It’s often been said that the “ouverture de la symphonie” starts in Gevrey Chambertin.
As the famous local winemaker and founder of the “Ordre of the Knights of Tastevin” (Ordre des Chevaliers du Tastevin) at the Clos de Vougeot castle, Camille Rodier once said: “Gevrey Chambertin alone can make great Burgundy possible!”.
Gevrey Chambertin has a rare and unique “Terroir”, thanks to the “alluvial fan” that comes from a valley situated just behind (to the west) of Gevrey called “La Combe de Lavaux”. This glacier melted many millions of years ago and spread the rich top and sub-soil layers out through what is now the town to the plaines beyond. It is not surprising to find that 9 of the 33 Grand Crus come from this village including the famous Chambertin as well as 26 Premier Crus!
The town also boasts over 100 wine estates! The Tortochot is one of the more famous estates and has been in the Tortochot family for 4 generations. In the 19th century Paul Tortochot was a modest “vigneron” on the “Place des Marroniers”. His son Félix married Louise Liébaut from Morey Saint Denis, the neighbouring village. The Liebauts were well known in the village, to such an extent that they even have a varietal of Pinot Noir named after them! Gabriel, the son of Félix has run the 12 hectare estate for many years before moving aside to let his two daughters, Brigitte & Chantal, take over. In fact it’s Chantal that runs the estate’s day-to-day activities.
Chantal is a graduate of the business school in Dijon and spent 15 years working for an American petrol company in the finance department. Her father, Gabriel, urged her to train in an alternative sector of industry and to get valuable experience before eventually deciding to take over the family estate. This is a habit that Chantal has passed on to her two children who are both studying medecine – Chantal’s husband is himself a docteur.
After years of working in a stress-fuelled “american environment”, Chantal believed it was time to move back to the family wine estate. At 35, she passed two important exams at the Dijon wine university, before taking control of the estate.
Chantal is one of a growing breed of “viticulteurs” in Burgundy. Bi-lingual and with valuable experience on the international stage, passionate, intelligent and with the in-bred ADN of a Gevrey winemaker. She has made it her primary battle to convert the estate into an “organic” one and will receive the official certification starting from the 2013 vintage. When talking to Chantal you realize just how knowledgable and passionate she is about her vineyards, the terroir and nature itself. “It’s very important to respect nature and to respect the vines in particular…”. Chantal is also an active member of the association “Femmes et Vins de Bourgogne” (women and wine in Burgundy), which showcases influent women in the wine industry in Burgundy.
Chantal admits that the last 4 harvests have not been the easiest, especially due to the bad weather, but she remains optimistic for the future. “We are blessed with having some of the best terroir in Burgundy. When the hills first formed hundreds of millions of years ago, the tectonic plates were displaced in such a way as to produce a unique sub-soil made up of different types of limestone and a perfect mixture of clay & marne.”
When talking about her style of Pinot Noirs, Chantal explains: “Here we make a more traditional Gevrey Chambertin, with lots of fruit, strong tannins and good acidity. These are not really Pinots that can be drunk early…you have to be a little patient.”
But there’s style in these wines. They have 4 village appellations of which one is from Morey Saint Denis. The Gevrey Chambertin “Les Corvées” is their experimental vineyard, where Chantal tries net cultivation technicals and non-chemical substances on her vines. She believes that the soil should be as natural as possible “We believe in making the natural ecosystem a priority”. Despite what some critics of organic wine say about the “fragile” health of the vines and the lack of quality in the wines, the Tortochot estate proves the contrary. The wines are both fruit-forward with strong but controlled tannins and the perfect touch of acidity, making even the younger wines full of balance.
The 1er Crus are fine examples of the terroir. The Lavaux Saint Jacques is a deep garnet colour with fine cherry and earthy aromas. The Champeaux is of a more fruity/floral style with notes of cherry and rose. This is a very elegant pinot with an impressively long finish. The Charmes has a spicy/fruity/smoky aromas with deep red fruit on the palate. The estate boasts four Grand Crus, three are in Gevrey – Charmes, Chambertin and probably the flagship GC, the excellent Mazis Chambertin with its rich fruit and licorice flavors, strong but elegant tannins and a great potential. The estate also has a modest 7 rows of vines in the Clos de Vougeot GC vineyard producing dark berry aromas and underbrush nuances. Although a little on the tight side when young, this is a pinot to keep in your ellar for a few years. You won’t be dissappointed.
Altogether a charming and impressive estate with an equally charming and professional owner. This is what true Gevrey is all about!