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Profile: Domaine Robert Chevillon (Nuits)

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.

The wines…

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.

We started with the 2011 Nuits villages, a large cuvée made up from three hectares of vines that showed pretty red fruit and a nice structure. Next was the 2011 Nuits 1er Les Chaignots – more of everything – more complex, more depth and a plusher texture. The 2011 Nuits 1er Les Perrières was gorgeous, showing a creamier note on the nose. It is a rounder wine that is full-flavoured, yet excellent – I’d go as far as to say that it was almost irresistible! From the sublime Perrières we moved to the Nuits 1er Roncières and its clear pyrazine note on the nose – a shame, as there is a lovely width and texture to the palate. There is a pyrazine element to the 2011 Nuits 1er Pruliers too, but at this stage it is on a more subtle level, augmenting the high-toned fruit. There’s plenty of structure but there is plenty of personality too, with a good, medium-width finish. Moving-on, the 2011 Nuits 1er Les Cailles is a beauty; lovely red fruits and flowers jump from the glass. The palate is a little more linear but has an extra intensity too. 2011 Nuits 1er Les St.Georges shows darker fruit. Deep, dense and faintly musky – are we sure this shouldn’t be a grand cru? 😉 Lastly, the 2011 Nuits 1er Les Vaucrains showcases high-toned berries on the nose – very interesting. There is certainly as much intensity as the ‘Les St.Georges’ but it seems delivered with less compromise – I can see why it’s shown last. The finish is much more mineral and very long – it seems the essence of extract – lovely.

3 responses to “Profile: Domaine Robert Chevillon (Nuits)”

  1. antoine

    Chevillon was a strong greenies offender in 2004 (Vaucrains). Hope it’s different in 2011…

  2. Joachim

    Are there any news regarding the Pyrazines chez Chevillon 2011? I have the chance to purchase a mixed case for a good price, but no possibility to taste it first. Any experiences anyone?

  3. WillersC

    I’m sitting on some 2011 Cailles and Vaucrains so would be interested if anybody has any follow up notes on these wines since bottling. I’d rather drink them young and enjoy their power/fruit if there was any fear of them heading the way of the 2004s (all but the St Georges were terribly affected at a recent tastings).

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