This was one of the great wine dinners of the last few years for me. Gevrey-Chambertin, particularly the twin Grand Cru vineyards of Chambertin and Chambertin-Clos de Beze, was my first love in Burgundy - they were what first turned me on to red wines; and Armand Rousseau, by some distance, produces the greatest expressions of the terroir, vintage-in and vintage-out.
It was such a treat then that we each dug into our collections to bring out treasures from the decade before, so that we could do pairings of Chambertin and Beze for 2000, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 (with a long 1995 to start with). This was a great opportunity to put a finger on Armand Rousseau’s stylings over the 2000s, and also make a comparison between the neighbouring vineyards of Chambertin and Clos de Beze.
I am not sure I can say anything more about Rousseau that has not already been waxed lyrical about in other forums. The wines are Gevrey par excellence, and amongst the very best produced anywhere in Burgundy, and the world. Sleek, polished, balanced and integrated, yet never facile and overworked - these are wines of strength and intensity, yet also purity, balance and transparency, with wonderfully generous red fruit, sometimes florals, often seasoned with Gevrey stylings of mineral, meat and a bit of spice. If one asks me to describe Rousseau in a few words, I would say: delicious, pure, sensuous, elegant. Yet, this might give the impression of a modern softness and easiness, which could not be further from the truth - what makes these wines truly great are that beneath all that elegance, there is also always a real strength, depth and intensity. A seriousness that lifts them above the ordinary.
What about the two vineyards - Chambertin and Clos de Beze. Served semi-blind in pairs, it proved impossible to say which was better than the other chez Rousseau. In some vintages, the Chambertin clearly edged it, in others, the Beze. In yet other vintages, the vote was split between the two. There were stylistic differences that we picked up quite consistently though - the Chambertin wines were deeper, more brooding, more powerful, maybe more complete. The Beze, however, were the more charming, more seductive, maybe even more transparent, with spice and perfume emphasised over earth and mineral.
This tasting really underlined just how good of a producer Armand Rousseau is though - the wines, whether Chambertin or Beze, where uniformly brilliant, some breathtakingly so. I really enjoyed this dinner. Chips down, Rousseau is probably my favourite domaine of all in Burgundy. Unfortunately, with the prices the way they are today though, such a dinner would be hard to replicate with vintages one decade younger.
1989 Jacquesson & Fils Champagne Grand Cru D.T. Non Dosé Avize - France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru
Second time round with a magnum of this wine. I really enjoyed it. Disgorged in 2005, this has had a bit more time on the lees, and this showed in the wine. This felt rounder and rather more pleasing then the really tight, youthful bottle we had the last time round. The nose bloomed out the glass with lovely notes of apples and pears, some yeast, and just that touch of savoury oxidative notes, all underlined with a good bit of minerally aromas. Nice. The palate was nice and round as well, with warm, gently honeyed notes of apples, earth and spice. Really yummy, with a lovely long mineral tail as well. Very nice indeed, and showing beautifully. (94 pts.)
2016 Errazuriz Chardonnay Las Pizarras - Chile, Aconcagua Valley
A decently good wine, but this somehow did not quite come across like a Chardonnay for some reason. The nose smelt liked an oaked Sauvignon Blanc to me, with ripe gooseberry, green limes and mineral - even with a bit of cat’s pee at the sides. I could have sworn this was an SB. The palate was fairly big though, with a round, buttery texture, and ripe red apple and sweet lemon notes, all this pierced by a spine of really bright, citrusy acidity and a good bit of minerality. There was a touch of spice and warmth at the end, and just that trace of oak, but otherwise a decent wine that will get better with time. (90 pts.)
THE LONE RANGER
1995 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru
What a lovely start to the night; this was firing on cylinders. The nose had a lovely Gevrey character to it, with a beautiful undertows of meat, earth and a little exotic spice wafting out of the glass alongside beautiful red-fruited aromas with floral rose-petal accents. Wow. The palate still had a slightest edge of 1995’s lean, structured character, but it has come around really nicely since its youth, with a beautiful of sweet cherry fruit, gentle florals and lovely earth and spice notes, all filling the mouth with a beautiful, floaty feel above over the attack and midpalate. Almost ethereal I thought. It lacked just a bit of oomph right at the finish, with the fruit drifting behind a more structural character, with a bit of a brambly twist just sneaking in at the very end. Absolutely lovely stuff otherwise, and probably showing at peak now. (94 pts.)
2000 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru
A lovely wine. Not perfect - felt a bit on the thinner side for a Rousseau Chambertin - and not quite as breathtakingly brilliant as the 2000 Rousseau Clos de Beze we had alongside, but this was such a lovely drop in its own right. The nose did not have as deep and compelling a bouquet as the Beze, but was still really attractive, with notes of wood spices, earth and mineral, and then red cherries, roses, and just a savoury hint of dried meat. Lovely stuff. The palate also felt some way behind the Beze, a little more opaque and less giving, but again still really delicious, with a bed of velvety, but still grippy tannins laced through juicy flavours of red cherries, berries, and gentle bits of earth and meat, before a delicious of spice took the wine towards a long, effortless finish. Delicious stuff. If I was nitpicking, I would say this was perhaps a bit more structured and full on the back-palate than the Beze, but lacked a bit of its ethereal charm. Otherwise, a lovely wine, drinking really nicely now. (93 pts.)
2000 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
Wow. This was seriously good. It had a killer nose, with wonderfully fragrant wafts of flowers and spice, sweet red cherries, earth, bramble, and just that bit of meatiness. Wow - this was sweet perfume and Gevrey meatiness all rolled into one, a real kaleidoscope of Burgundy magic. The palate may not have been as gobsmackingly impressive as the nose, but it was deliciously soft and lovely, with the finest-boned tannins framing beautifully pure flavours of red fruit, earth, mineral and spice. Wonderfully defined and transparent, with pure Gevrey character showing throughout. It just lacked a touch of power and length of the greatest vintages, but this clearly had Grand Cru presence even so. The finish drifted away without the greatest conviction, but rather a charming wink, as it lingered with notes of earth, bramble and mineral on the back palate. A beautifully elegant wine, drinking at peak now. (94 pts.)
2006 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
This was superb - clearly better than when I last tried it six or seven years back. What a nose it has now - melting red fruits - like cherries and berries- then earth and mineral, meat and spice. Super. This was classic Gevrey, classic Beze actually. The palate was absolutely wonderful too. Silky tannins, melting acidity, all draped like a silken robe over a wonderfully clear, pure and transparent flavours, with notes of red cherries, spice and mineral - this was amazing. So complete, so integrated - all gliding into a long, full, gentle finish that filled the back-palate again with blushing notes of juicy red fruit, gentle spice and lovely minerality. Wow. Drinking ridiculously well in its adolescence, but this should age effortlessly well far into the future. (96 pts.)
2006 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru
Absolutely wonderful, this stood out even amidst a very serious line-up from Rousseau. The nose was a tad more masculine than the 2006 Clos de Beze we had alongside, with deeper notes of spice, earth and mineral coiled around a core of red cherry fruit. Lovely, deep and dark. The palate was truly wonderful. Fuller and deeper than the Beze, this was absolutely complete, with gently insistent, juicy notes of red cherries, berries and gentle layers of earth and minerality, all coating the palate with a beautiful sweet, gently powerful flavours that led into an inexorably long, yet effortless finish. Like the Beze so integrated, so complete, so delicious. Just wow. It probably needs more time than the Beze to hit its peak, but it is such a stunning wine even now. (97 pts.)
2008 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
Very, very nice indeed, even if lacking some of the completeness of the bigger vintages on show tonight. The nose showed nicely lifted aromas of figs and dark cherries, earth, spice and mineral, and then just that bit of green bramble at the side that set this apart from the other wines. The palate had a very 2008 character - pure, defined and absolutely transparent, very very classic, with deliciously pure flavours of red berries and darker berries seasoned with spice, mineral and a little earthiness. It felt a bit less powerful than some of the other wines, say the 2006 and 2009, but pay this wine a little bit of attention, and it quickly becomes clear that there is a serious bit of conviction and quiet intensity here, especially as it traced its away into a beautifully long, minerally finish. A wonderful wine, built in its own fashion - this was all precision, definition, finesse and length. While not one of Rosseau’s very greatest Clos de Beze, this will nevertheless be an absolutely showstopper in time. I would love to try it again say 6-8 years down the road. (96 pts.)
2008 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru
A half-step behind the absolutely super Clos de Beze from the same vintage, but this was still a tremendous wine. What a nose it had - earth and meat and spice, with a beautiful core of red fruit and florals - such a wonderful bouquet. The palate was a bit tighter and less giving than the Beze, but boy was it classy. Silky tannins, perfectly judged acidity, all framing a wonderful crunch of dark cherries and berries. Everything was superbly defined, precise and impeccably balanced, with a lovely laser-like line of Gevrey goodness tracing all the way into a wonderfully long, effortless finish, where just the littlest tones of mineralogy peeked out from amongst the fruit. Super, but this needs time yet. It will age effortlessly over the next couple of decades and beyond. (95 pts.)
2007 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
I have been quite blessed to have had this fabulous wine three times over the past decade or so - and this was by far the best showing yet. The last bottle, some 3 years ago was tight and unyielding, but this was bang on form. The nose was lovely in a subtler way than some of its peers tonight, with drifts of dark cherries, bits of earth, mineral and a bit of spice, and then some beautiful florals floating away in the background. A bit quiet, but lovely, and opening up all the time in the glass. The palate was so very refined and enjoyable too. Here, the softest, silkiest tannins and lovely soft orange peel acidity glided through wonderfully pure, integrated flavours of red cherries, juicy berries and sweet spices. These then wound their way into a beautifully long, but ever so gentle finish, with a tremendous tail of mineral, red fruit, earth and spice that gently filled the backplate. Wow. This was wonderful wine that spoke so eloquently of both its vintage and terroir - starting to drink really well too. (96 pts.)
2007 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru
This was stunning tonight - one of the very best wines on show in the midst of a whole lot of Rousseau Chambertin / Beze from the previous decade. A different creature altogether from the quietly elegant 2007 Beze that was paired with, but every bit as good. Maybe even better, The nose had a touch more toastiness to it here, with notes of spice, earth and then red cherries and berries, and just a touch of roasted meat at the edges. I liked the fragrant florals of the Beze a bit more, but this was lovely too. The palate was beautiful, if rather less seductive and charming than the Beze on first sip - probably needing more time in the glass. Where the previous wine was silk, this was more velvet, showing showed wonderful gobs of juicy dark cherries and red berries on the attack and, then gentle mineral, and earth and spice, absolutely filling every crevice of the back-palate. So long and so insistent, yet so understated and controlled. Wow, and wow again. This was just superb. Complete, powerful, and inexorable, yet lithe, light, transparent and completely weightless. This was incredible now, but with some room to keep evolving as well. A great, great wine. (97 pts.)
2009 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin-Clos de Bèze - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru
Superlative. This was one of the best young Burgs I have ever had in my life. It was clearly the youngest, and tightest of the lot alongside its brother, the 2009 Chambertin, but this showed such great promise. The nose shad a bit of glycerol on it, but behind it, there were nice notes of dark cherries, berries, flowers, herbs and spice. A bit modern, but very attractive nonetheless. The palate clearly needs more time though. There was lots of bright acidity, along the finest, juiciest tannins, and then tons of luscious red cherries and berries, all still really tight and wound up. It was superbly balanced and wonderfully poised; full of power, yet with wonderful definition - but there is so much going on in reserve now. It felt a touch more modern in style than the other wines on show, but make no mistake - this was a mindbendingly good Clos de Beze. So complete, but 10 years behind its curve - it will be amazing wine to try when it hits it peak. (97 pts.)
2009 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambertin Grand Cru
Wow. Serious stuff. Like the 2009 Beze that accompanied it, this felt quite a long way from being ready, but this was definitely potential in a bottle. The nose absolutely tumbled out of the glass with layers of earth, spice, red fruits and dried flowers. Woah. The palate showed great intensity as well - with red cherries and spice embraced in a lovely structure of juicy acidity and chewy tannins. Great muscular finish too, with earth, spice and mineral wrapping around the core of fruit. There was such power, definition and balance here, but this was still so young, with so much in reserve. It really needs time - probably a decade or more in the bottle. It was still emerging from a grumpy adolescence I thought, but this will be an amazing wine wine when it grows up. I did feel, however, that the Beze was perhaps just a half-step ahead. (96 pts.)
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