Pull into the courtyard at Domaine Robert Chevillon and, at least in the summer when doors are propped open, you are likely to be greeted first, not by Denis or Bertrand Chevillon, but rather the large, inquisitive head of the courtyard – their boxer dog. Luckily, despite its impressive stature, even for a boxer, only a head scratch is being begged…
The roots of today’s domaine started with Symphorien Chevillon who was working vines in Nuits St.Georges in the 1800s. Eugène-François Chevillon (b.1887) began working at the domaine about 1914, but soon had to go off to war. He was one of the lucky ones to return; taking over the domain in 1919 he bought new vines which were later to be classed as premier crus. Eugène-François died early leaving his wife and two sons to cope with the domaine – the sons officially succeeded him 8-9 years later in 1946. Those sons later separated the domaine and went in their own directions – it is the brother Maurice Chevillon who continues our history for this domaine.
In 1937, Maurice’s wife, Adrienne, gave birth to 2 children: Jeannine and Robert – it is Robert who is eponymously attached to the domaine today, and it was he who was the first to start bottling the domaine’s own wine rather than selling to the négoce. Robert and Christiane Chevillon had 2 sons: Denis, born in 1963, and Bertrand, born in 1967 and they succeeded their father, Robert, when he decided to retire in 2003, becoming the fifth generation to work the family domaine.
The domain covers an area of 13 hectares of vines, including eight 1er Crus of Nuits. Ninety percent of the domaine’s produce is exported – which averages 70,000 bottles per year – Bertrand Chevillon says that “there is no real secret, as the market is very simple – if your wines have a good quality then people come back!” And Domaine Robert Chevillon is currently not accepting new customers, such is the consistency of success.
Vines and winemaking
The domaine is ‘lutte-raisonné’ but Bertrand notes that 2012 has still been ‘hard-work’ but he feels sorry for his fellow vignerons who are trying to stick to their biodynamic principles. They choose to plough between the rows, avoiding treatments of herbicides. They debud early in the spring, and in the summer will practice a little leaf-thinning to allow the (hopefully drying) breeze to reach the grape clusters.
Discussing with Bertrand, he tells me that everything is destemmed – always – before fermenting in stainless-steel. They have a pigeage system above the vats to reduce back-ache. Although the grapes do effectively get a cool pre-fermentation maceration, it is the cuverie rather than the vats that is cooled at the start of the vintage to keep things running on a steady level during the harvest. In addition to the automatic pigeage system, they usually practice a daily remontage (pumping-over) too.
All the wines are all made in exactly the same way – only the quantity of new oak may vary between villages and 1er Crus. Three barrel suppliers provide the blend of wood at R.Chevillon: Sirugue, Seguin-Moureau and Chassin. The domaine sticks with 30% new wood for the 1er Crus, the villages normally being brought-up in something closer to 20% new wood, the remainder a blend of 2-3 year-old barrels.
It depends entirely on the vintage, or the taste of the wines as they develop, whether there is one or more racking before bottling; in the case of 2011, probably the just one racking (which happened in early June) will be made before the final assemblage, before the bottling – which is likely to be in April 2013. There is also a little ‘Pinot Gouges’ intermixed through-out the domaine’s vineyards – these grapes used to be kept in the red cuvées (just like the Viogner in Hermitage), but since the mid-eighties it has been bottled separately, and save for a little Bourgogne Aligoté. remains the domaine’s only white.
There’s a smoothness and glossiness to this domaines wines – almost regardless of vintage – that seems to set them apart from even the handful of famous domaine in Nuits St.Georges – these 2011s have an element of that too. I tasted these with Bertrand Chevillon on the 21st June 2012, and asked him how he felt about his 2011s:
“I’m very happy with the 2011s – they’re nice wines, despite the malos being a little complicated, and the fact that the wines were racked only 3 weeks ago. There are lots of red fruits which I find interesting.”
A tour of the 2011 barrels – just racked about three weeks prior. Generally a great set of wines, but with two of them already showing a pyrazine element, this is certainly a domaine where I’d want to try the wines again, about six months after bottling, before I consider investing.