As you travel along the Route des Grands Crus from Morey-St-Denis to Gevrey-Chambertin, the East facing Grand Cru vineyards lie on either side of your road. Approaching the first houses of Gevrey, the hill on your left-hand side makes a sharp left turn up a narrowing valley to the Combe de Lavaut. On your left-hand side the vineyards peter-out as they become North facing – the other side of the road, however, is full south facing – this is the Côte Saint-Jacques.
The hillside of the Côte Saint-Jacques is Gevrey’s prime 1er Cru area – most famous of all being the Clos Saint-Jacques itself – a vineyard that with it’s current ownership is well known for producing wines that outperform the occasional Grand Cru. Two AOC’s from this slope are owned by just one domaine, the Domaine des Varoilles
The Domaine des Varoilles is not a well known name I think, and that’s a surprise when you consider what a good story it has for itself: The domaine has documentary evidence of the planting of some of their vineyards as early as the twelfth century! Also, it’s not a bad roll-call of vineyards either; amongst others, the three Grand Cru’s of Charmes-Chambertin, Bonnes-Mares and Clos Vougeot and no-less than four monopoles in Gevrey including the two Côte Saint-Jacques 1ers of Clos des Varoilles (called Verroilles on the map above) and La Romanée, plus the village appellations of Clos du Meix des Ouches and Clos du Couvent. The domaine also produces another Gevrey 1er in the form of Champonnets and three more village Gevreys. The Domaine des Varoilles is co-owned by the negociant firm of Naigeon-Chauveau (founded in 1890) who are responsible for the day-to-day running of the domaine but the Domaine des Varoilles label appears only on wines from the 13+ hectares of domaine owned vineyards.
Eric Gautier is our cellar master and he oversees wine production – only Pinot Noir – the grapes are hand-harvested and hand-sorted before removing the stalks. There is a cold maceration of whole grapes for around 5-6 days prior to fermentation in vats for a period of two weeks with twice daily pigeage. New equipment allows control of the fermentation temperature prior to the elevage in the barrel cellar. The wines are typically, neither filtered or fined before bottling.
To summarise the three 2003’s plus the nine other wines I tried from bottle I would say the following: Deeper colours – both deep and saturated – for the 2003/2002 (maybe the new equipment in the cave) good aromatics, balanced and flavourful wines. Given the consistency of the different expressions I would also say true to their terriors. Finally they’re good value too. Of course the true test is whether I would buy the wines – I did – I came away with a mixed (vintages and vineyards) dozen Gevreys – for the not-bad price of €170 and that’s to add to the two 1er Cru monopoles that bought as 2002 futures last year.
No point giving tasting notes on the 2003’s as they were going through malos, but the colours were uniformly deep and vibrant and the noses deep and indeed sumptuous. Real depth to the fruit and no hard edges. Should be worth following. Generally a high standard to the wines, only a couple that I’d probably avoid…
2002 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er, Clos des Varoilles
Not quite so deep a colour as the 2003, more a medium-plus cherry red. High toned flowery nose with red cherry on a deep undertow of black-skinned fruits. Some fat and very smooth with good acidity. Shows well mannered tannins and mix of black and red fruits. Finishes with a little wood on the palate – but should be no problem at this age – and very good length. Will be a lovely wine.
2001 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er, Clos des Varoilles
Medium-plus cherry red. Lovely high-toned nose over sweet red cherry. The palate is less fat than the 2002 and has much fresher acidity that comes across as a little harsh – doesn’t show the concentration of the last wine. Medium tannins that are quite smooth. The finish is a good one, this time with no wood. Much less charming than the 2002 though.
2000 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er, Clos des Varoilles
The 2001 disappointed slightly after the 2002, but we’re back with a bang here. Medium cherry red, just fading a little at the rim. The now characteristic high-toned nose supported by cherry red fruit is in evidence. Lovely fruit with real depth – much friendlier than the last wine, but certainly not a ‘short-termer’. This is a really fine effort for a 2000, has everything it needs for 5-10 years of development.
1999 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er, Clos des Varoilles
Same colour as the 2000. It’s confirmed – the nose again showing high tones over a red cherry base, just hint of spicy development on this wine too. Nice mouthfeel, concentrated with good acidity. The tannin clings to your gums, but they’re finely grained. A very good finish – will be a good wine.
1999 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er, La Romanée
Similar depth of colour to the Varoilles, but shows just a trace of amber at the rim. Redder aspect to the nose with an extra raspberry depth. Rounder and more elegant with perfect acidity. The tannins seem better covered by the extract. Again good length and another good wine.
1998 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er, Clos des Varoilles
Medium cherry red, a paler salmon shade at the rim. The nose is not so pronounced but has the high tones of the other ‘varoilles’ though with a much deeper spicy aspect and some chocolate. Good concentration to the fruit though seems more roasted and mouth wrapping, but fine, tannins. Good acidity and god good length. Again a nice wine.
1997 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er, Clos des Varoilles
Medium ruby red shading to amber. Again the nose is a little muted, same high tones but a more roasted aspect to the fruit. Fat with almost good acidity and still a little tannin. The rôti note is more obvious still on the palate. The finish is deep and admirably long but my preference would be for the previous wines.
1997 Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos du Meix des Ouches
I shade darker and less amber thane the ’97 Varoilles. A little coffee and slowly evolving black fruits on the nose. Again there’s good fat, but this time the fruit has a less obviously roast character. Tannins are pretty much resolved. Tasty and drinking now.
1996 Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos des Varoilles
Medium ruby red, just a trace of amber at the rim. Not as high-toned as many and no spice, but the red cherry comes through just like the others from this vineyard. Concentrated with fresh acidity and good tannins – in fact lovely concentration. The finish doesn’t linger as long as the ’97 Varoilles but this is very much my preferred style.