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.


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 ( 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

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