When uttered by a Burgundian, the words ‘my uncle used to say…’ often preface interesting insights into times past. In Emmanuel Rouget’s cellar, however, they carry particular weight, for at this address ‘le tonton’ refers to none other than the late Henri Jayer—no matter which generation is speaking.
Burgundy’s most influential twentieth-century vigneron, who passed away in 2006, left his mark on many a Domaine, but it is chez Rouget that the succession is at its most apostolic, the approach in the cellar the closest to Jayer’s own. ‘Toujours cent per cent éraflé, c’est fondamental’, affirms Emmanuel, as he begins to recapitulate his uncle’s philosophy.
My first visit to the Domaine Rouget, tucked away in the village of Flagey, was thus fascinating not only in its own right, but also as an insight into Jayer—a man whose wines I very seldom taste, but who continues to occupy a comanding place in the Burgundian conversation over a decade after his death. And such is Emmanuel’s evident pietas, I don’t think he’d mind my saying so.
As we convened on an April afternoon, we spoke of the frost that ravished Burgundy in 2016. ‘I’ve never seen Echézeaux frosted’, he reflected. ‘My uncle said that even Richebourg froze in 1947, but never Echézeaux. Only the Beaux Monts and Cros Parantoux were untouched. And in fact, the young plants in Cros Parnatoux were frosted too’.
Overall, Emmanuel reported yields some sixty per cent below average but a reasonably sanitary crop. Others were not so fortunate: the oidium which ran riot along much of the Côte in 2016 exceeded even the outbreaks of 2004, he contended; the latter being the worst attack which Henri lived to see.
We were meeting, however, to taste not the 2016s, still finishing their malolactic fermentations, but the 2015s. Emmanuel’s style is dramatic and gourmand, and 2015 was a year which played into his hands—and those of his talented son Guillaume, who has more and more sway in the cellar. At some addresses the combination might have been a recipe for excess, but chez Rouget, the vintage was realized with consummate control.
We found the wines, nearing the end of their élevage, in a moment of extravagance: overflowing with fruit, their textural lavishness concealed a tannic chassis of superb richness and amplitude. Levels of new oak, as usual, are high; but the marriage between wood and wine is well made, signing each wine with its signature, certainly, but far from obscuring distinctions of site.
2015 Emmanuel Rouget Chorey-lès-Beaune Notes of ripe cherry and rich soil, elegantly framed by new oak, introduce a full, supple wine, with lovely amplitude and none of Chorey’s potential structural rusticity. 89/100
2015 Emmanuel Rouget Savigny-lès-Beaune More celestial than its decidedly terrestrial Chorey cousin, the Savigny displays an expressive nose of cherry, strawberry, mingling with top notes of violet; silky, supple tannins frame a juicy, gourmand palate. Une gourmandise! 91/100
2015 Emmanuel Rouget Côte de Nuits Village From vines in Corgoloin, this opens with a pure bouquet, echoing the Chorey but less wild; on the palate, more powerful and four-square than the Savigny, its tannins fine but its body decidedly full. No new wood. 88/100
2015 Emmanuel Rouget Nuits-Saint-Georges It was with the 1996 rendition of this cuvée, abundantly represented in my college cellar, that my acquaintance with Rouget’s wines began. Raised in 100% new wood, this was more masculine and firm than the preceding wines; still rich and generous but needing more time to reveal itself and its bouquet. 90+/100
2015 Emmanuel Rouget Vosne-Romanée Emblematic Rouget, with a decadent bouquet of creamy raspberry and spice; supple, ripe but fresh, framed by fine but firm tannins, some of them surely barrel derived. Pure pleasure. 92/100
2015 Emmanuel Rouget Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Les Beaumonts An expressive, alluring nose of wood smoke, wild black fruit and violets, already integrating with lots of high quality new oak; a chassis of fine and enrobed tannins which will probably assert itself after bottling but which is the background today; until, that is, the finish, which hints at things to come. From seventy-year-old vines, with a finished alcohol of 14.2 %. 94/100
2015 Emmanuel Rouget Echézeaux Grand Cru Notes of ripe red fruit, bonfire and sweet, rich soil are the prelude to a rich, powerful wine; firmer and more masculine than the Beaumonts but similar in that the iron fist within the velvet glove only makes its presence felt on the back end. Good freshness despite the power and amplitude. 14% alcohol. 95/100
2015 Emmanuel Rouget Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru Cros Parantoux A superb 2015, bursting with spice and cool red-black fruit, its wood already well integrated; gourmand, textural and fine-grained, with savory depth at the core, but underpinned by a bright line of acidity that lends length and grace. The Cros Parantoux doesn’t always surpass the Echézeaux, but this year it does. 96/100