Based in Gevrey-Chambertin, Domaine Armand Rousseau is one of Burgundy’s most famous estates. Revered for making unearthly expressions of Pinot Noir, the estate’s wines are some of the most collectable in the world.
Armand Rousseau was born in 1884 into a family firmly embedded in the wine industry – growers, coopers and merchants. He worked as a courtier (a broker) at first, but inherited his first vines in Gevrey-Chambertin when he married in 1909. Given his work negotiating between growers and négociants, young Rousseau was a man with enviable connections, enabling him to tactfully expand the operation, acquiring plots in Charmes-Chambertin, Chambertin and Clos de la Roche between 1919 and 1921. He was among the first growers to start bottling and selling wine himself, and even started shipping wines to the US after Prohibition ended.
Armand’s son Charles took over the estate – then 6.5 hectares – in 1959, when Armand died in a car accident coming back from a hunting trip. Charles continued his father’s work, expanding the estate and ensuring the wines had an international audience – exporting to the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Brazil and Asia by the 1970s.
Charles, in turn, handed the property to his son Eric in 1982. Eric was joined by his daughter Cyrielle in 2014, and the duo work together to manage the domaine. Cyrielle’s sisters Corinne and Brigitte are also involved in the commercial side.
Over four generations, the family has built up enviable holdings, with 14 hectares today, an impressive eight of which is classified as Grand Cru. The domaine’s flagship bottlings are its Chambertin (from 2.54 hectares over four parcels) and Chambertin-Clos de Bèze (from 1.42 hectares over three plots), however it also owns plots in Mazis-Chambertin, Charmes-Chambertin, Clos des Ruchottes (a Grand Cru monopole), Clos Saint-Jacques (owning 40% of the Premier Cru), Cazetiers, Lavaux-Saint-Jacques and village Gevrey-Chambertin. While the majority of its holdings are in Gevrey-Chambertin, it also has a parcel of Clos de la Roche Grand Cru in Morey-Saint-Denis.
The property works exclusively with Pinot Noir, although the family did briefly make a Bourgogne Blanc from a parcel in Gevrey-Chambertin, for their personal consumption only.
They work with old vines (average 40-45 years old) and low yields (max 30-40hl/ha) to produce wines with great ageing potential. The fruit is almost all de-stemmed, with 10% left whole-cluster to add structure. A cold soak (four to five days) is followed by fermentation in stainless steel (31-34˚C). The wines are then transferred to oak (François Frères) for élevage, normally just under two years, with up to 100% new wood depending on the cuvée.
The domaine produces 65,000 bottles a year, almost all of which (90%) is exported – and strictly allocated. The wines command significant sums on the secondary market given their rarity and esteem.