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Profile: Domaine Frédéric Esmonin (Gevrey-Chambertin)

domaine-frederic-esmoninThis is a domaine who I’ve had some very nice experiences with, mainly from wines in the 1999-2001 bracket so I thought it would be good to pay a visit and learn a little more.

There are two labels here; Domaine des Estournelles which is the ‘domaine viticole’ – just three and a half hectares – and Frédéric Esmonin which covers the négoce wines. Of, perhaps, sixty thousand bottles per year, by volume there is just a little more négoce wine today, mainly from ‘smaller labels’ such as Bourgogne; though until 2004 they had some more interesting labels under a metayage agreement with Domaine Thomas-Moillard which brought-in Bonnes-Mares, Chambertin and Clos de Bèze. I was once a fan of their Griotte-Chambertin too, but the contract for that ended with the 1999 vintage – I still have a few bottles!

Frédéric is in his mid-forties but has limited mobility so is still supported by his father André and mother Michelle – and of-course Michelle’s two basset-hounds – Sylvie Esmonin is a cousin. André had previously sold all the produce of the domaine to a quite decent selection of négoce: Drouhin, Jadot and Leroy. Starting in 1988 they began to commercialise their own bottles. About 1/3rd of the wines go to the US, but UK and Japan are well represented, the wines are little known in France; “we have good quality price relationship, so we always have more demand than wine” says Frédéric. Already at the start of 2011, the only wines you could buy at the domaine were subscriptions for the 2010s.

In the vines they work as ‘lutte raissonée’ and regularly plough their soils, there have have been no hebicides at the domaine for over ten years though they use an insecticide which is accepted as ‘bio’. The wines are made with 100% destemmed grapes, cold macerated for 4-5 days before the fermentation begins. As much as sixty percent new oak is used – but it seems very well judged as, save for the occasional whiff of vanilla in a young wine, I note little obvious oak flavour or texture.

The wines

Together with Louis Jadot, Esmonin has the lion’s share of Estournelles St.Jacques – it’s high on the hill but faces directly south and gets lots of sun – indeed always the last rays of the sun – the soil is a little sandy with a clay and limestone base which brings finesse but good concentration too – they are very happy with the old vines there as they always deliver small concentrated grapes. Their parcel of Ruchottes sits directly below the Clos des Ruchottes of Armand Rousseau.

Tasted in Gevrey, 23rd March 2011. We took a tour of the 2010s in the long and tidy cellar of the domaine; Estournelles St.Jacques, Ruchottes-Chambertin, Mazis-Chambertin – mainly too much CO2 to warrant comment but they look excellent with a little more tannin and acidity versus the 09s – the wines that follow were all in bottle. 2009s were bottled quite early; clean they needed no racking, just 4 or 5 days for the lees to settle. The domaine decided their 09s were forward wines for drinking relatively early – unlike both 2008 and 2010. One tranche was bottled just before the harvest another at the beginning of October.

Overall these are good, honest, tasty wines with not a hint of rusticity. They are not the most intense or mineral examples, but they are very well-priced examples – the quality of some of the older vintages in my cellar indicate that maybe I underplay their quality – but suffice to say, I am happy to buy them.

2008 Frédéric Esmonin, Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes
The nose offers a nice, slightly creamy red fruit. Very good balance, plenty of extract and long too – good fruit, not too sweet.

2008 Frédéric Esmonin, Ruchottes-Chambertin
Again there’s a creamy edge to the aroma of red fruit. More extract here with finely grained tannin. The flavour builds a little in the mid-palate then holds a linear course into the finish. The flavour is a little stony in the finish.

2009 Frédéric Esmonin, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Les Estournelles St.Jacques
Dark red cherry fruit; the nose gives a smooth impression, eventually adding a note of violets too – lovely! Very fine tannin and a good extract – nice wine, one of finesse, I like it very much.

2009 Frédéric Esmonin, Ruchottes-Chambertin
The fruit has a darker complexion, initially less open but finely detailed – finally there is a more red fruit too. Lots of extract, not super-sweet for an 09, again with plenty of fine-grained tannin. This wine seems a little looser knit than the Estournelles but the supporting intensity is good, as is the length. Needs some time for focus I think.

Domaine Frédéric Esmonin
Les Estournelles
12 Rue du Chêne
21220, Gevrey Chambertin
Tel. +33 (0)9 79 66 20 27
Fax. +33 (0)3 80 34 14 24

22 responses to “Profile: Domaine Frédéric Esmonin (Gevrey-Chambertin)”

  1. JesseBeckerMS

    Hi Bill,
    I believe these are always a little early to bottle. Do you recall how long the 08s were in barrel? I’ve been told that the early bottling is mainly due to a space issue in the cellar. Is that your understanding as well?

    1. billn

      I don’t have my notes to hand Jesse re their 08 malos, but on the balance of probabilities you could be right Jesse – cynics would say to bottle so early could only be for cash-flow reasons, given a poor market for 07 & 08, but the fact that they are sold-out (year-in, year-out) indicates another reason.

      They told me the wines were ready and no point to keep them in their barrels – and there’s plenty of space in the barrel cellar – I seem to remember the barrels are not stacked. So maybe they just decidied the time was right…

  2. JesseBeckerMS

    In any case they are forward, fresh and attractively priced. They’re extremely useful at the restaurant level. So now it is just the Bourgogne, Clos Prieur, and Les Jouises which are the négoce wines? Champonnets is négoce?

  3. Eric

    Bill hi,

    Any chance that you had tried the 2008 Estournelle St. Jacques of his?

  4. Eric

    No problem at all. Based on your review of other vintages, I would try a bottle as they are selling them for $40US only!

  5. Eric

    That’s what I think so too! and i am also getting an 08 Gevrey Chambertin Estournelle St. Jacque from Frederic Esmonin for less than $50USD. 😉

  6. Eric

    oops , It’s the N.S.G. 1er Cru Clos de Forets St. Georges de L’Arlot 2008 that is selling for $40. The Frederic Esmonin is at $48…still decent price i think,

    cheers,
    Eric

  7. LT

    Hello Bill,

    From your report, it seems that F. Esmonin’s wine is in this order: 2010 > 2008 > 2009. Am I correct? I am especially curious with the Ruchottes. Thank you.

  8. LT

    I haven’t got a chance to taste their Estournelles. From my understanding, it seems that the Estournelles has a prettier nose while the Ruchottes has a more complex palate? Thanks again.

  9. Tom Blach

    Somewhat to my surprise an 03 Ruchottes was really ding-dong at the weekend,absolutely redolent of what it is, pretty large scale for an Esmonin but that’s not altogether a bad thing. Yes, the acidity is low though by no means non-existent, but there are other ways for Burgundy to evolve and this has a most voluptuous cushion of ‘ripe’ tannin to sustain it.

  10. Eric

    Anyone tried their 99 Ruchottes or Griotte? There’s a nice offering in a wineshop.

    cheers,
    Eric

  11. Alex Bernardo

    HI Bill

    I’ve been a fan of this domaine since the release of their ’97. Very consistent producer, I could rely on them every vintage to produce something desirable. One of my favorites is the Mazy. I opened the ’98 last month, very lovely, really fresh and youthful. Elevage here has always been short, about 9 months, thus, they’re always one of the first to release. I think for their style of wines it’s just right. When Nawrocki did a stint here for the ’05 and ’06 vintages, he extended the elevage to about a year. I thought there was a notable change in the style, the wines are firmer but also a bit harder from the usual relaxed style.

    Best
    Alex

  12. Alex Bernardo

    Nawrocki left H-N after 2004 and joined Frederic Esmonin for the 2005 and 2006 vintages then departed for Serafin. Anyway, somewhat surprised about well these wines can age.

  13. Eric

    Had two btls of the 08 Estournelles and was really disappointed. It does has a great nose, but the palate is far from at par with the nose. Upfront unpleasant acidity which is too astringent, lack of tannin and fruit plus a short finish, very disappointed.

    The NSG from l’Arlot is way better!

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