DOMAINE ARMAND ROUSSEAU
For 2 even 3 generations of Burgundy lovers, Domaine Armand Rousseau is one of the great icons of Burgundy and the leading light of Gevrey Chambertin.
The history of the Domaine began in 1909 when founder Armand Rousseau a wine broker, got married and established the Domaine in Gevrey Chambertin. Due to the devastation brought about by phylloxera, some growers decided to give up winemaking and sell their land. The strong connections Armand built as a wine broker allowed him to quickly size on any opportunity a good vineyard was up for sale and slowly over the next several decades, the Domaine's holdings slowly expanded with careful acquisitions of prime vineyard sites when they became available.
In 1919, Armand bought the grand cru Charmes Chambertin and Clos de la Roche was added a year later. More land was acquired 2 decades later with Mazy and Mazoyeres Chambertin added to the family holdings in the 1930s. The Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Beze and Gevrey Chambertin Clos St. Jacques were bought in the 1940s and 50s.
Charles Rousseau, son of Armand joined the family business in 1945 after completing his studies in law and oenology. The Domaine suffered a tragic blow in 1959 when Armand was killed in a road accident while returning from a hunting trip, leaving Charles totally in charge of the Domaine.
Charles continued to enlarge the vineyard holdings with purchases of additional Clos de Beze vines in 1961. More Clos de la Roche was added in 1965 and 1975 and in 1977, together with his good friend Dr Georges-Mugneret, Charles added Ruchottes Chambertin to his portfolio in 1977 when the Thomas-Bassot estate came onto the market. More recently additional parcels of Chambertin Grand Cru were purchased in the 1980s and in 2009.
Today, at age 91, this highly respected doyen of Gevrey Chambertin still goes to his office situated at the first door on the right as you enter the gates of the Domaine. This legend of Gevrey Chambertin who ceded the winemaking duties to Eric in the late 80s, still enjoys going down to the office and remain active.
Since taking over, Eric has taken the Domaine to even greater heights. He instituted important changes to further improve the quality of the grapes by focusing a lot more work on the vineyards. He ploughs them instead of using herbicides to get rid of the weeds. While he has stopped using insecticides, he will use chemical treatments against fungal attacks if he needs to. It is perhaps worthwhile to note that the domaine uses 7 to 8 different types of clones in the vineyards. The vines are pruned hard to restrict their yields and the age of the vines are kept high by systematically ripping up and replanting several vines in each of the vineyards in order to maintain a high average age. During harvest, the grapes are carefully picked by the pickers and any substandard berries are discarded on the spot as there is no further sorting at the cellar door.
Previously, the grapes were destemmed and crushed. Since taking over, Eric prefers destem but not crush the berries as he feels that the intact berries give a gentler extraction during the fermentation process. The grapes then undergo 4 -5 days of cold maceration in stainless steel vats. Pumping over is performed during the start of the fermentation process but this is replaced by pigeage in the later stages. The vinification process is the same for all the wines at the Domaine except that the use of new oak is different. The Domaine generally does not use any new oak on their range of wines from except for their top 3 cuvees which is normally given 80%-100% new oak treatment. These are namely Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru Clos St. Jacques, Chambertin Clos de Beze and Chambertin. In 2012 the Domaine decided to vinify about 10% of their production of Ruchottes Chambertin in new oak as they felt that quality of the grapes was able to handle it.
You can seldom go wrong with a bottle of Rousseau. The wines are silky, balanced and seductive all at the same time. Aromas of red berries and this is without doubt among the Greatest of Domaines in Burgundy.