Domaine Marchand Freres Gevrey-Chambertin 'Vieilles Vignes' 2013
‘Vieilles vignes’, old vines, have the advantage of keeping crop yields naturally low. And low crop yields mean ‘concentration’. Here we get that concentration in a Gevrey-Chambertin ‘village’ made from two contiguous ‘lieux dits’ (Pressonniers and Fourneaux) which are situated below the line of the Grand Cru to the west of the Combe Lavaux. We are talking about a classic Gevrey village spot, similar to the vineyard ‘Aux Etelois’ that is just across the way. This is Gevrey-Chambertin as we like it best.
DOMAINE MARCHAND FRERES
The Domaine Marchand Freres has been in existence since 1813 through seven generations, and for most of that time it was based in Morey-St. Denis. In 1983, however, the domain bought a winemaker’s house in the very center of Gevrey-Chambertin, ostensibly for the beautiful working cellars underneath. But Gevrey gradually became the seat of the business, and today Denis Marchand lives in the beautifully restored house and receives guests in the cellars below.
The domain has small parcels in some very important vineyards in Chambolle-Musigny, Morey-Saint-Denis and Gevrey-Chambertin, including premier cru ‘Les Sentiers’ in Chambolle, ‘Le Clos des Ormes’ in Morey and ‘Les Combottes’ in Gevrey. They also have holdings in Grand Cru Clos de la Roche, Griottes-Chambertin and Charmes Chambertin. But production is tiny, 1000 cases here, a few hundred there, mere dozens in the Grands Crus. Marchand Freres is the quintessential Burgundy domain: small production, high quality.
Burgundy 2013 was yet another small crop. The fourth in as many years. Some of it will be very good, in both red and white. But for some producers it was a disaster. As we always do, let’s start with a run-down of the weather conditions over the growing season (what the locals tellingly call ‘the campaign’).
Winter was wet and hung on stubbornly. March snow gave way to a few spring-like days, and everyone thought the worst was over. But no. April was cold and wet. May was the wettest on record. We posted photos of ducks swimming in the flooded vineyards. And winter gloom and temperatures persisted.
June was better, but just. Flowering started in the early part of the month, but with the cool wet conditions it was erratic and irregular. Lots of coulure and millerandange as a result. These aborted grapes would be one of the reasons for a small 2013 yield, and would come in to play in the final outcome at harvest.
Summer arrived late in the month. But even the warm temperatures and relatively fine weather did little to dispel the feeling of instability. There was nothing consistent to make you feel like you could just settle in to grape growing.
Then in the third week of July, high pressure and high humidity built up to a series of storms, the most violent of which tore out of the Savigny valley on the 23rd. Like a military gunship, the hail storm swept across the Savigny vines, hit Pernand on the west side of the Corton Mountain and headed south across Beaune, Pommard and Volnay. Producers tell us it lasted almost half an hour. It was the second year running that Pommard and Volnay were ravaged.
The humidity continued into August, and producers up and down the Cote nervously watched the sky. The big fear now was that damaged grapes would rot of mildew and odium, so preventive spraying intensified. If there was a bright spot in the growing season, it was the dry spell in mid-August. The damaged grapes shriveled and dropped off the vine, making the inevitable sorting at harvest more manageable.
Yields were tiny, even in the areas not ripped by hail. But the quality of the fruit was good going into September in the Cotes de Nuits and the white wine production south of Beaune, as well as in the Chalonnaise, Maconnais and Chablis.
Most of the harvest came in in the first weeks of October, the latest Burgundy vintages since 1991 and 1978. Maturity arrived at the end. Slowly at first, just like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like it to be. But that slow maturity turned into a gallop, especially for the whites. From Macon to Chablis, the quality of 2013 whites comes down to crucial decisions about when to pick in the final few days.
Two months prior to harvest, the mood was gloomy. And granted, those poor producers who got slammed in July will suffer for years. (Some say that another small crop in 2014 could force some out of business.) But there is quality in many cellars. The reds will be highly variable, but the best wines (from domains that sorted the harvest carefully as it came to the cuverie) are fresh, deeply colored and beautifully ripe, with balance that seems apt for long aging. As always, you have to know who made the wine. There is more consistent quality in the whites across the board. Some say an excellent exciting year.
COTE DE NUITS
The vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin swirl around the mouth of the Combe de Lavaux, a cleft in the hillside that has been eroding limestone slurry into the plains around the village of Gevrey for a geological epoch. Few appellations in Burgundy break down so neatly into zones: north of the combe lie most of the premier cru vineyards. The 9 grand cru vineyards are on the other side of the combe to the south. There are some good premiers crus in this sector as well, but they tend to be on the edges of the grands crus. Logically then, there are several different zones of village wine production, some very interesting, some (especially to the east) not.
Produced in the communes of Gevrey-Chambertin and Brochon, the appellation Gevrey-Chambertin includes 26 premiers crus. The commune of Gevrey-Chambertin also produces 9 grands crus.
In youth Gevrey-Chambertin is usually a bright ruby color, turning more black cherry with age. Strawberry and cherry fruits, violet and rose floral notes are common in the early days. Maturity brings out liquorice, leather and fur and hints of that Pinot underbrush. Youthful firm structure gives way to velvety tannins and delicate texture. Gevrey is what great burgundy should be: powerful, rich, and meaty. They can often be when drunk young to appreciate the fruit, but really these are wines for aging, often for long periods.
The grands crus sit on the eddys of the combe , with thin soils on crinoidal limestone; while most of the premiers crus occupy the upper portion of the Côte at heights of between 280 and 380 meters on shallow red limestone soils. Below them are the village appellation vines on brown limey soils. There are also marls covered with screes and red silt that have washed down from above the combe. These stony mixtures can produce elegant wine while the clayey marls, which contain rich deposits of fossilized shell-fish, add body and firmness. Exposures vary from east to south-east.
Red wines only - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
409.65 ha (including 80.46 ha premier cru)
Massive yet velvety, the wines of Gevrey-Chambertin should show power and structure, and should age admirably. This is a wine for meat-eaters. As it evolves, its gamey notes becomes a match for game, feathered or furred. It also goes superbly with rib steak, lamb, and fibrous meats, that need marinating or braising. It goes well with all the Burgundian strong cow-milk cheeses, in particular Époisses and Ami du Chambertin, and of course with the creamy purity of a Cîteaux.
On the label, the appellations Gevrey-Chambertin and Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru may be followed by the name of the specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos des Varoilles
Clos du Chapitre
Combe au Moine
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Champerrier du Bas
Champerrier du Dessus
Combe de Lavaux
Combes du Bas
Combes du Dessus
Croix des Champs
Le Carré Rougeaud
Les Champs Perriers
Les Jeunes Rois
Meix des Ouches
Puits de la Baraque