By Alexandria Rae Cubbage, 24 Jun 2020
If you are looking to gain an understanding of the wines of Gevrey-Chambertin then the wines from Domaine Armand Rousseau is the lot for you. Domaine Armand Rousseau was established by Eric Rousseau’s grandfather, Armand Rousseau, in Gevrey-Chambertin in the early 20th century. Today, Eric Rousseau is in charge of the vineyards with the help of his daughter Cyrielle. They own and work in total about 15.3 ha of vineyards across the Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey-St.-Denis appellations (including 1.42 ha in the grand cru Chambertin-Clos de Bèze and 2.55 ha in the grand cru Chambertin).
The wines of Rousseau are outstanding largely because of their vineyard holdings; Eric’s ancestors saw the potential in Gevrey-Chambertin. When others were becoming frustrated by phylloxera and were abandoning their vineyards and selling off their wines to négociants, Armand Rousseau seized the opportunity to acquire prime vineyard sites. Armand Rousseau and Charles Rousseau always followed the principle that good wine was made in the vineyard first. And, Eric and his daughter Cyrielle have followed this same principle. They maintain low yields through their pruning practices, and these low yields promote high concentration in their wines.
Domaine Rousseau owns 10 vineyards in Gevrey-Chambertin, and they use the grapes from the following eight vineyards to make their village level Gevrey-Chambertin: Les Crais, Creux Brouillard, En Champs, Les Cercueils, Perrières, Les Etournelles, and Les Craipillots (these last three vineyards in the list are actually premiers crus, but the domaine chooses to use grapes from these higher ranking vineyards in its village level wine). They also include grapes from vineyards they lease – Champs Chenys and Reniards. So, the quality level of this village wine is above what most domaines are producing.
The sweet spot in the Domaine Armand Rousseau portfolio or the value buy is the Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru ‘Clos St. Jacques’. If there is one vineyard in Burgundy that should be elevated to grand cru status, many say this is the one. I agree as I adore these wines. This premier cru vineyard is made up of five vertical strips with five different domaines each owning a portion, and Domaine Armand Rousseau owns one third of the vineyard. The ‘Clos St. Jacques’ vineyard faces southeast with sun exposure that promotes healthy ripening for the grapes while at the same time the soil is rich in clay and limestone leading to wines that are structured, intense and have longevity.
For the grands crus from Rousseau, Chambertin and Chambertin-Clos de Bèze are among the most iconic wines of Burgundy. The Chambertin-Clos de Bèze is a wine of deep complexity with feminine character and subtlety; known as being the “Queen” of Gevrey-Chambertin with the grand cru vineyard, Chambertin, regarded as the “King” with its more powerful, concentrated and expressive flavours. Other wines in this selection below to consider are the 2010 Mazis-Chambertin and 2011 Charmes-Chambertin. If you are feeling a bit more in the mood for Morey-St.-Denis, we also have Rousseau’s grand cru from this village - the 2011 Clos de la Roche. As Florian and I mentioned in our online live tasting session with you back in early April about understanding Burgundy reds through its various villages, if you are a Bordeaux fan and looking to make the move into Burgundy then Gevrey-Chambertin is a great place to start, and Domaine Armand Rousseau is a very fine estate to embark on that journey with.