8th November 2019
Just back in the office today from a visit to Burgundy. Perhaps the most interesting tasting was a three-hour appointment with Pierre-Jean Roty which included an in-depth visit to see the Tres Vieilles Vignes in Charmes-Chambertin, a walk through some of his other sites and a plate of Madame Roty’s epic gougères.
The Roty family personify a kind of traditionalism in Burgundy that one now rarely finds. For 11 generations they have farmed their land in Gevrey, never courting publicity and paying little attention to the trends of the outside world. While there have of course been changes over those generations, the process has always been one of quiet refinement rather than generational revolution. Today the family make wonderfully old-fashioned wines of the highest quality and singular character from their old vine plots, wines which age brilliantly and deserve a place in any serious Burgundy collection.
It’s always fascinating to spend some time in the vineyards with a grower, it gives a different perspective to tasting the wines alone. In Burgundy especially one can discover the relationships between the land and the wine it produces in a much deeper and more nuanced way than simply looking at maps or reading about a vineyard’s place in the hierarchy.
Of all the secrets we discovered during our time with Pierre-Jean the most fascinating, I think, was the relationship between their Charmes-Chambertin plots and their vines in Champs Chenys, the village plot immediately below the Grand Cru. The Roty’s own three plots of vines in Charmes-Chambertin, two towards the top of the vineyard which Pierre-Jean said give power, and one at the bottom, with some of the oldest vines, which the family believe give wines of unparalleled finesse. Now here’s the thing, just below this plot lie their vines in Champs Chenys, planted in 1934 so not quite as old but at almost the exact altitude and growing on near identical soil. Pierre-Jean shrugged when I asked him what the delineating factor was; I’m not sure the Roty’s have much time for such things.
It’s endlessly and deeply fascinating, to a Burgundy geek like me, how these nuances of land can be tasted in the wine it produces. When I taste the Gevrey-Chambertin Champs Chenys it seems to bear out Pierre-Jean’s description. While it doesn’t have the magnificent depth, intensity or statuesque structure of the Charmes-Chambertin Tres Vieilles Vignes, the Roty’s Champs Chenys bottling offers exceptional elegance and refinement, and as it ages, extraordinary perfume as well. When a Domaine Roty wine is drinking at its peak, they are amongst the most complex burgundy I know, and I love their haunting, bewitching perfume above almost all else. Just this summer Robert blind tasted me with a Champs Chenys 1985 and while I correctly called the vintage, I would never have imagined a village wine could offer such a harmonious yet detailed array of flavours and aromas. It knocked my socks off and I can remember it well as I type these lines.
We currently have two vintages of Champs Chenys which Pierre-Jean mentioned as having particular potential, the refined, classic 2014 and the extrovert, fruit driven 2013. I believe both wines will age well. The 2014, a elegant and transparent wine, will need less time and should be worth looking at from 2025, although it will hold and improve for much longer. The 2013, for all its youthful exuberance may well close up and need just as long to reveal itself. Both wines should be marvelous at 15 years old.
Domaine Roty Gevrey-Chambertin Champ Chenys 2014
Domaine Roty Gevrey-Chambertin Champ Chenys 2013
Grab these wines, find the deepest corner of your cellar and put them to sleep. The rewards, in time, will amaze you.
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