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Profile: Domaine des Chézeaux (Gevrey-Chambertin)


Last Update – May 2007

Whilst not a name on the tip of most peoples tongues, the Domaine des Chézeaux is the largest owner of Griotte-Chambertin – almost 60% of the vineyard. In fact they have a few other choice parcels too: Clos St Denis (100 year old vines – though due to the replanting of some empty spaces this average may slowly come down), Chambertin and some parcels of Gevrey 1er Cru’s. So why might you not know the name? That’s because you probably know the wines already, but under different labels – Laurent Ponsot for the three Grand Cru’s, René Leclerc also for the Griotte and Domaine Berthaut for the other Gevrey wines.

The domaine was formed in 1982 from the holdings of the Mercier family who still run the company (SNV des Chézeaux), the name Chézeaux refers to the original Mercier family home close the Chateau of Gevrey within the walls of which are about half a hectare of vines – Clos de Chézeaux. The basis of the holdings date from 1928, but today there are no winemakers in the family, hence, their holdings are all ‘en metayage’ i.e. they are ‘farmed’ by others (Ponsot, Leclerc & Berthaut) who take two thirds of the crop as payment, the balance going to ‘des Chézeaux’. In the case of Chézeaux the ‘metayers’ also do the elevage and bottling – herein used to lie a bit of a problem – for both Chézeaux and the consumer – historically and specifically for the Griotte; when you placed your order, you don’t know whether you would be getting the Ponsot or the Leclerc produced wine! Their UK importer did, however, for some time specify the Leclerc version. More on that below.

New labels specifying which eleveur were just too late for the first released 2001’s, but were in place for the 2002’s – see the picture above – and 2003’s. Since, and including the 2004 vintage there was only one elevage – Ponsot – for Chézeaux labelled bottles. On the plus side, given their prices, you’d be happy to receive either Griotte as it’s very fine value – and the same wine as in the Domaine Ponsot bottles if you need a reference point.

Their griotte

As you look at a typical map of the Griotte-Chambertin vineyard, with Clos de Bèze above, the Route Nationale 74 then Griotte below, you will find the vines of Domaine des Chézeaux taking up the central part of the vineyard. Despite tasting chez René Leclerc it’s not clear whether the wines we tasted were made by him or Laurent Ponsot (unless you know the trick as to the bumps and indentations on the bottom of the bottles, the wines have the same corks and are only labelled when they leave Chézeaux). Their original plot of 0.89ha has been with Laurent (Domaine) Ponsot since 1982. During a dispute with Ponsot arising from the Mercier’s wish to take back the metayage agreement, the entirity of the Chézeaux holdings were farmed for a time by Leclerc – Laurent Ponsot won the right to retain producing from the vines, though this is up for review every nine years. Given the lack of winemakers in the Mercier family I expect the vines will be exploited by Ponsot for some time to come.

The ‘newer’ Chézeaux plot of 0.68ha was purchased from Mme Suzanne Thomas in time for the 1994 vintage and has been exploited on behalf of Chézeaux from the very start by the Domaine René Leclerc from Gevery-Chambertin. This plot was farmed by the Esmonins before Leclerc, and accounted for their version (by some arrangement or-other the last Esmonin bottles came from the 1999 vintage) and also the version sold by Louis Jadot. In 2001 René Leclerc produced a total of 8 barrels, using ~35% new oak in the process. Much of the vineyard was replanted in the 1980’s (like Drouhin) plus one ouvrée that was replanted in 2002. Despite often being unsure who produced the wines below, these are still lovely, elegant bottles – just a little ‘fuller’ than those of Joseph Drouhin – a personality of Sophie Dahl vs Catherine Deneuve perhaps?!

Later opportunities to taste showed a clear and consistent difference between the Ponsot and Leclerc versions of the wine: The Leclerc has just a little more weight, but the tannic base is more rustic – differences in extraction and oak elevage…

These wines were tasted with Chantal Nemes-Mercier and René Leclerc at René’s domaine in Gevrey-Chambertin, 25th July 2003. The 2000 and 2001 were re-tasted at the superBOWL’03 11th October 2003. All these wines bear the Chézeaux label.

2001 Chézeaux, Griotte-Chambertin
Deep cherry red colour. Beautiful pure red fruits on the nose – raspberry and deep red cherry. A deep, concentrated cherry palate too – this is gorgeous – lovely acidity and nice tannins that finish with a little graininess. Long and creamy finish with super length. Excellent.
2000 Chézeaux, Griotte-Chambertin
Almost as deep colour as the 2001 – still cherry red. Compared to the 2001 the nose starts a little more diffuse, however, given aeration a really penetrating cherry note comes through, overlaying a little cream. Really silky mouthfeel and lovely concentration, despite this, there’s a little of the 2001’s vibrancy missing – which you don’t notice if you taste them the other way round! I prefer the previous wine, but only by a degree of course, this is still very good.
1999 Domaine des Chézeaux, Griotte-Chambertin
Similar colour to the 2000. The nose is quite reserved but similar style to how the 2000 develops. The palate shows perfectly delineated red fruits with fine acidity. There’s more than enough concentration to buffer the tannins. Despite the reserved presentation this is a 1999 that you could drink today but that would be such a waste. The flavours linger beautifully . . .
1998 Domaine des Chézeaux, Griotte-Chambertin
Perhaps a little deeper colour than the previous wines, still cherry at the rim. Just a little more complexity on the nose, there’s a musky undergrowth to the cherry and raspberry fruit. The tannins are more drying – in fact very drying – but they are finely grained. Given the texture and concentration of the fruit I’m not really concerned about the tannins – though I think you will always know they are there. The finish is a good one, there’s even an unusual orange note. A concentrated, interesting and very young wine.
1997 Domaine des Chézeaux, Griotte-Chambertin
The shade is less deep than the 1998 – closer to that of the other wines – just fading a little at the rim. The nose is (for the first time) quite earthy, takes some aeration to coax the fruit from the glass, when it comes it’s a little more roasted than the other wines; a cherry tart rather than fresh cherries. A lovely fat and luxurious palate. Pure extract of fruit – no roast notes here. The tannins are very well covered by the extract. This wine is enchantingly long with flavours that go on and on, perhaps even longer than the 1999.
1994 Domaine des Chézeaux, Griotte-Chambertin
This was the first year for elevage of Griotte by René Leclerc. Medium-plus colour, fading to amber at the rim. The nose starts a little diffuse, With extra aeration the wine gives up a creamy red fruit compote set against a faintly earthy background. Silky texture with good acidity and fine mouth coating tannin. The concentration is still in the ascendant. Just starting to come into it’s drinking window. A lovely Griotte and another very fine 1994.

The following wines were drunk at home in July 2003 and bear the Domaine Ponsot label.
1993 Domaine Ponsot, Griotte-Chambertin
The only wine not decanted – and didn’t it show; Medium-plus ruby with a trace of amber at the rim. For around 15 minutes this wine had absolutely no perceptible smell – eventually a beautiful pure redcurrant and griotte nose came through, all the while increasing in intensity. Perfect acidity and slightly rasping tannins which subsided with time. There is understated red fruit of medium concentration that lingers well but not much more that I can add. Unfortunately this wine was ‘sacrificed’ – doesn’t seem to have the class or the concentration of the wines above or ’93 Drouhin wine, but it is closed tight shut so I’ll reserve judgement for another day. Requires at least 2 hours in a decanter or better still 3-5 more years somewhere cold and dark – still I’ve got two more chances of getting this right!
1991 Domaine Ponsot, Griotte-Chambertin
The weather was hot, so this wine overnighted in the fridge before being decanted. I left it in the decanter for an hour before drinking by which time it had already warmed up to 14/15°C. A medium-plus ruby core but moving to amber at the rim. Initially the nose gave a fabulous blast of bloody and aging tertiary fruit notes, then it started to close up giving only a cedar aroma – at this point I was starting to worry about taint. In the mouth there was lovely volume, just a little grain to the end of the tannins and lingering acidity, however, there are also waves of roast fruit and meat flavours that cling to your palate. Atypical in delivery, but very impressive none-the-less. The problem was that the suspicion of taint didn’t leave me for the first glass, so the wine that wasn’t fully enjoyed as I spent most of the while thinking; ‘what would this wine be like if . . . . ‘ In the end the day was saved, the cedar note receded to be replaced by raspberry jam and chocolate notes.

Their other wines

Drunk at home during September 2003:
2000 Domaine des Chézeaux, Gevrey-Chambertin
From 40+ year old vines. Only medium ruby colour, just the slightest trace of cherry at the rim – looks like a 1997. The nose is of raspberry and strawberry confiture and a little earth – not at all confected despite the description and with time develops a raisin note. Medium concentration, though good volume in the mouth and good acidity with relatively light and very smooth tannin. The finish builds well; first slightly cooked fruit then a little earth. Elegant and moreish. Exceptional value direct from the domaine.
2000 Domaine des Chézeaux, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Les Cazetiers
Approximately 65% of their vines were replanted in 1984. Only medium/medium-pale colour – same depth of colour as the village Gevrey. The nose starts just a little closed and funky – with time there’s high toned, slightly cooked, sweet red fruit. Nicely intense fruit with good, balanced acidity and low level, smooth tannin. Certainly a step-up from the village wine but I was looking for a larger step given the appelation. Still a nice wine.
2000 Domaine des Chézeaux, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Lavaux Saint-Jacques
From 40+ year old vines. Medium-plus ruby. The nose is everything that the Cazetiers isn’t, it has depth and a faintly caramel tinged red fruit – perhaps a little alcoholic. Really good intensity, good acidity and drying tannin. This is more serious, but also shows much younger as the intesitity is such that it is definitely not a 2000 for drinking now – worth saving.
1997 Domaine des Chézeaux, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Charmes
Also from 40+ year old vines. Medium-plus ruby – just starting to brown a little at the rim. Starts with a waft of very deep and concentrated cherry, but a cedary/currant pie note gradually takes over. Fat and mouth coating, really super pure fruit, balanced acidity and absolutely the smoothest of tannin. There’s no denying the quality of the underlying material, but the woody/cedary note on the nose is also evident on the palate and is very similar in character to what I didn’t like about the 1991 Ponsot Griotte – it’s a transient thing though, as after two hours the cedary note is completely gone. There’s a super, ever changing finish, lovely wine.
1999 Domaine des Chézeaux, Clos Saint Denis Vieilles Vignes
Deeply coloured cherry red, right to the rim. The nose has good depth with a laser-like focus of black cherry running through the middle, dried fruits also in evidence. Superb intensity on the palate – this is special. The fruit just keeps on going through the achingly long finish. Perfect acidity and tannins that you hardly notice – buy every bottle that you can find!
2000 Domaine des Chézeaux, Clos Saint Denis Vieilles Vignes
Quite deep cherry red. The nose is sweet and fat, very red cherry and super depth too. The fat is also there on the palate, not the intense concentration of the 1999, but intense all the same – but that’s the vintage. This is super, and certainly Grand Cru quality, well balanced and for much earlier drinking than the 1999 – but no rush.
2000 Domaine des Chézeaux, Chambertin
From 40+ year old vines. Disappointingly pale. Medium ruby, only the merest trace of cherry red hinting that this is not already 10 years old. With aeration there’s nice complexity on the high-toned nose. The palate has some sweetness, almost good acidity, and a little harsh wood on the finish. For sure there’s quite a lot going on in the mouth, for sure this is a still a very good wine, and for sure it’s better than many wines bearing the same label – but for my money this is inferior to both the Griotte and Clos Saint Denis in 2000.

Drunk at home during January 2005:
2002 Domaine des Chézeaux, Gevrey-Chambertin
Medium cherry-red. The nose shows more than a little depth and a nice high-toned fruit top-note. The palate has a nice fresh complexion with fruit concentration that’s higher than expected for this cuvée, and nice sneaky length too! There’s just a little fat and mild-mannered tannins. This is never a very extracted wine so is perhaps close to it’s zenith in a year like 2002. Really super value, but I think they may have sold-out!
2002 Domaine des Chézeaux, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Les Cazetiers
Medium, medium-plus cherry-red. The nose is quite lovely and ever-changing; starts with a little barnyard but slowly gives up really beautiful and precise high-toned red berry aromas and eventually adds a trace of cream to the fruit. The palate is round and friendly with understated concentration and a rather elegant structure that’s coupled to fresh-faced fruit. The length is good and predominantly primary fruit. A really lovely drink and another relative bargain.
2002 Domaine des Chézeaux, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Lavaux Saint-Jacques
Medium cherry-red. The nose is much more primary than the Cazetiers, high-toned with powdery-red fruit that hints at an extra depth. In the mouth it’s a fresh complexion with good acidity and nice length – very understated. More obviously young and in need of time than the Cazetiers and, as such, it is today less charming but still a very good and well-made bottle.

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