JOSEPH ROTY

AND HIS CHARMES-CHAMBERTIN TRÈS VIEILLES VIGNES

 

Joseph Roty, who died in 2008, was not the easiest person to do business with. Indeed to do anything with. Both he and the rest of his family: madame, sons Philippe and Pierre-Jean, seem to have an almost paranoiac distrust of outsiders, the local bureaucracy, and other people in general. They do not consort with their neighbours, play no part in Gevrey-Chambertin promotional activities, and are closed to almost all journalists, including myself.

 

My break-up with Joseph Roty goes back to 1990 or so. I'd learned that a visit chez Roty required at least an hour and a half. It was difficult to get an appointment confirmed in the first place, but, once in, even more difficult to get out. Roty never stops talking, he needs to discuss the world's events with you, show you all his vintage photographs, ask your opinion about this or that grower. He stands in your psychological space, and he chain-smokes Gauloise cigarettes; even in his own cellar when someone is trying to taste. Exasperated, I said to him, at the end of a long, tiring, bitterly cold day – for I had  come to realise that one had to position one's Roty visit at the end of one's programme – 'Please M. Roty, I'm trying to taste your wine. Will you please shut up, and if you will insist on smoking please go to the other end of the cellar'.  Naturally, I've not been allowed back.

 

But Joseph Roty does produce very good wines, and if I have not been allowed to sample them from the cask, I have had plenty of occasion to enjoy them in bottle. He deserves at least one star (in the Michelin sense), perhaps two.

 

One of the main reasons is the average age of the vines. Seventy percent are the original post-phylloxera graftings, now over 100 years old. Yields are consequently very low, averaging 26 hectolitres per hectare. After a severe triage (sorting through the fruit to eliminate the sub-standard) there is a week's long cold soaking before the fermentation is allowed to commence, and thereafter it takes place at a maximum of 25/26 degrees. This is very low indeed. I know of several who vinify at 28, but no one else in the Cote d'Or who makes his/her wine at this temperature.

 

In addition, the Rotys, for it is now the sons who undertake most of the cellar work, Joseph now being in poor health and suffering from emphesimia, stir up the lees of their red wines (bâtonnage), a process more usual in white wines. Naturally racking and other manipulations are kept to a minimum. There is between 60 and 100 percent new oak for the top wines.

 

The Roty domaine has recently been expanded with yet more Marsannay. In Gevrey they possess 16 ares of Charmes (under three casks), 12 or Mazis and 8 of Griotte, plus premier cru Le Fonteny, and village Clos Prieur and Les Champs Chenys. They offer at least five different lieux-dit Marsannays.

 

These are assertive wines: oaky, very intense, very perfumed, very original. At the outset I sometimes find them a bit sweet, especially in a line-up with other wines from the commune's more 'traditional' wine-makers. But on their own, as in the tasting below, they are immensely seductive, and with no lack of harmony or class.

 

Acker-Merrill, the New York auction house, invited me to preside over the following vertical tasting of Joseph Roty's Charmes-Chambertin, Très Vieilles Vignes in March 2007. It was a memorable occasion.

 

2003

Full, rich colour, but, in comparison with the 2002 and 2001, no more intense, which is unusual, as the 2003s are usually very much more dense. Rich, full, oaky nose. Really quite a classic wine for this vintage. Cool and balanced. Full, exotic, oaky and very concentrated on the palate. Splendid fruit. Excellent grip. This is very fine indeed. 2012-2022.

 

2002

Very good full colour. Not a very forceful nose. Pretty fruit but not very concentrated. Not much oak.

Medium body. Not much backbone or tannin. In fact rather slight for the vintage. What there is is not very oaky, fruity and elegant and quite intense. Bit I expected a bit more. It seemed to put on a bit more weight as in expanded in the glass, however. 2011-2018.

 

2001

Splendid immature, full colour. Ripe and rich and it seems rather more successful than the 2002 within the context of the vintages. Medium to medium full on the palate. Somewhat raw, rather than tannic. Not very oaky. Good acidity. Good depth. A fine example of the vintage, finishing positively. Needs three years to round off. 2010-2018.

 

2000

Good medium full colour. A little development. Soft, ripe, very gently oaky nose. An attractive wine, if not a very serious one. Less raw, more developed than the 2001. Much more seductive today on the palate. Medium to medium full body. Ripe, lush, red fruity. Not a bit short nor lacking intensity. Just about ready. Very fine for the vintage. Now-2015.

 

1999

Full, youthful colour. Quite a closed=in nose. But full, concentrated, rich and classy. No undue oak. On the palate backward, full, very rich and concentrated. Excellent fruit. Splendid balance, depth and dimension. Great class too. This is very lovely: a great wine. And it will last and last. 2011-2030 plus.

 

1998

Full, youthful nose. Indeed less developed than the 1999. Full, very fresh nose. Good tannins, if not as fat or as concentrated as the 1999. But no lack of depth. Medium full body. Neat and discreet. Balanced but by no means a blockbuster. Indeed more or less ready. Elegant. Long. Fine. Now-2020.

 

1997

Medium colour. Mature. Quite a fresh nose. Seductive, ripe and cedary. Medium body. Better grip than most 1997s. No real depth or concentration but a most attractive bottle for drinking now. Now-2013.

 

1996

Fullish, still immature colour. Quite a firm, austere nose. A little lacking charm. Fullish body. Plenty of acidity. A bit hard. Perhaps this will always lack a bit of charm but it improved on aeration. And the finish is long. Give it two years. Very good indeed at best. 2009=2020.

 

1995

Full colour, still immature. Rich, full, juicy and not a bit too tannic on the nose. Much better than the 1996. Full body, ample, very fine grip. Still a suspicion of tannin, but lovely cool fruit, and a very impressive finish.  Will still improve. Very fine. 2010-2030.

 

1993

Full, immature colour. Splendidly concentrated rich wine, less tannic but fatter than the 1995. Not a bit austere. Very full body. Lots of grip and backbone. Surprisingly voluptuous for a 1993. Lots of energy and real intensity. This is very fine indeed. Better than the 1995. Up with the 1999. 2009-2030.

 

1990

Fine, full colour, barely mature. Rather a tough, lumpy nose. Full and aggressive, but lacking sex-appeal and richness. I don't think this is a good bottle (this was a one bottle tasting and we had no back-up bottles). Fullish body. Good acidity. No lack of depth and volume. But it doesn't sing. Now-(?)2020.

 

1989

Good full colour, still vigorous. Ample succulent nose, with very good acidity and plenty of depth.

The attack is fresh, cool and full of fruit. The middle palate is a little astringent, but the finish is clean fresh and ripe. It got cedary and ginger-bread spicy as it developed. Very fine. Even better with food. Now-2020 plus.

 

1988

Full colour, still very youthful. Fine, full, rich nose. Slightly austere and backward, but absolutely no undue hardness. A serious wine, with very classy fruit. Full body, the tannins now mature. Good backbone and grip. Very great finesse. Complex and delicious. A great wine. Now-2030.

 

1985

Full colour, now mature. Ample, soft succulent nose. It doesn't have the grip and intensity of the 1988, but it is plump and juicy, fresh and harmonious. Medium full body. Gentle, subtle and harmonious. Very fine. Now-2015.

 

Joseph Roty's wines are shipped into Great Britain by  Robert Rolls and Company, 55 St. John Street, London EC1M 4AN. Tel. 020 3215 0011. Fax. 020 3215 0022. E-mail robert@rollswine.com

 

 

AFFORDABLE BURGUNDY

COTE DE NUITS VILLAGES

 

 

Burgundy lovers are still reeling from the excessive prices being demanded for the top 2005 futures.

In part this greed has been the result of the simple economics of supply and demand: too little wine, too many customers. But if you are inclined to blame the Burgundians, think again. Back in Beaune and Nuits-Saint-Georges, prices merely climbed back, having fallen for the 2004 campaign, to 2003 levels, or to some five or ten percent more. And they will have to decline again next year if growers want to generate any interest in the 2006s. No, the blame for the hike needs to be laid at the doors of the merchants in the middle, the agents, wholesalers and retailers. Here the swankier the vineyard, the greater the reputation of the domaine, the higher the profit margin. If everyone in the pipeline is taking 50 percent rather than 30, no wonder the price the poor (or in this case rich – for you are going to need to be fairly wealthy to play in this game) consumer is looking to pay double what they were charged only a few years ago.

 

So what is the solution for those of us who are not millionaires, who must need to budget? It is very firmly not to buy from second or third division estates and négociants. Nor is it to pass up on magnificent vintages such as 2005. Nor is it to foreswear Burgundy in favour of New Zealand or Oregon (what a nightmarish thought!) The path to follow is to investigate what the Côte d'Or and the Côte Chalonnaise have to offer, other than the grands crus and premier crus of Vosne-Romanée, Chambolle-Musigny and so on. There is plenty of choice. Much of it, especially in a vintage such as 2005, is very good indeed. Obviously both profit margins and eventual sale prices are much less excessive. Plus, a detail sometimes overlooked, but of importance to those of us the 'wrong' side of 65, such as your correspondent, the wines will be ready for drinking sooner.

 

The object of this article is to extoll one particular appellation: Cote de Nuits Villages, but before I do let me quickly run down the Chalonnaise and up through the Cotes of Beaune and Nuits to suggest a few other communes and domaines worthy of attention. All the following produce very good village wines, and, where appropriate premiers crus, from their own  patch. They may well have wines from more illustrious parcels, but these are not the subject of this piece, which is to suggest what can be obtained for no more than a maximum target price of $40 per bottle. Much of what is listed below is far cheaper.

 

I have asterisked my favourite sources.

 

Cote Chalonnaise

 

Montagny:    

*Stephane Aladame; Alain Roy-Thevenet (Château de la Saule).

Givry: 

Guillemette and Xavier Besson; Didier Erker; *Joblot; *Francois Lumpp; Du Gardin-Perotto (Clos Salomon).

Mercurey:     

Luc Brintet; Faiveley; Michel Juillot; *Bruno Lorenzon; *Philippe Menand; Francois Raquillet.

Rully:                        

Jean-Claude Breliere; *Michel and Stephane Briday; *Vincent Dureuil-Janthial; Christophe-Jean Grandmougin; *Henri and Paul Jacqueson.

Bouzeron:

*A. and P. de Villaine.

Cote d'Or

 

Maranges:

Michel Charleux; Yvon and Chantal Contat-Grange; *Edmond Monnot; *Claude Nouveau; Jean-Claude Regnaudot.

Santenay:

*Roger Belland; Francois and Denis Clair; Michel and Anne Clair (Domaine de l'Abbaye de Santenay); *René Lequin-Colin; Jean Moreau; *Lucien Muzard et Fils; Jean-Claude Vincent.

Saint-Aubin:              

Giles Bouton; *Marc Colin et Fils; Pierre-Yves Colin; *Hubert Lamy et Fils; Didier and Denis Larue; Patrick Miolane.

Saint-Romain:            

Christophe Buisson; *Alain Gras; Bernard Martenot (Domaine de la Perriere).

Auxey-Duresses:        

Alain and Vincent Creusefond; Jean and Gilles Lafouge; Max and Anne-Marye Piguet-Chouet; Dominique and Anne-Marie Piguet-Girardin; Jean-Pierre and Laurent Prunier; Michel Prunier et Fille; Philippe Prunier-Damy.

Monthelie:

Denis Boussey; Maurice Deschamps; *Monthelie-Duhairet.

Savigny-Les-Beaune:

*Simon Bize et Fils; Maurice Ecard; Jean-Michel Giboulot; *Jean-Marc et Hugues Pavelot.

Chorey-les-Beaune:    

*Château de Chorey-les-Beaune (Domaine Germain); Francois Gay et Fils; Michel Gay; Pascal and Alain Maillard; Rene Podichard; Tollot-Beaut et Fils.

Pernand-Vergelesses:   

Marius Delarche Pere et Fils; Denis Pere et Fils; Laleure-Piot; Pierre Marey et Fils; Regis Pavelot et Fils; Rapet Pere et Fils; *Rollin Pere et Fils.

Ladoix:      

*Chevalier Pere et Fils; Edmond Cournu et Fils; Robert and Raymond Jacob; Jean-Rene and Guillaume Nudant.

Hautes Cotes de Beaune et Nuits:

*Francois Charles et Fils (Nantoux); Lucien Jacob (Echevronne); Mazilly Pere et Fils (Meloisey); Parigot Pere et Fils (Meloisey); *Henri Naudin-Ferrand (Magny-les-Villars); Agnes and Sebastian Pacquet (Meloisey).

Marsannay:                  

Regis Bouvier; *Bruno Clair; Christophe Coillot; Collotte; Derey Freres (Domaine de la Croix-Saint-Germain); *Olivier Guyot; Huguenot Pere et fils; *Sylvain Pataille.

 

Which brings me to Cote de Nuits Villages. It is a small, somewhat complicated, under-recognised appellation. But one well worthy of investigation. Unlike its counterpart further south: Cote de Beaune Villages – whose wine can come from anywhere in the sector apart from Volnay, Beaune and Pommard, - (and is only red), Cote de Nuits Villages has two distinctive origins – you can blend the two together -   and can be red or white wine.

 

The first area for Cote de Nuits Villages comprises the communes of Brochon and Fixin. The better wines from the latter are, of course, labelled as Fixin. Much of Brochon is entitled to the appellation Gevrey-Chambertin. So here we are, in principle, talking about the lesser wines of these two villages, unless, and this is important, a grower might have little bits of vineyard in both, the fruit of which is sensible to vinify together.

 

The second sector for Cote de Nuits Villages lies at the other end of the Cote de Nuits in the communes of Comblanchien and Corgoloin. Here the countryside is debased by artificial hills, the detritus left over from the marble quarrying of the local rock. But under these mounds of rubble lies a perfectly suitable terrain for the vine, well exposed and well drained. A good Cote de Nuits Villages from here can well rival a village Nuits-Saint-Georges, while in the hands of a fine craftsman a northern Cote de Nuits Villages is better than the majority of Fixins, if not quite Gevrey-Chambertins.

 

Merchants, obviously, can buy wines from both elements of this appellation and blend them together.

Naturally the individual growers' wines will reflect their origins more precisely.

In all this comprises around 160 hectares, all but a handful producing red wine, yielding 6800 hectolitres (75000 cases of 12 bottles) per year.

 

A few years ago I was introduced to a charming and very fine winemaker in Corgoloin called Gilles Jourdan. He was at pains to explain to me that his tete de cuvee, La Robignotte, came from the best site in the area. When I looked this up in old books on the Cote d'Or, of which I have a few I've collected over the years, I found he was absolutely right. La Robignotte in 1855 was noted as a premier cru.   

                                    

When I started to research my forthcoming book on Burgundy (see below) I started calling on others in the neighbourhood. Jourdan said go and see my friend X. X suggested Y. Y pointed me in the direction of Z. I had a happy time. There seemed to be a shared spirit, a combined aspiration towards high quality, and none of the petty jealousy which bedevils other wine regions. I unearthed a large number of very fine sources.

 

Here are some of the best:

 

Denis Bachelet, Gevrey-Chambertin

A small, very perfectionistic domaine, celebrated for its magnificent Charmes-Chambertin. But all his wines, from his Bourgogne Rouge upwards, are splendid examples of their origins.

  

Hubert Chauvenet-Chopin, Nuits-Saint-Georges

Chauvenet's father-in-law is Daniel Chopin-Groffier (it is Burgundian practice to add the name of the wife if she has inherited vineyards of her own) of Corgoloin. A ripe, old-vine-creamy example with plenty of depth.          

 

Jean-Jacques Confuron, Premeaux

From almost the last house in the commune, Confuron can see his vines in the Cote de Nuits Villages.

He is a very able wine-maker. This example is a little oakier than most, but not excessively so, and with plenty of richness.

 

David Duband, Chevannes

Duband is the share-cropper for a Parisian businessman called Francois Feuillet, as well as having his own domaine. Classic, up-to-date, modern wine-making here. The wines keep well.

 

Jerome Galeyrand, Gevrey-Chambertin

From well out in the plain over the motorway outside Gevrey, the young, and recently-established Galeyrand produces wines which exude competence. Already a star.

 

Damien and Liselotte Gachot-Monnot, Corgoloin

Fragrant, supple, elegant wines for relatively early drinking from the 37 year old Damien, who took over his wife's family domaine in 1993.

 

Louis Jadot, Beaune

Jadot's very wide range of wines - perhaps the largest in all  Burgundy – includes a splendid Cote de Nuits Villages, and also that rara avis the white version.

 

Gilles Jourdan, Corgoloin

Five and a bit hectares, producing nothing but Cote de Nuits Villages and generics, but at a level unrivalled in the area – and the Robignotte is yet better.

 

Jean-Marc Millot, Nuits-Saint-Georges

In 2004 Millot moved his headquarters from Comblanchien to Nuits and a brand new cuverie. It has done wonders for his wine. This is a domaine with much that is enviable, including three grands crus. The Cote de Nuits Villages, from a lieu-dit called Clos des Faulques, is delicious.

 

Jean Petitot et Fils, Corgoloin

Henri Petitot took over from his father in 2002, and lives in a rather grand mansion behind the village church. The old vine Cote de Nuits Villages, Les Vignottes, is excellent. 

 

Jean-Pierre Trechuchet, Premeaux

Old vines, low yields and a lot of attention to detail produce exemplary wine in this modest estate (no premiers crus nor grand crus either, simply Nuits-Saint-Georges and Côte de Nuits Villages).

             

Clive Coates' next book, The Wines of Burgundy, will be published by the University of California Press early in 2008.