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Charmes-Chambertin is the largest Grand Cru in Gevrey-Chambertin covering 72 acres spread across many growers. Domaine Armand Rousseau owns a total of 3.4 acres in a prime position on the hill, mid-slope with an east/southeast exposure.
Grapes are meticulously sorted as they arrive in the winery. Following a cool maceration lasting 5-7 days 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.
Côte de Nuits in the year 640 AD as a monastic property. In 1219 it passed to the canons of Langres, who retained ownership until the Revolution of 1789. The name Chambertin has been used since the 13th century and once shared imperial approval with Clos de Bèze - Napoleon would drink nothing else. Its boundaries have not changed since the Middle Ages. In recognition of their similarity, the 7 " Climats " adjoining those of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze attach the name Chambertin to their own names (except in the case of Clos de Bèze where the name Chambertin comes first). Grand Cru status was officially granted on 31 July 1937.
This hill-slope lies on hard rocks. On the upper portion are brown soils, partly alluvial, partly scree, and some tens of centimetres deep. Lower down are clay-limestone soils in varying proportions. Up-slope, the rocks are of bathonien origin, lower down the marls and limestones belong to the Jurassic (Bajocian) and numerous marine fossils are to be found on the surface, recalling the sea which covered this area some 150 million years ago.
The Grands Crus of Gevrey-Chambertin are iconic Pinot Noir wines ; powerful, virile, complex and intense. They demand equally complex, hightoned dishes to keep the pairing in balance. Feathered game (grilled or, better still, in wine sauce) will, of course, be a worthy companion. The power of the wine's tannins will withstand the shock of contrasting textures while its aromatic complexity and above all its opulence will bring out the differences. Roast lamb in gravy, chicken in red wine sauce, glazed poultry, and rib steak will also benefit from the match, not forgetting soft-centred cheeses which will get strong support from the wine's power and aromatic persistence.
Serving temperature : 15 to 16 °C.
2011 began much like 2007. The spring was very early and dry, and very hot from April 12 until May 5, with temperatures consistently approaching 30°C in the afternoon.
Both May and June were also much hotter than normal and the vines generally were in full flower by around May 20. With vine growth so far ahead of schedule, we were anticipating a very early harvest. The state of the vines’ health was perfect at this point and mildew and oïdium were nearly non-existent.
The heat continued until July 13, when a very wet summer saved the vineyards, which were beginning to suffer from the drought. In addition, some of our parcels of Gevrey-Chambertin east of the hillside were attacked by botrytis, following a hailstorm on July 23.
This cool, wet summer helped to balance the early advance of the very hot spring. August was marked by enough sun to allow the fruit to fully mature and a period of vine work and early sorting before the harvest left us with generally healthy grapes. Harvest began on August 30, just one day earlier than 2007. On the slope, among the Premiers Crus and Grand Crus, the fruit was ripe and clean, but for the parcels hit by hail, heavy sorting was required.
2011 will surely be a winemaker’s vintage, producing softer, elegant wines marked by great balance between sugar and acidity and ripe aromatics.
'We are beginning to get spoilt with all these fine vintages', said Lalou Bize in October 2011. 'We are very happy with our 2011s.' 'Much better than we had expected,' said Denis Bachelet. 'Lots of colour and fruit, together with good acidity and souplesse.'
Yes. It would appear that Burgundy has done it again. And if views are not quite as enthusiastic in Chablis and in the Côte Chalonnaise, at least in the Côte d'Or (and particularly in the Côte de Nuits) we have another big one to follow 2008, 2009, and 2010. Nature is smiling on the Burgundy lover.
Burgundy suffered the worst of its winter as early as the end of November/beginning of December. It was cold and grey, and there was quite a bit of snow. It continued cold but drier in January, but a little warmer in February and March, and then in April, just as in 2007, summer arrived with a bang. In temperatures which climbed into the low 30°s bud break started early and the devemopement of the shoots was rapid. One thing was already clear: barring catastrophe the harvest would be early. This fine weather continued into May.
June was pleasant enough, without being really warm, and July cool and wet. Even August, except for the occasional pair of days, lacked heat until the middle of the month. This came just when it was required, and while there were three days of wet weather just as the harvest was due to start in the Côte d'Or (August 24-26) these were the only periods of anxiety to worry the growers. September continued dry and warm, enabling the Hautes Côtes and other late pickers to finish their collection at their ease.
Of course rarely does a summer season go by without some hail damage somewhere in Burgundy. Rully has received the worst of it this year, being blitzed on the 8th of June, and then, and more seriously, on July 12th. Decimated is frequently an over-exaggerated term, but that is certainly what parts of the vignoble looked like. There were several frost attacks in Chablis in the spring, plus hail damage there too on 29th June, which has affected the size of the harvest in Fourchaume and neighbouring grands crus. Overall, it was wetter in Chablis that in the Côte d'Or – and it seems also to have been drier in the Côte de Nuits than the Côte de Beaune. Both these factors underlie the relative success of these three areas.
The white wine crop looks to be healthily-sized; if anything a little more plentiful than the average, growers talking about having produced 45 to 52 hectolitres per hectare in the Côte de Beaune. The fruit was healthy, pHs were around 3.10 - 3.15, and fermentations have been quite rapid. Some suggest slightly lower levels of alcohol than 2009 or 2010. Where red wines of equal reputation are made in the same cellar it seems that there is more satisfaction with the red wine results than with the white.
The red wines are even better in the Côte de Nuits. The crop is not large, there being less juice in the grapes than they promised, but this has led to added concentration. Alcohol levels are at a natural 11.5° - 12.5°, so the wines will not be too heavy. The colours are encouraging and there is plenty of fruit.
We need now (I wrote in November 2011) to wait patiently until the wines are tastable. Someone said to me long ago that you need to hold back and give the wines six weeks after the malos were complete before you can attack them with confidence. Only then, when the CO2 content has sunk to half, can you properly experience the mouth feel, the physical aspect of the wine.
One thing, though, is already clear. Two thousand and eleven Burgundy is a success.
Twelve months on, with the wines now well post malo and ready for tasting, what do we make of the 2011s? The whites are following a pattern which seems to have arisen in previous years: very pleasant, reasonably fresh, obligingly fruity, but without real backbone, depth and staying power. Drink them soon. Don't, I suggest, be prepared to spend the high prices today asked for premier cru Puligny unless you have tasted them first and are convinced they will be better in 2020 than 2015. Go for Rully instead.
The reds, lighter than the 2010s and less exotically rich than the 2009s, are delicious. They may not have enormous backbone, but there are many which have a delightful purity of Pinot fruit – and pure Pinot is one of the world's most seductive vinous aromas. They should not take too long to come round. But while delicious then, I do believe they will last, at least in the medium to long term. Yes, at least in red, 2011 is a success.
Prices are beginning to be released as I write. The high prices for the 2012s seen at the Hospices auction are bound to have its effect. But this seems to more evident among the already pricey, more fashionable wines and domaines. The polarization between simple (perhaps better rephrased as unpretentions) Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits grand and top premier cru is continuing. Many, particularly the white wine growers, have kept to their 2010 prices. More have raised their demands by five to eight percent, which means that British wine merchants can hold to last years prices, as the rate of exchange has improved. A few are increasing by 15 or even 20 percent as growers view the tiny amounts of 2012 in their cellars.
by Clive Coates MW: