Chambolle and the Utmost: The Wines of Ghislaine Barthod
The stereotype for Chambolle is perfume and elegance. Some are of the view that the notion of village style is more a lodestar for producer style than terroir. For example, the Nuits St. Georges wines of Chambolle based producer Mr. Mugnier are far more elegant than their peers. Is this producer or the Clos du Marechal terroir?
In my view, the truth of the matter likely falls on middle ground. There seems to be an attraction between certain types of producers and certain places. The most transparent connection tends to happen with the greatest producers. On the other hand, the lesser producers struggle to find the right connection between their own voice and the message in the soil, leaving many wines indistinct or uninspired.
In Chambolle, few have magnetized themselves to the land as intently as Ghislaine Barthod.
Though the domaine began in the 1920s and Ghislaine’s father took it over in 1960, it was really only in 1987 when Ghislaine herself began making wine at the estate that it started its ascent to the top ranks of Chambolle. The style here is delineation, with eight different premier crus each expressing a unique personality. This is achieved with low yields, highly attentive pruning, green harvesting and destemming. Fermentations are controlled at very low temperatures, as I can attest freezing my butt off in the cellar while tasting. Pressing is gentle and Ghislaine is conservative with pump-overs. Oak is controlled, with no more than 30% new oak used for the premier cru wines.
Ghislaine herself has to be one of the warmest people in the Cote d’Or, generous with her time, her wine and her energy. Her sensitivity to life and openness manifest in her talent as a winemaker with some of the most directly human wines in Burgundy.
2013: A Vintage of Clarity
My experience in Chambolle this spring points to a very strong set of wines for 2013 across the village. Ghislaine pointed out that the harvest began in October, the latest ever in her nearly 30 year career.
There is a level of clarity to the 2013s from Barthod that is exceptional even for her. Nothing obtrusive, awkward or flustered came out of barrel the day I visited. Every wine was well on its way to one of the most transparent expressions of its particular vineyard. These wines get my highest recommendation. As a rule, with age I expect all of these wines to go up at least one notch in my rating system compared to my notes made tasting from barrel.
2013 Bourgogne Rouge: Pretty and spicy. Fresh palate. Fine basic Bourgogne. Very Good+.
2013 Chambolle Village: This is a blend from all of Barthod’s plots. This is focused and concentrated with florals and sous bois and was very expressive on the day I tasted. Excellent.
2012 Chambolle Village: Ghislaine opened a bottle of the last released vintage for comparison. It was wonderful quality with lush fruit, but also tight and closed tannic structure. Needs time. Very Good+ to Excellent.
2013 Gruenchers 1er cru: This is a newly purchased vineyard for the domain, a rarity in Burgundy where land is priced per “ouvre” (1/24th of a hectare). Fine texture and perfume. Lovely salinity. Excellent to Excellent+.
2013 Baudes 1er cru: A spicy, red fruited wine that is dark and tight right now. This wine is about flesh, power and tannin. It will be remarkable. Excellent.
2013 Charmes 1er cru: Tasting somewhat reduced right now, there is a deep core of fruit here that needs oxygen to complete itself. Intense. Very Good+.
2013 Fuees 1er cru: This is one of the great 1er crus of Chambolle, and Barthod’s 2013 vintage is a marvel. Concentrated fruit marries fine tannin in a focused, purposeful finish. Excellent to Excellent+. No doubt completely in the latter rating with the requisite age.
2013 Les Cras 1er cru: A slightly more rustic feel right now, this remains quite mouthwatering. Tannins are heavy today and this is a deeply set wine that needs considerable cellar time. Very Good+ to Excellent.