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Profile: Domaine Château de Gevrey-Chambertin (Gevrey)

August 2012: The owner of the Château de Gevrey-Chambertin, Elisabeth Masson-Mitéran, died in November 2011 and her heirs subsequently decidide to sell.
It is now ‘official‘ that the Château has been sold to Chinese investors. Ordinarily this might cause a few mutterings, but the temperature has been raised a little as the town of Gevrey itself, had tried to buy the buildings and vines – they were significantly outbid…
On the positive (wine) side, it is said that Eric Rousseau is currently caring for the domaine’s vines – and that sounds like a good start to me!

The Château de Gevrey-Chambertin is an almost iconic building in the old core of the village – from almost every angle it’s rather photogenic – and, either side of being pillaged and rebuilt, it has been so for about 1,000 years – note, you get a lot of pillaging and rebuilding in a millennia!

From Wikipedia:

The castle of Gevrey-Chambertin, was certainly considerably revised in the second half of the XIIIth century, and was, during St Bernard life time, and even probably slightly earlier, a priory belonging to the Abbey of Cluny[1][2]. Hughes, bishop of Auxerre, and his sister Maheldis, both descendants of Manasses of Vergy, a powerful leader of Burgundy in the 9th century, in 1015 and 1019 donated the “CURTIS” called Gevrey to the monastery of Cluny of which abbot was then St Odilon[3]. Then, Yves de Poisey and his nephew Yves de Chazan , both abbots of Cluny and born of the lords of Vergy, gave its first official appearance to the building, between 1257 and 1275 : a vast rectangle, surrounded with moats. The southwest entrance was composed of a stone bridge, and further a drawbridge, flanked by two square towers. A big square tower stood at the southeast corner, and at the northeast was a dovecote on top of a small “cul de lampe” tower.
[1] Chartes de Cluny 2693,2722,2949
[2] Les carreaux de pavement vernissés du château de Gevrey-Chambertin, Ed. Delatour
[3] Archives de Côte d’Or, H 791, H184, G1088, 5H22, C535, Q827

The big square tower remains intact and is best viewed from the ‘gardens’ – actually vineyard.

As with so many older ‘properties’, the Château was sold-off in 1791 into private ownership. The Château was acquired by the Masson family – wine-makers from the Jura – in 1858, and it is still owned and maintained by their descendants. The Château has been classified as a Historic Monument surprisingly only since 1993 – a number of the rooms are renowned for their “engobe” ceramic tiles.

The Domaine

Looking over the oldest vines to the Square TowerGenevieve Masson took up ownership in about 1955, and now it is her daughter Elisabeth Masson-Mitéran, who with her son Luc, makes wines from a portfolio of vineyards which make up the Domaine du Château de Gevrey-Chambertin.

The domaine has an interesting selection of vines – including some ‘choice’ parcels – but the domaine is not representative of others profiled in the Burgundy Report, it is more of a tourist attraction where you pay €2.50, enjoy a small tour of the immediate vineyards followed by a small pour from 2-3 wines which you may then (of-course!) purchase. More later of my experience here, but first a little about their vines:

  • Bourgogne Rouge: from a small 0.05 hectare parcel of vines sited in Brochon – just one barrel per year.
  • Gevrey-Chambertin: getting interesting here, the vines are within the walls of the Château and are mix of older and younger parcels that average about 50 years old, but one parcel averages 90 years old – some of the ‘feet’ in this section are even 120 years old! The old-vine section has been a separate cuvée since 1998. The rest, the cuvée ‘Clos du Château’ is about 20 barrels worth.
  • Gevrey 1er Lavaux St.Jacques: yielding an average 5 barrels per year
  • Charmes-Chambertin: a small 0.11 hectare parcel that provides an average yield of 2 barrels
The Wine-Making

Everything is picked by hand and then, for about 15 days, is fermented in the original 1860 oak vats (with some patching!). There is no planned pre-fermentation maceration – for instance fermentation began, not surprisingly, with 24 hours in 2003. The cap is pressed in a very old horizontal wooden press and then the wines are assembled in stainless-steel before being transferred to barrel for approximately 2 years aging. Two new barrels are bought each year for the Charmes-Chambertin, the rest of the wines go into purchased 1 year-old barrels. Until 1970 the wines were made with whole bunches, but since then everything has been destemmed “We changed because you need 30 years for a wine to mature if you work with the stems” said Luc Mitéran.

“The wood press, almost two centuries old, obtains the final nectar, which is poured in oak barrels.”
The domaine’s website

That’s the hard sell, but what is in the glass? I note that after a good ‘sales pitch tour’ by Luc, the (mainly) pre-opened wines were taken from a refrigerator and had been vacuvinned – I don’t have a major issue with this, except that I don’t know if the wines were opened 1, 2 or 10 days before our visit! Keep that in mind for the tasting notes:

2001 Château de Gevrey-Chambertin, Gevrey-Chambertin
Normally 50% of production is sold to ‘the négoce’, but Luc noted that in the last year because of the economy, the négoce had said ‘no’ – unless prices came down! – so the domaine kept their wine.
The colour is medium-pale red. Lots of kirsch aromas. Good sweetness and decent volume in the mouth – the acidity is a little sharp though. The fruit is high-toned and quite pretty, the tannin relatively faint. The finish is okay – I would say almost good, but far from great.
2002 Château de Gevrey-Chambertin, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Lavaux St.Jacques
Medium colour. The nose shows a darker cherry aroma though it is a little volatile. In the mouth it seems less obviously ripe than the 01 villages. More tannin, which also shows a lick of astringency – clearly not a ‘late picked’ 2002!
2001 Château de Gevrey-Chambertin, Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes
The only wine where the cork is pulled, and it’s clearly the best. Medium colour. An interesting nose, just a little animale, underpinned with good fruit. Ripe and interesting across the tongue, a little fat, good dimension and fine acidity. The fruit has a high-toned stance. A good wine – but the potential here should be great.

Overall: A nice place to visit on a sunny day, and worth €2.50, but you could easily not bother with the tasting – whether due to old samples or old methods!

17 responses to “Profile: Domaine Château de Gevrey-Chambertin (Gevrey)”

  1. Carmine

    Made my first visit Chateau Gevrey in 1979 buying the 1976 vintage. Madame Masson is quite a character. Those wines and subsequent visits to purchase the 1985, and 1990 vintages showed me that although the wines are very good, they outlive her corks. She uses the smallest cork I’ve seen in Burgundy, and they don’t hold up well. Quite a shame.

  2. luc

    Hello. I am luc, the person you are talking about in this explaination and who received you. thank you for talking about the caslte of gevrey.
    I have to say that, of course, we never put our wines in a refrigirator. When we let it taste, it comes from the lower cellar, which is a bit colder than the upper one, where the wines are sold. during the upper season, our wines are open every day, because a lot of people taste it, but it is true that out of the season, they can be kept some days with a vacuvin, because the wine is still good and we don’t need to throw it away, as long as it is. And, as all natural wines, they keep longer than wines which are added with what makes them be keen to the eye and mouth, but not for long years.

    we produce a wine that is not comparable to many others, and it is true that as it is naturally made, it does not fit the american taste that is very industrial and uses lots of chemicals and modern methods, which lead far from the original taste of burgundy wines. That is somethnig rude to say, I know, and I am sorry, but it is true. People’s tastes regarding wines are under the influence of some tasters that say ” this must me that or that”. But nature is nature, and happilly will always be. Even if people are taught to like and other way.

    When you make wine the old way, you take the risk to read, further on, opinions like that, which only reflect the politically and commercially correct way of liking wine, following Parker’s taste, or people that have followed his way of changing the public’s way of liKe.
    we are taking this risk, because we think that more and more, people are going to intend to reach back nature and then natural products.

    Most often, an orange from the tree is not as beautiful as in the supermarket. and some people go on saying that as it has been made with the utmost modern methods, it is better. just close your eyes and open your heart. this will give you the real taste, without the need of anybody to tell you whether it is good or not.
    good tastings !
    luc

    1. Phil Levine

      bonjour Luc . c’est l’artiste americain. Je vais amener un autre groupe d’artistes/peintres a beaune du 3 au 10 juin et je suis en train de demander l’autorisation de peindre dans les vignobles. J’ai ecrit une lettre a la soeur de Elisabeth (Marie) pour demander.

      Amicalement

      Philip Levine

      1. luc

        Bonjour philippe. si je suis là, je vous accueillerai avec plaisir
        Luc

    2. Wendy Nield

      Luc, your description of the cherry tree and your early experience with wine was beautifully painted. I can’t wait to visit!

  3. Nate

    Luc:

    I visited your Chateau in September of 2005 and had a wonderful tasting with Elizabeth in the lower room.

    The Premiere Cru Lavaux-St-Jacques was simply amazing, to this day I have never another wine that rivaled that.

    Merci!

  4. luc

    hello Wendy And Nate
    Thank you, Nate, for your telling your lavaux saint jacques tasting. I am glad to know that you likes it. Now, we have the vieille vigne, ( 90 years old) which is wonderful too.
    thank you Wendy, and Bill, ( who gave my mail to wendy) to have come to the castle for a wine tour this day. It was a great pleasure to me to welcome you !
    luc

  5. Frank Bird

    My wife and I visited the Chateau in 1991 and at that time bought a bottle of the 1990 and also the 1991 Laveaux. It has been cellared since then. Is it ready to drink yet or should we leave it for some time.
    Hope to hear from you soon Luc.
    Kind regards
    Frank Bird

  6. Paul Garber

    Hi Luc,
    My very first winery tasting was at your Château, I think in 1987. After a wonderful tour, Mme. Masson, brought me down to the very cool cellar. While sampling three vintages from 1985, she told me about how in the past some unlucky invaders who attempted to attack the Château would end up starving to death in la cave des oubliettes. When I commented that I didn’t think that was very nice, she replied, “Ils n’avaient qu’a ne pas venir.”

    I’ve returned a few times to visit, but the last time was too long ago, ten years ago in 2002. At that time, I purchased two bottles: Clos du Château (Monopole) and a Premier Cru, both from 2000. I still have them cellared, and am wondering if you think it is time to open them, or are they still getting better with age?

    Thanks,
    Paul

  7. keith wollenberg

    An now, the Chateau passes form the family to a chinese buyer…

  8. château de gevrey-chambertin – sold!

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  9. Maurice Gallagher

    My wife and I were treated to a fascinating lecture by Mme Elisabeth. She pointed out that the 70cl bottle of the Gauls is stil superior for holding wine than the newer Roman litre bottles. She had quite a few swipes at the Romans as well as the Germans who took the Chateau over during their occupation. About 2 years ago when we were nearby we were told Mme Elisabeth was still alive and feisty as ever. Sad to hear of her death. What age was she?
    Maurice & Gallagher

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?