Power, Precision, and Purity
Nuits-Saint-Georges is rarely the first village mentioned when Burgundy enthusiasts begin to wax rhapsodic about their favorite appellations. With their assertive, articulate nature, their ability to deliver visceral mineral intensity, and their sometimes tough and savory flavors, they possess neither the seductive lusciousness of Chambolle-Musigny nor the warm earthiness of Gevrey-Chambertin—and they certainly cannot boast the roster of grand crus that their immediate neighbor to the north, Vosne-Romanee does. If Burgundy is the proverbial “iron fist in a velvet glove,” Nuits-Saint-Georges is an especially strong hand under a particularly thin skein of fabric. Still, for the patient enthusiast, the wines of this village offer an unparalleled explosiveness and charming rowdiness that sets them apart from their more buttoned-up and soft-spoken neighbors in the Cote de Nuits.
Rosenthal Wine Merchant began working with Domaine Jean Chauvenet way back in 1982, and although a misunderstanding resulted in a ten-year lapse in the partnership in the early part of this century, we have delightedly resumed our relationship as of the 2011 vintage, and we have never been more thrilled with the wines issuing from their cellar. Headed currently by the extremely warm, animated, and vibrant Christophe Drag—Jean’s son-in-law—the domaine encompasses just over nine hectares of vines, nearly all of which are in Nuits-Saint-Georges. Their enviable and mostly old-vine holdings in seven distinct premier crus throughout the north-south spread of the appellation allow the Burgundy lover to take a deep dive into the distinctive terroirs of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and we at Rosenthal maintain that there is no better way to gain an immersive appreciation and love for these characterful sites than through Christophe’s capable guiding hand.
In mid-October, we will receive the full range of 2014s from Domaine Chauvenet, along with the stunning 2015 Bourgogne Rouge—our first glimpse into this singular vintage in this cellar. These 2014s embody the finest qualities of this lovely and appealing vintage: ringing, vibrant fruit; infectious energy; a rendering of site specificity with near-digital clarity; and striking structural harmony. Christophe began harvesting the 2014s on the 13th of September under idyllic weather conditions, and he mercifully had only one parcel affected by the dreaded suzukii pest—a plot he was able to sell off in bulk. In keeping with his personal style, these 2014s exhibit wondrous concentration, a “masculine” carriage that is nonetheless flexible and incredibly lithe, and a sense of vibrancy that belies his careful, fully organic vineyard management and his sensitive, low-sulfur approach in the cellar. We invite you to claim some of the miniscule quantities of these wines that will be making their way onto our shores, and we assure you that they will pay enormous rewards to those who add them to their cellars.
2015 Bourgogne Rouge “Noyer Pendu”
The lone 2015 in our upcoming shipment, this Bourgogne Rouge is a striking testament to that vintage’s power and intensity. Produced from a single parcel of 40-year-old vines within the commune of Nuits-Saint-Georges itself, this wine unfailingly drinks far above its position in Burgundy’s hierarchy—and especially so in a vintage such as ’15. Dark, brooding aromas of violets and black cherries burst forth with a ripeness deftly pulled back just shy of jam, and the palate fully delivers the density the nose insinuates. One is left with the impression of thick skins and glowingly healthy fruit as the soil-tinged flavors wrap tightly around the tongue and beckon for a few years of cellaring.
Domaine Chauvenet produces small quantities of a superb Vosne-Romanee from the “Aux Raviolles” lieu-dit in the far southern reaches of the appellation. This 2014 bristles with energy—blasted rock and tingling Asian spices soaring upward on the expressive nose, while vibrant acid-fruit interplay drives the palate through to a ringing and satisfyingly long finish. Less firmly tannic than its Nuits-Saint-Georges brethren, this nonetheless offers chiseled tension and a lip-smacking, saliva-inducing character that is very much a signature of Christophe’s wines.
Comprising a sizable proportion of the domaine’s production, this villages-level Nuits-Saint-Georges comes from four lieux-dits in the northern sector of the appellation: “Aux Allots,” “Aux Saints Jacques,” “La Petite Charmotte,” and “Aux Saints Juliens.” With an average vine age of 70 years, the 2014 is ruggedly and proudly Nuits in character—brazenly spicy on the nose, with layers of freshly-turned earth, plummy black fruit, and firm minerality. The impressively kinetic palate emphasizes speed over mass, with lean yet concentrated fruit and a bracing, cleansing finish. This complex wine encapsulates the house style beautifully and offers striking value, though it will take a few years in bottle to begin to speak with full fluency.
2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Aux Argillas”
Domaine Chauvenet owns a miniscule 0.17-hectare plot of 25-year-old vines in this tiny and rarely seen premier cru in the northern part of the appellation, just next to the village itself. Christophe typically wrests a wine of relative elegance from this site, and the 2014 follows suit, with a sous-bois-laced nose of vivid, pretty fruit and intense floral character. The palate exemplifies the uncanny balance and scintillating energy of the best 2014s, as its spice-drenched, savory, dark-fruited flavors culminate in a poised, linear, long finish.
2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Bousselots”
If “Aux Argillas” (above) is a meditation on floral subtlety, “Les Bousselots”—located underneath “Aux Argillas” on the slope in northern Nuits—is a full-throated oration on minerality. The half-hectare “Bousselot” parcel that abuts the famous cru “Les Chaignots” to its immediate north, produces an almost intimidating intensity, with subtle notes of bright red fruits, warm leather, and dark dust orbit a core of iron-like mineral enormity. Its tightly wound, sinewy, densely concentrated palate insists upon a bit of patience. Despite its intensity, this wine shows great lift and freshness—very much in keeping with the lovely purity of the 2014 vintage.
2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Damodes”
“Les Damodes” lies at the northern limit of Nuits-Saint-Georges, on the border of Vosne-Romanee, and this wine always shows the most Vosne-like silkiness and grace in the Chauvenet cellar. Produced from a quarter-hectare parcel of vines averaging 65 years of age, the 2014 is deep and relatively luscious, with an arresting nose of exotic spice, sandalwood, and ripe red fruits. A wisp of white pepper and a sliver of sassafras add complexity to the elegant, fine-grained but still structured palate, which culminates in a swelling, lingering finish. If it is not the most typically Nuits wine in the cellar, it perhaps offers the most potential for early-drinking pleasure among the premier crus.
2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Rue de Chaux”
A premier cru of poor, gravelly soil located right in the center of the appellation, “Rue de Chaux” is perhaps the quintessential Nuits-Saint-Georges: brooding, rugged, and unapologetically mineral—a wine with a firm handshake that looks you square in the eye. Chauvenet’s 2014 combines some of the floral lift of the “Aux Argillas” with the mineral thrust of “Les Bousselots,” with all elements dialed up to eleven. Plenty of dark fruit burbles below the wine’s assertively spicy, almost gamy aromas, but the impressively dense palate is nearly impenetrable at this youthful stage. Even still, a sense of rippling energy keeps it from coming across as austere despite such a plenitude of tightly coiled material. The vines in this case average 85 years in the ground.
2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Poulettes”
“Les Poulettes” is a small cru of hard white limestone soil perched high up on the slope in southern Nuits-Saint-Georges, just above “Les Perrieres” (below). The domaine owns a small 0.17-parcel of vines planted in the mid-1950s, and this 2014 positively sizzles with tension. A nose of violets, fresh tar, ripe strawberries, and smoke-tinged spice gives way to a palate of extraordinary drive and energy, and a subtle note of menthol emphasizes the wine’s bracing character. The tannins are polite but extremely insistent now, and like all of these impressive 2014 premier crus from Christophe, this will need some time to reveal all of its subtleties.
2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Perrieres”
Better known than its higher-altitude brother “Les Poulettes” (above), “Les Perrieres” is one of those majestic sites that always tends to come up in discussions about Nuits-Saint-Georges’s oft-lamented lack of grand crus—and for good reason. Domaine Chauvenet owns 0.23 hectares here of 80 year old vines, and with this superb 2014, we see a delicacy and finesse nothing else in the lineup has quite reached—a slightly expanded vocabulary, a voice with just a shade more intimacy and suggestive power. There is less overt structure here than “Rue de Chaux” or “Les Poulettes,” though no less density of fruit. The lovely freshness of the 2014 vintage is on full display, with a bit more invigorating menthol than “Les Poulettes,” and a blossoming, relatively supple finish where fruit and tannin embrace warmly.
2014 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Vaucrains”
Always the Olympus of the Chauvenet experience, “Les Vaucrains” almost dares one not to consider it a grand cru. Drag works a 0.41-hectare parcel of 80-year-old vines, and it is the unwavering highlight of the cellar— and very much so in the 2014 vintage. While the finely wrought and stunningly articulate “Les Perrieres” (above) leaves little room to conceive of improving upon it, this wine indeed reaches just that little bit higher. A stunning nose of exotic spice, damp soil, black fruit, and a perfectly measured dose of animale ushers in a palate of formidable power—a nearly opaque density of structure and material. Still, this sings, vibrates, and pulses with the infectious kineticism of the 2014 vintage, and it offers unquestionable evidence of Christophe’s ability to harness an intensity that just stops short of excess.