Jérôme Castagnier at Domaine Jérôme Castagnier in Morey-Saint-Denis.

érôme Castagnier in Morey-Saint-Denis is convinced. His village is the best of both worlds. The best of Chambolle-Musigny and the best of Gevrey-Chambertin.

– No matter which book on Burgundy you pick up, it always says that Morey has the finesse and elegance of Chambolle, and the structure and character of Gevrey. What they are saying is that Chambolle lacks a bit of structure and Gevrey a bit of finesse. In other words, Morey must be the best, he says with a big smile.

Clos de la Roche, Morey-Saint-Denis, Burgundy.Being squeezed in between Chambolle-Musigny and Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis has always been compared with its neighbours. Despite having four grand crus of its own, and sharing Bonnes Mares with Chambolle-Musigny, the village has found itself in a situation where the other villages tend to steal the show.

Then again, Domaine Jérôme Castagnier is an extremely grand cru heavy estate. In terms of surface area it is below average. Just four hectares. But half of the domaine is grand cru, and this is also one of the few to have both Clos de la Roche and Clos Saint Denis.

Morey-Saint-Denis, Burgundy.– I’m the fifth or sixth largest owner of grand cru in Morey-Saint-Denis, says Jérôme Castagnier. But when it comes to village appellation Morey-Saint-Denis I’m the smallest. All I have is two rows of vines. That’s one barrel of wine.

Because of this, the very limited quantity of village Morey-Saint-Denis, it all goes into the Bourgogne rouge cuvée, making it a very luxurious regional appellation wine with 25 per cent of village Morey-Saint-Denis in it.

Growing up in Morey-Saint-Denis becoming a winegrower and taking on the family domaine was not the obvious choice for Jérôme Castagnier. Instead he picked up the trumpet and chose a career in music. After studies at the Conservatory in Dijon and the Conservatory in Paris he landed a job in the French Republican Guard Band, working at the Élysée Palace under both Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy.

In 2004, at the age of 26, he felt it was time to decide whether to continue the career in music or to uphold the family tradition. He chose the latter and returned to Morey-Saint-Denis, thus becoming the fifth generation in his family running the domaine.

Clos de la Roche, Morey-Saint-Denis, Burgundy.– I returned to Morey-Saint-Denis. Went to wine school in Beaune. And I’m very happy today. My first real vintage was 2005. That’s the only vintage at Domaine Castagnier where three generations worked together. It was my grandfather's last vintage, my father's 30th and my first.

– Annually I produce between 40 000 and 50 000 bottles, depending on the year. There are 15 different wines at the domaine. In 2007 I set up a négociacteurs business where I buy grapes or juice from other growers. The domaine wines account for 75 per cent of the production. When I buy I go for the magnificent appellations like Le Cailleret and Les Pucelles in Puligny-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Corton-Charlemagne, Bonnes Mares and Clos de Bèze. I’m not looking for quantity. I’m looking for quality.

Clos Saint Denis, Morey-Saint-Denis, Burgundy.The average age of the vines is generally high at Domaine Jérôme Castagnier. Both the village appellation Chambolle-Musigny and the Bourgogne Aligoté were planted in 1921. Even the Bourgogne Passe-tout-grains and the Coteaux Bourguignons are of respectable age.

– The Passe-tout-grains is one single parcel, says Jérôme Castagnier. One single terroir, with one third gamay and two thirds pinot noir. The beginning of the rows is planted with gamay. If well-made, a simple Passe-tout-grains or a Coteaux Bourguignons can be very good.

The Chambolle-Musigny is one single parcel in Aux Echanges, just outside the village. Aux Echanges is split in two, with one part in village appellation, where you’ll find the parcel of Domaine Jérôme Castagnier, and one part in premier cru.

Charmes-Chambertin, Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy.– Aux Echanges is an interesting parcel, says Jérôme Castagnier. It’s surrounded by premier crus. It’s clay, but with a bit of limestone. So you have some minerality the wine.

– The village appellation Gevrey-Chambertin has more structure, he continues. Sometimes I find it too heavy. It’s from Les Seuvrées, just along the route nationale on the Morey-Saint-Denis side of Gevrey-Chambertin. For some reason all Morey producers who have village Gevrey-Chambertin have their vines in Les Seuvrées. There is Laurent Lignier, Taupenot, Magnien, Perrot-Minot and Groffier.

Another tiny parcel is the Morey-Saint-Denis premier cru Aux Cheseaux. 0.19 hectare is all there is for Jérôme Castagnier. The rest of this premier cru is shared between Domaine Arlaud and Domaine Lignier-Michelot. The parcel of Domaine Jérôme Castagnier is right next to Domaine Hubert Lignier’s parcel of Charmes-Chambertin.

Jérôme Castagnier at Domaine Jérôme Castagnier in Morey-Saint-Denis.– The distance between the last row in Morey-Saint-Denis and Charmes-Chambertin is just ten metres, explain Jérôme Castagnier. My parcel in Charmes-Chambertin was planted 65 years ago. It always produces very nice bunches, like the pinot noir bunches you see in books.

– In general at the domaine I use whole bunches depending on the vintage, but not as an end in itself. I use it if I think it will add something. If it has been a year with difficult weather conditions I don’t use whole bunches. There was frost in 2016 so I de-stemmed 100 per cent. In 2017 we had hail in Morey-Saint-Denis so I didn’t use any whole bunches. In 2015 I used 40 per cent.

At tastings Jérôme Castagnier prefers to have Clos de la Roche before Clos Saint Denis. The two grand crus sit side by side on the slope to the immediate north of Morey-Saint-Denis.

Clos Saint Denis, Morey-Saint-Denis, Burgundy.– I used to put Clos Saint Denis first, he says. Because it is more silky and elegant. But Clos de la Roche is a more straightforward wine, more accessible when young, so I let them switch places. Clos de la Roche is a warm, round wine. You get the impression that both the temperature and the alcohol degree are slightly higher.

– There is lots of limestone in the Clos de la Roche. There is just five centimetres of soil and there are parts which are impossible to plant. It’s a powerful wine, with lots of red fruits and the typical white pepper aromas. This is the largest parcel of the domaine – 0.60 ha – and like in Charmes-Chambertin the vines are more than 60 years old.

Further down the Côte, in the Clos de Vougeot, Jérôme Castagnier owns the southwestern corner. He describes this as the most complex wine of his grand crus.

– It’s in the Grand Maupertuis section of the Clos de Vougeot. I’m up there together with Anne Gros, Thibault Liger-Belair and Méo-Camuzet. On the other side of the wall you have Grands Echézeaux.

– When it comes to the Clos de Vougeot you often talk about the bottom, the middle and the top as way of describing the quality. It’s simple, but not the best way of doing it. Arnaud Mortet has the ”worst” part of the clos at the bottom, but it is a super wine. Instead, if you look at the whole clos it is shaped like wave, which produces two different styles. On the Vosne-Romanée side you have lots of complexity, structure and flowers. Then you have Château de la Tour, which I love and who uses whole bunches, but it is not the same style at all. It is more Musigny in style. You have elegance and finesse, but perhaps less structure.

© 2019 Ola Bergman