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One Vision: The Rousseau Symposium (Part 2)

by Guy Ruston (Managing Director Asia Pacific)

One man
one goal
one mission

There are few estates more celebrated, loved and respected around the world than Domaine Armand Rousseau, through four generations their track record of making consistently world class wines is unparalleled. Following on from last month’s Chambertin vertical ( the Rousseau Think Tank gathered again, racking up some more air miles, this time to pay homage to the Clan Rousseau with a vertical of their Chambertin Clos de Beze. In the words of Steen Öhman (a.k.a Wine Hog) “Chambertin or Clos de Bèze? .. a relevant question .. however the reply is fairly simple – both please!”

One heart one soul just one solution,
One flash of light yeah one god one vision

The Vineyard

Chambertin Clos de Beze pre-dates Chambertin. Indeed one must go back to the year 630 when the then Duke of Lower Burgundy gave this 15ha piece of land to the monks of the Abbey of Beze. Enclosed by an old stone wall, the monks decided to plant some vines here, and what a master stroke that turned out to be! Fast forward 1330-odd years and Domaine Armand Rousseau made their first acquisition of these historical vines; but one could argue that it was Armand’s son Charles, one of Burgundy’s great visionaries, who mastered this historic terroir.

More vines in Clos des Beze were acquired in 1989 and lastly in 1992 when, in a deal with Marion, owner of precious vines in the Clos since 1855, Charles and Eric Rousseau effectively doubled the domaine’s holdings to roughly 1.4ha. Of the 16 owners of vines in Clos de Beze, no one knows this terroir better or achieves more breathtaking results than the Rousseaus.  As I say, it was really Charles’ vision for what could be achieved from this particular piece of Gevrey that set the blue print for what is today one of Burgundy’s most thrilling of Grand Crus.

The Tasting

And so to the wines: 16dangerously moreish vintages of Clos de Beze…

Stunning colour, a lovely rusty/amber with a really pretty red hue. All rose petal and sweet red currants on the nose, later unfurling into forest floor and a hint of coffee. Plenty of body on the palate with a gorgeous tarry quality. More than alive and kicking, this ’78 is refusing to go quietly into its ‘40s.


Again a beautiful colour, so much clarity. The benefit of having had a good 3 weeks standing up prior to this dinner. A little more rusticity and sous-bois than the ’78 but by no means any less sweet and juicy and ready to party. 39 is the new 29! What a start to the evening.


Classic with a capital ‘C’. An intense and brooding nose, so much depth here but again those affable sweet red fruit notes hum from the glass. The palate is absolutely dazzling, with spicy raisin-cake notes weaving in and out of a generous helping of hedonistic red summer fruits. The length is insane.


A little softer in appearance with a tea-like cloudiness. The nose is a fully mature Clos de Beze, lots of truffley notes and just a hint of white chocolate. Soft and velvety on the palate with a really seductive roundness to it. Lacking the energy of the ’85 but do not write this ’88 off as the finish is sublime with a strawberry-edged pang of sweet fruits.


A lot more reserved than the ’85 or ’89 with a cool fruit character to it. This is definitely a Clos de Beze in a cocktail dress rather than the summer frock style of the ’85 or ’88. With time in the glass some floral and mineral notes come to the fore. There is a real grip to this ’89, with definite Pu’er-like tannins. Just when I think I’ve started to figure out what Clos de Beze is all about a bottle like this comes along. Fascinating.


And just when you think you’re driving with a 5 speed gearbox, it turns out there’s a whole other gear. Everything is dialed up a notch on this 1990.  Super ripe and concentrated on the nose with the most exotic and hedonistic of palates. Like a ball pit full of Japanese strawberries, this 1990 is a great big glass of mad, care-free abandonment.  


Fresh, crunchy, red apple-like nose. Really quite floral, with a variety of spiced fruit. Less richness than the 1990 but with the most arresting intensity and raciness. This is a very refined, magisterial Clos de Beze; that Japanese strawberry is there but they have been shipped in from the Imperial Palace and waltz across one’s palate. A stunning contrast to the 1990.


Dare I say a hypothetical blend of the ’90 and ’91? There is a beguiling directness to this ’93; sweet, spicy and exotic but totally precise. So much energy. Lovely roasted Oolong-like notes and ripe cherries. Again, the length is something quite special indeed.   


Three breathtaking vintages of Clos de Beze in a row is an unenviable act to follow but this ’96 has a few tricks up its sleeve. Gorgeous tea-smoked red currants welcome you on the nose with a tarriness (is that a word? Who cares) reminiscent of the ’78. It lacks the fireworks on the finish of the aforementioned trio but owners of this ’96 should be very pleased with themselves.


The magical gearbox continues as somehow Rousseau takes us up another level. Wow! The 1990s were their decade. Serious, intense and linear at first and with time in the glass this fans out like a peacock’s tail. So seductive and still on the up as the plump, up-front fruit is held firmly together by the silkiest of tannins. Chapeau M. Rousseau, chapeau.


This is a lot more ‘ready’ than the ’02 Chambertin of a few weeks ago. Real purity to the nose with exquisite balance between richness and freshness on the palate. The femininity of the Clos de Beze vs Chambertin is exemplified really well in this vintage. This has plenty of years ahead of it, exciting years I’m sure. With time in the glass beautiful dried flowers and herbs join to the party. Bon vin.   


I’m sure my effusiveness and hyperbole is getting tiresome now but these wines are just that good. As statuesque as the 2005 Chambertin a few weeks ago, with just as much potential, this is an incredibly seamless specimen. A little more cherry-laden rather than strawberry on the nose, with enticing cool-fruit purity. It’s all high cheek boned couture on the palate. Self-assured, almost aloof in Parisian-cool kind of way. This is a vintage where those who can, will move mountains to acquire and discover. Simply brilliant.


So pretty on the nose. While lacking the power and sheer mass of the ’05 or ’99, this is a Clos de Beze out to charm, and charm you it will. Ripe but with a fresh minerality and a lovely crunch to the tannins. Maybe a young 2000? While it won’t be one of the more cerebral vintages it will be one that will put a smile on your face.


Quite restrained and reserved at first which is surprising given how hedonistic the ’09 Chambertin was. The ripe, supple ’09 texture is there with a velveteen mouthfeel. Even with time in the glass the nose is still a little reticent but boy is the buxom, shapeliness of this vintage fantastic.


In total contrast, we were all expecting the 2010 to be shy and serious, but it wants to party. Stacked and packed with layers of succulently spiced berries and red currant. Powerful, almost swaggering but with real elegance, this 2010 is outrageously good. Not the best wine tonight but might well become one of their best ever.


Like the ’09, this is a little more reserved than its Chambertin counterpart. Darkly intense, almost brambly nose. Really well framed with smooth tannins that one imagines will melt into the fruit quite deliciously. There’s a bit of Bondi Beach about this 2013 but it’s packing some factor 50 just in case.

My huge thanks once again to the ‘Rousseau Think Tank’ for another once-in-a-lifetime lineup and special evening. The beaming smiles, before, during and after the dinner said it all. Like the Chambertin vertical, this lineup once again demonstrates the remarkable consistency Chez Rousseau. All of the bottles were faultless and had something exciting to say about this exciting vineyard. This dinner will love long in the memory.

Having followed COVID-19 Government advice, we have temporarily closed our London office until further notice, we are however operating as normal. Click here to read more