Incredibly Pure Expression of Pinot Noir From One of Burgundy’s Legends

Today’s Story: Domaine Denis Mortet

Domaine Denis Mortet is a very highly-regarded wine estate established in 1956 by Charles Mortet in the village of Gevrey-Chambertin of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits. Charles started with only one hectare (2.5 acres) of vines, though similar to many others around him he sold the majority of his fruit to merchant houses. Over time Charles’ holdings grew and his son Denis joined him during the 1980s to assist with winemaking. When Charles retired, Denis received 4.5 hectares (11 acres) of vineyards in the villages of Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, and Vougeot. Denis was well on his way to a gifted winemaking career, becoming lifelong friends with the great Henri Jayer and tasting with legendary Lalou Bize Leroy around the start of his own venture. He established Domaine Denis Mortet in 1992 alongside his wife Laurence, and the two set about expanding their holdings further.

Denis rose quickly to legendary status not just amongst wine consumers but with his peers in Burgundy. His attention to detail in his vineyards, where Laurence was also a huge help, was second-to-none as he prioritized quality over quantity and stopped using weedkillers and chemical pesticides in 1996. His resulting wines were also highly regarded due to their elegance, finesse, transparency of terroir, and ageability. Denis’ son Arnaud joined the family domaine in 2000, working closely with his father in the vineyards but throughout the entire winemaking process as well. Sadness struck, however, in 2006 with the far-too-soon passing of Denis and Arnaud took full control of winemaking.

At the time Arnaud took over, Domaine Denis Mortet consisted of about 11 hectares (27 acres) of vineyards in some of Burgundy’s best villages. Many of these holdings came to the family as other vignerons retired, largely because they knew that the Mortet family and its viticultural history would be perhaps the greatest possible stewards of the land. Since then, Laurence and her son Arnaud added an additional 5 hectares (12 acres) to the family domain and today their holdings total 16 hectares (39 acres) throughout the Côte de Nuits. In the year 2013, Arnaud’s sister Clémence joined the family business and Domaine Denis Mortet seems well set on remaining a Mortet family business for decades to come.

From a viticultural perspective, not much has changed under Arnaud in terms of attention to detail and rigorous care for the land. His biggest changes have been even more beneficial, including doing all work by hand with shears and eliminating machine use in the vineyards. Arnaud likes to say he utilizes 50% organic practices and 50% “reasonable” practices, including the minimized use of treatments for diseases and the like. In the cellar, Arnaud follows the practices he learned from his father but he is not one to shy away from experiments so long as they improve the quality of his wines. Arnaud, for instance, drastically increased the strict quality standards for sorting fruit when it arrives at the winery, and he even goes through the painstaking process of removing the center stems in his clusters for the whole cluster fermentations. Fermentation is accomplished using native yeasts in vats over the course of 15-20 days, and Arnaud minimizes punch downs to about five or six. He also uses less sulfur than his father, allowing the wines to be more enjoyable in their youth while maintaining the quality and structure for a long life in the bottle. Aging in the domain’s cellar lasts for about 16 to 18 months in oak, though Arnaud also greatly reduced the amount of new oak used during this process.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St-Jacques

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2010 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St-Jacques is medium ruby in color with shades of deep garnet. I gave this a three hour slow-ox in the bottle before pouring it into the glass. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, black raspberry, muddled strawberry, blueberry, spiced plum, sweet tobacco, leather, licorice, gingerbread, crushed gravel, forest floor, black truffle, charred herbs, and clove. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate offers up notes of black cherry, blackberry, black plum, blueberry, violet, tobacco, leather, wet gravel, black truffle, olive, cola, vanilla, and clove. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) dusty tannin, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Outstanding quality and incredibly complex. 500 cases produced.

Price: $470 based on Wine-Searcher (we paid $190). Given the market pricing I found online, it’s very difficult to discuss value at this price-point. If you’re able to find this for around $200, however, then I think this offers great value. This wine is ridiculously complex and well-balanced, with a very long life ahead of it.

Remarkable Expression of Terroir in an Incredibly Ageworthy Red Burgundy

Today’s Story: Domaine Armand Rousseau

Domaine Armand Rousseau is one of the most highly-regarded wine producers in all of Burgundy, established during the very early 1900s by Armand Rousseau in Gevrey-Chambertin of the Côte de Nuits. Rousseau inherited several plots of vines at the beginning of the 20th century, however he was able to expand his vineyard holdings, build a winery and cellar, and sell the wines following his marriage in 1909. Rousseau continued acquiring top quality vineyards, including several Grand Crus, up until the time his son Charles joined the family business in 1945. In 1959, Charles took full control over the family’s domain following the unfortunate death of Armand in a car accident. Charles was instrumental in adding additional vineyard sites to the family holdings mainly in Grand Crus, and he also further built out their export markets to include Britain, Germany, and Switzerland before ultimately reaching Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia by the 1970s. Charles’ son Eric joined the business in 1982, beginning in the vineyards by instituting green harvesting, leaf stripping, and avoidance of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Eric was instrumental in steering the estate toward organic viticulture, and since 2014 he has been joined by his daughter Cyrielle who will ultimately carry on the family legacy one day.

Domaine Armand Rousseau consists of about 15 hectares (37 acres) of vineyards in some of the choicest plots in the Côte de Nuits. Dedicated entirely to Pinot Noir, Rousseau produces 11 wines from Gevrey Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Mazy-Chambertin, Ruchottes-Chambertin, and Chambertin. Of the 11 wines, they do however produce one from the Grand Cru of Clos de la Roche located in Morey-Saint-Denis. These wines are made in a very traditional style and are meant to be elegant expressions of each unique terroir, with minimal use of new oak depending on wine and vintage. Total production is around 63,000 bottles per vintage, with about 75% being exported to some 30 countries.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Lavaux St. Jacques is medium ruby in color. I normally don’t decant red Burgundy or Pinot Noir in general for that matter, however given how young this wine is we decanted it for about an hour. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, black raspberry, licorice, rose petal, gravel, sun-dried earth, sandalwood, and mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity and the palate displays notes of cherry, strawberry, blackberry, eucalyptus, rose, mild baking spice, and stony mineral. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Very precise and already gorgeous, but I would wait probably 5 more years and then drink this over the following decades.

Price: $600. It’s difficult to address value at this price-point because there are so many better “values” out there and pricing on Burgundy is sky-high. There’s no doubt this is one of the greatest red Burgundies I’ve had though, and since me and my tasting companions had never tried Armand Rousseau before we were incredibly glad for the experience.

Unmatched Elegance in Gevrey-Chambertin

Today’s Story: Domaine Fourrier

Domaine Fourrier is a family wine estate located in Gevrey-Chambertin of Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits. Previously named Pernot-Fourrier, the domain was established by Fernand Pernot during the 1930s/1940s who, since he had no spouse or children, brought in his nephew Jean-Claude Fourrier for help. Jean-Claude took over the domain in 1969 and Fourrier was one of the first in the region to export their wines to the US. Coupled with very highly-regarded land holdings, Fourrier commanded a great reputation and the wines were very high-quality. During the late 1980s, however, Fourrier went through a “dumb phase” of sorts until being rejuvenated by Jean-Claude’s son, Jean-Marie Fourrier, who took over in 1994. Jean-Marie was a pupil of the great Henri Jayer, and brought Domaine Fourrier to preeminent status with wines of elegance and finesse not often found in Gevrey-Chambertin. Jean-Marie remains at the helm today alongside his wife Vicki and sister Isabelle.

Domaine Fourrier consists of about 9 hectares (22 acres) of vineyards planted predominantly in Gevrey-Chambertin, augmented by small plots in Chambolle-Musigny, Morey-Saint-Denis, and Vougeot. Fourrier’s vines typically fall in the 50 to 70 year-old average range, and only their own cuttings are used to replace failing or dying vines. With a strict belief that vines need lengthy periods to fully grow and mature, Jean-Marie never produces wines from his vines aged younger than 30 years and instead sells this fruit to négociants in the region. With his belief that terroir is of utmost importance, Jean-Marie farms his vineyards without the addition of chemical fertilizers and only uses herbicides or pesticides when absolutely necessary if the vines or harvest are in danger.

Come harvest, fruit is hand-picked and sorted in the vineyard before being transferred into small baskets to take to the winery. Jean-Marie’s winemaking philosophy is minimal intervention, and the wines ferment separately by vineyard using only native yeasts and no sulfur additions. Fourrier’s wines age with minimal amounts of new oak (typically no more than 20%) to preserve the delicacy of the aromas and flavors, and remain in contact with their lees for anywhere from 16-20 months depending on vintage and bottling. All the wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, with minimal or no SO2 added. Taking from his training with Henri Jayer, Jean-Marie aims to make all of his wines the truest sense of terroir possible while offering an elegance and balance that are often unmatched.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Echezeaux Vieille Vigne

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Echezeaux is pale to medium ruby in color. This requires a good 45 minutes to an hour to open up in the glass due to its youth, but once it does this is already a gorgeous wine. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, strawberry, leather, forest floor, savory green herbs, and gravel. The flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, and the palate displays notes of tart cherry, strawberry, black raspberry, tobacco, leather, charred herbs, and peppery spice. This dry red Burgundy is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. While already very elegant and enjoyable, this has decades of life ahead of it.

Price: $110. This is very reasonably priced in my opinion given a red Burgundy of this quality level. Burgundy prices have gone to sky-high levels over the years, and finding one around this price-point especially from a producer like Fourrier makes for an easy decision.

Great Value From a Rising Star in Gevrey-Chambertin

Today’s Story: Domaine Duroché

Domaine Duroché is a family owned and operated wine estate located in the Gevrey-Chambertin village in Burgundy. The Duroché family owns roughly 8.25 hectares of vineyards in Gevrey-Chambertin, producing wines that begin with both Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc before climbing through several village and 1er Cru bottlings to their Grand Cru sites of Charmes, Griottes, Latricieres, and Clos de Beze. Though the family has been bottling their wines since 1933, the quality of the domaine catapulted to new heights under the current leadership of fifth generation Pierre Duroché. Though Pierre is a relatively young winemaker in Gevrey, he refrains from being too heavy handed and seeks to create wines of elegance and finesse as compared to some of his neighbors favoring a bigger, bolder, and oakier style. Pierre and his family farm the vineyards using as few chemicals as possible (relying only on some sulfur or copper for treatments), and all fruit is hand-harvested and sorted before fermentation using only native yeasts. New oak usage varies by level of wine but always remains as minimal as possible, and the wines are bottled without fining or filtration. Beginning with the 2017 vintage, Pierre and his wife Marianne purchase fruit from her family to supply their new Vosne-Romanée Village and Echezeaux Grand Cru bottlings.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin Le Clos

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2016 Gevrey-Chambertin Le Clos is pale to medium ruby in color and slightly translucent. I let this slow ox in the bottle for a while before letting it open up in the glass, blossoming into a nose of black cherry, dried strawberry, boysenberry, charred earth, eucalyptus, crushed rock, stony mineral, and light oak. Still fairly tight on the palate, this took some time to open up and showcase notes of cherry, stemmy strawberry, raspberry, red and blue florals, leather, rocky earth, and mineral. The wine is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. Gorgeous Gevrey minerality with this one, but it does need probably at least 5 years of cellaring to come into its own.

Price: $65. I think this is a very good value red Burgundy, though I don’t necessarily think it will remain this fairly priced for long. Pierre Duroché is certainly a rising star in Gevrey-Chambertin and I would highly recommend picking some of this up if you come across it.

A Friend of Henri Jayer Is a Friend of Mine

Today’s Story: Domaine Philippe Charlopin

Domaine Philippe Charlopin was established by Philippe when he purchased his first vines in Gevrey-Chambertin in 1978. The son of a vigneron who rented vines rather than owned his own, Philippe comes from humble beginnings and started his own career as a vigneron-ouvrier in 1977. Throughout his early years, Philippe was a student of the great Henri Jayer and his winemaking philosophy is greatly impacted by Henri, with the two later becoming close friends. Though Philippe expanded with a parcel of Clos St. Denis in 1983 and later throughout various appellations, he only made Pinot Noir until his son Yann joined the domaine in 2004. Yann was passionate for crafting white wines, so they purchased 5 hectares of vines in Chablis, 2 hectares in Pernand-Vergelesses, and a small parcel of Corton-Charlemagne to augment their portfolio with Chardonnay. Today, Domaine Philippe Charlopin encompasses 25 hectares of sustainably farmed vines across 36 different appellations which are divided into 140 parcels.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes Morceaux

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2011 Morceaux is pale to medium ruby in color and moderately transparent. I let this breathe in the glass for about 30 minutes, allowing the nose to reveal aromas of black cherry, dried strawberry, blue florals, forest floor, worn leather, asphalt, tar, dried green underbrush, incense, and light oak. Once in the mouth, this wine showcases notes of cherry, cranberry, black raspberry, blood orange, violet, wet gravel, tobacco, rocky soil, iron, green herbs, and sandalwood. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Sourced from 60- to 100-year-old vines planted in clay and limestone soil.

Price: $90 (though this is tough to find in the US and looks to originally sell around $65). This is a gorgeous Gevrey-Chambertin from one of the tougher vintages in recent past, and it doesn’t show pyrazines like some of the other 2011 Burgundy I’ve had. Pair this with beef bourguignon, saddle of lamb, or coq au vin.