Understanding the wines of Burgundy is sometimes just down right frustrating. So many producers, so many crus, so much terroir. Who can really make heads or tails of it all and who gives a damn anyway. This is the kind of stuff that often runs through my mind when I think about Burgundy.
Yet I learned a great deal about the nature of Nuits Saint Georges and terroir at a recent Robert Chevillon tasting. Chevillon is a great place to taste the differences in terroir as the wine making style is hands off and the character of individual crus and different vintages shows through very clearly. In Nuits Saint Georges, Chevillon is considered to be the finest producer (along with Gouges), and from my previous experiences I would agree that I have not tasted a finer producer from this area. Nuits Saint Georges contains no Grand Cru vineyards, but this leaves the consumer with wines from Premier Crus that touch Grand Cru quality, but remain attainable to mere mortals. And Chevillon is certainly at the top of the list in terms of the Premier Crus in Nuits Saint Georges.
At the tasting we sampled a range of wines from the 2006, 2005, 2004, 1999, and 1998 vintages. I walked away with not only a good snap shot of what each vintage means to Chevillon but also a very important lesson about the nature of the wines themselves. Namely that Chevillon wines are not wines to be enjoyed in their youth. In fact, they can be tight and closed offering little if any pleasure when young. The 2006 vintage was the perfect example of this. The wines were leaner in style and very closed. 2005 offered up more concentration and fruit, typical of the vintage, but were still yet unyielding. We only tasted a couple of wines from 2004 so I cannot comment well on this vintage for Chevillon but to say that the wines seemed off and lacking. 1999 seemed in the same boat as 2005, plenty of fruit and power in reserve, if lacking a little bit on the 2005′s exceptional power. None the less 1999 is an excellent vintage with great future potential. And then the 1998′s. Perhaps not the greatest vintage, but the wines have arrived at a very beautiful place. Certainly the most pleasing range of wines tasted for drinking right now from Chevillon.
So what does all this tell us. Mostly that the wines need time; 10-15 years in decent vintages, maybe longer for epic ones. Chevillon wines are classic Burgundy; somewhat rustic and tight when young, and built to age. They are not heady perfumed wines, they speak of earth and terroir with age, and are fantastic food wines. The other thing is that when tasting the different crus side by side, such as Les Saint Georges, Les Vaucrains, Les Cailles, etc. the essence of each is completely different. Yet some how they seem to say Chevillon in their lack of wine making signature. Chevillon wines are for the purist and the patient and should not be missed in the pantheon of great Burgundy.
Robert Chevillon 2006 Vieilles Vignes
Fairly closed. Spice, tart berry, slightly sour on the finish.
Robert Chevillon 2006 Les Cailles
A touch of ripe fruit here, but barely. Spice, red fruit, tart finish.
Robert Chevillon Les Saint Georges
Semi approachable. Plum spice, herbs, hint of menthol. Tart on the finish.
Robert Chevillon Les Vaucrains
Tight nose. Hint of menthol, hint of greenness. This suggests and elegant future, if however distant.
Robert Chevillon 2004 Les Bousselots
There was just something off with this wine. A bit cloudy. A touch of funk, something dirty here. Maybe an off bottle.
Robert Chevillon 2004 Les Chaignots
Some spice on the tight nose. Some tart berry. Seemingly a bit lacking.
Robert Chevillon 2005 Vieilles Vignes
A touch of baked red fruit on the nose. There is a bit of perfume here, but still fairly tight.
Robert Chevillon 2005 Les Cailles
Spice and pretty red fruit on the nose. There is a sense that a very pretty wine will emerge here.
Robert Chevillon 2005 Les Roncieres
There is a big mouth feel here. You can taste the 2005 power. The fruit is dark, almost black. The mouth feel is weighty and you know this is going to cellar very well.
Robert Chevillon 2005 Les Saint Georges
Brooding. There is a touch of greenness, and spice, and tight red fruits, and bark. This is nice. Will come together nicely in the cellar one suspects.
Robert Chevillon 2005 Les Vaucrains
Unfortunately this bottle from one of Chevillon’s finest crus was off. I believed it to be slightly corked.
Robert Chevillon 1998 Les Cailles
One of my favorite wines in the entire line up, if not my top wine. There is green love on the nose. Menthol, a touch of bubble gum, cherry, and spice. The mouth feel is very lovely here and the green magic gives it wonderful lift. There is prettiness here and drinkability. Love to see this with a nice meal. Excellent stuff!
Robert Chevillon 1998 Les Saint Georges
A touch tight at first, this wine blossoms. The fruit is more red here, a touch succulent even, and very pretty. It is floral and spice and everything nice. Very drinkable stuff. Excellent mouth feel. Probably my number two wine of the night.
Robert Chevillon 1998 Les Vaucrains
A bit tight still. This one could even use a bit longer to really come into its own. There is spice and bark and earth, it is less primary fruit dominated that the other 1998′s tasted. The mouth fell is excellent and the acidity is too. A little longer and this will be amazing.
Robert Chevillon 1999 Les Perrieres
A touch extracted, even concentrated. Spiced fruits, dark spices, and cocoa all balanced with nice acidity. A great cellar candidate here.
Robert Chevillon 1999 Les Cailles
Tight red fruits on the nose, with hints of greenness. There is a nice mouth feel here, with tart red fruits mixing with a smokey hint. The acidity is there too, this is nice stuff. Les Cailles is proving one of Chevillon’s best crus.
Robert Chevillon 1999 Les Saint Georges
There is a nice richness here. The fruits are red and spicy, and there is nice acidity to balance the richness. The finish is persistent. Nice stuff.
Robert Chevillon 1993 Les Saint Georges
Sadly this bottle was fairly corked. What a shame.