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Chambertin – Domaine Armand Rousseau
Chambertin gained a reputation from the patronage of Napoleon I, who is rumoured not to have drunk anything else and watered down his Chambertin with plenty of water. He favoured it at five to six years old and never drank more than half a bottle with a meal. When the ex-Emperor was exiled on St. Helena, he was forced to drink claret, since that was easier to ship to the isolated island.
The Rousseau Domaine was started at the beginning of the 20th century by Armand Rousseau who, at his majority, inherited several plots of vineyards in Gevrey Chambertin. The Domaine premises with the living house, the storing places, the cellars and the winery, are situated in the oldest part of the village, near the 13th century church.
From 1959, after Armand Rousseau's death, Charles Rousseau was at the head of a Domaine of 6 ha which he continued developing rapidly thanks to his great knowledge in oenology, and his experience, by acquiring new vineyards, especially in "Grands Crus" areas. He decided to turn principally towards export, and, after the USA where his father had already starting to sell his wines right after prohibition at the end of the 30's, he developed the exchanges first with Great-Britain, Germany, Switzerland, soon afterwards to all European countries, then to Canada, Australia, New-Zealand, Brazil, etc. and lastly Asia in the 1970’s.
His son Eric joined him at the beginning of the 1980's to take care more especially of the vineyards and the vinification. In 1993, Corinne, Charles's elder daughter, after many years of professional experience in export abroad and in France, came back to the Domaine and in her turn took in charge the commercial relationship with customers.
Domaine Armand Rousseau is the largest landowner of the Chambertin vineyard with a total of 5.3 acres. The 32 acres of Chambertin Grand Cru represent some of the finest and most storied Pinot Noir acreage on the planet and with all producers included typically produces less than 60,000 bottles. Chambertin is the beating heart of the red Grand Crus of the Côte d’Or sitting high on the hillside and bordered by Latricières-Chambertin to the south and Clos-de-Bèze to the north.
Vinification: Grapes are meticulously sorted as they arrive in the winery. Following a cool maceration the must travels by gravity into barrel where it will stay for the entire vinification process lasting typically 18-24 months. Each Armand Rousseau wine is blended unfiltered.
Burgundy writer Clive Coates refers to this Grand Cru as perhaps the finest red wine in the world. Always a tour de force, this wine has uncanny balance. It is very structured, dense, and powerful, it has firm, ripe tannins, yet it is not heavy. It has uncommonly long length on the palate.
Apart from a very cold episod in mid-December, the winter was relatively mild in 2007/2008 with monthly temperatures averaging 2°C over the normal. February was very dry and March particularly rainy. In spite of a spring surge during the second week of March, the vegetative period ends in a rather cold atmosphere, with some snow on Easter Monday.
April has been cool and rainy. It is necessary to wait for the end of April to see the bud burst take place.
Then the mildness of May allows a normal vegetative development; the bloom begins only by June the 20th and benefits from favourable conditions and quickly takes place.
The stage of closure of the cluster is reached in the middle of July and the beginning of “véraison” is noted only towards August 10th/15th. Everything accelerates at the end of August with a warm and sunny week which allows the “véraison” to end and the maturity to evolve.
Nevertheless, it is from September 14th that rain finally stops. The sun returns and a weather freshly accompanied with north wind allow to stabilize the sanitary state of the harvest as well as the end of maturation in optimal conditions.
The grape harvests began on September 24th under a beautiful sunny and dry climate which lasted until the end of campaign. After a drastic sorting, the volumes are rather weak but the optimal qualitative result is reached.
As usual, the wine making was little interventionist. The temperatures of the must were taken down to 15°C for the wines which required it; cuvaisons lasted from 18 to 20 days. The alcoholic fermentations took place naturally with beautiful maturities, a high natural acidity and very beautiful colours easily extractibles. Malolactic fermentations were slowly made and finished at the begining of july 2010.
2008 is a vintage full of freshness and structure with velvety tannins. It will be appreciated quite young though it gain good density during the aging and reflects very well the characteristics of each appellation.
An indifferent spring caused uneven flowering and mildew risk. At the end of June the weather changed for the better, continuing into July. Apart from local hail in the Côte de Beaune at the end of July, the summer began well. August arrived fairly cold and variable, but fortunately the last week of the month brought fine, warm weather. The lead-up to harvest saw sunny skies, apart from two days of rain in mid-September. A challenging vintage.
From day one the red wines have had a rich, pure fruit character with fine, silky tannins. The whites offer a good balance between ripe fruit and vibrant acidity. A vintage not to be overlooked because the wines deliver potential and pleasure.