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Gevrey-Chambertin rolls off the tongue of every Burgundy lover, inspiring memories of rich fruit and deep, powerful structure framed by exotic spice and beguiling perfume. It’s enough to make any Pinot fan feel faint in the head. Oh wait: That may just be from the price tag! But no fear, if you look high and low you can still find hidden values in this hallowed Côte de Nuits commune. Our favorite example is the tried-and-true Bourgogne Rouge from the iconic Gevrey traditionalists at René Leclerc. This is not a vineyard at the border of the appellation, or even just a parcel surrounded by name brand name crus: This is 100% real Gevrey-Chambertin fruit culled from the estates numerous holdings. It has all the goods, and since it is from 2017, it is both classically styled and just entering its peak drinking window. All that for a quarter of the price that many GC fetch these days, and even less if you buy six or more—and you should buy much more!
The Leclerc family are icons in the village of Gevrey-Chambertin. They have maintained a charming tasting room in the heart of the village for decades. Once, some years ago, when an appointment with another vigneron fell through, I wandered in and was immediately blown away by all the eclectic artifacts. René himself, still going strong, led me through the tasting of a wide range of their varied terroirs. It was a timeless experience, I felt I could have been tasting in 1989, or 1969. The wines were a pure, delicious snapshot of tradition.
At Domaine Leclerc, the old clocks and pianos that grace the tasting room are family heirlooms, but the winery itself is newer, squeaky clean, and well-maintained. The old basket press is the only relic—everything else glimmers. But the fruit is treated as it always has been—René and his son François pick into small bins and after gentle and careful pressing, ambient yeasts drive a cold fermentation for up to 15 days with gentle punch-downs twice daily. The wine is kept in vats for up to six months and then aged in neutral oak barrels, purchased from Dugat-Py, for one year before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The Leclercs use only the oldest vines in their villages, premier and grand cru bottlings, everything else goes into their Bourgogne Rouge, which is why this wine offers so much pure Gevrey character for such a humble price.
The 2017 Domaine René Leclerc Bourgogne Rouge is deep ruby with orange-garnet hues at the rim showing its six years of age. The aromatics are classic Gevrey in the nose with silky red fruits, just ripened black cherry, blood peach, cinnamon, pomegranate, and forest floor with crushed dark rocks and wildflowers against damp bark—almost like walking through a cool, damp forest. The wine just glides across the palate, delivering deep umami notes that many of you will immediately recognize as true terroir. Serve cool, at around 55 or 60 degrees, in a Burgundy stem with something classic like cassoulet or beef bourguignon and get ready to bathe in the timeless joy that comes from a proper glass of Gevrey-Chambertin, no matter what the label says!
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