Domaine Tortochot Producer Portrait

By Gavin Smith

The Burgundy buzz has reached fever pitch this weekend with all of the leading critics publishing their thoughts and scores on the vintage, followed by the majority of Burgundy’s top producers showcasing the vintage in both London and Hong Kong.

Amongst all the chatter we spoke to winemaker and proprietor Chantal Tortochot whose wines in 2018 offer fantastic value for the quality. If you are slightly blindsided by the volume of releases over the last few weeks, you won’t go wrong with Domaine Tortochot’s stunning Chambertin! A great buy of the vintage.

 

Whilst Domaine Tortochot doesn’t carry the cachet of the very top domains in Gevrey Chambertin, it does offer some of the best value, producing wines with great terroir transparency in their top Premier Crus and Grand Crus and fabulous drinkability with their village wines. They are a domaine that truly excelled in 2018.

Their consistency in style is testament to the skills at work at the domaine. They have a distinct finesse and lightness of touch and the tannin profile remains incredibly elegant right through their portfolio of wines whilst the natural concentration of fruit and earthy minerality provide structure and intensity on the palate.

Celebrated winemaker in his own right Sylvain Pataille has been the consultant winemaker at the domaine for the last 20 years alongside owner and winemaker Chantal Tortochot, who has a real energy and honesty to her approach. When we met, she spoke a million miles an hour as I tried to scribble down all her evident words of wisdom. Whilst the team have been working together for 20 years, in the last 5 years they have amended their winemaking to accommodate the obvious climatic changes they see affecting this new era of Burgundy.

 

Whole Bunch and Climate Change

Chantal has introduced 25% whole bunch grapes into their fermentations to counter the lower acidity brought about by the warmer climate. Initially this might seem counter-productive as the stems contain lots of potassium, something that effectively lowers the acidity in the wine. But as Chantal explains, the stems bring three additional things to the wine – potassium, water and most importantly mineral salts. These mineral salts produce a distinct salinity on the palate, which creates a similar effect to acid. Tasting the wines, the stemmy, herbal notes, sometimes more overt in higher proportions of whole bunch fermentation, is not at all evident in the wines of Tortochot, but the vibrant salinity on the finish certainly is, creating a lovely uplifting vibrancy to the wines.

 

A Reduction in New Oak

They have also greatly reduced the amount of new oak. With the fruit naturally riper and the tannins more subtle in the warmer climate, they felt they can diminish the new oak allowing more fruit purity on the palate. Chantal talks about how over the last 20 years, she feels the climate has completely changed and for the moment, for the better. They now have no need to chapitalise (adding sugar at fermentation to raise the potential alcohol level), a traditional process carried out throughout Burgundy. Outside of France the process is seen by many as a manipulation of a wine, a process banned in many other fine wine Pinot Noir growing regions.

Rather than raising the alcohol levels through chapitalisation, Domaine Tortochot are looking at ways to lower the natural alcohol levels. They are currently experimenting with special yeasts that effectively lower the alcohol through having less efficiency in converting sugars to alcohol whilst still fermenting to dryness.

The Wines     

Gevrey Chambertin 1er Cru - Lavaux St Jacques 2018, Domaine Tortochot

This cooler site in Gevrey excelled in 2018 contrasting a wonderful mouth-watering freshness with viscous, dense, juicy fruit. There is deceptive power too underlying the raspberry, and fresh red cherry fruit. The wine retains a wonderful finesse with fine tannins, incredibly silky in texture, and an underlying earthy minerality adding nuance and a quiet intensity to the wine. Not as nervy as the 2017 tasted alongside, but much more concentration and textural richness.  

 

Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2018, Domaine Tortochot

Out of the Grand Crus it was the less open at this stage and deceptively structural for Charmes. Despite this, the Tortochot style is here in spades with wonderful perfumed, pure, red berry fruit and very fine tannins. The structure on the back end of the wine combined with a sustained pure, perfumed fruit flavour is impressive. The balance and structure to this wine gives it a great ageing potential.

 

Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 2018, Domaine Tortochot

Incredibly powerful Mazis Chambertin, whose structure just builds and builds on the palate. The tannins are dense, yet fine grained, providing a beautiful layering on the palate. The fruit profile remains firmly in the red berry spectrum and opulent in its character, providing fantastic breadth on the palate, the counter-pointing vibrant acidity creating lift too. This wine is both refined and powerful managing to balance the contrasting elements beautifully.

 

Chambertin Grand Cru 2018, Domaine Tortochot

Just 7 beautiful barrels of this made, of which we had the fortune to taste from two separate barrels with similar notes. It was the highlight of the tasting at Tortochot and incredibly impressive. The wine is so dense and opulent yet nervy and energised, with both the gourmand structural power and the uplifting ethereal notes. The savoury, darker, brooding spice notes beautifully contrast with uplifting bright red berry fruits (red cherry, redcurrant). The wine is both viscous and refreshing with a fabulous purity, clarity and a long length.

 

 

 

 

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