Sylvie Esmonin at Domaine Sylvie Esmonin in Gevrey-Chambertin, Burgundy.

ylvie Esmonin runs a 7.66 ha domaine in Gevrey-Chambertin. When she arrived at the domaine 1985 the wine was still sold in bulk. She changed that. The wine was bottled at the domaine under the Domaine Michel Esmonin et Fille label. In 1998 it was changed to Domaine Sylvie Esmonin.

– The domaine is not particularly old, but the family is. The family goes back to the time of the Dukes of Burgundy. The family was here long before Burgundy became French. We are a family of small winegrowers. Thanks to marriages the domaine has become what it is today.

The main part of the domaine’s vineyards are located in and around Gevrey-Chambertin. In addition to that there is a small part of Volnay Santenots, as well as some Bourgogne blanc in Meursault.

– It is a small domaine, with few appellations, says Sylvie Esmonin. I make five red wines and two white. The two whites are almost non-existent since the quantities are so small. We probably drink more of the Bourgogne Aligoté than we sell. We mostly use it for picnics during harvest etc. The Bourgogne blanc comes from Les Malpoiriers on the northern side of Meursault. The yields are very low.

The Bourgogne rouge comes from Gevrey-Chambertin, from three parcels located next to each other in Pressonnier, which is below the route nationale, opposite Clos Prieur and Mazis-Chambertin.

– The soil is deep in Pressonnier, explains Sylvie Esmonin. I have 0.80 ha of vines there. It’s regional appellation in Gevrey-Chambertin, so one has to be honest, it is the least good terroir here. This is a village with village appellation, premier crus and grand crus.

– There are several valleys leading down from the Hautes-Côtes. You have the large Combe Lavaux. There is a small one above Chambertin, as well as the Combe de la Bossière and the Combe au Moine. Thanks to these a lot of soil has been transported down to the bottom of the village. This means you have a lot more clay there. It gives the wine more body, but less aromatic character. You need the stones to add finesse. The terroir aspect is less important in the regional appellation. But nevertheless, it is soil that once was at the top of the slope.

The grapes in Pressonnier are usually the ones to be harvested last. The harvest is performed over four or five days in order to have perfect maturity for all grapes. About 90 per cent of the grapes are de-stemmed.

The Côte de Nuits-Villages comes from Brochon, the village to the immediate north of Gevrey-Chambertin. It is a village without an appellation of its own. Instead, the southern part of the commune is appellation Gevrey-Chambertin, while the northern part is Côte de Nuits-Villages, an appellation it shares with four other villages along the Côte – Fixin, Premeaux, Comblanchien and Corgoloin.

– I have two parcels in Brochon, Les Vignois and La Croix Violette, says Sylvie Esmonin. La Croix Violette is up on the slope and Les Vignois is just below. The cuvée is 50 per cent from each parcel. It is very marked by the Brochon terroir. I mainly use whole bunches. In terms of soil the two parcels are quite similar. Lots of active limestone. Always low on acidity.

When Sylvie Esmonin arrived at the domaine in 1985 there were two Gevrey-Chambertin cuvées, one straight Gevrey-Chambertin and one old vines Gevrey-Chambertin. In 1989 she realised that in reality both cuvées were old vines cuvées, or even one old vines cuvée and one very old vines cuvée. But labelling them Vieilles Vignes and Très Vieilles Vignes would have been, as she puts it, ridiculous, so she didn’t change anything. Today the average age of the vines for the ”young vines” cuvée is 50 years, while the old vines cuvée comes from vines with an average age of more than 60 years.

– The younger cuvée mainly comes from stony soil. It’s more about finesse than power. It is a dozen or so parcels. The main part is Les Crais just below the route nationale. You have the cherry character of Gevrey-Chambertin, with white flowers.

– The Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes is different. The two oldest parcels were planted in 1919 and 1920. They don't produce much, but I have decided to keep them until they are at least 100 years old. In 2015 the yield was 22 hl/ha.

Half of this cuvée comes from southeast of the village – Les Epointures, Corvées and some premier cru Clos Prieur. The other half comes from various lieux-dits near the cemetery - Combe, Vosne, Sylvie, Songe and Dérée.

– I have been asked to make a separate Clos Prieur cuvée. Even a Sylvie cuvée. Commercially that would be a good idea, but I am a strong supporter of blends. Often the result is better if you blend different parcels than if you make separate cuvées.

Just behind the winery is the flagship of the domaine, the Gevrey-Chambertin premier cru Clos Saint-Jacques. Domaine Sylvie Esmonin is one of only five owners in the this 6.70 ha clos (the others being Rousseau, Clair, Jadot and Fourrier).

– Clos Saint-Jacques is the only wine for which I use 100 per cent new barrels, says Sylvie Esmonin. For the Bourgogne rouge I use none. The Côte de Nuits-Villages gets about 50 per cent and the others 70 per cent.

She describes Clos Saint-Jacques as a vineyard with three distinctly different parts. There is the marly top part, the mid-section close to the rock and the bottom part with clay.

– Together they produce a complete wine. If you separate the middle part you get a very fine and subtle wine. Take the top part and you will have a very powerful Clos Saint-Jacques, but completely austere. With only the bottom part you will have an opulent Clos Saint-Jacques, but you will be hard pressed identifying the terroir.

The Volnay premier cru Santenots is a relatively recent addition. The first vintage was 1995.

– I love Volnay Santenots, says Sylvie Esmonin. It is the most Côte de Nuits in the Côte de Beaune. I often use whole bunches. It gives energy and power.

© 2017 Ola Bergman