemical intervention if certain danger thresholds are passed.  The yields are, of course, naturally low due to the advanced age of the vines. In addition, there is green harvesting if any vines appear to be overly productive.  At harvest,  there is strict triage in the vineyards following by a scrupulous sorting again in the cuverie.

IMG_0745Bachelet adheres to a noninterventionsist philosophy in his winemaking, choosing to allow the vintage to express itself through the Pinot Noir. Accordingly, he eschews modernist techniques and takes a decidedly traditional approach to winemaking. After meticulous triage on a vibrating sorting table, the grapes are completely de-stemmed, lightly crushed, and then cold macerated in cement vats at 15°C. for 5 or 6 days.  Natural yeasts then ferment the must for up to two weeks, with the temperature regulated below 32°C.  Bachelet generally punches down once or twice daily, but only rarely pumps over. After fermentation, and pressing (pneumatic press), the juice is placed into stainless tanks to settle out the gross lees for up to a week, racked into barrels and  then cooled to 13°C. The intent of this cooling is to delay malolactic fermentation for as long as possible, as late as the following August, thereby maintaining high levels of CO₂ and preserving freshness.

The oak regimen is light, with generally only 25% new oak for the villages Gevrey and up to 35% for the Premier and Grand Crus. The tonnellerie Meyrieux crafts the barrels, using  Allier oak for the Charmes-Chambertin and Vosges for the villages and Premer Cru. After a total of 15-18 months, the wine is hand bottled without filtration.

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Les Corbeaux: This 3.21-hectare Premier Cru climat in Gevrey-Chambertin is situated in just south of the village of Gevrey, and east of the Premier Cru Fonteny vineyard.  Facing east from an elevation of 300m, the soil is limestone-based,  peppered with small pebbles in the upper portion of the vineyard,  and exhibiting somewhat richer and browner soil at the lower section.

The vineyard lies over the site a of a cemetery from the Middle Ages. The name Corbeaux, which means “crows” in French,  attests to the birds that were attracted to the burial site.

The most notable wine from the vineyard is produced by Domaine Denis Bachelet.

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Bel Air: This small 2.65-hectare Premier Cru climat in Gevrey-Chambertin sits like a crown atop (on the uphill, western boundary of) the magnificent Grand Cru Chambertin, Clos de Bèze. Facing east from a steep slope that reaches 300 meters, the soil is essentially a continuation of the limestone soil of Clos de Bèze, although Bel Air enjoys somewhat deeper soil with more marl.

The vineyard was created from barren land in the 1960s and acquired Premier Cru status only in 1987. Some critics believe that especially in warm, ripe vintages, when the altitude is not a disadvantage, Bel Air can produce wine that closely resembles its neighbor, Chambertin, Clos de Bèze.

The vineyard name presumably derives from the fine, panoramic view that can be enjoyed from the site looking down on Gevrey-Chambertin.

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Gevrey-Chambertin is a wine appellation that includes some of the finest and best-known French Burgundy wine. Wine so labeled must come from vines planted in the commune of Gevrey-Chambertin (or the adjoining commune of Brochon with which it is viticulturally joined) situated in the Côte de Nuits region of the Côte-d’Or department in Burgundy in eastern France

Gevrey-Chambertin produces some of the world’s most famous Pinot Noir-based wines. The best examples of Gevrey-Chambertin are rich, deeply-colored and sumptuous. Above all, according to Jancis Robinson, they are “complete” wines. Laying claim to the sobriquet, “King of Wines. Wine of Kings,” Gevrey-Chambertin, according to the poet Gaston Roupnel,  expresses “All that great Burgundy can be.”   Gevrey-Chambertin is the largest (532 hectares; about 2 square miles) commune in the Côte-de-Nuits. It lies just north of Morey-St-Denis along the Beaune-Dijon Highway (RN 74), 31 km from Beaune and  14 km from Dijon. The appellation comprises not only the commune of Gevrey-Chambertin but also 11 climats in neighboring Brochon.  Unusually for Burgundy, there are classified vineyards on both sides of the highway.  All wine from Gevrey-Chambertin is red, derived entirely from Pinot Noir.   

 In 630 A.D., the Duke of Amalgaine donated a 14 hectare vineyard to the Abbey of Bèze, which was (avant-garde) one of the only cloistered orders to house both monks and nuns. The area was recorded in Roman records as “Gabriacus”, Romano-Gallic argot for goat, possibly after an epithet hurled at some of the randier monks by the Abbotess of Bèze. Perhaps because of its libertine ways, the Abbey of Bèze and its vineyards came under the authority, first, of the Benedictines at Cluny and later the Trappists of Cîteaux.   

  As to the name Chambertin, by which name the best wines have long been called, a highly dubious but oft-repeated local legend teaches that a peasant named Bertin planted some vines nearby in a champ (field), conjoining his name and christening the vineyard Champ de Bertin, or Chambertin.  Since the entire wine-producing area was under the firm control of rich and powerful monasteries, who profited handsomely from sales of wine, and since peasants by definition didn’t own land anyway, the most one can do is to smile tolerantly. In 1847, King Louis Philippe, by royal decree, changed the town name from Gevrey to Gevrey-Chambertin.  

Napoleon was particularly partial to the wines of Chambertin and, according to another problematic tradition, drank little else from the signature bottles emblazoned with an “N”. Napoleon even laid in a good stock for his ill-fated journey to Moscow, and then suffered the double indignity of losing the war and having his bottles “liberated” by marauding Cossacks.  

               Gevrey-Chambertin includes 9 grands crus totaling 87.06 hectares: Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, Chapelle-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Mazoyères-Chambertin, Latricières-Chambertin, Mazis-Chambertin, Griotte-Chambertin and Ruchottes-Chambertin. These vineyards are situated south of the village on a slope with eastern exposure and an altitude of 260-320 meters. The soil is a mixture of clay and gravel, and white marl over a base of limestone.  

  

               There are 26 premiers crus occupying 85.53 hectares, most notably Le Clos St-Jacques, Lavaux St-Jacques, La Combe aux Moines. Half of the premiers crus are sited around the perimeter of the grands crus.  The other half, generally thought to be better on account of their calcareous clay soils, are found on a steep, southeast-facing slope to the north. The remaining 359.89 hectares, of which 50.59 lie in the adjoining commune of Brochon, produce the village wines of Gevrey-Chambertin. The flatter lands, which abut the highway, show higher concentrations of clay.  

               The finest producers of Gevrey-Chambertin include Armand Rousseau, Denis Bachelet, and the Domaine de la Vougeraie.

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