In 1924 Georges Roumier, a man from the Charolais, married a local Chambolle-Musigny girl, Geneviève Quanquin and as was the custom at the time, she brought with her a dowry in the form of vineyards – so was born the Domaine Georges Roumier.
The domaine was much smaller than today; Chambolle vines that post-AOC would be a mix of villages, premiers and grand crus including Les Cras and Les Amoureuses, and Bonnes-Mares too. The area of vines was relatively small so in addition to running the domaine, Georges also worked as the vineyard manager for the Comte Georges de Vogüé. Succession would always be complicated with seven children – 5 boys – But during the 1950’s the domaine started its transition to Jean-Marie, while eldest son, Alain, took up his father’s rôle at de Vogüé. Georges, however, did not fully retire until 1961. A similar transition began in 1981 when Christophe Roumier started working with his father, Christophe eventually taking full control in 1990.
In the late 1920’s, domaines such as Rousseau, Tollot-Beaut, Angerville and Gouges, (after encouragement by Raymond Baudoin of La Revue du Vin de France) began bottling and selling some of their production in the US via the importer, Frank Schoonmaker – Roumier also joined this group. It was as late as 1984 when, for the first time, all their wines were domaine bottled.
The understated domaine sits on the sharp bend in the road, next-door to Mugnier’s Château de Chambolle-Musigny. On the hill behind the domaine is a small village portion of vines before the wood and the hill towards the ‘combe’. I asked Christophe about the vines, but he said they were not such great quailty because of their exposure. A smart office fronts the domaine, but all the working areas, the cuverie and cellars, are behind the house.
Building on a Domaine
Following the formation of the domaine, Georges also added a little Musigny under a metayage agreement, a plot which the Jean-Marie Roumier eventually managed to purchase in 1978. Already with a reputation for good wines, the 1950’s was a time of significant expansion for the domaine; Bonnes-Mares and 2 parcels of Clos de Vougeot (1952) and Morey 1er monopole Clos de la Bussière (1953) were added to the portfolio. “Unlike today”, Christophe Roumier recounts, “this was a time when the cost of a vineyard could be recouped in only a few years from the sale of the wine”. There was then a period of consolidation before Jean-Marie’s wife, Odile Ponnelle, bought an unplanted plot in Pernand-Vergelesses which could be classed as Corton-Charlemagne, that was 1968, planting followed and their first vintage was 1974.
Additional vines came in 1977 when Charles Rousseau negotiated the purchase of the grand cru Ruchottes-Chambertin from the fading Thomas-Bassot estate, a purchase that he shared with Dr Georges Mugneret, a third parcel was acquired by a non-winemaker, Michel Bonnefond. The Bonnefond vines since that day have been exploited by Domaine Georges Roumier under a metayages agreement. A similar agreement came about in 1984 over a smaller parcel of vines in Mazoyères-Chambertin where the domaine keeps and labels 50% of the crop. Finally some Clos de Vougeot vines were lost in the 1990’s when Alain Roumier took some of his share of the domaine for his son Hervé’s eponymous domaine.
Vines and Wines
Yields are low at this domaine, and are mainly achieved by severe pruning. After harvesting, the grapes are typically destemmed, though for his tiny Musigny cuvée, Christophe will retain some stems – presumably this helps pad out and already tiny collection of grapes. There’s a cold soak before fermentation, and no cultivated yeasts are added before vinification in mix of stainless-steel and concrete open-top tanks. Elevage takes about one third of new barrels. Christophe even comments that ‘based on his winemaking style’ the wines are often ‘a little tough, young’, but it’s clear to everyone that the ‘come-round’ admirably. Christophe is not concerned with the 2007’s as he says they are good wines, today his concern is only for what’s in elevage, and, for now, those are the 2008’s.
2007 Georges Roumier, Bourgogne
(From the assemblage tank) Offers up a forward and fruity nose. In the mouth it’s supple and balanced – quite pretty.
Premier Cru Wines – Chambolle-Musigny
The villages wine for many years contained a healthy dose of 1er cru juice from Les Cras and Combottes though these are now bottled separately. There’s still a little 1er cru in the villages, from Les Fuées. As well as the previously mentioned ‘Cras’ (since 1993) and ‘Combottes’ (since 2005) , there is a rather more famous 1er from this domaine – ‘Les Amoureuses’. The vines are from an original parcel from the establishment of the domaine in 1924, though replantings were made in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
2007 Georges Roumier, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Le Cras
(From the assemblage tank) A much denser fruit nose and than the Bourgogne before it. More intense, nicely fresh and seems considerably longer. Has a lot of energy.
Premier Cru Wines – Morey St.Denis 1er Clos de la Bussière
This (almost) 2.60 ha monopole was not in great shape when acquired in the 1950’s so ‘slice by slice’ has been replanted – and over quite some years – the last slice was done in 1994, so the vine age is just a little below the average for the domaine. George Roumier’s wish was that it would be all pinot noir, but maybe one day Christophe will plant a portion to white. Though the vineyard is just behind Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Sentiers, the different clay-based soil with plenty of iron ensures a quite different character which Christophe describes as ‘tougher but more powerful’ than Chambolle, needing at least 8-12 years to start drinking well, but it’s a long-living wine.
In bottle only 2 days. Medium, medium-plus colour. The nose starts with easy red berry notes before slowly taking on depth and density. There’s plenty of reasonably fine-grained tannin and good balance. Slowly the wine widens in the mid-palate before fading into a decent finish. Nice balance here, and certainly it’s not lacking depth – though Christophe says that the bottling has stripped a lot of the aromas.
Very forward fruit on the nose – a melange of red fruits. Fresh, with a lovely ‘mouth perfume’ and shows a super width all the way to the finish. Very nice flavour on the finish. Reasonably tannic but a nice overall balance. A very tasty, precocious bottle.
Medium-plus colour. Forward, concentrated aromas of darker fruit with a little more depth than the 2006, faint white pepper notes too. Plenty of fine grained tannin, dense, concentrated and only slowly revealing its wares. A very long, though subtle, finish. I would actually say that this is a little in its shell, despite all that’s here to find. Super.
The nose offers up the 04 ‘vintage characteristic’ – [Christophe agrees that there were ladybugs everywhere but is unconvinced that they are responsible, though has seen no plausible alternative. On the positive side he quips ‘at least you always know the vintage in a blind tasting!’] – it provides a cover, but not on such a level that it spoils the red fruit aromas. Only medium concentration after the 2005, this is altogether on a softer, less ‘big’ level. The entry is quite narrow but the width comes as you head for the mid-palate then leaves your mouth slowly watering in the finish. The tannins stick a little to your gums and the overall balance is very nice. This is very tasty. Christophe: “It never tastes/feels like it smells – I like it for that”
Christophe likes this vintage. The aromas are ripe though not obviously 2003, that said the aromas are dense and less focused than the wines that went before, though still red-fruited. Plenty of grainy tannin, though they it’s not particularly astringent. An interesting and quite pronounced licorice flavour as you head into the mid-palate. This has quite a decent balance overall.
Something of an iconic wine from this domaine and one that I’d never tasted until this visit. A part, on the limestone rich ‘terres blanches’ comes from the domaine’s formation in 1924, another part came in 1952 from a ‘Domaine Belorgy’, this plot is close to the border with Morey and on Morey-style ‘terres rouges’, red clay-filled soil.
(From the tank assemblage) ‘Has ‘Chambolle’ aromatics of flowers and pepper, but with the underlying density of Morey St.Denis’ – Christophe. I seem to agree, the nose gives up lovely pure fruit with a more floral top-note. I find the palate very, very mineral – a surprise to me given the unyielding power of many Bonnes-Mares – yet there is undeniable intensity, energy to go with that minerality. The tannins are silky smooth, I noted myself still thinking about those tannins before realising the flavour was still with me – this is very long! It’s actually my first B-M from the domaine, and now I understand why people go nuts for it!