Greetings and happy February to my fellow followers of vinous virtuosos! I hope that you are all having a good winter and enjoying some snow. I also hope that you were able to get out and find some quality Bordeaux to sample! I personally was able to revisit a few including a 1995 Malescot St. Exupery which was excellent alongside some elk meat prepared by our local game preparation expert and hunter extraordinaire Christopher Brown. It showed beautiful aromatics with cassis, leather, cedar, tobacco, a hint of mint, and dried floral notes. The palate still actually had quite substantial structure that would easily lend another 5-10 years of very pleasurable drinking. I also had a phenomenal bottle of 2000 Domaine Chevalier. This was probably in the top 10 Bordeaux wines I’ve ever been able to try- dark purple belying its 17 years of bottle age with a huge nose of creme de cassis, anise, crushed stone, a hint of game, cedar, forest floor, and a hint of wood spice. Stellar depth and balance with a long lasting finish make this just a pleasure to drink. Really just a great wine. Hopefully you all were able to experience some of the pleasure that Bordeaux can offer!
Otherwise life has been good in the Newman house. A lovely little jaunt out to Kauai didn’t hurt anything. A week of sun, relaxation, and killer rosé and bubbly is just what you need in the midst of the Montana winter. Of course, when we returned it was -15 to welcome us back, but so it goes. I’ve not been able to get the skis out of the garage yet, but Zwift is certainly starting to pay dividends for my fitness. While I’m still a ways from top notch, I’ve managed to notch a couple of podium finishes in Zwift races, mostly due to being a superior tactical racer rather than purely a stronger cyclist. Those days are coming though. Watching the Olympics has turned me on to the sport of biathlon. It seems like a perfect fit for me. I’m a deadeye shooter and am certain I’d crush the range and with my underlying skate skier just waiting to be unleashed, I think there’s a 50% chance you will see me in the 2022 games!! I’ll keep you posted.
In other exciting news, I have been hired as a tour guide for a fall trip to France!!! A few of our long term list members have finally realized what a stellar resource they have awaiting them if they are only willing to pay for my travel, wine consumption, and a paltry guiding fee ($2500 a day for anyone else interested). We will of course be spending most of our time in Burgundy with a jaunt into Champagne; I’ve also included the free addition of a dining/wine tour of Paris (free except for my travel costs of course). I am pretty pumped and have already started setting up Domaine visits, planning dinners out, and arranging some non-wine related activities such as a foray up the Col du Grand Colombier in the Jura. Yes, it will be a stellar trip. At this point the roster is full, but I will be available for future trips, so feel free to contact me about pricing and availability.
I was also hired to lead a lovely tasting recently with a group of local professionals in Bozeman. We compared different styles of pinot noir, a few tempranillos and nebbiolos, along with some interesting Spanish and Italian wines. Discussions ranged wide and everyone was able to drink their fill at the Newman fountain of wine knowledge! All in all a great night!
Ok, I’m sure you are all tired of listening to me babble on about my imaginary life and begging me to get down to the subject of the month, so I suppose I will oblige. You have probably guessed that since I was really itching to get back to discussing Burgundy last month and now have been booked as a guide to a trip of Burgundy, this month will take us back to Burgundy!!! If you feel that your wine education is skewed with this letter, you are correct, but until someone starts paying me to do this (that would be you all) I’m going to write about what I want to damn it!!! So this month we will venture into the fabulous, seductive wines of Chambolle-Musigny… however, be careful, these wines can be the opening to the Burgundy rabbit hole from which you may never emerge…
So, Chambolle-Musigny will be the subject of the month. I’ll oblige some of my students that don’t really pay attention month to month with a BRIEF review of Burgundy in general. You will remember that Burgundy is split into segments; Chablis, the Côte d’Or, the Côte Chalonaisse, and the Côte Maconnais. Chambolle-Musigny is a village in the Côte d’Or, specifically the Côte de Nuits which is the northern half. You will also recall that wine in Burgundy is made from either pinot noir (red Burgundy) or chardonnay (white Burgundy). Chambolle-Musigny produces essentially all pinot noir. You will also recall that wines in Burgundy are ranked or classed by vineyard, not producer (winemaker). The levels are regional (grapes are from Burgundy), village (grapes are from a specific village e.g. Chambolle-Musigny), premier cru or 1er cru (grapes are from a specific vineyard that has been awarded the 1er cru rating), and grand cru (grapes are from a specific vineyard that has been given the grand cru rating). As expected, when you move up the pyramid there is significantly less wine of each grade and the prices go up accordingly. If you need a label review, you can find the prior Burgundy posts on the website.
So, let’s delve into Chambolle! You can see on the map above that Chambolle-Musigny is between Morey-St. Denis and Vougeot/Flagey-Echezeaux. You will recall from our discussion of Gevrey-Chambertin that the villages in Burgundy have all added the name of the most famous vineyard in the village to their name, so that means the Le Musigny is the most famous vineyard in Chambolle! Chambolle-Musigny wines are considered by many (including myself) to be THE perfect form of pinot noir. The wines here are the definition of elegance and they have an ethereal grace to them that is often beyond description. When I think of Chambolle-Musigny, the picture that I often find in my mind is a lithe and beautiful woman in a silken dress of shimmering red and wearing a crown of roses effortlessly gliding across a dance floor while everyone around is simply agape that such grace, delicacy, and fluidity is possible. Yes, I realize this may be a “sexist” view of the wine, but I’m a man and that is what I imagine, so tough. In all honesty though, Chambolle is the essence of what I think pinot noir should be. Pinot noir is not meant to be a massive, dark colored wine with lots of wood and tannin. Leave that for cabernet, syrah, etc. Pinot noir is meant to be beautiful and light, delicate, graceful and seductive, yet at the same time manages to have power in a subtle way that leaves you reliving the smells and texture of the wine for hours. Hauntingly beautiful… that friends is pinot noir and that is what you will find in Chambolle-Musigny.
I fear the length may already be growing too great for many of you so I’ll try to keep the
dry stuff to a minimum. As in the rest of the Côte d’Or, one of the primary aspects of the soil is the underlying Jurassic limestone. The limestone subsoils is covered by a shallow topsoil and thus the roots are forced deep into the limestone to get water and nutrients. This picture of Bonnes-Mares shows you some of the structure. The vineyards are east facing and the best vineyards are at about 800-1100 feet in elevation. As the name Côte implies, the vineyards “slope” downward which allows very good drainage. Chambolle-Musigny has about 375 acres of vineyards currently and average production is around 750,000 or so bottles. So there is not a lot of it to go around sadly…
With regards to specific vineyards, there are 2 grand cru vineyards, Musigny and Bonnes-Mares. Bonnes-Mares is actually partly in Morey-St. Denis as well, but most of it resides within Chambolle. The wines from Musigny are considered by many to represent the epitome of pinot noir. It is without a doubt considered to be one of the greatest grand crus of Burgundy and one of the greatest examples of elegant, delicate, and subtle pinot noir. It is probably overshadowed by Romanee-Conti and La Tache, but certainly on par, though very different than the Le Chambertin from Gevrey. Unfortunately, Musigny is priced as one of the greatest grand crus of Burgundy so it doesn’t often trickle down to the mere mortals such as us… Bonnes-Mares is a little bit more powerful and rustic than Musigny and it resides on the northern end of the village while Musigny is on the southern. It has a few characteristics that are more consistent with the wines of Morey which show a bit more structure along with earthy game notes. Still, it has great depth and concentration that clearly show its grand cru status.
There are 24 premier cru vineyards (see below) in Chambolle. Without a doubt the greatest of these is Les Amoureuses (the lovers). This vineyard abuts Musigny and sadly often costs nearly as much… A few of my personal favorite 1er crus from this village are Les Fuées, Les Charmes, La Combe d’Orveau, Les Hauts Doix, and Les Cras. These are all beautiful wines with ripe cherry, raspberry, and red currant fruit with subtle spice, floral, and mineral notes hovering beneath. I have rarely been disappointed by any 1er cru from Chambolle, so given the scarcity, if you see one just go for it!
As I have mentioned previously, the best value in Burgundy can often be found at the village level. Chambolle-Musigny has a number of very talented growers and their village level wines are fabulous and highly recommended.
Speaking of growers in Chambolle; let’s get into a few of my favorite producers. I have mentioned this before, but it bears reiterating, in Burgundy producer trumps everything. Vintage, vineyard, etc. If it is from a great producer that you know and trust, it will likely be delicious. Here are my go to folks from Chambolle:
Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier – one of the great domaines of Burgundy; exquisite wines, very hard to find, but worth the effort; the best value is the village Chambolle (which is still expensive, but well worth it); the 1er crus are also stellar and from what I hear the grand crus are also fabulous but a bit stratospherically priced for me sadly…
Domaine Georges Roumier – these wines are basically ghosts… Roumier is so highly
sought after by Burgundy collectors that it is impossible to find and very expensive (last check I saw a bottle of his Les Musigny for $7k though the village wines are bit more affordable), but they are fabulous wines (by they I mean the one I have had). If you have a chance to taste Roumier don’t miss it…
Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé – another legendary producer, this domaine owns a huge chunk of Les Musigny and therefore it is one of the few that you can actually find from this illustrious grand cru; they also make a Chambolle 1er cru from their young vines in Musigny; this can be a good value (I use the term loosely here) way to try Musigny; they also make excellent village level wines; again on the pricey end
Domaine Perrot-Minot – this is another stellar producer; Christophe Perrot-Minot makes wines from multiple villages in the Côtes de Nuits including a lovely village Chambolle (it often contains some declassified 1er cru juice as well) and several 1er crus. His bottling of La Combe d’Orveau is particularly excellent as is his Fuées.
Domaine Bruno Clavelier – this domaine is based primarily out of Vosne-Romanee, but he has holdings in 2 premier cru vineyards in Chambolle. He makes a killer example of La Combe d’Orveau that is well worth looking for.
Domaine Sylvain Cathiard – unfortunately monsieur Cathiard’s wines have also recently become bullseye bottles for collectors so availability is scarce and pricing is high; again based out of Vosne, he only makes one Chambolle, a village cuvée from Clos de l’Orme. It is a beautiful example of Chambolle with an intense and spicy nose, but feels weightless on the palate. If you see a bottle and don’t want to buy it, call me and I will.
Domaine Ghislaine Barthod – the Barthod’s have an enviable spread throughout Chambolle and are certainly one of the ultra-classic, traditional domaines of the village. The wines are fabulous from the village level (really from the regional level) through each of the 9 premier crus. Classic Chambolle elegance in full effect here.
Domaine Francois Bertheau – this domaine still flies a litte bit under the radar and thus is a bit more affordable; they make beautiful village Chambolle along with a couple 1er crus. They blend some of the 1er’s into a wine labeled just as Chambolle 1er cru with no vineyard (a blend of Noirots, Baudes, Groseilles, and Greunchers) and also makes a Les Charmes and a Les Amoureuses.
Domaine Patrice Rion – another classically styled domaine with excellent holdings, the Rion’s also are a bit under the radar and I’ve been able to score a couple at reasonable prices in the past; a lovely list of 1er cru holdings and an excellent village cuvée are wines to look for here.
Domaine Faiveley – probably my favorite of the big negociants, Faiveley makes excellent wines from almost every village and Chambolle is no exception; they make an unaffordable bottling of Musigny, but also a village and several different 1er crus.
Domaine Gilbert et Henri Felettig – this is a domaine that I just recently discovered and I’ve been impressed with the few bottles I’ve sampled thus far; again, given the lack of fame they are more in the affordable realm, especially in an “off” vintage. Beautifully perfumed and elegant wines well worth looking for. I managed to score some village wines from them for $30! (yes that is rare and unless you spend hours scouring websites for Burgundy deals like I do you probably won’t find that, but I mention it to show you it is possible)
Domaine Fourrier – one of my favorite domaines in all of Burgundy, Fourrier is more well known for his Gevrey wines, but he makes village Chambolle and a couple 1er crus that are just killer.
Domaine Robert Groffier – this domaine owns large parcels (large for Burgundy that is) in a few very good 1er crus in Chambolle; they are the biggest owner of Les Amoureuses making it one of the easier ones to find (though it is still generally priced around $250-300…) and they also make excellent examples of Les Hauts Doix and Les Sentiers. They also make a well regarded example of Bonnes-Mares though I have not been fortunate enough to taste it.
Domaine de la Pousse d’Or – while this domaine may be more synonymous with Volnay where they are located and originally based; they have some excellent holdings in Chambolle. The wines of Chambolle and Volnay are probably the two most delicate and elegant in Burgundy so that crossover works very well. In particular they make an excellent Chambolle village wine that is just drenched in mineral and floral notes. If you find the 1er crus, don’t hesitate to taste one of those either.
Domaine Hudelot-Noellat – another Vosne based domaine here, but with an excellent (and relatively affordable) village Chambolle wine. I try to find this wine every vintage (with varying success as there are only about 100 cases) as it is a beautiful wine for a reasonable (Burgundy reasonable) price.
Domaine Hudelot-Baillet – this is another potential value domaine in Chambolle, though they have begun to receive critical acclaim… the village wines are lovely and while I’ve not tasted them, the 1er crus are very highly regarded.
Domaine Amiot-Servelle – another high quality domaine that is well worth looking for; excellent example of Les Fuées.
Ok, I think I will stop the list there as almost certainly none of you will actually read it… This is certainly not an exhaustive list. There are other very good producers in Chambolle some of which I’ve yet to discover and some of which I’ve yet to be able to try. If you have a personal favorite that I’ve left off, I’d love to hear about it.
I’ll say just a brief word on pairing and then will leave you in peace for another month or two. Wines from Chambolle-Musigny are excellent with food, however given the subtlety and elegant nature, make sure not to overpower them. I tend to steer towards lighter meats such as pork loin and maybe some types of game (rabbit is excellent). They are excellent with game birds and poultry of all types (pheasant, chicken, turkey, etc). Roasted pheasant with a bottle of Chambolle… now that sounds like an evening in paradise! I’d avoid pairing Chambolle with fish (maybe with the exception of the Burgundian specialty of pike quenelle) and with most red meats though I have had success with lamb chops. Stews of beef or lamb can be successful though I often prefer Gevrey or Morey which these heartier dishes. Also, just sipping Chambolle by the fire can be quite a lovely experience.
Well I’m certain I’ve exhausted your attention spans long ago, so I will stop here. I hope you have enjoyed my brief review of what are certainly some of the greatest pinot noirs in the world and I hope you will be able to find one or two to tantalize your taste buds. Until next month…
J. “Amoureuses” Newman, CSW