Domaine Trapet-Rochelandet - eco-conscious wines of Gevrey-Chambertin
Updated: May 22
Gevrey-Chambertin is one of the oldest winegrowing sites in Burgundy. Or, maybe, the oldest, as the presence of a Gallo-Roman vineyard dated back to 1st century was confirmed in Gevrey-Chambertin. So what do you do when a site has been developing viticulture for over 2000 years? You find new blood! And I found a winery that started selling wine under their own label just 5 vintages ago. So let's traditionally talk about some history and geography of the appellation and then switch to Domaine Trapet-Rochelandet.
Gevrey-Chambertin Appellation - all you need to know before drinking
Burgundian Law granted ownership of land to anyone who planted vines on uncultivated land.
Until the 6th century vineyards were planted on the plains at the Gallo-Roman villas. After the 6th century the 'migration' of vineyards started as Burgundian Law granted ownership of land to anyone who planted vines on uncultivated land. This is the reason of abundance of Clos* in Gevrey-Chambertin - people wanted to show ownership or protect their vines from animals. Other than that, monks were always surrounding their vineyards with walls, and you know well that they were the most important drivers of the viticulture in Burgundy.
*Clos - vineyard surrounded by stone walls
Gevrey or Chambertin? Or Gevrey-Chambertin?
An important trend was set in 1847 in Burgundy. King Louis Philippe I allowed to rename the village of Gevrey to Gevrey-Chambertin.
Reason behind - prestige, as they already knew how valuable the wines that come from Chambertin climat were.
Chambolle-Musigny, Vosne-Romanée and Morey-Saint-Denis followed the example shortly.
it was proved that terroir-based viticulture exists here for the last 2000 years
2000 Years of Terroir Awareness
Was it a god blessing or something in the air, we don't know. But the fact of terroir-based viticulture is proven to exist here for the last 2000 years. So since the very beginning of grapevine cultivation in Burgundy. People always aimed to link the origin of their wine to a specific geographical area, each wine was presented according to its' origin. This way more than 1000 climats* were born in Burgundy.
*Climat - in Burgundy, climat is a specific winegrowing site with its´own microclimate, geological characteristics, living organisms. Climats were marked out during centuries and kept their historical names, each produces wine of a distinct character. While it might seem a term very similar to terroir, terroir is a broader concept. Climat as a term is usually kept for Premier and Grand Cru sites, while terroir can be related to any vineyard in Village or Regional appellation.
Types of Soil in Gevrey-Chambertin
Imagine a mille-feuille - this is exactly how soil looks within the best climats of Burgundy, and, especially, in Côte de Nuits. We can distinguish three very different terroirs in Gevrey-Chambertin:
The first zone is right under the Combe Lavaux Natural Reserve. The soil here is very shallow from 30 m (at the top) to 60 m (at the bottom). It contains marl and limestone from mid Jurassic period.
The most 'crowded' zone is where 50% of the vineyards are located. Soils are 20 000 years old, formed after the last Ice Age. It's a light and well-drained soil, rich in Alluvial clay and pebble, as it was deposited by rivers and streams.
And the third zone is where the majority of Grand Crus are found - from the edge of the Combe Lavaux to the border with Morey-Saint-Denis. Lots of limestone, marl, clayey limestone subsoil, covered by shallow soil rich in limestone.
As you can see, even this very generic overview brings light to endless combination of micro-climates, soils, exposure, altitude... Gevrey-Chambertin is one of the largest appellations in Côte d'Or (over 500 ha), it's all planted with one variety - Pinot Noir, but the expressions of terroir and diversity of wines are endless.
Domaine Trapet-Rochelandet - Young Venture from a Historical Appellation
Domaine Trapet-Rochelandet is the fresh air of Gevrey-Chambertin. They started selling their wine, bottled under their own domaine name just 5 years ago. Today, Laurent Rochelandet leads the estate of 6,5 ha - part of the vineyards were the former Domaine François Trapet, other part - belonged to Laurent's mother. I met all the trio - Laurent, his wife and mother.
When I arrived the ladies were very busy at the cellar with visitors and tastings, although in harvest time they do come out to the field. Everyone gets secateurs here! That's why secateurs is on this family-estate's label.
Laurent's mother was pushing for bottling at the estate for long time. Before Laurent's father was selling bulk wine or directly grapes to merchants. The family was really close to establishing their own domaine and selling wines under their label before 2010, however, Laurent's father sickness put on pause most of the initiatives.
2013 was the year of changes for the family - large scale bottling begun, even though they weren't completely ready to face the workflow. Consistency in production was missing and the last 5 years were dedicated to setting their standards. Simple things that were crucial to set:
Who's going to harvest? Seasonal workers didn't prove to be reliable as once you noticed that grapes are mature you must harvest immediately. Currently the domaine collaborates with a third-party company that always has available harvest workers.
Oak or stainless steel? They prefer to avoid new oak and mature their wines either in stainless steel (like Vieilles Vignes) or in 1-2 years old barrels (La Petit Chapelle).
Customers... Anne (Laurent's wife) told me that it will take them another 10 years to switch purely to selling 100% of their wine under their own label, once they establish long-term relationships with customers. Currently, half of their Ruchottes-Chambertin Grand Cru (so 2 barrels out of 4) is sold in bulk to merchants.
Wines of Domaine Trapet-Rochelandet
Les Champs Chenys - a long parcel that stretches from village to Grand Cru appellation, right next to Charmes. Mainly black fruit character here, blackcurrant and lots of mineral notes with a long finish.
Vieilles Vignes - a blend of 4 parcels - Platieres, Murots, Croix des Champs, Creux Brouillard. All of them are located across the route nationale (see rout D974 on the map below), so no Grand or Premier Cru nearby. Average age of the vines is 40 years.
Obviously, this is not the most complex Gevrey-Chambertin, it's on flat land. Laurent decided to vinify it only in tank, focusing on natural freshness, crisp fruits, fine tannins and gentle expression of Gevrey character.
Premier Cru Bel-Air has a restrained character, it's one of the few Premier Crus at the top of the slope. You can feel that the wine comes from a cooler place, grapes ripen later as they're right next to the forest. As a result a very stony, sharp wine.
Premier Cru La Petite Chapelle is very different. Located right next to Chapelle Grand Cru, it's a charming and elegant wine with lots of fine roundness. A wine that feels comfortable in mouth, you want to drink more of it.
they don't do wine assembly, even if it's a Village wine, don't add yeasts or enzymes
Domaine Trapet-Rochelandet are now at the final stage of gaining the High Environmental Value certification. It's a French organisation that aims to encourage vignerons to focus on biodiversity of their vineyards. It means that they count their bugs, control the vegetation, plough and act only when the vine requires that.
They don't use any additives - yeast, enzyme, tannin, oak chips and follow the old rules of winemaking, even though being a young winery. Personally for me, the most important fact was that they don't do wine assembly, even if it's a Village wine. Thus all the terroir expression is kept.
The domaine participates in the wine bottle recovery program initiated by General Council of Cote d'Or. The aim is to reuse the old bottles, rather than producing new ones.