Gevrey-Chambertin: Deep Burgundy

A brief introduction to the wines of Gevrey-Chambertin in Burgundy…

With over 600 vineyards across 100 appellations, Burgundy can be a daunting region to explore. Especially when most vineyards are split between numerous producers – some lazy, some gifted.

There’s no easy way in. Just choose one village at a time and taste a handful of its wines; then move on to the next. It will take a lifetime of course, and you’ll never reach the end. But there could be no more rewarding journey. A good yardstick for quality is Gevrey-Chambertin, situated at the heart of the Côte de Nuits, the best area for reds.

The producers of Bordeaux to the west are well-known for their immaculate grooming, smart suits and imposing châteaux. Burgundy to the east, 15km south of Dijon, couldn’t be more different. The properties are far less grand, and their owners are more likely to be dressed in muddy boots, their faces contoured with sun-baked laughter-lines. Few wines impress like the best of Bordeaux, but the finest Burgundies evoke a more emotional response.

Gevrey-Chambertin is a pretty if unremarkable village of 3000 or so inhabitants. But the surrounding vineyards are something special. They are so revered that Napoleon ordered his troops to salute its best vineyards, the Grands Crus, when marching past.

What makes them so unique? It’s mostly down to matching a particularly magical grape variety with the soils and climate that helps it reach its full potential. The one thing that is easy to understand about Burgundy is the grapes. On the whole, if it’s red, it’s made of Pinot Noir and if it’s white it’s made of Chardonnay. Around Gevrey, they only make red.

Though relatively pale and weightless compared to Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, Pinot Noir is at its most intense in Gevrey-Chambertin. It still displays the classic Pinot Noir aromatic red berries, but it takes on meaty, mushroomy, woodland aromas as it ages. Unusually for this grape, the wines can survive for decades, taking on an unrivalled complexity of flavour as they mature. While some Burgundies are beloved of florists or perfumiers, these Pinot Noirs are for foragers and their truffle hounds.

There are over 100 producers of Gevrey-Chambertin. Domaine Armand Rousseau is the most celebrated, but there are many more accessible ones to explore. Look out for Domaines Rossignol-Trapet, J & JL Trapet, Fourrier, Maume, and Denis Mortet. Their wines will give you a clear view across these legendary vineyards.

First published in Living France magazine.