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.