Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Construction of the Rhone wine region landscape

I have been selected to participate in a Press Trip to Chateauneuf du Pape and Tavel prior to DWCC14. I will, of course, be reporting on my findings both during and after the trip but, in keeping with my blog's mantra of "a story within a story," I will set the stage by describing, in ever-tightening circles, the environments within which the winemakers of those two regions operate. I begin here with the outermost circle, landscape formation in the Rhone River Basin, the broader region within which these two appellations are located.

Source: grid.unep.ch
The Rhône wine region runs along its namesake river for 250 km (150 miles) -- and 6 departèments -- between Lyon in the north and Avignon in the south with a division into northern and southern sub-regions at the point where the Drôme tributary intersects the main course. The Northern Rhône is characterized by a continental climate, granitic soils, steep slopes, and the mistral (a high-speed --140 km/90 miles per hour -- north wind that is funneled between the Massif Central and Vercors when there is high pressure over northern France and low pressure in the western Mediterranean) while the south has a more Mediterranean climate, the marin (a moist sea wind), and stony soils. What they both have in common, though, is a sea of red wine: only 2% of the region's production is white.

The Rhone Valley is a sedimentary basin but, unlike the expansiveness of its two better-known compatriots (Paris and Aquitaine basins), it is corridor-like and tightly bound between the unflinching basement rock of the Massif Central to its east and the younger rocks of the Alps to its west (Fanet, Great Wine Terroirs).

I have treated the formation of the Massif Central in my comparison of Douro and Beaujolais granite and schists. Suffice it to say that it was part of a vast mountain range (The Hercynian Mountain Belt) stretching from Britain to Eastern Europe which was formed as a result of a continental collision which ended 200 million years ago. This range has been severely eroded over millennia and in many places only exist as "basement" rock, hidden from view by sedimentary deposits. The figures below show the distribution of cover and basement rocks in current-day France as well as the composition of the varying rock types.

Basement and cover rocks of France.

Relationship between basement and cover rocks.
Source: http://www.virtual-geology.info/lozere/lozere.html
Formation timeline -- basement and cover rocks
Source: http://www.virtual-geology.info/lozere/lozere.html

The table below catalogs a series of events from the Lower Cretaceous onwards which have had contributory effects to the current Rhone Valley landscape. The figure immediately following shows the geologic construct of France as a whole and, outlined in black, that of the Rhone River Valley.

Lower Cretaceous
(135 - 96 My)
Reef limestone deposited on continental platform surrounding Vocontian Trough (deep undersea area south of today's Valence)
Hard limestone hills now surrounding the Rhone Valley
Upper Cretaceous
(96 - 65 My)
  • Vocontian Trough filled with sandstone/sandy limestone/marly-sandstone
  • First phase of folding in Provence due to uplift of Pyrenean-Provençal axis (through end of Eocene)
  • Formed right bank of Rhone, Tricastin, and Massif d’Uchaux
  • Forced the Jurassic and Cretaceous cover northward
(36 - 24 My)
Thick deposits of conglomerates, sandstones, limestone accumulated in the foothills of the young hills
Rhone Valley axis collapsed
(24 - 5 My)
  • Sea used the Rhone Valley as a corridor to link up to sea covering Central Europe
  • Alpine uplift reaches a crescendo
  • Sands, marly sands, sandy molasse deposited
  • Rhone digs itself through Miocene deposits as well as Urgonian limestone (formation of the Donzère defile)
  • Carves deep gash in basement granite north of present-day Tain l'Hermitage
  • Raising of the region along its eastern border
(5 - 2 My)
  • Final marine incursion
  • Deposits of fine argillaceous and argillaceous-sandy elements
(2 -  My)
Erosion changed the look of the landscape
  • Rubble and scree built up in the piedmont of the Urgonian limestone hills
  • Four levels of stony terrace systems formed along the Rhone and tributaries
MY = Millions of years. Data sourced from Fanet, Great Wine Terroirs.

The types of soils present in, as well as the location of, vineyards are a result of these landscape formation activities. In a follow-up post I will detail the vineyards and their soils.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tasting the wines at Domaine Guy Roulot

The tasting during our Domaine Roulot visit proceeded on two tracks: a tasting of the 2012 whites followed by a tasting, some of it blind, of some older Roulot vintages. The 2012 tasting segment tasered terroir onto our palates while the free-form segment cemented Raj Parr's reputation as an accomplished blind taster with superior knowledge of Burgundy wines.

2012 Meursaults

The 2012 vintage had been abnormal with hail damage, mildew, odium, and heat combining for a 60% reduction in stock. We tasted through the full range of Meursault wines. Given that these wines were from the same vintage, and had been subjected to similar winemaking treatments, any differences should be attributable to terroir. And we did note such differences. There were consistent observations of fruitiness, minerality, and crisp acidity but texture, degree and shade of fruitiness, type of minerality, and florality varied depending on the source of the fruit. Our observations regarding these wines are captured in the table below.

                           Domaine Guy Roulot 2012 Meursault Wines
Bourgogne Blanc

Citrus, mineral, acidity

Slope south of valley
White fruit, citrus, floral, mineral, freshness

Highest on the slope and facing south
Floral, focused, step up in quality

North of Tillets at slightly lower elevation; east-facing
White fruit, richness, crisp acidity, will age well

Further north and lower
Sweet white fruits, floral, citrus, chalky minerality, richness

Adjacent to Tillets
Only 1 barrel made. Slight oakiness

Meix Chavaux
North of Premier Crus but at same elevation
Lemon, stone, denser than wines preceding, mineral, sea shell

First bottle deemed improper by Jean-Marc. Second bottle fresher fruit, minerality, crisp acidity. Balanced with a long finish
Premier Cru
White fruits, mineral, citrus

South of Bouchères
Tight minerality, sea shell, citrus, crisp acidity

On Puligny border; 70-year-old vines
4 barrels made. Big, rich fruit structure


Big structure. Grand Cru quality. Pear. Weighty, mineral. Long finish

Pre-2012 Vintages

The first wine tasted in this segment was the 2011 Bourgogne Blanc. Jean-Marc said that this vintage had experienced early flowering and harvesting and there had been no attacks of odium or mildew. This wine had great texture and balance. Ron voiced that it was the best Bourgogne on the planet. The next  offering was the 2011 Tessons, a wine which revealed lemon, pear, and a distinct mineral note.

The next wine was offered blind. Tangerine, earthiness, and a chalky minerality. One of the things that we noted during this trip was that the winemakers all wanted to have Raj taste their wines blind. They constantly put him to the test and he consistently hit the mark or came pretty close. In this case he surmised 2010 Bouchères. It was 2009 Bouchères instead. Jean-Marc rapidly followed with another blind wine which Raj thought was a 2005 Tessons. It was. The third blind wine was ripe and open. 2003 Tillets said Raj. Right again. A tour de force of blind tasting in my opinion. The next wine offered had tangerine and honey on the nose and was very rich. I got lucky and tagged the vintage as 1989. It was a 1989 Bourgogne Blanc.

The final wine tasted was the 1992 Perrieres. Sweet tropical fruit to include pineapple. Ron described it as absolutely amazing. Jean-Marc called it "old Chardonnay." Raj said that this is one of his 10 best wines of all time.

A blockbuster end to a truly amazing tasting and a truly amazing day. Unfortunately the morrow did not attain this level of sustained, intense brilliance.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Winery visit with Jean-Marc Roulot of Domaine Guy Roulot

To taste a Domaine Roulot wine is to taste a sense of deep rootedness, fine and crystalline, and yet somehow open. Although subtly powerful, the wine never imposes itself before the taster has time to form his own reactions... For me, the subtlety and finesse of Jean-Marc's very feline wines fulfill the criteria for a legitimate work of art: conventions coexisting with freedom of access and interpretation.
Thus had Jonathan Nossiter (Liquid Memory) described the wines of Domaine Guy Roulot. And, after stellar visits at DRC and Domaine Armand Rousseau, we were on our way to taste the wines so eloquently described by Nossiter.

Domaine Guy Roulot is headed by Jean-Marc Roulot, scion of the namesake founder, who took the reins of the Domaine in 1989 from a succession of caretaker winemakers who had overseen production since the death of his father in 1982. The Domaine is known primarily for its plot-specific whites from Village and Premier Cru sites in Meursault but it also produces red wines with grapes sourced from Auxey-Duresses and Monthélie as well as a Bourgogne red sourced from Volnay and Puligny-Montrachet parcels.

                          Domaine Guy Roulot Meursault Climats and Lieux-Dits
Soil Characteristic
Wine Descriptors

Slope south of valley

Highest on the slope and facing south

Floral and mineral.
Vineyards on the upper slope make bititng, precise wines*

North of Tillets at slightly lower elevation; east-facing

Rich yet racy

Further north and lower

Round with great length

Adjacent to Tillets

Generous, lush character

Meix Chavaux
North of Premier Crus but at same elevation

Opulent and ripe


Powerful, long, complex
Premier Cru
Shallow, stony soil
Silky texture; medium-bodied; elegant.
Bigger, rounder, easier*

South of Bouchères
Fuller body

On Puligny border; 70-year-old vines

Round, fleshy, ripe, mineral, complex; great depth of flavor
Source: rarewineco.com; *Dominique Lafon in Nossiter’s Liquid Memory.

Jean-Marc's commitment to these terroirs, and their wines, is illustrated by his comments to Nossiter: "... I am as attached to my village vineyard designation as the premier cru. The day I can't bottle my Tillets, Meix Chavaux, and Tessons separately is the day I'll leave any system of official designation. ... We need to continue to work to understand the individual identities of each parcel of vines, whether it is at the village, premier cru, or grand cru level." In a more recent conversation with Benjamin Lewin MW, Jean-Marc ranked the differences between lieux-dits as: (i) exposition, (ii) elevation, then (iii) the clay-limestone proportions with a resultant 1-week differential in harvest-initiation between Luchets and Narvaux.

One of the early decisions that Jean-Marc made upon taking the reins at Domaine Roulot was to pursue organic farming. In explaining his decision to Nossiter, Jean-Marc spoke admiringly of biodynamicism but going organic was a huge step for the winery. It was a step, however, which allowed the individual identity of each plot to be "more strongly expressed." Even though practicing organic principles since 1989, the estate was not formally certified until 2013.

The estate produces both white and red wines with the whites made from Chardonnay or Aligoté and the red from Pinot Noir. The winemaking processes are illustrated in the graphic below.

A winemaking couple from Santa Barbara was joining us for the tatsingt so, after hurried introductions, we headed to the cellars. It was clear that Raj and Jean-Marc were good friends and were happy to see each other because they immediately fell into an animated winemaking conversation which threaded its way through our entire visit. It was fascinating and a wonderful learning opportunity for us.

The wines to be tasted were placed on an upright barrel in the center of the room and Jean-Marc began to open them. The tasting would unfold in two parts: a tasting of the 2012 whites followed by a tasting, some of it blind, of some older vintages.

As he opened the first bottle, Jean-Marc looked around the cellar ruefully noting that, under normal circumstances, barrels would be stacked three rows high. The 2012 vintage had not been normal though with hail damage, mildew, odium, and heat combining for a 60% reduction in stock.

Jean-Marc Roulot opening bottles for our tasting
Jean-Marc Roulot and Ron
Rajat Parr and Jean-Marc
The results of the tastings will be covered in a subsequent post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Meursault? Or less so?

The Meursault commune, 5-km long and located just 7 km from Beaune, is the northern entry point to, arguably, the world's greatest concentration of stellar Chardonnay vines. While it cannot rival its Côte de Beaune compatriots Puligny-Montrâchet and Chassagne-Montrâchet in number of Grand Cru vineyards (it has none), the wines of Meursault are world-renowned and, as will be discussed later, may be undergoing a refinement in style even as we speak. I will be writing a post on our visit to the Guy Roulot cellars in the near future and so wanted to provide some context herein for that upcoming post.

Source: musée-boissons.com

In his book on the vineyards of France (Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate and Culture in the Making of French Wines), James E. Wilson identifies what he refers to as Nuits and Beaune soil packages. The Beaune package is comprised of strata from the Callovian (Mid Jurassic) and Oxfordian (Upper Jurassic) periods, capped by Nantoux limestone. The Nuits package is comprised of Bajocian and Bathonian deposits (both Mid Jurassic) topped by Comblanchian limestone. The Nuits package dominates on the Côte d'Or before diving deep underground in the vicinity of Nuits-Saint-Georges. It reappears at Meursault but, to the north of the village, is overlain in the belly of the slope by a Beaune strata package. It is in this part of Meursault that red grapes are grown. To the south of the town, the Beaune package predominates and continues through Puligny-Montrâchet and Chassagne-Montrâchet. This area is home to some of the finest white wines in the world.

The plot architecture of the Meursault vineyard has the leading-edge of the Premier Cru vineyards abutting the Volnay commune and separated from the southern Premier Crus by a thick band of Village-level lieu dits.

The allowed grapes in the Meursault commune are Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc for whites and Pinot Noir and accessory grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris) for reds. Accessory grapes are limited to 15% of the vines on a given plot and must be vinified as part of a field blend. Planting density is 9000 vines/ha with max loadings of 10,500kg/ha for whites and 9000 kg/ha for reds. No irrigation is permitted.

At approximately 400 ha, Meursault is larger than Puligny-Montrâchet (202.98 ha) or Chassagne-Montrâchet (301.43 ha) but has fewer Premier Crus (19) than does Chassagne (56) and only two more than Puligny. Of the 400 ha, approximately 130 ha is designated Premier Cru with the most well-regarded climats being Les Perrieres, Les Genevirières, and Les Charmes. The best of the Village lieu dits are Clos de la Barre, Tesson, Chevalierès, Rougeot, and Narvaux.

In 2010, the region produced 18,400 hl of wine, 400 hl of which was white. The red wines produced in the north of the commune are labeled Volnay-Santenot in order to take advantage of the higher standing of Volnay reds. White wines produced in Blagny to the south are allowed to be labeled as Meursault-Blagny to take advantage of the market strength of Meursault in white wines. The best producers in the region are Comtes Lafon, Coche Dury, Guy Roulot, Jean-Philippe Fichet, Francois Jobart, Patrick Javillier, Michelle Bouzereau, and Arnold Ente.

The Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) is the "voice of the Bourgogne wind trade" and, on its website, describes the wines of Meursault thusly:
The young wine is redolent of toasted almonds and hazelnuts in a floral (mayflower, elder, bracken, lime, verbena) and mineral (flint) setting. Butter, honey, and citrus fruits are also present. On the palate it is rich and fat, with a cheerful and appealing taste of hazelnut.
BBR, on its website, describes the wines as "... typically rich and savory with nutty, honeyed hints and buttery, vanilla spice from the oak." But these descriptors may no longer be applicable across the board. In a 2010 article profiling Domaines des Comtes Lafon, Burgundy-Report gave a halting, non-specific observation of a shift in this particular producer's offerings: "I have the impression that there has been a style shift in both red and white wines in recent years ... the whites of the 1990s were ... forceful, and very well oaked." The whites he tasted on this particular trip "mesmerized" him.

In a recent post (Burgundy Diary part 6: Sea Change in Meursault -- Visits to Comtes Lafon, Guy Roulot, Michel Bouzereau, and Pierre Morey), Benjamin Lewin MW observes that this visit "... showed a real change in style from the old view that Meursault is soft, nutty, and buttery ..." He summarized the key elements of the change as follows: "Previously I have always been a devotée of Puligny for expressing terroir in that ineffably steely, mineral style, but Meursault is now running a close second."

Does this mean that Meursault has not been properly expressing its terroir all along? Or does it mean that terroir is fungible in that region? Stay tuned.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Drops of God: Wine quest as wine education platform

The Japanese manga series Drops of God performs the extremely difficult task of spinning a yarn which grabs and holds the attention of the general reader while simultaneously imparting learnings that are of interest to both the novice and experienced wine drinker. I explore this fine dance in this post.

The Drops of God is a consolidation and translation of a Japanese manga series ((i) style of cartoon originating in Japan; (ii) often published in magazines or comic books and generally appearing serially in those media -- wise geek.com) which was created by a brother and sister team (Yuko and Shin Kibiyashi) writing under the pseudonym Tadashi Agi. The series has been published continually from 2004 to today.

The protagonist in the series is Shizuku Kanzaki, a beer company salesman whose father, Yutaka Kanzaki, the Robert Parker of Japan, dies suddenly, leaving his home and a ¥2 billion wine collection in his will. Now for the twist. The estate is not willed directly to Shizuku. Rather, he has to identify 12 wines (The 12 Apostles) and a 13th (The Drops of God) by name and vintage -- based solely on his father's written description -- in order to claim the estate. And this has to be accomplished within a year. To me this is a quest, a journey through 13 wines which has the home and the wine collection as its pot of gold.

But not so fast. He is not the only participant in this level of the quest. His father had adopted a famous young wine critic -- Issei Tomei -- as his legal son one week before his death and this "second son" would also be competing against Skizuku for ownership of the estate. The wines are to be tasted blind. To increase the level of difficulty of Shizuku's quest, the adopted son is an accomplished and well-regarded wine critic while Shizuku has never had a glass of wine in his life.

Source: thermalservices.wordpress.com

In order to compete effectively in this top-level quest, Shizuku has to embark on a second quest: to acquire the detailed wine knowledge that would allow him to compete against Issei. For, you see, Shizuku was not totally unequipped for this fight. While he had never drank a glass of wine, his father had given him a lifelong education in aromas and flavors. His quest then was to marry that flavor knowledge to individual wines so that he could identify those wines in the blind tasting competitions he would be having with Issei to determine the winner.

The authors use diversions and distractions from the main quest in order to maintain high drama and keep the plot line fresh and interesting for the general reader. It is the wine-education aspects that are of especial interest to us though and I have attempted to capture the essence in the chart below. Whether on the tortuous path of the main quest or on one of the diversions/divergences, Shizuku is being exposed to new wines. The exposure to those wines, and the stories wrapped around them, keeps the interest of the experienced wine drinker (I for one have drunk specific wines, or vintages of wines, because I first encountered them within these pages). For the relatively inexperienced drinker, the authors use these wines as a jumping-off point to explore some of the more fundamental wine concepts and that, as I see it, improves their understanding and appreciation of wine, and, hopefully, encourages exploration.

It may seem somewhat incongruous that some of these fundamental wine principles are being explored through the lens of some of the most expensive bottles of wine in the world but it becomes less so when one considers that the wine collection that is being pursued will be populated with these types of wines. And these are the wines that Shizuku has to become familiar with in order to be competitive.

No. I am not going to tell you how it ends because I don't know.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What is Raj Parr drinking: A Delectable (get it?) study

Coming out of our trip to Burgundy with Raj Parr (noted Sommelier cum winemaker), I gained the distinct impression, based on the social drinking experiences recorded in the pictures below, that he had a preference for Burgundy and Northern Rhone wines and Champagne.

First night dinner at Bistro de l'Hotel with Raj
Second-day lunch in Burgundy

Third-day lunch in Burgundy

Lunch at Willi's Wine Bar in Paris
I sought to validate these thoughts by studying Raj's posts to the Delectable platform and my findings are reported herein. I was comfortable that using Delectable would reveal his preferences because: (i) during our time together, Raj was religious about posting every wine we drank to the site and (ii) he generally took on the task of ordering the wine, a role that he would probably assume in most settings.

I examined Raj's posts to Delectable up to, and including, Monday of this week. He is a serial wine consumer so the data points might have shifted somewhat within the intervening timeframe but I would expect the volumes to have shifted, rather than the trends. A point of note. The Delectable system will only record one bottle per picture, regardless of how many bottles are in the shot. As a result, the top-level numbers are understated. For example, when Raj participated in an 8-bottle DRC vertical, the site only recorded one bottle. For the top-level analysis, I used the Delectable numbers; for Commune-level analysis I counted the bottles in order to get granular accuracy.

So here is a brief summary of some of the key findings:
  • 73% of the wine that Raj consumes is of French origin with the US (10%), Italy (6%), Germany (3%) following in that order. Japan and Spain are a little above 1% while Australia, Canada, NZ, Austria, Greece, and Portugal barely pass his lips.
  • At the regional level, Burgundy comprises 35% of his total consumption, the Rhone 12%, the Loire Valley 10%, Champagne 8%, and Bordeaux and Piedmont 3% each. The US equivalent of this grouping is a state and California tops the the other states with 8%. That is not, however, as revealing of a wine style as are the preceding regions. What I find striking here is the showing of Piedmont and Bordeaux vis a vis their peers, a confirmation of my initial perception as to Raj's preferences.
  • Turning to the countries, let us first look at France. Burgundy represents 48% of Raj's French wine consumption, with the Rhone (16%), Loire Valley (14%), Champagne (10%), Bordeaux (4%), Jura (3%), and Languedoc-Roussillon (1%) following. All other French regions are less than 1% individually.
    • Within Burgundy, 44% of the wines consumed were from the Cote de Nuit, 31% from the Cote de Beaune, 10% from Chablis, 7% from Beaujolais, and 1% each from Cote Chalonnaise and Cotes d'Auxerre.
      • To give a sense of the granularity that the data set allows, in the case of the Cote de Nuit, we are able to see that Raj's preferences are for wines from Gevrey-Chambertin, Vosne-Romanee, Chambolle-Musigny, Flagey-Echezeaux, and Morey-St-Denis, in that order.
      • We are also able to discern that Raj is most likely to be drinking Armand Rousseau and Dujac wines in Gevrey-Chambertin (he is particularly partial to Chambertin) and DRC in Vosne-Romanee.
      • Finally, we can show that he is primarily drinking wines from the 1990s and 2000s in these Cote de Nuit communes.
    • Within Rhone, 83% of the wines that Raj consumed originated in the Northern Rhone.
    • For the Loire Valley, 82% of the consumed wines were from Anjou-Saumur, 18% from Touraine, and 14% from the Central Vineyards.
    • In the case of Champagne, 24% of the wines were from Montagne de Reims, 13% from Cote de Blanc and Valle de Marne, respectively, 12% from Aube, and 10% from Cote de Sezanne.
  • Fully 70% of Raj's US wine consumption was from California. Oregon (21%), Oregon/Washington (11%) and Virginia (8%) had meaningful contributions.
  • The dominant Italian regions were Piedmont (53%), Tuscany (13%), and Sardinia (12%).
And on it goes. There is a wealth of information contained in the platform but the data have to be manually extracted and analyzed.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Domaine Armand Rousseau: Iconic Burgundy

Domaine Armand Rousseau, the Gevrey-Chambertin-based producer of fine Burgundy wines, is hailed by BBR as "one of the grand old domaines of Burgundy" which lauds its offerings as "pale, finely structured wines of great elegance and stamina." This well-regarded and well-respected domaine has attained its stature due in no small part to: (i) the acquisition prowess and business innovations of its founder Armand Rousseau; (ii) the establishment of international markets by his son Charles; and (iii) the quality of its flagship wines (Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Bèze, and Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques). So it was with great anticipation that we headed out to taste the wines of this estate after our epic April 30th barrel and bottle tastings at DRC.

We were greeted at the winery by Fréderic Robert, the individual at the estate with responsibility for customer relationships, and, after introductions and some small talk, we headed down into the cellar to begin tasting the wines. Before the discussion of the tasting, some background is in order.

Ron, Raj, the author, and Fréderic Robert (Domaine Rousseau)

Domaine Armand Rousseau is currently managed by Charles Rousseau, the son of the founder, with the assistance of his son, Eric. The estate grows Pinot Noir grapes for its wines on 40 - 45 year old vines at Grand Cru (Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-St-Denis) as well as Premier Cru and Village-level sites. The Premier Cru and Village sites are all located in Gevrey-Chambertin. The detailed distribution of vineyards by site is shown here in tabular form -- and below in map form -- but, in summary, the estate owns 8.5 ha of Grand Cru vineyards, 3.57 ha of Premier Cru vineyards, and 2.4 ha of Village-level vineyards.

Source: domaine-rousseau.com

The Pinot Noir clones used for the estate's wines are selected for small production and concentration and the vines are further stressed by planting densities of 11,000 vines/ha. Traditional viticultural management is practiced but with a focus on low yields manifested in de-budding and green harvesting in productive years.

Significant effort is expended to ensure harvesting at the "right" time in order to "optimize the maturity of the grapes and the concentration of phenolic components." The domaine's winemaking process is illustrated below.

We began by tasting elements of the 2013 vintage from barrel. Fréderic indicated that 2013 was a very difficult vintage but, he said, Christophe Roumier had told him that, despite that difficulty, 2013 would end up being like the 1978 vintage. We began with the Premier Cru Lavalle St. Jacques. Acidity level in this wine was very high. Wild berries and spice. Tannic. Fréderic expressed that he had liked the 2012 version of this wine (was not indicating a dislike for this vintage by that comment). This wine was being aged in second-year barrels.

The second wine tasted was the Clos de La Roche. This wine was being aged in 100% new oak barrels. A toasty nose due to some reduction. Earthy and dense red fruit. Spice. Great texture and finish.

The third wine was the Ruchotte-Chambertin. Meat and bacon on the nose. Ron noted dark fruits and spice with mineral notes. Structured.

We tasted the Clos St Jacques and Clos de Bèze in quick succession. They both exhibited dark red fruits and spice with the Clos de Bèze expressing more power and gaminess. Both are balanced wines.

The 2011 Chambertin Grand Cru was tasted out of bottle. This wine was, obviously, much more evolved than the wines that were tasting out of barrel but, nevertheless, its flagship status was immediately evident. On the nose berry fruit, minerality, and spice. Power and density on the palate with ripe tannins. Long, balanced finish. Fréderic noted that the Clos de Bèze is normally approachable earlier than is the Chambertin. A truly lovely wine.

We also tasted the 2009 Ruchotte-Chambertin out of bottle. This wine exhibited berry fruit, earth, minerality, dried herbs, and spice on the nose with a long, balanced finish.


This was truly a great tasting experience. Especially following so closely on the heels of the DRC tasting. A 2005 Burgundy Report (burgundy-report.com) profiling the domaine pithily captures the esteem in which its offerings are held: "It has been said that if you want the safest route to a fine bottle of Chambertin or Chambertin Clos de Bèze, then make sure the label says Domaine Armand Rousseau." We were extremely happy to have tasted these products at the origin point of the route.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme