Domaine Armand Rousseau’s New 2018 Pinot Noir En-primeur Releases Shine Brightly Once Again…

The En-primeur tasting season gives wine merchants and consumers a last look at the new Burgundy releases before most of them are bottled between March and May. After Domaine de la Romanee Conti, there is probably a small handful of Burgundy producers that every collector wants in their cellar. Close to the top of this list has to be the spectacular wines of Domaine Armand Rousseau.

Tightly allocated in every global market, buying Armand Rousseau’s wines on release at beneficial En-primeur prices is every collectors holy grail. So any opportunity to taste and assess these exceptional wines before they disappear into deep dark cellars must be considered a valuable learning experience whether you’re a novice or a professional Burgundy collector.

I recently had a snap shot tasting of three of this producer’s delicious wines drawn from barrel samples.

Domaine Armand Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Clos du Chateau Monopole 2018

Showing a gently scented, sweet fruited nose with hints of Gevrey spice, earthy bramble berry, sweet clove and grilled herb spices. Palate is both opulent and plush yet softly textured with underlying Christmas spices and savoury red and black berries. An approachable, concentrated style that’s juicy and harmonious without being profound.

(Wine Safari Score: 92-93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine Armand Rousseau Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2018

This opulent red shows plentiful notes of earthy bramble berry fruits, wood spice, grilled herbs, stewed winter fruits together with botanical herbs and incense spices. Supremely polished and elegant, there is a phenomenal core of sweet blue and black fruits, black cherry confit together with energetic acids that are beautifully harmonious and integrated into the concentrated palate fruit. Shows all the gentle, seductive understated Charmes Grand Cru elegance and finesse that this vineyard is so well known for. Very impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 94-96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Domaine Armand Rousseau Chambertin Grand Cru 2018

This grand vin shows distinctive aromatic notes of earthy winter fruits, bramble berries, Christmas pudding and sweet grilled herbs and botanical spices with an undertone of savoury cured meats. The palate is focused and elegant yet power packed and intense with more vibrancy, energy and acid freshness than the aromatics initially suggest. Sweetly fruited with a dreamy creamy palate texture, this wine finishes with a long, lingering persistence of kirsch liquor, macerated black plums and wild strawberries. A hugely impressive wine in its infancy but with a long promising regal future ahead.

(Wine Safari Score: 96-97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The 2015 Chambertin Grand Cru Shoot Out ~ Armand Rousseau v Olivier Bernstein…

It’s not often you get to compare and contrast two Burgundy wines of this stature, tasted on the same day consecutively. Appellation Chambertin Grand Cru, along with Musigny Grand Cru, are among the greatest and most revered Pinot Noir sites in the whole of Burgundy. It is only perhaps the famed Domaine de la Romanee Conti Monopole vineyard of Romanee Conti that commands greater awe and respect. 

So I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to pitch these wines head-to-head and examine what makes them great and what differentiates them. 

Armand Rousseau Chambertin Grand Cru 2015 (Barrel Sample Jan 2017)

Always one of the most anticipated wines of the year to taste, the 2015 Chambertin has a pristine, perfumed bouquet of white citrus blossoms, ginger biscuits, orange peel, red cherry, black forest berries and subtle hints of graphite. A little more exotic ripeness than your average Chambertin vintage, this wine shows plenty of power and depth, but also intensity and classic Rousseau precision, focus and balance. The palate is sleek, sweetly fruited, suave, and slightly precocious. The tight knit layers of blackberry and strawberry fruit slowly open in the glass and gently wrap their arms around you in a firm longing embrace. There is such beautiful intensity and concentration throughout, a peppery, mineral-infused sappy spice and a defined, linear vein of acidity that runs through the wine from start to finish. This is another block buster from the Domaine that will no doubt become a vintage as equally collectable as the greats of 2009 and 2010. (Wine Safari Score: 96-98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Olivier Bernstein Chambertin Grand Cru 2015 (Barrel Sample Jan 2017)

An incredibly bright, inviting ruby red colour. The nose immediately suggests luxury with richness, intensity and purity and takes you on a sensory journey. Sweet black berry, cassis leaf, dusty grey slate, sweet stalky sap and limestone nuances. The palate is rich, seamlessly complete, showing a glossy texture, plenty of power and ample finesse in its unfinished form. But already, the oak and fruit is beautifully integrated, framed by vibrantly fresh acids and a pronounced saline black cassis core. A real revelation tasting this producer’s Chambertin for the first time. There is such polished, caressed shape and focused mineral power that’s dovetailed neatly into a lush, dark fruited, saline finish. Wow, what a gem standing ahead of his other Grand Cru’s. (Wine Safari Score: 97-98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

My conclusions? On the infrequent occasions I get to taste or drink these wines, they always leave you feeling like you have just visited a holy site or touched hallowed ground. At even a modest quality level, these appellations represent a profound expression of Pinot Noir. In the hands of great producers like Rousseau and Bernstein, they have the potential to boggle the mind and palate with their complexity and allure.

While there is nothing to really separate these wines in the potential scores, my money would probably go with the Rousseau track record over the impressively sleek, but subtle gloss of the Bernstein. But I would be splitting hairs! Congratulations to both producers.