Profile: Domaine Bernard Serveau (Morey St.Denis)

Update 27.6.2011(25.6.2011)billn


Domaine Serveau lies on the main High Street of Morey between the Route Nationale and Clos de Tart. Externally the domaine needs a little TLC, certainly at least a lick of paint. – still it looks like it’s been this way a long time and it hasn’t affected the wines has it(?)

I’ve known the wines in a facile way for many years – two or three bottles per year, always with a certain family style; soft, round and never the last word in extraction – a good thing. Even older bottles retained a the trait – always giving, smiling wines, ones that also reflected their most famous vines; half a hectare of Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses. It was time I paid a visit.

The great-grand parents of the Serveaus were tonnelliers who bought parcels of vines, post-phyloxera, when land was cheap. Morey Les Sorbets was one of the first and most important vineyards purchased, 1.65 hectares, afterwards buying more parcels of vines in (for instance) Chambolle. The grandfather was a miller but the dust didn’t help his asthma so he spent more time with the vines. The family then changed the domaine name from Jouan to Serveau by marriage.

Today it is Jean-Louis Serveau in charge of about seven hectares. It was his father who developed the sales and began replanting the older vines; Jean-Louis continuing that process starting straight from school in 1976 “old vines sounds nice but that doesn’t mean they were originally planted with great material.” he says. Jean-Louis has two brothers, including Alain Serveau who is head of wine-making at Albert Bichot, the other works as an engineer, not associated with wine.

There is no specific ‘regime’ in the vines “we work in a ‘reasonable way’ – lutte-systematique” smiles Jean-Louis. Yields are modest; 35 hl/ha is common. Everything is destemmed followed by a cold pre-fermentation maceration.

The wines

For the last two years Jean-Louis has had a medical problem which has reduced the time he could spend with his vines and has resulted in a significant amount of wine being sold in barrel – indeed 2008s were still in barrel when I visited in January 2010 and a lot of grapes were sold direct (not surprisingly to brother Alain’s company) following the 2010 vintage. Jean-Louis was hoping he could make some bottling in April. Still there is a good market for the wines in the US and Japan.

I don’t visit anyone with the intention of being negative, indeed I was expecting to offer a tip of very pretty wines at very good prices but in this case it’s turned out differently – and that’s very sad. The domaine has clearly entered a period of decline from which I hope they can rescue themselves but just for now I’m not sure how they can. Jean-Louis is a very easy guy to get along with, I like him very much – this was the first time I met him and we talked as if we’d know each other for a long time, yet, I left feeling slightly ‘down’ and sad. Despite his jokes Jean-Louis seems on a downward course – perhaps the domaine with it. The prices have always been out of context of the quality of the wines – where else can you buy Amoureuses direct for €50 – but the 07s left me concerned; without re-tasting I wouldn’t buy them myself.

Wines tasted in Morey St.Denis, 27th January 2011.

2007 Bernard Serveau, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Sentiers
The nose is wide but a little volatile. Decent flavour and plenty of tannin – this should come together very well – but I’m no fan of the nose.
2007 Bernard Serveau, Morey St.Denis 1er Les Sorbets
Understated red fruits and also a touch of volatility – though on a lower lever to the Sentiers. Fuller and wider – much more impressive flavour and it expands further in the mid-palate. Plenty of structure and the last drops in the glass actually smell pretty good.
2007 Bernard Serveau, Gevrey-Chambertin Les Evocelles
The nose is becoming characteristic, there is more depth but also more volatility too. Nice flavours with the structure further to the fore, though that will fade. Again the last drops smell much nicer than the full glass.
2007 Bernard Serveau, Nuits St.Georges
Similar nose to the Gevrey. The structure is actually on a lower level to the Evocelles, which is mainly covered by bright well balanced fruit. Actually a very pretty wine – except the aromas.
2007 Bernard Serveau, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Amoureuses
There is more depth of aroma here which drowns the worst of the ever-present family nose. In the mouth this is a lovely, comforting wine showing super flavour. Overall a very nice wine.
2006 Bernard Serveau, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Amoureuses
Well, I’m glad it wasn’t me! Not a trace of volatility here, just very pretty fruit – a raspberry conserve, perhaps with a little mint-leaf. Full and impressive over the tongue, round with fine tannin. The finish is clean as a bell – just lovely wine. Given the domaine’s tarif, no surprise that this one is sold-out!

Domaine Bernard Serveau
37 Grande Rue
21220, Morey.St.Denis
Tel. +33 (0)3 80 34 33 07

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

There are 5 responses to “Profile: Domaine Bernard Serveau (Morey St.Denis)”

  1. burgundyfan27th June 2011 at 1:07 pmPermalinkReply

    Hi Bill
    many thanks for your new report. It’s always a pleasure to read it.
    You know I’m a great fan of Jean-Louis(since 1986).
    We was there end of march and we had the same feeling like you about his 2007. We bought some 2007(Sorbet, Chabiot and Nuits) and some 2006 Gevry Evocelles.
    I miss the Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Chabiots in your tasting.
    This vineyard(which he has replanted around 1998) was always my favorite wine. Now I like always his Nuits(he has only a 1er Chaines Carteaux)
    Over the weekend I opened a Evocelles 2006 great structure, black fruits and very powerful in the mouth. It’s a pleasure to drink it now.
    We still hope that Jean-Louis gets back on track.

    • billn28th June 2011 at 9:02 amPermalinkReply

      Hi Burgundyfan
      I didn’t taste the Chabiots. I’m also hoping I’ve been overly pessimistic!
      Cheers, Bill

  2. burgundyfan22nd October 2011 at 6:55 pmPermalinkReply

    Hi Bill
    we was by Jean-Louis last friday.
    I don’t think that his health is any better.
    He told me that he sold most of his 2011 and that he will have only one or two barrels of each vigneyards.
    He had from the 2009 only Chambolle village, Chambolle 1er cru Les Amoureuses and Les Sentiers and also Morey Les Sorbets bottled.
    They where are all great example better than his great 2005/2006.
    We are all hoping that he gets in a better condition sometimes in the future.

    • billn24th October 2011 at 8:47 amPermalinkReply

      Good news on the 09s Burgundyfan – I should invest in a few, it sounds like they may be some of the last we see…

  3. Alex Bernardo4th February 2012 at 3:10 amPermalinkReply

    Hi Bill

    I was looking for current and in-depth info on this domaine, which is next to impossible, and lo and behold my Google search brought me here! Thanks you for your website and your valuable insights.

    I found some 06 Amoureuses in my neck of the woods and based on your very positive review I’ll try to stock up.

    All the best,

    P.S. Planning to be in Burgundy late March, hope we can meet up if you’re gonna be around. Also, your book isn’t available in the States, hope I can find it in Beaune.

  4. billn4th February 2012 at 9:13 amPermalinkReply

    Also, your book isn’t available in the States, hope I can find it in Beaune.

    I know quite a few in the US with copies Alex – perhaps they bought through (?) though I have to say that it does seem strange to me that the UCPress and pages don’t have cover images…

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