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 range of great vineyard holdings in Chambolle-Musigny, and Barthod’s lofty status in the pantheon of top Burgundy estates is firmly established and beyond well-deserved. As the adage goes, “If you know the woman, you know the wine”—and in Ghislaine’s case it holds perfectly true. She radiates a warmth, intelligence, and joyousness of spirit that comes through clearly in her Burgundies, which always combine exuberantly pure fruit with finely chiseled minerality, classical structure, and a breathtaking clarity of expression. Each cellar tasting with Ghislaine deepens our understanding of the intricacies of Chambolle-Musigny, and there are never any missteps—only differences wrought by vintage and terroir.
After 2016’s devastating drama, the relatively uneventful 2017 growing season came as an enormous relief to Ghislaine. Flowering happened early, as in 2016, and the Côte came precariously close to suffering enormous frost damage again—on the very same date as in 2016, at that—but was mercifully spared. Summer was warm, but not scorching; there was well-timed rain, including a series of gentle late-August showers which boosted yields without causing dilution, but nothing excessive. Ghislaine began harvesting on the 4th of September, as she wanted to preserve acidity and felt the grapes were already fully mature, and her crop was so healthy that virtually no sorting was needed. She produced her highest quantities since 2009—a particular boon given all the short vintages of the past decade—and, for the first time, was able to bottle her miniscule holdings in the premier crus Les Noirots and Les Sentiers separately rather than de-classifying them into her villages-level Chambolle-Musigny. Ghislane’s 2017s are fresh and precise, full of energetic red fruit and well-articulated minerality, and although they are less sternly structured than in some vintages, they certainly do not want for concentration. Furthermore, these are wines that revel in their pure Pinot Noir essence, offering the charm and snap of a vintage like 2002, and despite their early accessibility they display a harmony that will ensure years of positive cellar development.
2017 Bourgogne Rouge “Les Bons Batons”
Always one of the most satisfying examples of its appellation, Ghislaine’s Bourgogne Rouge is a Chambolle in all but name. The Bons Batons vineyard lies at the border of Chambolle-Musigny and Gilly-les-Citeaux, just across the main road from Chambolle proper, and it offers an introduction to the expression of Chambolle’s sensual, mineral essence. The 2017 displays taut cherry fruit on a cleansing, mineral-driven frame, with a touch of earthy spice adding complexity.
Produced from nine miniscule parcels scattered throughout the appellation, Ghislaine’s villages-level Chambolle-Musigny boasts the impeccable balance, concentration of fruit, and infectious energy that characterize her style. Like the Bons Batons, this 2017 is cleansing and energetic, yet with a more pronounced savory streak and an impressively chiseled structure, particularly in the context of the vintage.
2017 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 her traditionally bottled holdings. While Aux Combottes may lack the intense, penetrating minerality or the breathtaking poise of the greatest crus in the village, it offers a prettiness that is very Chambolle. The 2017 is markedly spice-driven, with notes of anise framing a core of warm, luscious, enveloping fruit.
2017 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. Barthod owns a mere quarter of a hectare of 25-year-old vines here, and her 2017 offers a more pronounced earthiness than the preceding wines, as well as a slightly more powerful structure. The tannins, however, are well-integrated and ultra-fine, and the overriding impression is one of elegance.
2017 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 Fuées on the slope. Her 2017 Les Gruenchers is dynamic and concentrated, with black fruits mingling with its core of cherry, and a punchy minerality that verges on the saline. Richer and more structured than the preceding premier crus, this impressive Gruenchers will benefit from a bit of patience.
2017 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Aux Beaux-Bruns”
Aux Beaux-Bruns tends to be one of Ghislaine’s more robust, broad-shouldered wines. Produced from a 0.75-hectare parcel of 50-year-old vines, it offers succulent, full fruit, with plenty of structure underpinning a broad and spice-drenched palate. The 2017 possesses lovely aromatics, full of high-toned Amaro-like spices and darkly floral fruit; the palate displays less lift but more sap, with luscious, concentrated fruit crowding out the underlying minerality at this youthful stage.
2017 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Noirots”
Ghislaine owns such a tiny parcel of this cru—all of 0.15 hectares—that it typically gets blended into her villages-level Chambolle-Musigny, but the generosity of the 2017 vintage prompted her to bottle it separately for the first time. Les Noirots lies in the northern sector of Chambolle, flanked by Les Baudes to the north and Les Gruenchers to the south. The 2017 is spicy and brooding, offering a firmness of structure akin to the Beaux-Bruns above but with less immediate charm; cellaring will certainly help this wine blossom.
2017 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Sentiers”
As with the Les Noirots above, Barthod’s infinitesimal parcel of Les Sentiers (0.08 hectares) usually gets folded into the villages Chambolle-Musigny, but it was bottled on its own in 2017. The northernmost premier cru in the village, Les Sentiers sits just below Bonnes-Mares on the slope, hard on the border with Morey-Saint-Denis. This 2017 is racy and elegant, with a sizzling, fresh minerality echoing that of the Gruenchers, but on a prettier and more straightforwardly cherry-fruited frame.
2017 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. The 2017 stands out in the lineup for its authoritative, layered personality. It combines energetic acidity, sappy red fruits, and a hefty, echoing minerality that intertwines with relatively large-scaled tannins to create an overall impression of density—one which beckons for cellaring.
2017 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. Ghislaine’s lovely 2017 fits the mold, offering similar complexity to the Baudes above but with a far more serene sensibility, as well as a more pronounced, clearly articulated minerality.
2017 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Fuées”
The poor, nearly nonexistent topsoil of Les Fuées yields one of the highlights in Barthod’s range. Fully bordering Bonnes-Mares to the south and situated at the same point on the slope, it offers a similar full-spectrum complexity. The grizzled 70+-year-old vines in Ghislaine’s 0.26-hectare parcel provide a certain consistency here from vintage to vintage, and the 2017 stands out for its penetrating sense of focus, palpable mineral intensity, and explosive energy. The fruit is simultaneously deeply pitched and lifted, and the wine projects supreme elegance despite its immense reserves of power.
2017 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Veroilles”
Les Veroilles sits immediately above Bonnes-Mares on the slope. A large portion of the vineyard is classified as villages-level, but Barthod’s 0.37-hectare sliver flanking Bonnes-Mares’s southwest corner was upgraded to premier cru status in 1987. Compared to the exuberant beauty of Les Fuées, Les Veroilles is deeper pitched, more brooding, and stricter in its mineral essence, with the 2017 showing an intriguing note of black cherry liqueur and a trace of rose petal.
2017 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru “Les Cras”
Les Cras is, unfailingly, the Mt. Everest of the Barthod offerings: imposing, elemental, and profound. The family owns a significant portion (0.86 hectares) of this premier cru which abuts Les Fuées to the south, on the same filet of the slope as Bonnes-Mares. Always profoundly mineral, ruggedly structured, and impressively powerful, Les Cras still manages to exemplify the graceful essence of Chambolle, offering both large-scale impact and ultra-fine detail. The 2017 is a full-spectrum wine, bursting at the seams with energy, and extroverted and imposingly built at the same time.