Ruchottes-Chambertin is one of the grand crus of Gevrey-Chambertin. I only recently had my first taste of this prestigious vineyard and while it does not carry the fame of Le Chambertin or Clos de Beze, it is probably close to the top of the rest of the Gevrey grand crus in my opinion. This is mostly due to the ownership of the vineyard which includes a few of the top stars of the Cote de Nuits. Names like Rousseau, Roumier, and Mugneret-Gibourg get Burgundy afficionado’s like myself tongues wagging in short order! So let’s take a little closer look at this grand cru vineyard.
Ruchottes is the first of the grand crus you encounter as you travel south along the top section of grand crus in Gevrey. It is relatively small, though not tiny by Burgundian standards at 3.3 hectares. The topsoil is thin and overlays Premeaux limestone. It has a steep slope and due to this, the soils at the bottom (Ruchottes du Bas) are a little deeper than the top section (Ruchottes du Dessus). There is also a separate section, Clos des Ruchottes which is owned by Armand Rousseau (see yours truly above standing in the opening of the clos). According to Burgundy cognoscenti who have tasted much more of this vineyard than I have, Ruchottes is often a wine of minerality and elegance and does not have the power or depth of its illustrious neighbors. That said, the wine can age very well. The thin topsoil gives it some austerity and tannin in its youth while the acidity and minerality allows a slow and graceful evolution.
The bottle that I was able to drink recently was from Frederic Esmonin, one of the principal owners of Ruchottes with 0.52 hectares. His vines here are generally 50 years+ in age. Esmonin is a respected producer, but remains somewhat under the radar of the collecting crowd. Thankfully, his wines are not in the crazy price sphere that the wines from the likes of Rousseau, Roumier, and Mungeret-Gibourg are, so you can actually afford one with only a small splurge. I have had several excellent wines from him over the years. The 2011 Ruchottes from Esmonin comes from a vintage that is average at best, and considered marginal by many. The wine, however, delivered quite nicely. The nose was a bit closed initially with some funk and earth notes. With 30 minutes in the decanter, this began to blossom to show ripe, spicy dark berry fruits, floral notes of violet and lilac, crushed stone, and just the beginnings of some tertiary notes of forest floor and worn leather. The wine really seemed to become more primary throughout the evening with the fruit becoming fresher and riper and the floral notes and mineral note becoming more prominent. The concentration on the palate was clearly grand cru level and yet there was definitely the hallmark elegance of Ruchottes on display as this was a great example of the “power without weight” phenomema often displayed in fine Burgundy. Overall I found this to be immensely enjoyable and it paired beautifully with elk steaks. I would definitely love to explore the more famous producers, but the prices are limiting… (a collecting tip though, Mugneret-Gibourg declassified their young vines in Ruchottes into a Gevrey 1er cru for several years, last vintage I believe was 2011 or 2012; so this is a way to try their Ruchottes a little cheaper) Given the quality of my experience with Esmonin’s bottling I suppose I’ll start exploring other vintages of his first!
J. Newman, CSW