Chambolle-Musigny

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The picture-perfect little town of Chambolle-Musigny, formerly known as Chambolle before it added the name of its Grand Cru, derives 376.2 acres of village and Premier Cru vineyards from its 2.92 square miles of area space, also having room for the Musigny Grand Cru and the majority share of the Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru vineyard as well. Considering the quality of these Grands Crus, it’s not surprising that Chambolle’s own land is some of the best not designated as Grand Cru in the world.

One of the Premiers Crus, Les Amoureuses, is really capable of commonly making wine on the level of Musigny and Bonnes-Mares, and it really deserves a promotion to Grand Cru. Even excluding this vineyard, Chambolle-Musigny’s own village land should not be overlooked for great Pinot Noir, which can often come at a much lower price than Musigny Grand Cru wine…and in a similar style as well.

Solely Pinot Noir is produced in this outstanding village. The reds produced from Les Amoureuses and other Premier Cru vineyards of Chambolle-Musigny often lack the grand combination of weightlessness and power that characterizes great Musigny, but they can make up for it with an impressive perfume and good ageability.

History

The village of Chambolle-Musigny has revolved around its wine business for centuries. In 1882, the Chambolle village created a marketing strategy for their wine by changing their name to Chambolle-Musigny, adding the name of their Grand Cru. The AOC for Chambolle-Musigny was created in 1936, and the strange decision to allow white Chardonnay wine was made at this time as well.

Since then, the village has enjoyed a solid history, with a few ups and downs to chart the usual Côte de Nuits demand fluctuations. But overall their reputation of being very reliable and at times outstanding continues.

Climate and Viticulture

The Grand Cru vineyard known as Musigny happens to have a much higher elevation than does the Chambolle-Musigny village itself. In fact, Musigny eats up some of the highest land in the village. It’s hard to argue over the quality of these stunning wines, and they probably have the advantage due to their land, but Chambolle-Musigny’s own village and Premier Cru land has nearly the same optimization of weather conditions, rainfall patterns, and soil.

Grape Varieties

  • Pinot Noir: For whatever strange reason, Chardonnay is allowed in the Musigny Grand Cru, and as a result miniscule production allows producers to make profit from these audaciously overpriced cuvées. The same is not true of Chambolle-Musigny, as this is a solely red wine village, with the exception of the Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris blending option, but this rarely occurs. Pinot Noir’s flavors reach a maximum of femininity and elegance here, often having floral notes of violet to go along with the usual Pinot fruit and a rich earthiness. There are few hard edges to these delicate wines, but a bit more power and energy is found in the Les Amoureuses examples, and wines from Premiers Crus tend to be a little more substantive than the village examples. In terms of flavor, Chambolle-Musigny is similar to Volnay on the Côte de Beaune. These wines are often very ageable, still solid after 20 years, but can be drinkable early.

Major Producers

Quality is generally very high in Chambolle-Musigny, but this has driven wine prices sky-high. An “inexpensive” village bottle of Chambolle-Musigny might run $50, but it will have very little guarantee of quality, and is this really as fun as getting a Grand Cru-level Premier Cru for $150 or $200? So we recommend that for value, you look to the other appellations, and come to Chambolle-Musigny for a guarantee of high quality without the exclusivity–or even higher expense–of a Grand Cru wine.

There are no less than 13 producers that we think lead the field in Chambolle-Musigny.

  • Domaine Ghislaine Barthod
  • Domaine Bruno Clavelier
  • Drouhin
  • Domaine Robert Groffier Pere et Fils
  • Jadot
  • Domaine Leroy
  • Domaine Perrot Minot
  • Lucien Le Moine
  • Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier
  • Domaine Roumier
  • Domaine Christian Serafin
  • Domaine Amiot Servelle
  • Domaine Comte Georges de Voguë

In keeping with the idea that regions supersede producers in importance, the wines of these producers are described below.

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Subregions

The village and blended Premier Cru wines in Chambolle-Musigny tend to sometimes be better than those of Premiers Crus from other villages; Voguë is one producer where this is particularly true. Among lieux-dits, Leroy’s Les Fremières is notable, but other than that Chambolle-Musigny is important almost entirely for Premiers Crus and its two Grands Crus.

The list of the 25 Chambolle Premiers Crus is as follows.

  • Les Amoureuses: This is practically a Grand Cru vineyard, with a few of its vintages ranking along with Musigny and Bonnes-Mares wines as some of the best red Burgundies in history. The vineyard is small, and not many producers occupy it, meaning that prices have been driven to a practically Grand Cru level. For wines under $200, look to Domaine Amiot Servelle’s structured, rich example. Other than that, most of the following will be over. Drouhin’s cuvée is very spicy and complex, but with the same weightless elegance that characterizes Chambolle’s best wines. Darker and more complex are the wines from Groffier and Jadot; Groffier’s is more earthy and needs less time to show its energy and approachability. Lucien Le Moine’s is a more conventionally flavored style, with great intensity and concentration for aging. Mugnier’s is the most feminine, with Grand Cru-level combination of energy and power, to go along with unusually deep Chambolle flavors of spice, mineral, and a tinge of rose. From Roumier the wines are limited-production and therefore fit into the boutique distinction, but a silky texture rounds off spicier Chambolle flavors. Voguë’s is consistently good and sometimes the best, with both an intense mineral characteristic and a sweet, rich, supple fruit core.
  • Aux Combottes: This Premier Cru, which is different from Les Combottes, is led by Domaine Ghislaine Barthod’s round, classically Chambolle-styled wines.
  • Aux Echanges: Look for Domaine Perrot Minot’s sweet, elegant wine here; while not very deep, it offers decent ageability and complexity.
  • Les Baudes: This very commonly used Premier Cru is not too consistent, but from the right producer excellent wine can be procured. Barthod’s Baudes is simple and round, while Jadot’s is heavy and needs time; neither are particularly reputed. Drouhin’s is overshadowed by his stellar Les Amoureuses, but is a classic Chambolle with potential to develop with age. The best is Domaine Christian Serafin’s cuvée, which has deep and structured but essentially elegant Chambolle flavors. Age this for 10 years with confidence.
  • Beaux Bruns: This fairly common Premier Cru has many good wines; the leader is Ghislaine Barthod. With dark, somewhat bitter flavors of chocolate and coffee to go along with the usual Chambolle notes, this one may command a long aging period.
  • Les Borniques
  • Les Carrières
  • Les Chabiots
  • Les Charmes: This common Premier Cru has wines ranging from bad, to good, to world-class. Usually eschewed by the most exceptional producers, it stands a bit in Amoureuses’ shadow. A remarkable complexity is found in Perrot Minot’s old vine examples, but they are not consistent enough to recommend unequivocally. Smoky wines from Lucien Le Moine and Domaine Amiot Servelle are still simple, but are unusual and provide great amounts of well-structured flavors. Domaine Ghislaine Barthod’s Charmes is big but fresh, with the elegance generally emerging after the requisite 5-8 years’ aging. Domaine Leroy’s boutique wines are wild and ripe, but cost more than $500.
  • Les Chatelots: A few producers make wine here, but Domaine Ghislaine Barthod is the clear leader. With spice and Pinot flavors, it would be classic Chambolle if not for a somewhat unpleasant edge of tannic bitterness and dryness.
  • La Combe d’Orveaux: This fairly common Premier Cru makes wine of a generally solid style, even though there is nothing outstanding. Domaine Perrot Minot’s old vine examples can be the most complex, especially the “Ultra Vieilles Vignes” wines. These wines’ purity is hard to beat, but Domaine Bruno Clavelier’s excellent cuvée is strong competition. With dark fruit flavors and powerful minerality, this atypical style does well with 10 years of aging.
  • Les Combottes: Domaine Roumier’s cuvée is one of the leaders here, with a very powerful sweetness to go along with the usual Chambolle flavors. A very fresh, almost pristine wine, it is approachable early for its classic Chambolle style.
  • Les Cras: Ghislaine Barthod’s dark, complex wine savors its rich, earthy fruit more than the lighter Chambolle elements of flowers and berries, but for an atypical style it has a very high pedigree. For Domaine Roumier, this same style is taken to another level of intensity and concentration, but after 10 years the energy may manifest itself.
  • Derrière la Grange: Amiot Servelle’s cuvée is very round with a creamy texture, showcasing unusual flavors of minerals and herbs in addition to the usual Pinot fruits.
  • Les Feusselottes: For early drinking, Jadot’s offering is the best here, with classic Chambolle rose petal flavors and top-notch elegance and finesse. Domaine Amiot Servelle’s wine is more of an ageworthy style.
  • Les Fuées: Along with Les Charmes, this vineyard has to be considered a runner-up to the outstanding Les Amoureuses. For a boutique wine, look to Domaine Leroy’s very solid Fuées holding; as well as minerally strength it boasts an intense fruit core, given more power by the old vines it was grown on. Both Ghislaine Barthod and Lucien Le Moine’s Fuéeses offer dark, liqueurish flavors in a very un-Chambolle style, with an almost roasted-ripe texture. Lucien Le Moine’s offering needs a good bit of aging, but Barthod’s can be enjoyed immediately for its atypical style.
  • Les Grands Murs
  • Les Gruenchers
  • Les Hauts Doix: The top cuvée here is made by Groffier. Classically Chambolle, it shows flavors of spice, meat, and Pinot fruit, rarely with even an earthy tinge to interrupt the purity of the wine. This classic but immediately approachable cuvée costs in the low $100s.
  • Les Lavrottes
  • Les Noirots
  • Les Plantes: Domaine Amiot Servelle’s wines here are somewhat lean, but can have a very good maturity considering their somewhat reasonable price.
  • Les Sentiers: Jadot’s wines here are good, but need aging to improve. Clearly the main cuvée here comes from Groffier; dark and ripe with rich, exotic flavors, it is an atypical style but nonetheless counts as great Chambolle.
  • Les Véroilles: Domaine Ghislaine Barthod’s Véroilles is actually their best cuvée, notable for its seemingly effortless combination of purity and concentration. Dark flavors of cassis, flowers, and ripe blackberry have a slightly sweet note, but these are really firm wines meant for aging. The 2005 vintages approaches Grand Cru finesse, and for a much lower price.

Chambolle-Musigny lays claim to the entirety of one Grand Cru vineyard and the majority of another.

  • Musigny: The legendary Grand Cru vineyard of Musigny, famous for its world-class wines with “iron fist in a velvet glove” structure and character, is entirely contained within the Chambolle-Musigny village. Although generally considered inferior to Romanée-Conti and La Tâche, the vineyard is considered the best in the world by those who love its style.
  • Bonnes-Mares: The only shared Grand Cru in the Côte de Nuits, Bonnes-Mares is majority owned by Chambolle-Musigny but Morey-St-Denis also has a slight share of the vineyard. Famous for its power and concentration without any impression of weight, Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru wines are given their elegant aroma mostly by Chambolle-Musigny soil.