Domaine Marchand Freres Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2017
Dark and dense with ample fruit and a lot of character. New oak, of course, but there is enough ‘stuff’ there to support it. Old vines (from two plots within the sub-appellation Les Mazoyères), the younger one 60 year old vines.
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 2017 VINTAGE
If 2016 tested the faith and resolve of wine makers in Burgundy, 2017 has to be seen as recompense, and as a miracle of sorts. While the rest of wine-growing Europe suffered crippling late-spring frosts in 2017, Burgundy for the most part (for once!) survived.
A mild winter and an accelerated spring left the Burgundy vineyards in a vulnerable position when, in the second half of April, temperatures across France barely rose above freezing for two weeks.
Three hard-frost nights pretty much did in Right Bank Chablis once again. But as the rest of Burgundy survived the first week, the growers found the will to fight back. And on the night of April 27th, a year and a day after the 2016 frost that took 80% of the 2016 harvest, a severe frost was forecast for the length of the Cote d’Or.
It’s now a part of local legend how, on the following morning, we awoke in a thick cloud of smoke. In the early hours, from north to south, the vignerons had mobilized to set alight dampened bales of hay, sending up a cloud cover to filter the first burning rays of dawn. And it worked.
The air was thick, and driving was tricky. A customer at the butcher shop in Meursault jokingly asked for a smoked chicken. And, of course, the authorities were up in arms over the pollution risks. But the crop was saved, and there has been ever since a spirit of cooperation and solidarity not often seen in farming communities.
After the freeze, May brought in an extended period of warm dry weather. No mildew or oidium to speak of, no thunderstorms or hail. Sunny periods, but no lack of rain. And the vines went in to flower at a very-normal first week of June. Pretty much ideal.
July had a couple of heat spikes, and a hailstorm hit the fancy vineyards in Morey St Denis on the 10th. But nothing worse. August was warm; the lead up to the harvest at the end of the month, hot and dry.
The first grapes were picked in the Cote de Beaune in the last few days of August. And most everyone was out picking in the first week of September.
There was (as there often is in Burgundy) serious disagreement in 2017 about when to pick. Do you pick early to preserve the acid-sugar balance and freshness? Or do you hang in there and wait for a little rain to kick-start a stalled photosynthesis, and thereby achieve the holy grail of phenolic maturity?
It’s hard to say who was right. There are very good wines coming from both camps. But there are iffy wines too. And that’s the key to understanding 2017.
Picked early, the best wines, both red and white, are fresh, fruit-driven and floral with long minerality. The iffy wines seem not have adjusted for the solid levels of tartaric acid which left them tart rather than bright, dry and tannic rather than juicy.
Picking late did not seem to have an effect on the balance between alcohol and acidity. But then, there was no ‘over maturity’ in 2017. The extra phenolic maturity seems to mean more density and riper tannins, with no sign of flabbiness.
The whites shine, particularly in hard-done Chablis (where there is better balance even than the marvelous 2014s). In the rest of Burgundy, the whites have the tension of 2014 but the open flattery of 2015.
The reds are juicy and crisp and open, and the regional appellations will be ready to drink soon. More serious appellations will be considered ‘typical’, in the best sense of the word: classic wines from a vintage that Burgundians will love. They are likely to be lost in the hub-bub that the 2018s will bring. But the yields were good in 2017, so you will be able to find them for a while. And you’ll do well to seek them out.
GRANDS CRUS OF GEVREY CHAMBERTIN
COTES DE NUITS
Vivid color ranging from deep ruby to black-cherry. Their aromas suggest strawberry, blackcurrant, and gooseberry as well as fruit pits, licorice, and spices. Violet, moss and underbrush are also common. On the palate, power, opulence and elegance unite to make a full and complex body, sappy and voluptuous. Keeping potential is 10 years minimum. Although these sumptuous Grands Crus share a family resemblance, each has its own distinctive nuances.
Gevrey-Chambertin lies alongside the Route des Grands Crus at the northern end of the Côte which runs from North to South between the Combes of Lavaux at one end and Morey-Saint-Denis at the other.Facing east, at altitudes between 240 and 280 meters.
The Clos de Bèze first appears in the history of the Côte de Nuits in the year 640 AD as a monastic property. In 1219 it passed to the canons of Langres, who retained ownership until the French Revolution (1789). The name Chambertin has been used since the 13th century and once shared imperial approval with Clos de Bèze - Napoleon would drink nothing else. Its boundaries have not changed since the Middle Ages. In recognition of their similarity, the 7 Climats adjoining those of Chambertin and Clos de Bèze attach the name Chambertin to their own names (except in the case of Clos de Bèze where the name Chambertin comes first).
This hill-slope lies on hard rocks. On the upper portion are brown soils, partly alluvial, partly scree, and some tens of centimeters deep. Lower down are clay limestone soils in varying proportions. Up-slope, the rocks are of Bathonian origin, lower down the marls and limestones belong to the Jurassic (Bajocian) and numerous marine fossils are to be found on the surface, recalling the sea which covered this area some 150 million years ago.