hen Amaury Devillard at Château de Chamirey in Mercurey was ten years old his grandfather told him their Clos du Roi vineyard would never produce good wine.
– At the time I didn’t understand what he meant, says Amaury Devillard. But 40-50 years ago in this part of Burgundy it was all about producing large quantities of wine. The choices people made when it came to planting vines and quality were very different from today. The terroir was there, but it wasn’t well-planted.
Since then a lot of replanting has been done. His grandfather Marquis de Jouennes put in a huge effort, both in Clos du Roi and in the other vineyards of the estate. Then Bertrand Devillard, the son-in-law of the marquis and the father of Amaury and Aurore Devillard, continued the work.
– Our grandfather started bottling his wine in 1934, explains Amaury Devillard. He was the first one in Mercurey to bottle at the estate. For the past 50 years our family has been selling and buying different plots of vines in order to have a good cross section of vineyards in Mercurey.
Today Château de Chamirey, located in the hamlet of Chamirey just outside Mercurey, covers a total of 37 hectares, all in either village appellation Mercurey or premier cru Mercurey. The percentage of white Mercurey is unusually high at the estate. While the appellation as a whole is mainly red, with only 15 per cent of the surface area planted with chardonnay, the Devillard family has 27 per cent in white. Since 2005 Amaury runs the estate together with his sister Aurore, supported by their father Bertrand. The family also owns four other domaines in Burgundy – Domaine des Perdrix in Premeaux-Prissey, Domaine de la Ferté in Givry, Domaine du Cellier aux Moines and Domaine de la Garenne in Azé.
Château de Chamirey produces eight Mercureys - three whites and five reds. 15 hectares are premier cru land, but not all ends up in one of the five premier cru cuvées. Ever since the days of their grandfather the standard cuvée of the red village appellation Mercurey has received about one third of declassified premier cru wine.
– Depending on the vintage we add between 30 and 35 per cent of premier cru wine, says Aurore Devillard. It’s always from Clos du Roi, En Sazenay, Champs Martin and Clos l’Evêque. It’s all de-stemmed, producing a wine with very smooth tannins.
The wine represents a large part of the production at Château de Chamirey, more than half of the surface area. The annual production is 90 000 bottles.
– This is the tough part, says Amaury Devillard. It’s all one single cuvée. Keeping the quality with quantities like this can be challenging.
The remaining four reds are all premier crus. Production is considerably smaller than for the village Mercurey. Three are bottlings of specific premier crus – Les Champs Martin, Les Ruelles and Clos du Roi – and one – Les Cinq – is a blend of five premier crus.
– Les Ruelles is a monopole, says Amaury Devilllard. 2.5 hectares in the middle of the slope facing south. The soil is red, very red. It is rich in iron components. One part of this vineyard has rows planted north-south, one has rows planted east-west. As a result we often harvest the two at different times. Sometimes there is as much as three or four days between them.
– There is a difference in character between the two parcels. The one planted north-south produces a slightly more sharp wine, whereas the other parcel produces a rounder wine. The combination is interesting. They are vinified and aged separately and then blended before bottling.
Despite being strong believers in bottling single premier crus the Devillard family decided to experiment with a new blend for the 2009 vintage – Les Cinq. As the name suggests – The Five – this is a blend of five components, the five premier crus owned by the Château de Chamirey in equal proportions.
– Back in 2009 we made something like 25 different blends, says Amaury Devillard. It’s 100 per cent new oak. The sommelier from a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris came and tasted. He liked it very much and said he wanted 360 bottles. We explained it wasn’t bottled, it didn’t have a name and we didn’t have a price for it. But he insisted. So that was how this wine came about.
– I’m not sure we will produce Les Cinq every year. If we feel the quality isn’t there we may very well decide not to. We produce ten barrels, two of each premier cru – Les Ruelles, Les Champs Martin, En Sazenay, Clos l’Evêque and Clos du Roi. It’s a big wine, which means it can take 100 per cent new oak. We are not crazy about new wines. Les Ruelles, Les Champs Martin and Les Cinq are the most recent additions, but they must bring something new, add something interesting. If it’s just fashion it will not last.
The other monopole of Chateau de Chamirey is far from a newcomer. They have been bottling La Mission, a white Mercurey premier cru, for more than 40 years.
– It’s 1.8 hectares. Easy to remember since it’s same surface area as for Romanée-Conti, smiles Amaury Devillard. It’s at the top of a small hill facing east and it always produces very small bunches.
– As you know there are no grand crus here on the Côte Chalonnasie, says Aurore Devillard. We have asked to have La Mission upgraded from premier cru to grand cru. But it takes a lot of time. We may not see it happen. Maybe our children will.
– Over the last decades we have seen that this wine is evolving tremendously well, says Amaury Devillard. We definitely have the historical background to back it up.
© 2014 Ola Bergman