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The 2018 Vintage from Jérôme and Lyse Chezeaux

A source of pure, chiseled red Burgundy for us for over 25 years now, Domaine Jérôme Chezeaux is undergoing a particularly exciting phase. While the wines have always been honest and delicious, the last few vintages show a level of finesse and precision which places them squarely into the top ranks of the Côte d’Or’s elite. Furthermore, Jérôme’s daughter Lyse, having completed a series of international internships, has now joined her father full-time, her brightness and enthusiasm adding a wonderful dimension to our visits to the family cellar.

Jérôme’s style is difficult to pin down, and in fact even to call it a “style” suggests a certain presence of ego that is not there. Always fully ripe, his wines nonetheless never display a wisp of flab even in the warmest of vintages; they offer the distinct impression that the grapes were harvested at the most perfect possible moment. They are graceful yet not exactly polite; always thoroughly extracted but never pushed. Jérôme allows the Pinot Noir’s innate silkiness to carry the day, without that “buffed to a shine” impression that occasionally accompanies Burgundies to which the adjective “elegant” is eagerly applied. And, again even in the ripest years, they carry an acidity which is noble and true, never masked by undue richness, and always lending the fruit mouthwatering crunch. 

Certainly, Jérôme’s cellar practices serve to enhance this sense of purity: fully de-stemming his crop; fermenting naturally, with malolactic occurring in barrel; racking only once during the élevage; and employing modest levels of new oak, from 10% on the villages-level wines to 30% for the Vaucrains, Suchots, and Clos de Vougeot. But, as with all great Burgundy, the explanation for their singular character resides in that magical, irreducible interzone of human, land, and process. All in all, Chezeaux’s are wines completely devoid of pretense yet riveting in their precise articulation of site and vintage.

Jérôme and Lyse’s 2018s express the explosive richness of the vintage, but with a house-typical sense of equilibrium and restraint. The growing season brought a quick flowering after a late budbreak, and the much-discussed scorcher of a summer ripened the late-flowering fruit rapidly; Chezeaux began harvesting on September 7th, under clear and extremely warm conditions. His finished 2018s, which weigh in between 13.0 and 13.7% natural alcohol, offer an interesting combination of very red, “pure Pinot Noir” fruit and a solidity of structure—the skins in 2018 were quite thick—which beckons for a bit of patience. As always, there is a stark clarity of site expression among this set of wines in spite of their relative power and concentration, and they remain among the very best values in our entire Burgundy portfolio.

2019 Bourgogne Aligoté
Chezeaux owns a small 0.8-hectare parcel of Aligoté in the village of Premeaux-Prissey. Never one to overemphasize richness in his wines, Jérôme produces an Aligoté of ample cut, its flinty core laced with subtle white-flower accents and bright citrus fruit. Only stainless steel is employed in the vinification and aging of this zesty cuvée.

2019 Bourgogne Blanc
Chezeaux’s Bourgogne Blanc, from a third of a hectare of old vines in Premeaux-Prissey, speaks of its origins in this specific sector of the southern Côte de Nuits in its unusual blend. Comprised of 80% Pinot Blanc and 20% Chardonnay, the grapes are harvested and fermented together, partly in steel and partly in used barrels. Though clearly expressing the underlying limestone, its fruit tends to be more pit-fruit-driven, slightly waxier, and with a whiff of exotic flowers not typically associated with Côte d’Or Chardonnay.

2018 Bourgogne Rouge
Jérôme’s exemplary Bourgogne Rouge comes from a smattering of parcels in Premeaux-Prissey and Nuits-Saint-Georges totaling 2.8 hectares. A wonderful representative of both the house style and the classic character of Nuits-Saint-Georges and environs, it emphasizes fresh, lively fruit buttressed by firm minerality and a dusty spice element. This is a relatively sleek Bourgogne Rouge unencumbered by oak influence, as Chezeaux employs no new barrels in its élevage. 

2018 Vosne-Romanée
Chezeaux owns a half-hectare’s worth of villages-level Vosne-Romanée, spread among three vineyards: Aux Réas, Bossières, and Mezière. His remarkably deft touch allows classically Vosne-Romanée spice and silk notes to shine through brilliantly, with dark, seductive fruit contrasting the gutsier carriage of its Nuits-Saint-Georges cousins.

2018 Nuits-Saint-Georges
Chezeaux’s holdings of villages-level Nuits-Saint-Georges encompass 3.3 hectares spread throughout the appellation, with a significant proportion from the vineyards of Aux Saint Julien and Chaliots. In keeping with the spirit of the underlying terroir, this is wilder in character than the Vosne-Romanée, marked by notes of iron, and with a rambunctious bent to its tannins. Never deficient in fruit, it offers plenty of earth and sous-bois elements as well, all in a driving fashion.

2018 Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Charbonnières – Vieilles Vignes”
With the 2011 vintage, and with our encouragement, Jérôme began separating out his oldest villages-level parcel—a 0.67-hectare holding of 80-year-old vines in Les Charbonnières, situated just below the premier cru Aux Corvées on the slope in the appellation’s southern sector. Boasting true old-vines power, this is always thicker-fruited and more exuberantly spicy than its counterpart above, with greater length. Its lusciousness, however, does nothing to mask the underlying complexity that sets this cuvée apart.

2018 Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru “Les Chaumes”
Les Chaumes lies at the southern edge of Vosne-Romanée, immediately below the hallowed premier crus Aux Malconsorts and La Tache on a vein of limestone and marl. Chezeaux owns four-tenths of a hectare here, producing a wine that marries the exotic spice and succulent fruit of Vosne-Romanée with the mineral force of Nuits-Saint-Georges in ravishing fashion. 

2018 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Aux Boudots”
Always a standout in Chezeaux’s cellar, Aux Boudots is perched at the northern limit of Nuits-Saint-Georges, on the border of Vosne-Romanée. As one might expect given its location, this wine combines classically Nuits-Saint-Georges iron and sous-bois with fruit a bit more caressing and Vosne-Romanée-like than its more southerly situated counterparts. Chezeaux owns a very small 0.34-hectare parcel in this steeply sloping premier cru. 

2018 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Rue de Chaux”
Located almost dead-center in the appellation, Rue de Chaux is perhaps the most quintessentially “Nuits-Saint-Georges” among Chezeaux’s premier crus. Jerome owns a mere 0.29 hectares in this steep, topsoil-deficient vineyard, and his ever-elegant touch yields a wine of both grace and power. Darkly fruited, dense, and slightly brooding, it also offers an enchanting savory-spicy perfume.

2018 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Pruliers”
The smallest-production premier cru in Chezeaux’s cellar, Les Pruliers lies near the border of Nuits-Saint-Georges and Premeaux-Prissey in the southern part of the appellation. Jerome works a mere tenth of a hectare here—a parcel of extremely old vines that produce a wine of warmth and generosity. More full-bodied than the Rue de Chaux above, its fruit is pitched toward the black, and, while not heavy-handed in the slightest, it emphasizes robustness over sleekness.

2018 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Les Vaucrains”
Nuits-Saint-Georges famously possesses no grand cru vineyards, but Les Vaucrains is widely considered one in all but name. Always the most complete of Chezeaux’s premier crus, Vaucrains rumbles with tension—an authoritative wine that exudes an impression of depth and solidity. Here, the fruit, mineral, and savory elements bind together more tightly, more seamlessly. Jérôme owns just over a quarter-hectare of east-facing vines in Vaucrains, and his conservative oak regimen—never more than one-third of the barrels are new—highlights the power of the terroir itself.

2018 Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru “Les Suchots”
With grand crus Romanée-Saint-Vivant and Richebourg right next door, premier cru Les Suchots lies in one of the most elite neighborhoods in the Cote d’Or. Chezeaux owns a third of a hectare here, and this is often the greatest wine in his cellar. A whirlwind of intoxicating Vosne spice ushers in fruit both broad and precise, yet somehow everything remains focused; it’s a tour de force, vintage after vintage.

2018 Clos de Vougeot
Chezeaux owns a 0.17-hectare sliver of this outsized grand cru, in the prime sector just above and next to the castle. From these old vines, Jérôme produces a wine that does justice to the immense power and complexity this site is capable of at its best. Rivetingly wild, gamy, and structured, it presents a forceful, iron-dominated mineral core flanked by dark fruit and shot through with muscular tannins. Always the most impenetrable wine in the cellar in its youth, it demands significant cellaring but pays enormous dividends in time.