Alex Gambal Chambolle Musigny Les Charmes 2005
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
THE MOVE: In 1991-1992, I began to explore the possibility of living abroad for a year or two while our children were young. We had become interested in wine and it had become our major avocation.
In May 1993, my family and I moved to Burgundy, France to take a year off to work with and help manage a small wine export company based in Beaune, France. Our goal was simply to take a year's sabbatical from Washington but we hoped that if we and the children were content we might stay longer. We moved to a small village of 150 people just outside Beaune, in the center of Burgundy, put the children in French schools, and four years later we looked back on a wonderful experience that changed our lives.
FIRST STEPS IN BURGUNDY: When we arrived in 1993 the wine business was in the dumps because of the world recession and a glut of fine wine. As we worked our way through the recession I was able to taste a variety of old, young and great wines with some of the greatest winemakers in the world. In addition, because we lived, worked and had our children in French schools, we were not perceived as tourists and were welcomed into the hidden Burgundy as parents and friends. And thus had a unique and wonderful experience.
Chambolle-Musigny represents the charm of the Côte de Nuits district of Burgundy. But you’ll find that term mainly in reference to the vineyards in its southern stretches, which border Clos Vougeot: the Grand Cru of Le Musingy and in part, its neighboring and most exceptional Premier Cru, Les Amoureuses. Some producers argue for the primacy of Les Amoureuses and its eligibility for Grand Cru status given its wines can sometimes surpass other Grands Crus.
Le Musigny ranks on par with the most acclaimed Grands Crus for Pinot Noir: Romanée-Conti, La Tâche, Richebourg, Chambertin, and Chambertin-Clos de Bèze. It is also the only Grand Cru in Côte de Nuits for Chardonnay. All of the others are in Côte de Beaune.
This village can in fact claim only two Grands Crus vineyards and—in the context of breaking down the minutiae—they are markedly different. Bonnes-Mares, the other one at the far northern end above the village, bordering Morey-St-Denis, offers power, strength and great aging potential. But Chambolle-Musigny includes a nice handful of exceptional Premiers Crus, as noted above with Les Amoureuses as the finest. Le Fuees and Les Cras are other noteworthy Premiers Crus.
Overall, a top Chambolle-Musigny offers pure aromas of violets, dark cherry and damp earth, coupled with a velvety elegance, supple mid-palate, an abundance of black and red berry, and finesse and power through a long and fine-grained finish.
Thin-skinned, finicky and temperamental, Pinot Noir is also one of the most rewarding grapes to grow and remains a labor of love for some of the greatest vignerons in Burgundy. Fairly adaptable but highly reflective of the environment in which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate and requires low yields to achieve high quality. Outside of France, outstanding examples come from in Oregon, California and throughout specific locations in wine-producing world. Somm Secret—André Tchelistcheff, California’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker decidedly stayed away from the grape, claiming “God made Cabernet. The Devil made Pinot Noir.”