Head south from Dijon, and the urban sprawl begins to make-way for vineyards in the area of Chênove.
Very soon, and on your right-hand side, you will meet the first sign-post to a well-recognised appellation, this is Marsannay.
Continue south and you meet Fixin and then comes Brochon – a place you may be forgiven for not having heard of, because its most decent wines are typically sold under the label of its more famous neighbour from down the road – Gevrey-Chambertin.
Like most of the double-barrelled village (appellation) names, its wine is usually discussed in a shortened form – Gevrey – so what should you expect from a bottle from Gevrey?
Let’s ask Kermit…
(From The Kermit Lynch Wine Brochures, Kermit Lynch 2004)
“The nose rises up to meet you with a thick smoke-like texture and gives you a preview of the depth the wine will have on the palate.
A Gevrey must not be overly sophisticated. It must always have a touch of rusticity to it to seem real. Some men seem more feminine than others but remain men. Some Gevreys seem more feminine than others but remain masculine (Charmes, Lavaux St.Jacques, Corbeaux for instance). There is a firm backbone, and this backbone seems to have a slightly bitter edge to its flavour. Even when tight and closed up in youth, Gevreys are easy to appreciate, yet they do not reveal how grandly aromatic, complex and noble they will become when mature. Serve your Gevreys with game, fowl, red meats or cheeses.
Never drink one during the warm months. Gevery-Chambertin is a winter wine, soul-warming red wine, comforting like a blazing fire”
(From a 1990 catalogue)
Nice one Kermit! Already itching to get at your corkscrew? Relax, first take in a little of the village’s topography.
Imagine a great rock hillside, cracked on one side and then, over centuries, wedged, slowly teazed apart and weathered, this is the Combe de Lavaux.
…the “Combe” of Gevrey. It is a wild, deep ravine, about six miles s.w. of Dijon, the sides of which are very abrupt, and thickly clothed with vegetation. From the elevated points of the Combe, Mont Blanc and Mont St.Bernard may be distinguished, at a distance of upwards of 200 miles.
Over the centuries there has been a gradual ‘alluvial wash’ of rock and mineral-laden material from the mouth of the Combe, fanning out to cover a narrow band of sloping ground before delivering its material into the plateau. Right in the centre of this ‘fan’ lies the village of Gevrey-Chambertin though until 1847, when by the royal decree of King Louis-Philippe it was allowed to append the name of it’s famous grand cru, it was known as Gevrey-en-Montagne.
A satellite view of Gevrey-Chambertin, the Combe de Lavaux to the left. Link
With over 3,000 inhabitants the town of Gevrey is relatively large but seems split into three main areas; there’s the busy collection of houses, businesses and domaines set on the RN74, then, higher-up there’s the area near the Marie with shops and cafés, finally, and higher still, there’s a bunch of older dwellings near the 13th century church and the Château de Gevrey – pictured in the introduction above – the old centre of the village.
I well remember the cutting remark of the (non-French) wife of a well regarded Gevrey vigneron, who, when asked where in Gevrey-Chambertin the community centre actually was, tersely remarked “wouldn’t there first need to be a sense of community(?)” – Ouch!
There are (of-course) a range of styles and qualities from the ~540 hectares under cultivation:
In the commune of Gevrey, 405 hectares take the appellation of ‘Geverey-Chambertin’, 20% of which are the 26 ‘Gevrey-Chambertin’ 1er Crus. In addition, there are ~85 hectares containing the 9 grand crus of Gevrey – each of which are entitled to their own appellation. Just to the north of Gevrey lie 100 hectares in the previously mentioned village area of Brochon, ~51 of these hectares go into the Gevrey total – many are excellent – the remaining 49 hectares have the Côte de Nuits-Villages appellation.
It’s easier to see here.
The various classifications are uncharacteristically (for Burgundy) well separated, and it’s all down to geology; north of the Combe (and the village) lie a majority of the twenty six premier cru vineyards, they are planted on Bajocian Ostria Acuminata marls mixed with red alluvia and slope wash – to you and me, that’s red clay soil. There are no grand crus here. To the south of the village lie the nine grand crus, planted on hard Bajocian crinoidal limestone with shallow soils – still characteristically red. Satellite premier crus can be found here, clinging to the coat-tails of some grand cru appellations. The quality drops off quickly as you head east into the alluvial plain i.e. towards the RN74 and the railway line beyond; the soil is still red, but you have to go much, much deeper to reach the bedrock.
As with all large communes, quality is uneven – an unknown label of Gevrey-Chambertin is as dangerous as any from Puligny, Vosne or Pommard – the label of a known grower is its passport of authenticity. Put another way – variability equals poor bottles. Much of this variability is down to the large amount of vines planted on the ‘wrong’ side of the RN74 on the heavy clay of the flat alluvial plain. Occasional areas such as Bourée’s Clos de La Justice can please, but much of the rest disappoint. With the exception of Chorey – where expectations are anyway lower – Gevrey is the the only area with such a volume of communal classed vineyard beyond the RN74.
Whilst there may be the occasional vine of chardonnay or pinot blanc in any vineyard, officially, only one vine type may be planted and that is pinot noir. Things were less regulated at one time though:
(Cyrus Redding, 1833)
The arrondissement of Dijon produces the red and white Chambertin. They also make there an effervescing Chambertin, a wine only inferior to a very good Champagne, but it wants the delicate bouquet of Champagne, by the absence of which it is easily detected. The French complain of its having too much strength, but this would recommend it in England. It is a very delicate wine notwithstanding, and highly agreeable to the palate. It is recently imported into London, and is much commended.
The principal plants used are those called the norien and pineau. The gibaudot and the gamet are used for infrerior kinds of wine, and the chaudenay for white.
Communal or ‘villages’ Gevrey-Chambertin follows on the coat-tails of Pommard as one of the most variable locations for good wine. For Pommard, much of the lesser quality can be avoided by making sure that you concentrate on bottles showing an actual lieu-dit or climat on the label – for two reasons that is less of a solution for Gevrey-Chambertin:
- There are 69 potential ‘climat’ names that could appear on a label for villages Gevrey – who can know them all?
- No other appellation has as much villages classified land – Meursault comes close with 305 hectares, but Gevrey has almost 360, 310 of which in Gevrey plus another 50 in Brochon! It’s also not just the vast area that’s the problem, rather the inappropriate position – or rather classification – of a large portion of those vines on the eastern side of the R.N.74 that would be better classed as ‘bourgogne’.
The take-home message is, when looking for communal Gevrey-Chambertin, your mantra must be: reputation of producer, reputation of producer, reputation of producer. The addition of a climat name on a label may instil a small addition of confidence – but not much given the diversity – or rather the suitability of many of those climats. I include at the end of this page a table of as many lieu-dits (or named climats) as I could find – though it’s only 64 of the (apparently) 69 approved names. There are a number of climats which you may recognise as premier crus e.g. La Bossière, Clos Prieure and La Romanée, these are indeed also premier crus, but some part of all these vineyards is only classified as ‘communal’.
Let’s split the communal vines into 3:
- Those vines close to the Grand Crus to the south of the village
- Those vines in and to the west of the village from the Combe and into Brochon
- Those vines in the east of the village and beyond
Communal appellation Aux Ételois to the left and grand cru Griotte-Chambertin to the right
1. Those vines close to the Grand Crus to the south of the village
These typically lie at the base of the slopes and in sight of, if not always kicking-distance of the grand crus. Some (see above) are separated from grand crus by only the simplest of walls or paths. Typically softer and more approachable than their grand and premier cru neighbours you can find many worthy wines. The R.N.74 runs quite close to the grand crus, so there are a number of plantings also on the other side of the road. I would say that they are more successful than those further to the north and east of the village discussed in point 3 below. In the case of recommended producers I include them in brackets after the name of the climat:
- To the west of the R.N.74, Bel Air (Charlopin-Parizot, Taupenot-Merme), Carougeot (Frédéric Esmonin), Les Cercueils, Champs Chenys (Roty), Clos Prieur Bas (Frédéric Esmonin, René Leclerc, Patrice Rion), Aux Échezeaux (Fourrier, Michel Magnien), Les Épointures (a large % of Dugat-Py’s Coeur du Roi, Ponsot’s Cuvée de l’Abeille), Aux Ételois (Maume), Jouise (Frédéric Esmonin), En Pallud (Maume), and Vignes Belles
- To the east of the R.N.74: La Burie, Le Fourneau, Pressonnier, Reniard (Burguet), Roncevie and Les Seuvrées (Fougeray de Beauclair, Michel Magnien)
2. Those vines in and to the west of the village from the Combe and into Brochon. These vines start in the mouth of the Combe de Lavaux and follow the line of the hillside into Brochon. When compared to the vineyards located around the grand crus and certainly the those to the east of Gevrey, here you will find more structure and often more density – they tend to need more time in the cellar – but that’s not a negative. Certainly good wines can be found here, even the vines located in the village can give a real and intersting expression of pinot noir.
- Billard (Burguet), La Bossière, Le Carré Rougeaud, Champ, En Champs (Geantet-Pansiot, Camille Giroud), Les Champs Perrières (Fourrier’s Gevrey VV), Clos des Chézeaux (Berthaut), Combe du Dessus, Combe de Lavaut, Le Créot, Les Croisettes, Les Évocelles (Louis Boillot, Charlopin-Parizot, Dugat-Py, Vougeraie), Les Évoselles, Les Gueulepines, Les Jeunes Rois (Geantet Pansiot), Les Journaux, La Marie, Meix-Bas, En Motrot (older bottles of Denis Mortet), La Romanée, En Songe, Aux Vellé, Villages, En Vosne
3. Those vines in the east of the village and beyond
There are some interesting and tasty wines produced from vines within the village; Miex des Ouches, Clos Tamisot and La Brunelle spring to mind, there is at least some small slope and bedrock here. Move further east, and in particular over the R.N.74, onto the flat, deep-soiled alluvial flood plain and we clearly have a topography that goes against everything established for fine burgundy. It’s not just that the soil is deep and rich, it’s that the limestone is missing and the minerals from the rock are so diluted – though the soil mainly retains the iron-red colour found on the slopes. Here you would need a strong pair of binoculars to find ‘neighbouring’ premier or grand cru sites! About the only exception I can make is for the vines of La Justice; Clos de la Justice in the case of Pierre Bourée, and a number passable bottlings of La Justice by Burguet, Charlopin-Parizot and Vougeraie.
The problem is that you will rarely find any of the following climat names on bottles, rather the label will likely say only ‘Gevrey-Chambertin’. The vineyards I include in this group are:
- To the west of the R.N.74: Baraques, La Brunelle (Roty), Charreux, Combe du Bas, Aux Corvées, Les Marchais (Faiveley), Mévelle (Gelin), Pince-Vin, Sylvie, and Clos Tamisot (Damoy)
- To the east of the R.N.74 there is a massive 115 hectares that include: Champ Franc, Les Crais, Craite-Paille, Creux Brouillard, Croix des Champs, Grands Champs, Grands Rayes, La Justice (Bourée, Burguet, Charlopin-Parizot, Vougeraie), Es Murots (Frantin), La Platière (Guyon[Vosne]) and Puits de la Baraque
If you don’t want to play the climat spotting game, then let me suggest a few producers of communal Gevrey to look out for:
- The ‘Old Hands’: Denis Bachelet, Bruno Clair, Fourrier, Gallois, Armand Rousseau
- Some ‘recently improved’: Louis Boillot, Sylvie Esmonin, Humbert Frères, Lignier-Michelot, Vougeraie
Appendix of Gevrey Cummunal Climats
|Le Carré Rougeaud
|Les Champs Perriers
|Clos Prieur Bas
|Combe du Dessus
|Combe de Lavaut
|Les Jeunes Rois
|Combe du Bas
|Croix des Champs
|Meix des Ouches
|Puits de la Baraque
The A-Z of Grand Cru Vineyards
All the grand crus lie to the south of the village. Here the gently sloped land, topped by woods, falls towards the east and the early morning sun. The grand crus are bisected by the road, the ‘Route des Grands Crus’; those vineyards above the ‘route’ having a steeper slope and more depth of underlying (limestone) bedrock than those below. From north to south, those above the ‘route’ are Ruchottes-Chambertin, Mazis-Chambertin, Clos de Bèze, Chambertin and Latricières-Chambertin. On the lower (eastern) side of the ‘route’ are Chapelle-Chambertin, Griotte-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, and finally, Mazoyères-Chambertin. As a point of interest all of the nine grands crus share a border with either Chambertin or Clos de Bèze.
Clos de Bèze and Chambertin head the hierarchy here, the others merely pay hommage by hyphenating themselves to Chambertin – part in deference, part for reflected glory. On the whole they are all capable of a grand cru performance – some more effortlessly than others – but it is clear that the ‘baby Chambertins’ play a subordinate role. The top two share some ownership history too; In the 1200’s the Clos de Bèze was sold to the order of the Cathedral of Langres, who leased it out until the 17th century, when a Claude Jouard first took a 20 year lease on the Clos de Bèze in 1627, afterwatrds extending the lease indefinitely. Cathedral of Langres tried in 1708 to take back the Clos, but failed in court.
In 1701, in Montigny sur Aube, was born Claude Jobert, who established himself in Gevrey as one of the first of a new breed of négociants who actually exported wine. He was so successful that he acquired almost all of Le Chambertin and the Clos de Bèze and even sold the wine as ‘Claude Jobert de Chambertin’. Despite his success in commerce, his family name died out in 1815.
12 hectares and 93 ares. Folklore tells us that this was first the domaine of a man called Bertin. Given the success of the monks of Bèze in the neighbouring field, he copied them. The field (champs) of Bertin became Chambertin. The vineyard is capped by a wood which by late afternoon brings shadow to the fruit at the top of the slope – this delays maturity – but the trees may not be touched (cut) as it is believed that they provide a measure of defence against hail. The south is also picked a little later due to cold breezes that come through the Combe de Grisard. There is more slope at the top, but from top to bottom the drop is only around 20 metres – not surprisingly there is additional depth of soil at the bottom. There are over 20 owners in Chambertin and as many négoce bottles again, but in recent years the consistent highest quality has been found only in bottles by Rouseau, Leroy and Dugat-Py and occasional bottles by Bouchard Père and Denis Mortet. Much improvement is to be seen from Trapet and Clos Frantin. Camus seem to be a major source of fruit/barrels for the Négoce. I have to say that I am often underwhelmed by Chambertin, but many producers excelled in 2005 – those bottles can be very special.
Chambertin Clos de Bèze
15 hectares and 39 ares. Founded by the monks of Bèze in the 7th century, Clos de Bèze is one of the oldest recorded vineyards of Burgundy and signifiicantly the older of the two Chambertins. Strange then that 1,400 years later the name of the the ‘upstart’ ‘champ de Bertin’ is prefixed for little more than marketing reasons. The wine from this vineyard may be called either Chambertin, or Chambertin Clos de Bèze – though many locals drop the reference to ‘Chambertin’ – this is not reciprocal and a Chambertin may never be called Clos de Bèze. It is said that the clos was surrounded by a stout wall – not unlike that of the Clos de Vougeot – but little evidence of this remains. The slope is exposed just a little more east than Chambertin’s, this extra sun coupled to the lack of that cold Combe de Grisard breeze aids earlier ripening. The whole slope sits on a deep bed of Bajocian limestone, though the soil is lighter in colour as well as depth at the top of the vineyard. There are about 18 owners of Clos de Bèze so one would expect that each holding might be larger than those in the smaller Chambertin vineyard – almost but not quite as the Damoy family own one third of the total area. Interestingly, parcels tend to be staggered across the slope, each having a cross-section of both high and low lying vines. Athough Clos-de-Bèze is nearly three hectares larger than Le Chambertin, its average annual production is lower. If I were to try and encapsulate for me a difference between Clos de Bèze and Chambertin, it would be that I percieve an extra mineral dimension to a good Bèze. That said, it’s hard to find good examples so I find it harder to recommend wines from this vineyard vs those of Chambertin; Rousseau remains a ‘standout’ and Louis Jadot make a fine version from their own vines. I have less (though positive) experience of the wine from Bruno Clair and can give honourable mentions to occasional négoce bottles from Bouchard Père and Nicolas Potel. Like Chambertin before, look out for the 2005’s.
5 hectares 48 ares. Chapelle-Chambertin apparently takes its name from a small chapel that once stood on the site. The vineyard is very well situated, directly below the central portion of Clos de Bèze (the road as a separator) and to the side of Griotte-Chambertin. Chapelle is made up of two areas, Chapelle to the south and Gémeux to the north which itself borders the 1er cru of Cherbaudes on the same level and Champitenois below. The only notable characteristic of the vineyard is that the soil is a little deeper than that of its grand cru neighbour Griotte. Gémeux has the thinnest soil, and commonly produces wine that in youth is more austere than in ‘Chapelle’. Chapelle-Chambertin is an uncommon wine, and despite covering 3 times the area of Griotte, it is much less known. Damoy own close to half the vineyard though I don’t recollect any bottles. I would propose Ponsot and Jadot as interesting sources, but note that Ponsot’s Griotte is usually more impressive than his Chapelle. The 2004 from négociant Camille Giroud is a very tidy, if slightly austere bottle (August 07).
Charmes-Chambertin and Mazoyères-Chambertin
12 hectares 24 ares for Charmes, 18 hectares 58 centaires for Mazoyères, but discussed together as most Mazoyères is labelled as Charmes. With more than thirty hectares this appellation accounts for a significant area of grand cru land, and much of that land is also well situated below Chambertin. Both the Charmes and Mazoyères sections enjoy excellent orentation to the sun and avoid the cold winds in Chambertin above. There are a massive 40+ owners so it’s not too surprising that plenty of mediocre wine can be found. It is said that the centre of Mazoyères may produce remarkable, Chambertin-like wines, but the multiple ownerships make that hard to prove, and certainly the base of Mazoyères seems much too low on the slope to wear a grand cru label. There are, of-course, bottles worth chasing, and from the average annual production of ~10,000 cases I particularly recommend Denis Bachelet, Truchot, Dugat and Vougeraie’s wines – that latter wine from Vougeraie was one of the rare bottles actually to be labelled as Mazoyères – until the 2004 vintage when it reverted to Charmes – but still noted Mazoyères on the label.
2 hectares 69 ares. Sited directly below Clos de Bèze. Avoiding the cool breezes above, it’s quite a hot location and always harvested before Chambertin. A more complete discussion of the appellation and producers can be found here. A small cadre of well regarded producers means that most bottles are worth a search, whether Fourrier, Drouhin or Ponsot/Chézeaux. Leclerc’s can be powerful, but is typically more rustic than the best. Crown jewel prices may also be paid for Dugat and Roty’s bottles – but they are typically harder to find than to pay for! The average quality from this vineyard is way higher than any other vineyard in Gevrey – but that’s because significant underachievers are hard to find, but the peaks in Griotte are still lower than the peaks in Chambertin and Bèze.
7 hectares 35 ares. Latricières is the most southerly of the Gevrey grand crus but don’t assume that to be a negative it’s neighbour to the south is the Morey St.Denis grand cru of Clos de la Roche, and its neighbour to the north is Chambertin. The cool breeze that affects Chambertin so, moves first across Latricières, hence, this is the coolest climate of the grand crus. ‘Tricières’ is derived from a Latin word meaning sterile earth and here (by way of explanation) the soil is very thin – only centimetres in places. This might provide an expectation for minerality in the wine, but few show it – Leroy is easily the top example – I have drunk only two vintages, though both were stunning, but again with a crown jewel price to match. Faiveley are well regarded, but I personally think that their bottles say more about their production philosophies the vineyard itself. The list of owners is not long yet we seem surrounded by indifference as they are not typically owners of the calibre found in Griotte for instance.
9 hectares 10 ares. Mazis or Mazy as it is sometimes spelled, is split into an upper and a lower section – both of which are the northerly neighbours of Clos de Bèze. It is suggested that the name Mazis came from the word ‘mas’, which later became ‘maison’ or ‘house’, might refer to a group of houses replaced by vines in the late 1300’s. Many publications show a quality preference to the upper part, but I have yet to note a quantifiable difference. A good Mazis has built its reputation on a seductive mix of power and aroma, if not the refinement of the two Chambertins. In both geology and aspect there is little to distinguish Mazis from Bèze. A parcel in the upper portion, owned by the Hospices de Beaune – the cuvée Madelaine Collignon – is their standard bearer from the Côte de Nuits. There are approaching 20 owners in this vineyard, the Hopsices being the biggest. Esmonin (Frédèric) produce a consistently ‘good value’ wine from this vineyard, but it is usually not to the quality of the more expensive Hospices bottling.
3 hectares 30 ares. The last grand cru before the ‘mouth’ of the combe. It’s also the steepest, hence, retaining many old walls to guard as best as possible against erosion – despite that, the soil is very thin. Like Mazis it’s split into an upper and lower section – the top part is a clos and monopole of domaine Armand Rousseau, the Clos des Ruchottes. This top section wine can have an ethereal transparency and is a relative bargain vs the pricing of Rousseau’s other ‘top three’. The lower slope wines have an extra density but usually without becoming ponderous. It is speculated that bees were once kept here, from the word ‘ruche’ which means beehive. Like Griotte, there are relatively few owners (~8), but for me the clear leaders from this vineyard are the bottles from Rousseau and Mugneret, but I’ve yet to taste a bottle from Roumier. Older bottles from Esmonin (Frédèric) have been more than acceptable.
The A-Z of Premier Cru Vineyards
The 1er crus can be conveniently split into two main groups; those that form a contigious block to the north of the village – all on the same south, south-east and east facing hillside of the combe and those to the south of the village which touch on one or more grand crus. There are three 1ers (Champonnet, Craipillot and Clos du Chapitre) that don’t fit into this scheme but rather than form arbitrary satellites they make a ‘land bridge’ between the southern and northern 1er cru groups.
2 hectares 65 ares. Well sited directly above Clos de Bèze and touching Ruchottes-Chambertin, only part of the vineyard is classified as 1er cru, the rest as village level. Much of Bel-Air is a relatively recent planting – 1960’s – as it was left to waste following the destructive wave of phylloxera in the late 1800’s. There is quite a list of owners in spite of the vineyard’s relatively small size, that said, there are few bottles to be found. Vougeraie (0.6 hectares) and Taupenot-Merme (0.35 hectares) seem the best known. I’ve only experience of the Vougeraie and whilst relatively expensive it is recommended.
45 ares. This is another vineyard where part is 1er cru and a part is village rated – we will meet several more. Way round on the northern hillside of the Combe, this is the last of the premiers, only a small extra plot of villages level La Bossière lie between it and the scrub of the hillside. South facing, this is an area that needs a warm year to reach full ripeness and always requires a later harvest. It is a monopole of Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy. The vines are less than 20 years old and, hence, the wine has been an unconvincing 1er cru – at least pre 2005 which I’ve not tasted.
9 hectares 12 ares. Cazetiers lies against the Clos St. Jacques where the combe makes a slight turn, hence, is not so perfectly exposed as the the clos itself so is helped by riper years. Despite this, Cazetiers remains a wine of renown; earthy and meaty but with some elegance in the case of the Rousseau or Berthaut (Chézeaux metayer) wines; it also has a reputation for long life. Its relatively thin cover of soil finds no help from storms which push it ever further down the hill. Strong bottles can also be found from Bruno Clair, Louis Jadot and Serafin.
6 hectares and 68 ares. At the northern extreme of Gevrey, touching Brochon. The ground here shows the classic red Gevrey earth, it is also very stony and steep, hence, terraced such that many parts cannot be navigated by tractor. Typically a little cooler here than for the rest of Gevrey’s 1er crus. Bourée own a small depression which is almost completely surrounded by high walls, hence, warmer than the rest of the climat – it’s the only bottling I really know but should be considered atypical due to both its topography and its inclusion of a high percentage of stems – but it’s to my taste. Occasional bottles from Fourrier and Olivier Guyot have been good, though a single example from Tortochot disappointed.
Champitenois (or Petite-Chapelle)
4 hectares. See Petite-Chapelle.
3 hectares 31 ares. Within the confines of the village, this is on relatively flat land just above Fontenys and directly south of Craipillot. Domaine des Varoilles seem to be the biggest owner (69 ares) but I don’t recollect ever tasting one.
2 hectares 18 ares. A tiny vineyard that, at its highest reaches, touches on the bottom section of Mazis, and Chapelle to its southern extent. Apparently the name points to the location of a cemetary! Whether they could dig six feet under is not disclosed, but if so they would be shovelling the same red soil, infused with iron, on a base of limestone. Domaine Fourrier owns about one-third of the vineyard. Look out for both his and Lucien Boillot’s versions.
Clos du Chapître
98 ares. This is a monopole of the cellar Cooperative Viticole Union des Propriètaire de Vins. Lying directly across the road from the Clos St.Jacques on a stony ‘soil’. I’ve not yet seen a bottle.
0.52 hectares. A tiny vineyard but one that is well sited – just under Mazis-Chambertin. Almost the exclusivity of Drouhin-Laroze (0.44ha) and I’ve only ever seen one. According to Burghound, prior to 2004 it was always blended into their Gevrey 1er cru, since when it has been released unblended. The 2005 is a good if not outstanding wine.
Combe aux Moines
4 hectares 76 ares. A well-known vineyard that is at the top and around the lip of the combe in the direction of Brochon, separated from the Clos St.Jacques by Cazetiers – it is tyically the most rustic offering of the three but would still likely rate in the top half dozen 1er cru vineyards. Thin soil and plenty of limestone are the main vineyard characteristics. Whilst Faiveley is the largest owner (1.08 ha), I like the wines of Fourrier and the meatier, heartier wine of Dominique Gallois.
4 hectares 57 ares. Equally well-known as the Combe aux Moines, not least because it is enclosed by grand crus; the Clos de la Roche, Latricières and Mazoyères-Chambertin. The people of Morey ‘suggest’ that it was never made a grand cru, because no-one from Gevrey was interested – all the owners were from Morey St.Denis. Laurent Ponsot anyway calls it Combottes-Chambertin! Part of this vineyard was even ‘uprated’ to Latricières – though comically it was a part owned by Domaine Camus – one of the least impressive producers! Talking of producers, it’s also an impressive roll-call; Leroy, Dujac, Lignier, Amiot etc., etc. which probably influences our expectations. Although no great fan of the vintage, I can easily say that the Leroy 2003 Combottes is one of the most impressive 1er cru bottles I ever tasted, built more like a triathlete than a decathlete. Probably because of the stems, I find the Dujac version a little subtler with less power. Clearly this is anyway a cut above the average Gevrey 1er cru.
3 hectares and 21 ares. Often described as masculine (remember Kermit?), this small cru is set in deeper, iron infused soil, touching upon the lower part of Mazis-Chambertin and lies east of Champonnets. Whilst, there are no large owners we have some very good bottles to chase; Bachelet, Jadot, Serafin spring quickly to mind. Put Bachelet’s Corbeaux next to a Clos St.Jacques and you will see less focus and perhaps less well defined structure but no less intensity – and the price is about half!
2 hectares and 76 ares. Here, just below the Clos du Chapitre, the vineyard is relatively flat, though apparently well-drained. I’ve only ever seen a Confuron-Coteditot bottling – and it was rather ungainly – most of this juice ends up in anonymous Gevrey-Chambertin 1er cru blends.
1 hectare and 17 ares. Owners include Trapet and Tortochot, but I’ve never found a bottle. Like most of the Craipillot above, I assume it ends up in the Gevrey 1er cru ‘mix’.
Estournelles (or Etournelle) Saint-Jacques
2 hectares and 03 ares. A well positioned, if small cru right at the top of the slope. Below is Lavaux and it’s north-east border is that of the Clos St.Jacques – the soil is pretty much the same too – at least at that high level in the Clos. The name supposedly derives from walls with towers. Frédéric Esmonin owns the largest single portion, 0.75 hectares, I haven’t tasted it, but it comes well recommended by Allen Meadows!
Fonteny and Clos du Fonteny – or Fontenys
3 hectares and 73 ares. Lots of potential names – that indicate the presence of a spring – but a relatively small cru, sited just below the grand cru Ruchottes on the flat land adjioning the village. That part that borders Ruchottes, has a wall with the name Clos du Fonteny, this is a 0.68 hectare monopole of domain Bruno Clair – the vines are currently very young. It’s a rocky cru with a paucity of soil. Rebourseau with 1 hectare is the biggest owner though the 0.45 hectares of Roty are the best known.
1 hectare and 81 ares. Sitting above Champeaux in a cleft between it and the Combe aux Moine, it’s a steep plot with terraces, it’s also much cooler than the lower land so needs extra ripening time. From here I would choose the examples of Fourrier and Vougeraie.
9 hectares and 53 ares. Adjoining the Clos St.Jacques, Lavaut (or Lavaux) is the largest of the Gevrey 1ers. Mainly covering the lower part of the slope where the soil is deeper – so needs care to keep yields in-line – it still gets hit by a cool breeze that misses the Clos due to its high walls. Like Corbeaux the Lavaux never equals the ‘focus’ of the St.Jacques but betters the Corbeaux for elegance. It also benefits from a retinue of well-regarded producers including Domaines Denis Mortet, Armand Rousseau and both Dugats.
2 hectares and 47 ares. On the flat plain above the village, sandwiched between the grand cru of Mazis (bas) and a section of villages that reaches to the RN74. The name reflects the stones that were probably extracted from the site. The holdings are all quite small, that must be why I’ve hardly seen a bottle, but a recent 2005 from Marchand-Grillot was excellent and keenly priced at abou 28 Euros.
0.99 hectares. Almost never seen – apart from an occasional bottle by Dominique Gallois – as producers blend it into their Cazetiers and keep the Cazetiers label.
Petite-Chapelle (or Champitenois)
4 hectares. Not surprisingly, the vines are situated directly below that of Chapelle-Chambertin. The make-up of the soil is similar except that drainage can be problematic in wet years. Though it’s hardly a common sight, there is quite a collection of owners – it is said, producing a lighter version of the Chapelle grand cru. Dugat-Py’s version has the highest renown, but is hard to come by and expensive, so to get an inexpensive taste, try the version of Marchand-Grillot.
Plantigone or Issart
0.62 hectares. This small site sits opposite (south of) the high part of Ruchottes, sharing walls with the Rousseau Clos des Ruchottes. Faiveley have taken on the vines who were owned by Bernard Dufour – one to look for apparently, but not yet found by me.
2 hectares and 20 ares. Le Poissenots lies next to Estournelles St.Jacques, high on the hillside it recieves a cool breeze from Veroilles. Is it the shape of a fish or did the monks have a fishpond here? Anyway it’s an unusual name. It is Geantet-Pansiot who waves the flag for this cru – he’s also the biggest owner with 0.62 hectares.
Clos Prieur (Haut)
2 hectares. Only the ‘Haut’ is premier cru, the lower part has the village appellation. Dovetailed between Cherbaudes, La Perrière and the bottom section of Mazis. The vineyard was owned at one time by the Abbey of Cluny and was one of the earliest vineyards planted, probably because the soil was easier to work than that of its neighbours. I’ve seen examples from Gelin, Trapet.
1 hectare and 6 ares. The name Romanée is usually reserved for the best vineyards. This a monopole of Domaine de la Varoilles and commands the high spot on the side of the Combe. The ground is rocky and there is an underground stream running below the vineyard. Like several other 1er crus La Romanée includes a part that is classed as a village appellation. The character of La Romanée is a little redder with raspberry fruit if compared to its cherry fruited stablemate Clos des Varoilles. It’s a consistently good wine.
Clos Saint Jacques
6 hectares 70 ares. This is the cru which all other premiers aspire to be. Together with Meursault Perrières and Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses they have a classification of their own in the minds of Burgundy afficionados – historically it was also one of the vineyards of renown. The large walled vineyard is perfectly exposed on the ‘corner’ of the combe. While there is a significant height difference from bottom to top but the five current producers all have vines that run from top to bottom, thus masking any potential for difference. It is a most harmonious wine and much easier to appreciate in it’s youth than a Chambertin or a Bèze, partly this is why it is so often cited as a potential grand cru – but with time those wines will almost always better it. That of-course doen’t mean it cannot exceed the quality of a ‘xxxx-Chambertin’. Until 1954 it was a monopole of the Comte de Moucheron when it was sold to a consortium of four buyers: the domaines of Clair-Daü (now Bruno Clair), Esmonin, Fourrier and Rousseau. Today we can add the name of Louis Jadot to that list, who aquired vines during the break-up of the Clair-Daü estate. The extra oak lavished on the Rousseau seems to position it higher than the others, but all are worthy purchases. I would put the Fourrier and the Esmonin bottles as the closest things to a ‘bargain’. Very occasionally you might come across a négoce bottle too from Pierre Bourée or Dominique Laurent – probably sourced from Esmonin.
Clos des Varoilles
6 hectares and 3 ares. The Domaine des Varoilles has this, not surprisingly from the name, as a monopole. The domaine seems blessed to have this and La Romanée as monopoles; the Clos des Varoilles particularly for its historical renown on a par with Clos St.Jacques, Bèze and Romanée-Conti. Sited early in the mouth of the combe, south from Lavaut it is easily spotted for the small ‘house’, with its pale blue shutters, in the upper centre of of the vineyard. The land is not so steep as some crus but there is still quite a drop from top to bottom. I’ve visited the domaine and bought a number of vintages as this is a wine of value and interest but not quite what renown would suggest – does that reflect the winemaking? Still a recommended source.