Young but Promising Bourgogne Rouge

Today’s Story: Domaine Méo-Camuzet

Domaine Méo-Camuzet is a very highly regarded domain in the Côte-d’Or of Burgundy, situated in the heart of the prized Vosne-Romanée appellation. The domain was established by Étienne Camuzet, a political figure who represented the Côte-d’Or as mayor of Vosne-Romanée and an MP in Paris. Étienne purchased the Château du Clos de Vougeot in 1920, but due to his political commitments did not live there or farm the vineyards and instead leased it out to tenant farmers. Though he sold the château in late 1944 (it was heavily damaged during the war), 20 hectares of vineyards went up for sale and he retained 3 hectares for himself. Upon Étienne’s death in 1946, the holdings passed to his daughter Maria Noirot and she kept the tenant farming system in place. Having no heirs of her own, with Maria’s death in 1959 the domain passed to her nephew Jean Méo who was in General de Gaulle’s cabinet. Jean Méo took over the domain with help from his parents, but kept to the tenant farming system with the legendary Henri Jayer being one of them. In 1981, the domain was named Domaine Méo-Camuzet, domain bottling and labelling commenced with the 1983 vintage, and Jean Méo proposed passing the reins onto his son Jean-Nicolas in 1984.

Jean-Nicolas took several years to pick up the task, immersing himself in the domain in 1989 following education at the University of Burgundy to study oenology. He also studied at the University of Pennsylvania to build his business acumen. As he was nearing retirement in 1988, Henri Jayer agreed to coach Jean-Nicolas alongside Christian Faurois, a son of another highly regarded tenant farmer. As Jean-Nicolas learned, grew, and experimented with new techniques at the domain, the Méo-Camuzet wines gained great appreciation around the world, particularly in the American markets where Jean-Nicolas used his business savvy to his advantage. By 2008, all tenant farmers had retired and Jean-Nicolas took complete management responsibility over the vineyards. As he struggled to keep up with demand, he and his sisters established the Méo-Camuzet Frère & Soeurs négociant business to expand their portfolio into wider and more accessible bottlings. Today, Jean-Nicolas runs Méo-Camuzet with his wife Nathalie and they have three children who will perhaps one day carry on the family legacy. Christian Faurois remains a right-hand-man as well.

Domaine Méo-Camuzet today consists of 14 hectares of vineyards which include holdings in a range of villages, 1er Crus, and several Grand Crus. Practically all viticulture is organic, though the domain does not seek certification so in their most difficult vineyards or vintages they can react prudently if needed. For instance, some of their sites that are difficult to farm may need small amounts of occasional herbicide or anti-rot treatments. Harvesting is completed entirely by hand, and sorting first occurs at the vineyard level where fruit deemed below quality standards is dropped to the ground. Fruit is sorted again and destemmed at the winery, before fermentation begins in concrete vats with temperature control only ensuring the temperature doesn’t cross over the critical 95 degree Fahrenheit level. The wines mature in new oak barrels, ranging from about 50% new for the lower level wines up to 100% new for the Grand Crus. Come bottling, the wines see no fining or filtration.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Bourgogne Côte-d’Or Cuvée Étienne Camuzet

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2018 Bourgogne Côte-d’Or Cuvée Étienne Camuzet is pale to medium ruby in color and transparent. This took a good hour to open up in the glass, eventually showing aromas of medium intensity. The nose showcases notes of ripe red cherry, cranberry, black raspberry, red rose petal, leather, dried herbs, crushed rock minerality, and a hint baking spice. Meanwhile the flavors on the palate are also of medium intensity, displaying notes of black cherry, red plum, crunchy cranberry, brambly black raspberry, anise, tobacco, cola, stony mineral, clove, and a touch of smoke. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Overall pretty complex for its youth and very well-balanced. Purity and freshness of fruit here is gorgeous, as is the minerality.

Price: $65 ($40-50 in Europe). Given where the pricing of Burgundy has headed, I think this is actually pretty decent value. I certainly think this drinks about the regional Bourgogne level, and should only improve with several more years of bottle age.

Bourgogne at Village Quality

Today’s Story: Domaine Bachelet

Domaine Bachelet is a small wine estate located in Gevrey-Chambertin consisting of just over 4 hectares of vineyards. The domaine is run by Denis Bachelet who, since 1983, almost single-handedly works tirelessly to produce elegant and honest wines. Denis was born in Belgium, and though his family is drenched in winemaking tradition his father elected to work in the chemical industry there while his grandparents tended the domaine back in France. Denis studied winemaking in Beaune for three years before ultimately joining his grandparents at the estate, though he only became fully involved in winemaking in 1981 shortly after his grandfather’s death. By 1983 when he took over completely, the domaine consisted of only 1.8 hectares and he quickly sought to expand his holdings to make a better living. In 2008, Denis’ son Nicolas joined the domaine and the Bachelet family slowly grew by purchasing more parcels. Today, Domaine Bachelet produces a range of wines including Bourgogne, Village, 1er Cru, and Grand Cru offerings though these gems remain difficult to find but worthwhile seeking out.

For more, there is a great “interview” with Denis here and a background of the domaine and their portfolio here.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Bourgogne Rouge

100% Pinot Noir; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Bourgogne Rouge is pale ruby/purple in color but fairly dark and moderately opaque most likely due to its youth. This requires about 1.5 hours to truly open up, and once it does the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, baked cherry, raspberry, violet, saddle leather, freshly tilled soil, steel cut oats, a hint of baking spice, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of blueberry, spiced plum, sour cherry, stemmy strawberry, sweet tobacco, forest floor, charred green herbs, bright mineral, and peppery spice. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Certainly very tight right now without extended decanting, but this is a very precise wine that needs another 5 years in the bottle.

Price: $65 (cheaper overseas). Certainly not cheap for a Bourgogne Rouge (I saw some stores selling this at almost $80), though you can definitely say its quality puts this near a Village wine. I need to revisit this bottling in a few years and explore the Bachelet portfolio further. Pair this with seared tuna, roasted chicken, or mild goats cheese and charcuterie.

Quite Possibly My Best Value Bourgogne Rouge to Date

Today’s Story: Thibault Liger-Belair Successeurs

Thibault Liger-Belair Successeurs was established alongside Domaine Thibault Liger-Belair in 2001. Though the Liger-Belair family owned the domaine for 250 years, it certainly did not fall to Thibault in a linear path. In 1720, Claude Marey who was the mayor of Nuits-Saint-Georges and a vineyard owner established C. Marey wine house to sell his wines. Next, Claude’s son Claude Philibert Marey (also a mayor of Nuits-Saint-Georges) took over the family business until his death in 1804 when his youngest son Guillaume Felix Marey took over. In 1852, Guillaume Felix partnered with his nephew Comte Liger-Belair (who owned Grand Cru vineyards in Vosne-Romanée) to establish C. Marey et Comte Liger-Belair. The domaine passed through several generations, ultimately until 1892 when Vincent Liger-Belair took over and restructured it with work handled by three sharecroppers. After studying viticulture and oenology for six years, working for a Parisian communications firm, and starting an internet wine sales company, Vincent’s son Thibault transitioned to winemaking and took over the vines to establish his namesake domaine.

Thibault Liger-Belair harvested his first Nuits-Saint-Georges, Nuits-Saint-Georges Charmottes, and Vosne-Romanée Aux Reas in 2002 but quickly set his eyes upon expanding his portfolio. In 2003, Thibault ventured into Richebourg Grand Cru, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Petits Monts, and Bourgogne Rouge, followed in 2009 by Beaujolais. While all of the domaine’s vineyards are certified organic by Ecocert, each appellation is cultivated and worked differently based on their unique soils and climates which Thibault takes great care to analyze. Through harvest and in the cellar, Thibault believes that his grapes need to be treated very delicately and with respect to produce the best wines. Regarding barrels, he selects between three coopers and requires a three year drying period before they are made and he almost never uses more than 50% new oak. Thibault’s wines are aged between 14 and 18 months depending on appellation without racking, and are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Bourgogne Rouge Les Grands Chaillots

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2015 Bourgogne Rouge is moderately opaque pale ruby in color with rose variation near the rim of the glass. On the nose, I get aromas of cranberry, wild raspberry, cherry, rose petal, forest floor, faint barnyard, peppery spice, black tea leaf, rocky minerality, and a hint of oak. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of dried strawberry, red cherry, blackberry, black raspberry, violet, tobacco, loamy soil, green underbrush, dry crushed rock, and pepper. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a surprisingly long finish. 1/3 of the fruit comes from one of the domaine’s Nuits-Saint-Georges vineyards (0.8 ha planted in 1986) and 2/3 is purchased from growers in Marsannay, Côtes de Nuits, Beaune, and Ladoix Serrigny.

Price: $35. This is quite possibly the best value Bourgogne Rouge I’ve tried to date. From first smell you can tell this is a well-crafted wine and that first sip is profound. This is drinking well now with some air but certainly has the structure to where I’d hold off on my next bottle for at least 5 years. Pair this with seared duck breast, herb-roasted chicken, or mild goat cheese.