The 2016 Vintage at Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy: Energy, Transparency, Balance

Posted on Posted in Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy, RWM Contributor

It has been a joy to witness the slow and careful passing of the torch from Gérard Harmand to his son Philippe at Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy over the past decade. The Harmand family has tended land in Gevrey-Chambertin since the late 19th century, and over the years they amassed nine hectares of Pinot Noir—all within the confines of Gevrey, and encompassing an impressive and varied range of parcels throughout the village. Over our nearly twenty years of partnership, we have seen gradual but marked improvements in the wines’ clarity and expressiveness, as this father-and-son team coaxes new depths from their tremendous holdings with each passing vintage. Gérard and Philippe farm without chemicals or synthetic treatments, working the soil to bring life and to promote root development. Their fruit, always manually harvested, is carefully sorted and entirely de-stemmed; alcoholic fermentation occurs spontaneously and takes place in stainless steel; and the wines are racked once during a 16-month barrel élévage and are moved solely by gravity, thereby preserving the fruit’s inherent energy and purity. The wines today express the classic meat-and-mineral core of Gevrey-Chambertin with a combination of robust power and marked clarity, and the widely varying terroirs are always well-differentiated even in the richest of vintages. The sizable majority of Harmand-Geoffroy’s holdings are between 55 and 95 years of age, and the wines offer a wonderful concentration commensurate with these extremely old, low-yielding vines.

The notorious late-April frost of 2016 did not entirely spare the Harmand family, although damages in Gevrey-Chambertin were less extreme than in other parts of the Côte, and the domaine ended up suffering an overall 30% reduction in crop. Summer was warm and generous overall, though mercifully without the worrisome spikes or stretches of extreme heat that have marked vintages more regularly here in the post-climate-change era. Gérard and Philippe began harvest on the 24th of September under excellent conditions, and they produced a lineup that embodies the best characteristics of this unique growing season. Harmand-Geoffroy’s wines always display an unapologetically meaty, old-school sensibility—it is a big part of what we adore about them—but that classicism is wed to an impeccable sense of tension and energy in these 2016s, which deliver both power and finesse and are even more transparent to their underlying terroirs than usual.

2016 Bourgogne Rouge “La Nouroy”
As prices for Côte d’Or red Burgundy climb ever upward, examples of Bourgogne like Harmand-Geoffroy’s become increasingly valuable as teaching tools and as entryways to the region. Harmand’s quarter-hectare parcel in La Nouroy sits right up against villages-level Gevrey-Chambertin, just north of the lieu-dit Champ Franc. This 2016, aged entirely in second- and third-passage barrels, offers robust, dark fruits that scream “Gevrey-Chambertin,” with plush tannins and plenty of spice—a great encapsulation of the house style.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin
Harmand’s Gevrey-Chambertin, produced from four hectares worth of holdings scattered throughout the appellation, boasts a vine age of up to 80 years. These old vines make themselves known in the 2016’s thick, assertive entry and sappy depth of fruit, but the minerality here is notable and precise nonetheless, with more obvious cut than the massively built 2015. The wine has all but swallowed its 20% new oak even at this relatively early stage.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin “En Jouise”
En Jouise is situated just about dead-center in the appellation, downslope from the village itself and adjacent to Clos Prieur (see below). The Harmands exploit a solid hectare here, and the wine they obtain from their 60 to 80-year-old vines is always a standout in the cellar. Higher-toned than the Gevrey-Chambertin above, the 2016 is a strikingly elegant vintage for this cuvée, showing excellent precision and an appealing sense of restraint. 30% new oak.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin “Clos Prieur”
Clos Prieur is one of those especially confusing Côte d’Or vineyards: the upper part of it is classified as premier cru (and sits just underneath Mazis-Chambertin on the slope), and the lower part is classified as villages. Harmand-Geoffroy’s half-hectare parcel here actually straddles the boundary, with two-thirds of it in premier-cru territory and one-third in villages. Rather than produce two separate cuvées from this single contiguous holding, they make one wine—a villages in classification but a premier cru in personality. Brooding minerality carries the 2016 at this young stage, which offers a palate of rigorous tension but significantly less generosity than the preceding wines for the moment. 40% new oak.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin “Vieilles Vignes”
This standout cuvée is a blend of holdings in three different lieux-dits: Champerrier, Combe du Dessus, and En Champs—which sit just below the great premier cru Les Champeaux (see below). Harmand’s 55- to 85-year-old vines here imbue the wine with a notable sappiness and an extra wallop of classic Gevrey meatiness, and the fact that the family always serves it as the last of the villages wines speaks to its powerful personality. This 2016, while undeniably dense, displays a vintage-derived precision in keeping with the wines above. 30% new oak.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “La Perrière”
Premier cru La Perrière is nestled just below grand cru Mazis-Chambertin on the slope, immediately north of the premier-cru section of Clos Prieur. The family owns a third of a hectare of 50-year-old vines here, which typically yield a chiseled wine of great finesse. This 2016 offers bright red fruits and assertive spices on the nose, with remarkably silky tannins and a gentle mineral-inflected cling on the focused, lengthy finish. A few years of patience will help the wine absorb its 40% new wood, which marks it slightly at the moment.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “La Bossière – Monopole”
A unique wine in the domaine’s arsenal, La Bossière is a 0.45-hectare premier cru—the smallest premier cru in Gevrey—situated at the very top of the Combe de Lavaux, and owned entirely by the Harmand family. At this extreme part of the slope, nearly nonexistent topsoil and a cooler average temperature produce sleek wines of drive and focus. The 2016 is bristling with energy, with a direct and driving personality built on spice and minerality rather than fruit richness, though it certainly does not lack for power. 40% new oak.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Champeaux”
Les Champeaux rests at the northernmost limit of Gevrey-Chambertin, high up on the hard and thin-soiled bedrock of the Combe de Lavaux. In an appellation of so many outstanding crus, Champeaux yields among the very best and most striking wines. The Harmands exploit a small 0.2-hectare plot here, and their 85-year-old vines always produce one of the highlights of their cellar. This 2016 is a bit more backward for the moment than the preceding wines (as befits the terroir), and its palate is a tug-of-war between warm, deep minerality and intensely concentrated dark-red fruits, promising many years of positive evolution. 50% new oak.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Lavaux Saint Jacques”
Nestled in the heart of the Combe de Lavaux, Lavaux Saint Jacques is one of the more famous and coveted sites in the appellation, and for good reason: it encompasses a range of seemingly at-odds characteristics with ease, and many consider it a grand cru in all but name. The Harmand family is fortunate to own three-quarters of a hectare here, with vines between 45 and 95 years of age. This 2016 approaches the “Champeaux” in mineral intensity, but with a far blacker-fruited and gamier personality, and a spiciness a bit wilder and less refined. This brooding powerhouse will need time to reveal its inner layers, but an underlying sense of freshness suggests a harmonious future. 50% new oak.

2016 Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru
Harmand-Geoffroy exploits over three-quarters of a hectare in this great vineyard that lies just north of Clos de Bèze and just below Ruchottes-Chambertin on the prime fillet of Gevrey-Chambertin’s swath of grand crus. Produced from vines between 45 and 75 years of age, the Mazis-Chambertin is typically the firmest and most youthfully reticent wine in the cellar. In spite of its massive core of material, however, this 2016 displays the inherent energy of the vintage in spades, and in fact it is no more backwards than the “Lavaux Saint Jacques” or “Champeaux” at this stage. 80% new oak.

The blue dots on the map below denote Domaine Harmand-Geoffroy’s holdings. (click to enlarge)

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