Henri Rebourseau (reprise)

Update 2.5.2018(1.5.2018)billn

Tasted in Gevrey-Chambertin with Benigne, Louis and their father, Jean de Surrel, 09 March 2018 – this year I missed the dog.

Domaine Henri Rebourseau
10 Place du Monument
21220 Gevrey-Chambertin
Tel: +33 3 80 51 88 94

I last visited this domaine in 2012 to taste their 2010s from barrel. The wines were very good, but given their enviable holdings they should, perhaps, have been even better.

Then there was their penchant for mechanical harvesting which jarred with my own sensibilities, particularly when paying for a Côte de Nuits grand cru. So, leaving them like some sleeping giant, I didn’t return.

It was Louis de Surrel who got in touch – ‘Lots of changes, et-cetera, and we’d love you to come back.‘ So what was to lose?

A recap…

Henri Rebourseau, the General, began this domaine 120 years ago – and it’s now the 6th generation of the family that are getting involved. Jean de Surrel started working at the domaine in 1980, and Louis and Benigne for the last two years. Rebourseau was one of the very early bottlers of domaine wine – Sherry-Lehmann importing their 1934 Mazy-Chambertin into the US, together with Rousseau’s Chambertin and wines from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.

This 13.5 hectare domaine, including 5 grand crus, is also the third largest holder of vines, very well placed vines, in the Clos de Vougeot; one large parcel right in the middle next to the vines of Château de la Tour – the largest owner with 6 hectares. It is Méo-Camuzet who have the second largest holding. Rebourseau also own the largest (I assume) single block of villages Gevrey-Chambertin, an unbroken 6 hectares that stretches from the windows of their house towards the Route Nationale.

So what’s new?

There’s still quite a lot of the domaine’s production being sold to some very well-known names. More than 20-30%? I ask – “Oh yes, it’s much more. It’s flattering as there’s such a demand, but our wish is, eventually, to commercialise everything ourselves.” says Jean de Surrel, “For many years the domaine has supplied multiple négoce.

The domaine also started out on the path to biodynamics in 2009, with help from Anne-Claude Leflaive, no-less – who bought her maison Charmes-Chambertin from here. Since 2011 the whole domaine has been working under biodynamic principles though they have never tried to go for certification – and are still undecided whether to do it or not – but a large positive point is that even with the challenges thrown-up by 2016, they stayed the biodynamic-course.

Jean de Surrel tells that they have changed their vinifications a little; “As the old way was only to start drinking wines after 10 years, which meant they were more closed to start. So we have reduced the amount of extraction a little in the first fermentation, and of course we have extra-fine grained barrels now – so they affect the flavour of the wines less – there are also big changes with barrel suppliers – it was once just Sirugue – now there’s also Rousseau, Cadus and some other experimentation. We are moving the wine around by gravity too, there is much less pumping.” All the tanks here were 10-15 barrels in size, but now special tanks are on the agenda, smaller and with temperature regulation.

Whilst I sense some interest from the youngsters, and both seem keen to rule out nothing, Jean de Surrel, despite his closing words on the subject, seems more dogmatic when it comes to the potential use of stems – “We don’t use stems as they are 60% water, they have a pH of 4, they soak up some alcohol and they have less noble tannins. They are also inconvenient as they take up an extra 20% volume in the fermentation tanks. But, they help to lengthen the fermentation and make it less energetic – so we are not dogmatic…

Of-course, there is still the question of the mechanical harvesting. This began with some tests in 2001, undertaken in “convenient plots” – i.e. strong, younger vines with the right logistics for access, where the land was flat and with long rows – which turned out to be their Gevrey villages and their Clos de Vougeot. Machine harvesting was never used for the whole domaine, and first reduced when Biodynamics began in 2009, stopping completely just a few years later when they sold the harvester.

The wines

I appreciated the invitation, so as to be aware that changes are underway at the estate, though the tasting, because of the incorporation of a number of older wines, didn’t do as much as it could to aid my positioning of the domaine’s current offer. But it’s clear that not just that there are good wines, also that Louis and Benigne have an idealistic approach, and given the pricing dynamic of the global market for grand crus today – that is, essentially, what people are paying for. I hope to get the opportunity to follow some of the up-and-coming vintages to gauge their success – it’s clear that they have exemplary terroirs…

2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er La Perriere
The first time they have bottled this – it’s only taken 120 years – but now they have a tank small enough! The vines are just below Mazis. 0.15 ha
Really quite high-toned, some floral aspects here. A volume of fresh flavour in the mouth – really lovely energy for the vintage. Super intensity in the middle before slowly fading. Really persistent. Fresh and very lovely wine.

2013 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Fontenys
A much more compact nose, concentrated at the core, just a modest earthy freshness escaping the glass – slowly becoming more floral. Mouth-filling again, intense too – more intense, with layered flavour. This is very young and actually quite impressive, but wait at least 5 years.

2012 Charmes-Chambertin
Big, open, slightly powdery fruit – a deeper floral perfume here. Powdery fruit flavours too – growing in intensity, quite a structural wine, but always well-ordered. Slightly mineral finishing, but very long finishing too.

2014 Clos de Vougeot
2.2 hectares of mainly 1927 vines but, of-course, there has been plenty of replanting.
Ooh – a less forceful, less intense nose, but really a lovely and quite engaging floral width here. Direct, nice breadth of flavour – the best, most interesting complexity. This is not really drinking now – though I could make an exception – but it’s my favourite wine of the tasting – after the Perrière – super length. Bravo in this vintage.

Looking back at the older style:

2002 Clos de Vougeot
Modest colour – but so was the 2014 vs the Gevreys. The nose is older, deeper, a little roasted fruit, lacks charm to start, but keeps opening. Rounder, more depth of flavour – more texturally interesting and a little sweeter. Still a little astringent and structural in the finish. Bigger, but not the class of the 2014.

1999 Gevrey-Chambertin
The nose is fresh though herby to start – fortunately air has quite a profound affect – lots of floral notes bringing this to quite an inviting level. Hmm, this is quite good in the mouth – fresh with lots of volume, still young and structural – and very long. I’d still wait 4-5 years for this but it’s very good.

1998 Mazy-Chambertin
Quite an impressive density of aroma – wide and powerful – complex, slowly adding higher tones too. In the mouth too, an anecdote of tannin, but mouth-filling, good direction, actually a nice texture, high-toned flavour. Practically ready to drink. Complex, fresh, less ripe vintage but long and very drinkable. Yum.

2000 Chambertin
Aromatically this starts very tiny, but slowly grows with a super-engaging complexity. Not the largest, but still with plenty of volume, a base of tannin with a very modest drag to texture. There’s lots of complexity, and always in the finish a little herbed bitterness. The nose is fine, so I wanted to love the rest of the wine, but I much preferred the 98 Mazis. I jumped to the 15 Perrière to contrast, after and the Perrière has a hint of reduction but more intensity, purity and drive…

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