On many fronts, hearing the name ‘Domaine Henri Rebourseau’ makes me prick-up my ears; not least because of its large house and parkland-like gardens in the centre of Gevrey, there is also an impressive roll-call of vineyards too – yet both of those seem rather secondary in the context of this being a very rare domaine, one with a roll-call of Grand Crus, but a repuation for harvesting its grapes by machine.
It is ingrained in my psyche that this must be wrong and that the produce of this approach must be, in some way, inferior to clusters of fruit selected by hand – the domaine’s prices are far from inferior, but what about the wines? I hope I can tell the difference!
The domaine is fabulously located in the centre of Gevrey; a lovely manor house from the eighteenth century set in large gardens – three hectares – the cellars lying below one of the outbuildings. I’m greeted by Jean de Surrel and his equally friendly dog, though the latter is more interested in the remains of a wood-pigeon on this cold, cold day.
Jean notes that wine has been in the family for at least 150 years, starting with a ‘maison du vin’ based in Nuits – a family member who was a tonellière had married the daughter of ‘the patron’. It was Jean’s great grandfather, General Henri Rebourseau who returned to Gevrey from the Great War in 1919 who bought the current property and fused it with the family’s other holdings. The General only died in 1962 – Jean still remembers him. Henri’s son Pierre was winemaker until 1980 when Jean took on the rôle.
Vines and winemaking
“The domaine Rebourseau is exceptional” says Jean de Surrel “because of the quality of the vines and the surface, including 3 hectares of park. We have seven hectares of Gevrey. It’s rare to find one hectare of vines in Gevrey, particularly north of the RN74, here there is a six hectare block from the house to the Route Nationale.”
In total the domaine owns 13.5 hectares of vines; 7 hectares of villages, mainly in solid blocks of vines, including Champs-Chenys which touches on Charmes-Chambertin. “I prefer to assemble the village wine” says Jean, only the Fontenys is kept separate. Then there are some special grand crus;
- 2.21 ha of Clos de Vougeot, partly replanted this year, but the rest are the oldest vines of the domaine
- 0.96 ha of Mazy-Chambertin (10% of the appellation)
- 0.46 ha Chambertin and 0.33 ha of Clos de Bèze all mid-slope vines which are blended together for the ‘Chambertin’ cuvée
- 1.35 ha of Charmes-Chambertin
In 2009 Jean experimented with ‘bio’ in Charmes-Chambertin, and may extend this to othe Grand Crus, but he has no interest in extending this to the whole domaine. Jean notes that he doesn’t like particular ‘regimes’, his target is more about recovering the life in the soil through aeration, “I don’t, then, want to fill it with copper” he says. “We simply try to do the minimum here.”
In the cuverie, Jean de Surrel is no fan of whole cluster fermentation: “The stems give too slow a fermentation, they de-acidify the cuvée, they take ups space – I prefer to completely destem.”
Wood is with ‘grain ‘normale’’, Jean is not looking for strong toasty aromas or flavours – just that the wine can breath during its aging. For that reason the wines spend no more than 6 months in new barrels before racking, JdS favourite source is Nieves oak. “I make wine to age; 14-17 days in tank to ferment, in-all 18 months before bottling.”
A few assorted wines tasted 11th November 2011; all were quietly in their barrels in Gevrey. Jean de Surrel describes his 2010s as a ‘medium’ vintage, which surprised me. Intellectually, I felt bad all day after tasting these wines – not because they affirmed my own personal bias and, hence, were (as expected) a waste of great raw materials – but rather because I found the wines excellent. I do not for a second dismiss the possibility that a few well-chosen 2010 benchmarks from Trapet, Damoy or Rousseau may be even better wines – but they were not to hand – and my palate and nose enjoyed what they tasted – just as much as I enjoyed spending time in the company of Jean de Surrel.
Palate be damned, I still would not jump to buy these wines – they are not inexpensive wines versus some other producers that I admire, and their production philosophy is not one I would endorse in the context of making the best possible product – yet there’s no doubt that my personal bias took a bruising this day!
This has really pretty and quite concentrated aromas too; violets mixing with a faint creamyness. Plenty of grain and forward acidity – intense too – good length that’s currently framed by some barrel texture.
This wine has a beautifully pure dark cherry-skins note to hold onto, with a subtle suggestion of spicy oak. Again there is plenty of grain to the tannin, but of a slightly finer texture versus the villages. The overal style of the two wines is similar – good acidity and intensity with cleanly delivered flavours.
The nose offers hints of leather and spice – interesting. Again plenty of acidity but there is clearly more flavour and dimension here – in the finish too – this is very long.
Violets, licorice and perhaps a salty aromatic impression too. The delivery of flavour is more direct than the Charmes. I really love the intense combination of dark flavours with flashed of red fruit. Fine wine.
Here there’s a textural, cushioned impression to the nose – violets and once-more a saline minerality. More open than the Mazy, less brooding. Complex and long. I love this nose, but today I would take the body of the Mazy…
The nose is just lovely – wide, interesting and inviting – a clear invitation to drink. Fuller than the Chambertin, more obviously mineral too. Very well-balanced.
Domaine Henri Rebourseau
10 Place du Monument
Tel: +33 (0)3 80 51 88 94
Fax: +33 (0)3 80 34 12 82