Domaine Frederic Esmonin
Among a sea of premium Burgundy winemakers, Frédéric Esmonin stands out for me because their wines are quite "pretty" in their infancy. Definitely drinkable and pleasant. Yet, I've also tasted older vintages (e.g. 2002) and it was so well-balanced and aged perfectly. They are also a tremendous value because they are less well-known than the “blue chip” Burgundy producers from the Cote de Nuits.
Domaine Frédéric Esmonin, from Burgundy's Gevrey-Chambertain appellation, is a true family collaboration that consists of Frederic, his father, André, and his mother, Michele. They have been farming their 10-acres of family vineyards for generations and selling their fruit to the likes of Drouhin, Jadot, and Leroy. (In fact, some of the very great wines from Leroy in the 1950's are believed to have come from the Esmonin vineyards.) In 1988 they began to commercialize their own labels and, according to critics, after some learning curve they have been producing consistently high-quality, beautiful wines
During our recent trip to Burgundy in May 2017, André Esmonin took us on a tour of their 7th century aging cellar underneath their home/office in the town of Gevrey-Chambertin. We tasted through the barrel samples of the 2016s, which were absolutely delightful! They really do a fantastic job of leveraging the best qualities from their plots.
Access to some of the best vineyard plots in the region is Esmonin’s greatest fortunes. Today they have Grand Cru parcels in Ruchottes-Chambertin (50+ Year Old Vines), Mazis-Chambertin (40+ Year Old Vines), Chambertin Clos de Beze, Bonnes-Mares and Chambertin. They also have Premier Cru parcels in Gevrey-Chambertin: "Estournelles St-Jacques," "Lavaux St-Jacques," "Champonnets." The rest comes from: Gevrey-Chambertin "Les Jouises Vieilles Vignes," Nuits "Hauts Pruliers," Gevrey "Clos Prieur," Pernand Vergelesses "Les Boutieres," Cote de Nuits Village "La Belle Vue," and Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits. And since the best Burgundy wines start with the best grapes, Esmonin uses their decades of farming experience to optimize these plots.
But farming is only part of what they do well. Esmonin also employs winemaking techniques that are gentle to the grapes and produce the finest possible quality level. Using a new bladder-press, Esmonin has excellent control over the amount of pressure exerted on the grapes, which are picked only when they have reached ideal ripeness. After a short cold maceration gives the wines an extra dimension of fruit, they are aged in carefully selected French oak barrels of Allier and Nevers forest wood made by Radoux and Berthomieu, two of the very best coopers. Wines are aged in barrels of varying age and toast and then blended in order to achieve optimum balance and complexity.
Critics agree that it is the balance and complexity that make Domaine Frédéric Esmonin stand out. Clive Coates, from the Cote d’Or, writes "The wines are rich in colour, virile, profound and concentrated." Likewise, Remington Norman, MW, wrote in The Great Domaines of Burgundy, "Together, André and Frédéric have propelled their Domaine into the upper échelons of Gevrey quality." Critics, too, recognize that Domaine Frédéric Esmonin is below the radar for the highest echelon of Burgundy collectors, hence the pricing is still affordable. "Of special interest here are the multiple reasonably priced Gevrey grand crus,” says Stephen Tanzer from IWC in the Mar/Apr 2006 issue.
What does all this mean for you? Buy before the secret gets out!