2012 Ruchottes Chambertin Armand Rousseau

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Average critic rating : 95.0 points



The 2012 Ruchottes-Chambertin Clos des Ruchottes Grand Cru comes from the domain’s monopole: populated by one-third vines aged around 30-years and the remainder around 65-years old (see December issue for more details.) This year it sees 20% new oak. It has wonderful delineation on the nose with heightened mineralite from the limestone soils. The palate is medium-bodied with a precise opening. There is a wave of pure, clinically defined fresh raspberry and wild strawberry notes that dovetails into quite a stern, very linear finish. This is uncompromising at the moment, an aloof yet compelling Ruchottes-Chambertin that does not quite possess the completeness of say, Mugneret-Gibourg’s, but clearly as the substance to age extremely well. ||The trajectory of Armand Rousseau has been phenomenal in recent years. In particular, after the beatified 2005 vintages, the most revered Gevrey-Chambertin producer suddenly found itself amongst the Holy Grail, one whose wines are sought and fought over from London to New York to Hong Kong and everywhere in between. As I have written before, Rousseau is one of my benchmark producers as no doubt it is for many. Rousseau has been the source of some of the greatest wines I have ever consumed: just peruse my write-up of a Ruchottes-Chambertin vertical in December’s issue as evidence. At the same time, part of my appreciation for Rousseau is that they do not try to cover up their wines that can occasionally wear their frailties on their sleeves. This imbues Rousseau’s wines with a sense of honesty and clarity, a reflection of a vineyard buffeted and enhanced by the vagaries of a capricious growing season from one year to the next. If you are lucky enough to participate in a vertical of Rousseau’s wines, then you experience the peaks and troughs, but never a bottle that tries to be something it was not born to be. I had already heard whispers of how good Rousseau’s 2012s were before my arrival and sure enough, tasting through their enviable portfolio, there are a clutch of quite brilliant wines destined to be fought over when allocations are released. And at the same time, I would argue that it is not as consistent as say 2005 or 2010, but would agree with winemaker Frederic Robert that they constitute a step up from the 2011s that I tasted six months earlier. “It was a quite difficult flowering because of the rain and cold,” Frederic told me. “Even July was cold and rainy. Then we had 6 or 7 weeks of sun from August. We started to pick on 20 September. We lost about 20% of the harvest mainly because of flowering and sorting, but we had to do less sorting than 2013. We de-stemmed around 90% of the crop and did a little chaptalization, but only by a very small amount. The old vines produced small grapes. We will bottle in July and so we will rack them one more time in March.” When I asked whether the 2012s reminded him of any other vintage, Frederic replied that perhaps the 2010 would make a good comparison, albeit without the same tannic structure. I would agree with this observation. Rousseau’s 2012 do err more towards the masculine side, unlike the more voluptuous 2009s, yet unlike 2011 there is more freshness, tension and vigor. Moreover, I cannot recall tasting Rousseau’s wines from barrel, whereby the individuality of each vineyard is articulated with such clarity. This year, each village, premier or grand cru is true to their respective characteristics, the hand of the winemaker much smaller than that of the vineyard. eRobertParker.com.December, 2013

Armand Rousseau: The Importance

Critics unilaterally acknowledge that some of the most definitive terroir expressions of Pinot Noir in Burgundy are produced at Domaine Armand Rousseau's winery.


This much is sure: The best among six grands crus and three premier crus chez Rousseau (meaning above all their Chambertin, Chambertin Clos de Beze, Gevrey—Chambertin Clos St. Jacques, Ruchottes-Chambertin, and Clos de la Roche) are icons of Burgundy terroir,” writes Robert Parker, while Clive Coates MW refers to Rousseau as: “one of the small number of Burgundy estates to which I would unhesitatingly award three stars.”


It is the most renowned estate in Gevrey-Chambertin and for Antonio Galloni: “The Rousseau wines are distinguished by their extraordinary transparency to site and overall finesse, making this cellar a must-stop for Burgundy fans who want to understand the essence of Gevrey’s most important vineyards.”

Armand Rousseau: The Insight

Domaine Armand Rousseau’s reputation is inextricably intertwined with the prestige of Chambertin, where Rousseau owns more vines than any other grower. This is the most culturally emblematic red Burgundy vineyard, with one of the most distinctive and easily recognisable characters in every vintage. Noted as the only wine Napoleon ever drank in his time as Emperor, to overstate the sheer cultural significance of Chambertin would be impossible. For Clive Coates, “as far as Chambertin and Chambertin Clos de Beze are concerned, you could even argue that there is Rousseau, and there are the rest. There are few finer domaines in the Cote d’Or than that of Armand Rousseau.”


With holdings throughout Gevrey, the domaine benefits from many other prestigious red Burgundy terroirs, such as the monopole of Clos des Ruchottes, which within the domaine has been treated as a flagship wine, producing excellent quality across vintages.  With 2.5ha of forty-year-old vines, Armand Rousseau owns more here than anyone else. The size of their holdings, combined with the domaine’s experience with the vineyard, which spans three generations back to 1921, goes some way towards explaining the wine’s critical acclaim and undisputed celebrity. To quote Robert Parker: “the three grands crus nearest the village of Gevrey – Ruchottes-Chambertin, Mazy-Chambertin (known by other growers as Mazis-Chambertin) and Clos de Beze – are uniformly superbly situated. First among equals is Clos de Beze, as demonstrated by the fact that wine grown here can be labelled simply Chambertin, but the converse is not permitted. Alluring scents of rose petal and liquorice over a base of deep black cherry are typical manifestations of these great sites."


Rousseau’s Premier Cru Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques vies with the Grand Cru Chambertin wines as the crown jewel in the vineyard collection. Though it is now ranked a Premier Cru, Jules Lavalle ranks this exclusive clos in Gevrey Chambertin as “Premiere Cuvée” in his 1855 classification of the vineyards of Burgundy, as does Camille Rodier in the subsequent classification of 1920, while modern commentators such as Clive Coates commend Clos Saint-Jacques as “the equal of a Grand Cru” both in price and quality. Rousseau is the largest holder in this important Premier Cru and that the Clos St Jacques is so often put forward as a candidate for promotion to Grand Cru status is largely down to the quality of the Rousseau bottling.


For the most part, demand for these wines is so strong that they are invariably allocated as opposed to being actively sold. Prices have risen steadily over the past decade, and there is no real reason to suggest that they will stop: the combination of rarity and outstanding quality is not without effect.

Armand Rousseau: The Background

Armand Rousseau assembled a remarkable collection of vineyards in the first quarter of the last century and was a pioneer in estate-bottling. Eric Rousseau took over after the death of his father Charles in May 2016, representing the third generation at the Domaine.  For many wine lovers Charles was a point of reference, having been the face of the Domaine since 1959. However, not much is set to change from a winemaking standpoint under the young Eric, though Clive Coates speculates that bottling dates may be moved forward by a few months compared to the past.


Practices have hardly changed in three generations, with triage exclusively in the vineyards (not the press house); the inclusion of whole clusters and stems; precocious malolactic fermentation; a reliance on older barrels; and an eventual light plaque filtration – this is red Burgundy as it should be.

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