Domaine Rousseau 1993 is a legend because…

Though there are other domaines with important holdings in Chambertin, Rousseau is widely regarded as the supreme exponent of this exceptional terroir. Chambertin is always powerful, demanding and ageworthy, but the Rousseau wines magically combine perfume, power and concentration with immense elegance. Although 1993 is not regarded as an outstanding vintage in Burgundy, Rousseau made exceptional wines, and his Chambertin is seen as superior to the much-acclaimed 1990.

Looking back

Charles Rousseau was at the peak of his powers in 1993, but also beginning to hand the reins to his son Eric. The transition brought no revolutionary changes, as Charles kept his expert eye on the domaine. But over the years Eric would make his own contributions, especially to work in the vineyard, consolidating his father’s achievement.

The people

Armand Rousseau was one of the first growers in Burgundy to start bottling his own wines, in the 1930s – a period when cash-strapped merchants were unwilling to purchase more wine from growers. After his death in 1959, his place was taken by his son Charles, a revered winemaker who has acted as mentor to many of the region’s great names. Charles doubled the size of the domaine to 14 hectares through a series of shrewd acquisitions, primarily grands crus. Eric Rousseau reflects the interest of his generation in improving farming methods and controlling yields; in the cellar he works in much the same way as his father Charles, with some fine tuning.

The vintage

A wet, overcast July led to mildew and oidium, but August was warm and sunny. There was intermittent rain from mid-September to early October, but the Pinot Noir skins were thick, days were cool, and there was neither rot nor dilution. Harvesting took place in the last week of September. The small berries resulted in concentrated reds that also had good colour and acidity. Rousseau’s characteristic low yields paid off in terms of ripening and flavour, though the wines were notably tannic.

The terroir

Rousseau is the largest owner of Chambertin, with 2.55ha of a total 12.9ha. The vines are in four parcels that lie on a gently sloping mid-slope at an elevation of 275m to 300m, protected from the colder upper slopes and avoiding richer soils lower down. The subsoil is Bajocian limestone, and the topsoil varies, with pebbles and clay distributed to varying degrees. The holdings are the result of purchases from 1921 onwards, the most recent in 2009. Average vine age is around 60 years, and the density an exceptionally high 12,000 vines/ha.

The wine

Yields rarely exceed 30hl/ha here, kept low by hard pruning and debudding rather than green-harvesting – and a ruthless selection is made in the vineyard. At the winery, grapes are mostly destemmed, chilled to 15 ̊C, and left to macerate without temperature control for up to three weeks. Extraction is achieved initially by frequent pumpovers and subsequently by punching down the cap. After pressing, the juice is run off into 100% new barrels. The 1993 would have spent between 20 and 24 months in barrel, though current practice at the domaine is to leave the wine in wood for only 18 months.

The reaction

Benjamin Lewin MW in 2011 gave a detailed appraisal: ‘Mineral nose with perfumed notes of violets. Beautiful, developed palate, just short of savoury, slightly tea-like and herbal finish, complex layers of flavour. Subtle palate, developed fruits integrating perfectly with acidity and tannins, a very long perfumed finish.’ In 2013 Neal Martin wrote: ‘Scents of wild strawberry, raspberry, hints of wild mushroom and truffle. The palate is medium bodied but delivers a crescendo of flavours: raspberry preserve, ceps, hints of tobacco and dried herbs. It fans out gloriously, like a huge wave breaking upon a shoreline… Sublime.’

The Facts

Bottles produced 8,800
Composition 100% Pinot Noir
Yield 35hl/ha
Alcohol content 13%
Release price e50
Current price £1,340 (e1,115)

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