The largest Chambertin satellite, this 71.6-acre vineyard is nearly twice the size of Chambertin itself. In addition, its 12,500-case annual production is well over twice the size of Chambertin's own production. In addition to its own vineyards, Charmes wines are often sourced from the adjacent Mazoyères-Chambertin, which has made the Mazoyères appellation itself fairly obscure due to a dearth of producers willing to label their wines this way. The reason is that despite the size of the growing area and amount of producers, Charmes-Chambertin labeled wine is generally of a very high quality.
For those who prefer its delicate, riper style, the Charmes-Chambertin appellation can also offer fairly competitive prices due to the large number of producers and general size of the appellation. Several absolutely leading wines can be had for under $200, which is a bargain by Côte de Nuits standards.
Charmes-Chambertin's history is not nearly as rich as those of Chambertin or Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. In 1937, when appellation systems were drawn up, the decision was made to group the very similar Mazoyères wines with the Charmes vineyard's own Charmes cuvées, and as a result the Mazoyères appellation has been driven into obscurity.
Charmes producers have upped the quality ante lately, especially a tight number of outstanding cuvées, and effectively caught up to Chambertin and Chambertin-Clos de Bèze in many ways. Even the grandest cuvées still show less depth and complexity, without that almost Bordeaux-like layered style, but are firmly worthy of Grand Cru level.
Climate and Viticulture
Located on a hillside, the Charmes-Chambertin vineyard is optimally placed for wine-growing, and is among those classic Burgundy terroirs that just has to be recognized as Grand Cru. Many of the best sites have outstanding layers of clay and limestone deposits that make for finely concentrated and structured wine. The size of the appellation means that there are some lagging parts, but few if any are unworthy of Grand Cru status.
- Pinot Noir: Except for the very rare blending of up to 15% Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris into the wine, Pinot Noir is king in this Grand Cru. The outstanding wine generally takes on similar characteristics as Chambertins typically do, but usually shows a little more finesse and perfume in addition to its intensely structured character. Flavors of red or sometimes dark fruit, licorice and mint, minerals, meat, and exotic tinges brought on by the oak load up the palate. They generally are layered in a flamboyant style with a silky, velvety texture, making for a phenomenally aromatic wine. This could be considered a feminine style, but the underlying structure is there to make the best wines truly Grand Cru level. With a few exceptions, they will be accessible early on, perhaps at 6-8 years even, but few would suffer from 10-15 years of aging.
Charmes-Chambertin has a huge number of producers, likely more now than any other Gevrey-Chambertin Grand Cru, and as such the quality is surprisingly high. As for prices, most wines are over $100, but they generally are much lower-priced than those of Chambertin and Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. As a result, many of these are good relative values considering the complexity and ageability they undoubtedly offer.
Here are 10 producers that lead the Charmes-Chambertin appellation, producing wine not only of fabulous quality but that is widely distributed outside France.
- Domaine Denis Bachelet: The old-vine cuvée from here is not as commendable as the young-vine one, which offers outstanding quality—rich, silky wine in an essentially feminine style, offering flavors of black fruits, violet, game and coffee. An almost soil-driven wine, this displays very little fruit flavor but has a lot of earth components, which add up to create a very compelling style. Age for 15 years or more.
- Domaine Claude Dugat: An opulent, grandiose wine, in a style that seems to completely defy the "Chambertin" style itself and is one of the defining wines for Charmes-Chambertin's own very different style. An extremely complex flavor set reveals dark berries, minerals, and coffee with a distinctive earthy component, in an almost roasted-ripe character that manages to avoid femininity. Although deep and rich, it still manages to maintain amazing vibrancy. Age it for 20 years to make it worth the $400-$500 price tag.
- Domaine Dugat Py: A similar wine to Claude Dugat's. Black fruit, flowers, and intense minerals make up most of the flavors, but a spice note can make it a little more interesting. Most of the time, this will be a vibrant and energetic wine, but in vintages such as 2005 even this cuvée has thuddingly powerful tannins and requires a long cellar time. Prices are $350-$450 but for the stellar 2005, which is over $500 at most places of purchase.
- Girardin: A consistent cuvée from négociant Vincent Girardin. An essentially sweet and upfront style, it emphasizes the feminine side of Charmes-Chambertin with a constant silky texture and vibrant flavors. Red and black fruits mingle along with flower notes and game, but there's an earthy-spicy characteristic present as well to make the wine more interesting.
- Dominique Laurent: This cuvée, from one of the most ever-present domaines in the Côte de Nuits, comes in both a young-vine and an old-vine form. The young-vine is itself great, with flavors of red and black fruits, coffee, and metallic-mineral notions spiced up by an earthy character. In recent vintages, though, the old-vine example has been even better, showing great sweetness but more complexity and character than the other cuvée. Both of them can age but are also drinkable young.
- Domaine Perrot Minot: The young-vine version is deceptively light, but it offers dry, almost harshly textured black fruit flavors, along with strong mineral notes and an almost unctuous texture. The aging time should be about 10-20 years. The old-vine example is much sweeter and creamier, with more flowery and spicy flavors to go along with its very different texture. This one is accessible earlier on.
- Lucien Le Moine: Another solid négociant cuvée. Red fruit, spice and flowers give this a Chambolle-like essence, but in addition there's a rich earthy component which gives away the village. The finishing tannins are not overpowering but certainly present, so this one will very often need 10 years or more.
- Domaine Geantet Pansiot: For decades this has been one of the top Charmes-Chambertin cuvées, and although it does need time it may well be the best after the right amount of aging. Early on, the ripe flavors of black fruits, red fruits, spice, smoke, and earth tinges often seem a bit raw, but there's so much underlying richness that they become seamless after the right amount of aging. A bottle will often cost less than $150, which is very low for Grand Cru non-négociant wine.
- Domaine Joseph Roty: The vines here, which have now reached 125 years old, make for probably the best Charmes-Chambertin cuvée. Labeled as tres vieilles vignes (very old vines), these concoctions combine power and finesse in a way that only a fabulous Burgundian Grand Cru is capable of. In addition, they provide an aura of exclusivity that most Charmes wines do not have. The style is rich and liqueur-like, with flavors of black fruit, licorice, leathery-gamey notes, spice, and a wild earth component that starts on the nose, continues through the palate, and makes for a ferocious finish. Although liqueur-like in its ripeness and richness, this cuvée is anything but vibrant in its first few years of age, instead showing that firm old-vine structure. Ageable for at least 10 years and perhaps over 25, it is collectible at $200.
- Domaine Christian Serafin: The wild flavors are headed up by black raspberry and cherry, along with secondary notes of chocolate and flowers, all overhung by a somewhat smoky character. There are very few earthy characteristics, making this a more lush and aristocratic style. Still, this silky wine has plenty of tannins that make for a long, aromatic finish. Prices start in the $200 range.
Charmes-Chambertin is physically adjacent to the Grand Cru of Mazoyères-Chambertin, and the wine style is so similar that most Mazoyères takes on the Charmes name. Most bottles do not inform the customers of this, as the vineyard qualities are roughly equal.