Domaine Thierry Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin 2019
If you thought the ‘assemblage’ of the Mortet Bourgogne Rouge brought lots of different Pinot Noir strains to the cellar, get this: this Gevrey-Chambertin village is made from grapes from 20 different parcels of vines in AOC Gevrey-Chambertin! It would be hard to find a more representative example of Gevrey village’s famous diversity. Pure and open, intense blackberry and black currant, a touch of licorice. You’ll want to try it now, but keep it a few years more and you’ll be rewarded.
DOMAINE THIERRY MORTET
We first met Thierry Mortet at one of the early editions of the ‘Grands Jours de Bourgogne’ where the theme of the Gevrey-Chambertin tasting was the two distinct village appellation zones on either side of the mouth of the Combe Lavaux. Tasting at Thierry’s stand was a master class in the subject that is as clear today as it was twenty years ago.
Thierry Mortet took over his half of the family domain, Domaine Charles Mortet et Fils in 1992 with 4 hectares of vines. He now oversees 7.3 hectares (just under 17 acres) of production, 6 ha in red and the rest in white, for an annual production of 30-35000 bottles. When he officially converted his domain to organic agriculture in 2007, he was merely codifying practices that he had already been following for years out of respect for the environment and an understanding of the cultural significance of his work.
BURGUNDY 2019 VINTAGE
There’s a popular saying here in Burgundy which points out that, since the start of the 20th century, vintages ending in ‘9’ have been exceptional. So when 2019 came around, we were secretly anticipating something special. Little did we know!
Every vintage comes with its own hyperbole: best of the decade; greatest of the century; another 1990. And it’s true, as the climate continues to warm, there has been some remarkable wine produced in recent years. But in Burgundy in 2019, it got hot.
Both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like to come to maturity slowly. Too much heat cooks the elegance out of them. So climate change is an existential issue for Burgundy wine as we know it.
But in 2019 something remarkable happened. I hesitate to call it a paradigm shift; it may well be a one-off. But in a year where, in some places, grapes turned to raisins on the vine, Burgundy has given us a vintage worthy of the hyperbole.
You won’t find many lacey, delicate wines this year. The vintage will be unapologetically bold and unbelievably concentrated. The whites are indulgent, often explosive, and pinned to a mind-bogglingly good acidic framework, given the summer heat. The reds are sophisticated and elegant, alive.
Perhaps most tellingly, despite the hot summer, this was not one of those late-August harvests that we’re getting accustomed to. The harvest got underway in the Cote de Beaune on 12 September. And some in the Cote de Nuits did not begin picking until the 23rd. The fruit was ripe earlier, but the fine conditions allowed the growers to wait for the holy grail: phenolic maturity.
You rarely get fruit maturity (the sugar part of the equation) plus phenolic maturity (the tannins in the pips and stems) coming together at the same time. Usually you sacrifice one for the other. You can’t force it to happen. Nature bestows it upon you. But when it does happen, that, almost by definition, is a great vintage.
2019 will be a great vintage. Think 2018 with more energy. The only downside is that, as opposed to the bumper crop we saw in 2018, 2019 was a small crop. Down by as much as 60% in the southern zones where it was hottest.
Let’s look quickly at how the season developed. The winter 2018/19 was mild, with higher than average temperatures in December and February. There was a lot of rain in December which many claim could ultimately have saved the vintage from the summer’s drought.
Spring was warm and the growth cycle started earlier than usual. There were precocious zones with bud burst in early April. But cold weather set in on 5 April with frost in many areas. Frost damage would have an effect on yields, particularly in the Maconnais. The cold weather held on through mid-April with several consequential frost risks.
Warm weather returned in May and remained until early June when temperatures dropped again, slowing growth again and hindering flowering. There was a good bit of flower abortion (millerandage), which, again, took its part of the yield at harvest.
Then mid-summer was hot-hot And dry-dry. The vines, for the most part, were in good shape going into the heat wave, but the stress was excessive. Vines handled the conditions differently from one plot to the next. Consensus is that old vines, with their deep roots, were able to find water in the subsoil. And that younger, well-tended vines, had a similar advantage. Vines with roots that went looking for water near the surface, however, suffered towards the end of the season, as they scorched and shriveled.
There was just a bit of rain in August, and from then on through September was hot but fine. In certain areas Pinot Noir ripened before Chardonnay, so harvest planning was complicated. The first Cremant vineyards were picked at the very end of August, and the harvest continued through to mid-October.
Harvest was a joy for the most part. Good weather. No disease. And the fruit that survived frost and fire was beautiful. Fermentation in both white and red went off easily. Whites finished slowly, gently, giving balance and purity. The length of red fermentation varied a lot, but the tannins are fine and the wine has vigor.
COTES DE NUITS
Chambolle-Musigny is a tiny village, and is likely to remain so. Expansion would mean encroaching on some of the best vineyard land in the world. With two superb Grands Crus, Bonnes Mares (which links Chambolle to Morey-Saint-Denis), and Musigny, which overlooks the Clos de Vougeot, the village also has several prestigious premier cru, notably among them Les Amoureuses. Its AOC dates from September 1936, making it one of the first French vineyards to be designated.
Produced in the commune of Chambolle-Musigny, the appellation Chambolle-Musigny includes 24 premiers crus as well as two Grands Crus: Musigny and Bonnes Mares.
Chambolle-Musigny is Pinot Noir par excellence, and is often regarded as the most elegant wine of the Côte de Nuits. Its intensity is subtle. It tends to be bright ruby and may darken a little over time. Its violet bouquet is one of the most easily recognizable in Burgundy. With aging it tends towards spiced ripe fruits and truffle, underbrush and animal notes. Rich and complex, it is silky and lacy on the one hand, and solid and structured on the other.
The slope faces east at altitudes of 250-300 meters with only a shallow covering of soil overlying the parent rock, but fissures in the hard Jurassic limestone allow the roots to seek dig deep into the complex sub-soil. Gravel in the valley bottom ensures good drainage.
Red wines exclusively - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
152.23 ha (including 56.23 ha premier cru)
With a personality that is both powerful and delicate, the wines of Chambolle call for sophisticated cuisine. Feathered game in sauce, roasted lamb or a free-range capon. Roast veal's subtle texture would work too. Cheeses should be mild : Brillat-Savarin, Reblochon, Cîteaux, Vacherin, Brie de Meaux or Chaource.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Aux Beaux Bruns
Derrière la Grange
La Combe d'Orveau
Les Feusselottes (ou « Les Feusselotes »)
Les Hauts Doix
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard known as a lieu-dit:
Derrière le Four
La Combe d'Orveau
Les Bas Doix
Les Clos de l'Orme
Les Creux Baissants
Les Mal Carrées
Les Pas de Chat