Domaine Ghislaine Barthod’s 2014s: A Chambolle-Musigny Master Class

Posted on Posted in Domaine Ghislaine Barthod, Rosenthal Wine Merchant News

The release of a new vintage from Ghislaine Barthod is always an eagerly anticipated and joyous occasion. There is perhaps no grower with a wider and more enviable range of great vineyard holdings in Chambolle-Musigny, and Barthod’s lofty status in the current pantheon of great Burgundy estates is firmly established and beyond well-deserved. As the old adage goes, “If you know the woman, you know the wine”—and in Ghislaine’s case, it holds perfectly true. She radiates a certain warmth, intelligence, and joyousness of spirit that comes through brilliantly and clearly in her wines, which always combine exuberantly pure fruit with finely chiseled minerality, classical structure, and a breathtaking clarity of expression. Each cellar tasting chez Barthod deepens our understanding of the intricacies of Chambolle-Musigny, and there are never any missteps or mistakes—only differences wrought by vintage and terroir.

With the 2014s, one viscerally senses the lift, drive, and utter pleasure of the vintage as rendered by Ghislaine’s distinctive touch, and those who revel in the bright, supple, and delicious character of red Burgundy at its most inviting will find these wines irresistible. After the incessant challenges and severely reduced crops of 2012 and 2013, the 2014 growing season was—mercifully—relatively unproblematic. Flowering was early but beautiful and even, and although August was somewhat cool and damp, September ushered in ample sunshine and warmth, allowing the harvest to take place under perfect conditions during the second half of the month. Overall, Ghislaine’s 2014s offer both youthful charm and sneaky structure—despite their current vibrancy and generosity, they possess more than enough bones to age beautifully.

2014 Bourgogne Rouge “Les Bons Batons”
Always one of the most complex and refined examples of its appellation, Ghislaine’s Bourgogne Rouge is a Chambolle in all but name. Les Bons Batons lies at the border of Chambolle-Musigny and Gilly-les-Citeaux, just across the main road from Chambolle proper, and it offers an earlier-drinking expression of Chambolle’s unmistakably sensual, finely mineral essence. The 2014 bristles with energy, offering exuberant aromas of ripe strawberries and tangy cherries. Vibrant and racy on the palate, its tannic framework is gentle enough to provide early-drinking pleasure, but—as usual—firm enough to amply reward a few years of cellaring.

2014 Chambolle-Musigny
Produced from eleven miniscule parcels scattered throughout the appellation, Ghislaine’s Chambolle-Musigny boasts the impeccable balance, concentration of fruit, and infectious energy that characterize her bold and lovable style. This 2014 is just as friendly and relatively open-knit as the Bourgogne Rouge, but it trades a bit of the Bourgogne’s fruit-forward scrumptiousness for a more profound and filigreed mineral character.

2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Aux Combottes”
Barthod owns an ultra-tiny slice of this Premier Cru which lies in the center of the appellation—in fact, it accounts for the smallest volume of wine among all of her holdings. While Aux Combottes may lack the intense, penetrating minerality or the breathtaking poise and grace of the greatest crus in the village, it offers a prettiness and a lusciousness that is very Chambolle Pinot-Noir. The 2014 captures the lifted, energetic essence of the vintage, with great purity of fruit and striking focus on the palate.

2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Chatelots”
“Les Chatelots” sits just above Aux Combottes on the slope, directly below the village of Chambolle itself, and sandwiched between the great Premier Crus Les Feusselottes and Les Gruenchers (see below). Barthod owns a mere quarter of a hectare of 25-year-old vines here. Compared to Aux Combottes, this 2014 is less plush, less airy—more pronounced in its mineral expression, and with a deeper pitch to its fruit. Its violet-tinged, darkly spicy palate gives way to a long, tight-grained, somewhat firm finish that should relax into perfect harmony with a bit of patience.

2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Aux Beaux Bruns”
Aux Beaux Bruns tends to be one of Ghislaine’s more robust, broad-shouldered wines, and the 2014 remains true-to-form. Produced from a 0.75-hectare parcel of 50-year-old vines, it offers more succulent, fuller fruit than Les Chatelots above, with plenty of structure underpinning its broad, spice-drenched, slightly musky palate. There is less pungent minerality, but more fresh-turned earth—less finesse, but more power. This is a particularly delicious and impressive version of this always-reliable cru.

2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Baudes”
Les Baudes sits near the northern limit of Chambolle, immediately south of Premier Cru Les Sentiers, and just underneath the venerable Grand Cru Bonnes-Mares on the slope. Ghislaine owns just shy of a quarter-hectare of 45-year-old vines here, and it is always one of the most complete, complex wines in her cellar. Every element of this 2014 is dialed up a bit from the heretofore-discussed crus: more fruit amplitude, more mineral punch, more sappy depth, more authority and presence. The texture is both ravishingly sensual and regally austere, and its ultra-long but tight finish promises greatness in due time.

2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Gruenchers”
Ghislaine only recently acquired a parcel—all of 0.19 hectares (!)—in this wonderfully situated Cru which shares a corner with Bonnes-Mares and sits just below the great Les Fuees (see below) on the slope. If Les Gruenchers lacks a bit of the power and intensity of Les Baudes or Aux Beaux Bruns, it more than compensates with its dazzling, sexy, wildly spicy nose, and its palate of dense fruit and beguiling silkiness. The fruit is so delicious and enveloping that one might not fully notice the relatively beefy structure underneath, but this wine will certainly reward a bit of cellaring.

2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Charmes”
Les Charmes lies toward the south of Chambolle, near the border of Vougeot, and Barthod owns a quarter of a hectare here. This vineyard tends to produce wines of grace, delicacy, and floral exuberance—ample in fruit but not overly powerful, and lacking some of the turbo-charged minerality  of the Bonnes-Mares-flanking crus below. Ghislaine’s 2014 Chambolle “Les Charmes”  is strikingly pretty and pure of fruit, and while it may not possess the same immediacy and force as some of the others in her lineup, its quiet beauty and underlying harmony are irresistible.

2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Fuees”
The extremely poor, almost-nonexistent topsoil of Les Fuees always yields one of the ultimate highlights in Barthod’s range. Fully bordering Grand Cru Bonnes-Mares to the south, and situated at the same point on the slope, it offers a similar full-spectrum complexity: aromas that reach both cool-toned, spicy heights and warm, soil-drenched depths; fruit simultaneously sappy and laser-focused; and a palate both seductively Chambolle in character yet with fine, firm, authoritative tannins. The grizzled 70+-year-old vines in Ghislaine’s 0.26-hectare parcel provide a certain consistency here from vintage to vintage, and this 2014 is nothing short of stunning.

2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Veroilles”
Les Veroilles sits immediately above Bonnes-Mares on the slope, and while a large portion of the vineyard is classified as villages-level, a 0.37-hectare sliver flanking Bonnes-Mares’s southwest corner—fully owned by Barthod, in fact—was upgraded to Premier Cru-status in 1987. Compared to the exuberant and high-toned beauty of Les Fuees, Les Veroilles is deeper-pitched, sterner, more brooding, and more structured in its mineral essence. A darker fruit character and an almost musky earthiness to this 2014 set it apart from some of the other Crus in Barthod’s portfolio, but its astonishingly complex and layered personality promises a fascinating experience down the road for the patient collector.

2014 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Cras”
Les Cras is, unfailingly, the Mt. Everest of the Barthod offerings: imposing, elemental, and profound; requiring great patience but providing perhaps the ultimate reward. The family owns an important portion (0.86 hectares) of this Premier Cru which abuts Les Fuees to the south, on the same filet of the slope as Bonnes-Mares. The sense of coiled power and mineral intensity of this 2014 is spellbinding. Its lively interplay of fruit, mineral, spice, and earth is complex and dense, and while it isn’t necessarily weightier or more blatantly powerful than Barthod’s other Crus, the impression of greater overall solidity and depth is undeniable.

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