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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.
“2019 is ‘the perfect storm’ of a vintage,” said Laurent Drouhin of top negociant house Drouhin, which owns vineyards in many parts of Burgundy. “We keep smiling because some wines will be great.” The mix included the hottest temperatures since the time of the Black Death 700 years ago (!), frost in April, rain in June, and no rain for nearly four months.
Drouhin’s harvest started on time on Sept. 13, and Laurent’s winemaking brother Frederic reports, “The first reds show an intense and beautiful color, good concentration, great balance and acidity and depth. The whites also show good richness with balance.” It’s a great year for reds, with slightly higher alcohol than usual.
The downside is very low yields. In just one April night, frost destroyed about 30% of the crop in Macon, though what’s left is making wines with good acidity and aromas.
Export company Le Serbet gathered reports from 65 producers in its portfolio, and head of marketing Peter Wasserman says the loss of grapes varies from vineyard to vineyard; in some places it may be as much as 50% to 60% lower than normal. Northern appellations such as Gevrey-Chambertin seem to have done best, down only 10%.
With less wine, you might predict even higher prices, but producers worry that this would drive away consumers.