The Wines of Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-St. Denis

The Wines of Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-St. Denis

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Gevrey-Chambertin is an enchanting entry into the world of great
wines of Burgundy. As you drive along the tiny Route des Grands Crus,
D-122, you pass through the small town of Gevrey-Chambertin itself, and
you’ll need to slow down. Slow way down, and stop from time to time.
You will pass all of the nine grand cru vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin.
On the left, Mazis-Chambertin is succeeded by Chapelle-Chambertin,
Griotte-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin and Mazoyeres-Chambertin, while
on your right, Ruchottes-Chambertin (and part of the Mazi-Chambertin
vineyard) give way to Chambertin-Clos de Beze, then Chambertin itself,
and Latricières-Chambertin. I relish the tradition that the name
Chambertin came from a medieval peasant owner, Bertin, and that “Champ
de Bertin” (“Bertin’s Field”) became the elegant grand cru Chambertin.
Perhaps the legend is true. It ought to be.

The landscape is
magnificent, and some signs will help the visitor locate each vineyard.
However, unlike the Bordeaux vineyards, the scale seems much smaller,
and the secrets a bit more hidden. Without some guidance, it is almost
impossible to know exactly which proprietor owns a vineyard parcel. The
small towns of Burgundy will welcome you, and in the celebrated towns
you will find scattered wine merchants whose doors will be open and who
will offer some help, but the wise visitor makes arrangements in
advance. It will help you enormously to decide, first, which towns you
wish to drive through, and where you want to stop and get a personal
idea of the vineyards and the growing and production process from a
local producer.

That will take some advance planning.
Fortunately, most (but not all) Burgundy wine estates welcome visitors,
but a prior appointment is usually required. When you have made your
arrangements, it will probably also be possible to buy wines at the
estate. Respect the customary long French lunch hour, and try not to
schedule your visit for an inconvenient moment, such as harvest time,
and you will surely have a warm welcome throughout the Cote d’Or. I
will include addresses, telephone and FAX numbers for the properties
suggested.

Unlike the Bordeaux area, however, it is a
rare Burgundian wine estate that has a website and the convenience of
email. (The large houses in Beaune are an exception to this rule.) Even
the famous Domaine de la Romanee Conti in Vosne-Romanee is not an
exception. In summer 2002, for example, I used a website search engine
to try to locate “DRC,” and all that came up with was “Democratic
Republic of the Congo,” which is hardly the same thing.

While
visiting Gevrey-Chambertin, take some time to visit the byways of the
town and its vineyards. There are a number of superior premier crus
here, such as Clos Saint-Jacques, Les Cazetiers, Etournelles, and Combe
au Moine. They tend to come from the slope above the village itself,
before you get to the grand crus. In some years, they approach the far
pricier grand crus in quality. This would be a fine walk after a
luncheon in town. Just go along the hillside road and seek out these
excellent vineyards, for your own personal discovery. They are very
much worth seeking out, and are usually available for half the price or
less of the grand cru. Do not let the best be the enemy of the good.
There is also an ocean of “village appellation” Gevrey-Chambertin wine,
mostly from the flat area below the hillsides.

All
things considered, in getting to know Chambertin wines you might wish
to get a first impression of their flavors with this less expensive,
village appellation. I have done this with Gevrey-Chambertin wines
bottled by both Domaine Leclerc and Bouchard. Buy three bottles, then
try them a few months apart, and see how your taste develops. These
will be ready to drink far earlier than the grand crus. I noted they
were perfect for drinking just three years after their vintage date,
when the far more expensive grand and premier crus would still have
been in their infancy.
The classified wines of Gevrey-Chambertin are
expansive, full-bodied wines. That may be why the Emperor Napoleon, no
wine connoisseur, is said to have enjoyed his glass of Chambertin cut
with water! These wines often have a fruit taste. I have always thought
the Griotte-Chambertin, for example, did have a very pleasant, deep
cherry taste, justifying the wine’s name, for griotte is said to refer
to a type of cherry. I greatly enjoyed a bottle of 1988 Jadot
Chapelle-Chambertin five years after its bottling, which was probably a
bit early, for my notes read “deep, but still oaky.” Its wonderful
raspberry flavor was apparent, a pleasure to drink. I have had earlier
Chambertins, including the landmark 1969 made by Alexis Lichine. Drunk
eight years after bottling, it was “a mellow, assertive burgundy with a
fine bouquet.” A 1983 Chambertin by Quillardet was similarly rich and
enjoyable.

For your visit in Geverey-Chambertin, I’ll
start with one of my favorite producers: the Domaine Armand Rousseau,
at 1, rue Aumonerie, 21220 Gevrey-Chambertin (telephone:
03-80-34-30-55: FAX 03-80-58-50-25).  The preponderance of
Rousseau’s holdings are in Gevrey-Chambertin, and include a number of
the grand crus, such as Chambertin and Chambertin-Clos de Beze.
Rousseau is well regarded by his fellow vintners, and I have been told
by authorities in other communes of the Côte d’Or that Armand
Rousseau’s Chambertin wines are to be relied upon for quality.

Here
are three other fine producers who are located at Gevrey-Chambertin
(several have acreage in other parts of the Cote d’Or as well): The
Domaine Drouhin-Larose, 20 rue Gaizot, 21220 Gevrey-Chambertin
(telephone: 03-80-34-31-49: FAX 03-80-51-83-70), for example, has fine
properties not only in Gevrey-Chambertin (at Chambertin-Clos de Beze,
Latricières-Chambertin, Mazi-Chambertin and Chapelle-Chambertin), but
at Clos de Vougeot as well. Bourée Père et Fils, at 13 route de Beaune,
21220 Gevrey-Chambertin (telephone: 03-80-34-30-25: FAX
03-80-58-50-25), produces a spectrum of largely premier cru offerings
from Gevrey-Chambertin and throughout the Côte de Nuits. The Domaine
Pierre Damoy, at 11, rue Marechale De Lattre de Tassigny, 21220
Gevrey-Chambertin (telephone: 03-80-34-30-47: FAX 03-80-58-54-79) has
the largest single holding of Chambertin-Clos de Beze.

In
Morey-St.-Denis, the Route des Grands Crus marks a dividing line
between grand and premier cru vineyards. On the left hand side of the
road, driving south, one passes Les Charrieres, Les Millandes, Les
Ruchots, and other well regarded premier crus. On the right, towards
the sloping hillside, the grands crus are to be found. You will want to
turn right at the village and proceed north for a mile or so to
discover Clos de la Roche and Clos St.-Denis. The other three grands
crus, Clos des Lambrays, Clos de Tart and Bonnes Mares, are found
straight ahead on the Route des Grands Crus as one continues south
through the little town.

Perhaps Bonnes Mares, the
major portion of which lies across the town border in
Chambolle-Musigny, is the best known of these grand crus.
Morey-St.-Denis used to be known for its comparative bargains. That can
hardly be said when a bottle 1999 Ponsot Clos de la Roche vielles
vignes now retails for $169. You can still locate excellent premiers
crus in the $40-$50 range, but the age of bargains appears to be over.
I still fondly recall a bottle of Armand Rousseau’s 1983 Clos de la
Roche. A leading point scorer had given that bottle a mediocre 78. I
recall it with delight as “one of the best bottles of Burgundy I’ve
ever had.” The wines of this region are not quite as deep as those of
Gevrey-Chambertin. They are also not as subtle as the wines of
neighboring Chambole-Musigny to the south. They are assertive, and seem
to occupy a middle ground, not unlike St. Julien in the Medoc, lying
between Pauillac and Margaux. At their best, they are distinctive, and
second to none. Serve a fine Morey-St. Denis with your Sunday roast and
watch the wine being tentatively sipped, then a further appreciative
drink, as the conversation stops. Then hear the talk begin once again,
with compliments on the wine you have offered. “And what is this
discovery of yours?” the Bordeaux lovers will say.

A
good place to stop at Morey-St. Denis would be the Domaine Ponsot, 21
rue Montagne, 21220 Morey-St. Denis (email, [email protected]:
telephone: 03-80-34-32-46: FAX 03-80-58-51-70). The reliable Domaine
Dujac is at 7, rue La Brossiere, 21220 Morey-St. Denis (telephone
03-80-34-01-00: FAX 03-80-34-01-09). You might also contact the Domaine
Serveau, 37 Grande Rue, 21220 Morey-St. Denis (telephone
03-80-34-33-07: FAX 03-80-58-50-27), or try the Societe Nouvelle
Domaine des Lambrays, rue Basse, 21220 Morey-St. Denis (telephone
03-80-51-84-33: FAX 03-80-51-81-97), which is attempting to raise the
fortunes of this grand cru.

We will continue our wine tour of Burgundy soon with a detailed look at Chambolle-Musigny and the Clos de Vougeot.

Domaine Armand Rousseau
1, rue Aumonerie
21220 Gevrey-Chambertin
Tel: 03-80-34-30-55
Fax 03-80-58-50-25

Domaine Drouhin-Larose
20 rue Gaizot
21220 Gevrey-Chambertin
Tel: 03-80-34-31-49
Fax 03-80-51-83-70

Bouree Pere et Fils
13 route de Beaune
21220 Gevrey-Chambertin
Tel: 03-80-34-30-25
Fax: 03-80-58-50-25

Domaine Pierre Damoy
11, rue Marechale De Lattre de Tassigny
21220 Gevrey-Chambertin
Tel: 03-80-34-30-47
Fax 03-80-58-54-79

Domaine Ponsot
21 rue Montagne
21220 Morey-St. Denis
email: [email protected]
Tel: 03-80-34-32-46
Fax 03-80-58-51-70

Domaine Dujac
7, rue La Brossiere
21220 Morey-St. Denis
Tel: 03-80-34-01-00
Fax: 03-80-34-01-09

Domaine Serveau
37 Grande Rue
21220 Morey-St. Denis
Tel: 03-80-34-33-07
Fax: 03-80-58-50-27

Societe Nouvelle Domaine des Lambrays
rue Basse
21220 Morey-St. Denis
Tel: 03-80-51-84-33
Fax: 03-80-51-81-97


Bill Shepard is Bonjour Paris’s wine editor, and the author of Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines: Taste Is for Wine: Points Are for Ping Pong.

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