Puligny-Montrachet is “the greatest white-wine commune on earth… The top Montrachet, Chevalier and Bâtard are wines to drink on bended knee with the head beared.” Alexandre Dumas
Le Montrachet… Everybody wants a piece of it, so what’s with all of the dashes?
Le Montrachet is probably the most famous white Grand Cru. The communes of Puligny and Chassagne share this beloved Grand Cru, so they both affixed their name to it, resulting in Puligny-Montrachet (as of 1879) and Chassagne-Montrachet. Puligny and Chassagne also share the Grand Crus Bâtard-Montrachet, which is located at the bottom of the slope, and, at the top of the slope, but still within Puligny, is the Grand Crus Chevalier-Montrachet. I am going to focus on Puligny-Montrachet.
Puligny-Montrachet is only about 575 acres (230 hectares), in total. It contains 4 Grand Crus (Le Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet and Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet) and 13 Premiers Crus. For Le Montrachet, “part of the secret lies in the limestone, part in its perfect south east exposition, which keeps the sun from dawn till dusk.” The Oxford Companion to Wine, edited by Jancis Robinson. Chardonnay thrives here.
Domaine Jean Chartron
Grande Rue, 21190 Puligny-Montrachet
+33 3 80 21 99 19
I visited Burgundy in the thick of the harvest. 2009 was shaping up to be an amazing vintage, but rainstorms were imminent. Rainstorms during a harvest have the potential to destroy a vintage by making the wines too flabby. The air was full of frenetic energy and the promise of a stellar 2009. The timing of my visit was not optimal since one of my missions was to spend as much time as I could with the producers. Despite the flurry of activity, wine maker Jean-Michel Chartron from Domaine Jean Chartron graciously welcomed us to his domaine. Fifth generation and not quite 40 years old, he is now at the helm of the family business. They have just shy of 30 acres (Puligny and neighboring villages), with the majority being Premiers or Grands Crus. They are very humble about the elegance and finesse of their wines and fly just under the radar for many. This Domaine is one to watch.
I caught up with Jean-Michel again at the New York Wine Experience in late October and chatted with him once more on the phone post the Hospice de Beaune auction (see below) this past weekend. Over the course of our conversations, we discussed various vintages, the vision he has for his domaine, the region of Côte de Beaune and the Hospice de Beaune auction. His enthusiasm for wine, for his profession and for the region was both palatable and infectious each time we spoke. Jean-Michel’s vision for his wines is “to emphasize the expression of the terroir.” First and secondary fermentation of Domaine Jean Chartron’s wines occur in oak barrels, with new oak usage ranging from 10-45%. Their average barrel gets 4 years of use. With the continued emphasis on the terroir, he conveyed, “Going forward, I expect this will mean less new oak to show the fruits and the terroir, and for the viticulture, an expanded focus on our organic philosophy although we are already at 90% of our target.”
Hospice de Beaune Auction
When I spoke to Jean-Michel regarding this year’s auction, he was still pumped with the exuberance of the past weekend. “This year’s auction was nothing short of amazing. The number of barrels auctioned off was much higher than last year. If I remember correctly, it was something like 799 barrels vs. 540 from last year. Prices were stable for some and higher for others. The newspaper came out this morning quoting prices up 20.38% for 2009 vintage, which is really quite amazing. It’s a combination of (1) the auction being for charity and (2) the vintage of 2009 being an exceptional year. This year’s auction involved more private collectors than auctions of years past where it may have had more negociants. People showed a willingness to be generous.”
Hospice de Beaune sidebar: The 100 years war left many in the areas around Beaune destitute. In 1443, Duke Philippe le Bon (literally Phillip the good) and his Chancellor, Nicolas Rolin, reacted by establishing a hospital for the poor – Hôtel Dieu. Make no bones about it, wine was and still is the industry of this region. People paid for services as (and if) they could with wine or donations of wine to the hospital. Over the years, the collection became immensely impressive. The Hospice de Beaune auction, which dates back to 1859, is conducted on the third Sunday of each November and benefits the Hôtel Dieu, which is now a museum, and the Hôpital de la Charité, which still serves the medical needs of those with lesser means and the elderly of the community. Until 2005, the length of the auction was dictated by the amount of time it took for a candle placed next the auctioneer to extinguish. When the candle burned out, the auction was over. Christie’s now hosts the auction.
Please note prices below reflect those paid directly at the vineyard and are not inclusive of taxes, importing fees, etc. I chose to taste Domaine Jean Chartron’s whites this time. All of the wines below are 100% Chardonnay.
- 2007 Bourgogne, Clos de la Combe ( 10% new oak barrels / 90% barrels aged 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 years. Maturing on fine lees for 6 months. 9.90€) apple and pear, minerality; really nice palate cleanser, suggest as an aperitif
- 2007 Bourgogne, Hautes-Cotes de Beaune (Higher in altitude with 100% Barrel fermentation – 10% new oak barrels / 90% barrels aged 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 years. Matured on fine lees for 8 months, 12.80€) hazelnut, apples, apricot, citrus
- 2007 Rully, Montmorin (100% barrel fermentation – 10% new oak barrels / 90% barrels aged 1, 2 and 3 years. Matured on fine lees for 8 months. 13.90€) melon, white flowers
- 2007 Puligny-Montrachet (100% barrel fermentation – 30% new oak barrels / 70% barrels aged 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 years. Matured on fine lees for 9 months. 31,90€) apricot, white peaches, hazelnut, gentle
Single Vineyard, Premiers Crus
- 2007 Saint-Aubin Murgers, des Dents de Chien (Situated 200 meters above the famous Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet, it is one of the best terroirs of Saint-Aubin. 100% barrel fermentation in 25% new oak barrels, with 75% barrels aged 1, 2 and 3 years. Matured on fine lees for 10 months. 24.50€) white peaches, apricots, white flowers, elegant
- 2007 Puligny-Montrachet, Clos du Cailleret (100% barrel fermentation – 40% new oak barrels / 60% barrels aged 1, 2 and 3 years. Matured on fine lees for 11 months. Solely owned by the Chartron family since 1917. 48.00€) floral, elegant, creamy, flinty with beautiful minerality and a hint of lime zest – this one lingered on my tongue forever
What did I buy, why and what would I pair it with?
Turkey day is coming up for those in the States; I’d pick any one of of these as a white-wine option. A deliciously baked, juicy herbed chicken would be so yummy too. Also, wave in any goat cheese to go with any one of the wines below.
- 2007 Bourgogne, Hautes-Côtes de Beaune
- 2007 Puligny-Montrachet: This was my second fav from this domaine we tasted.
- 2007 Saint-Aubin Murgers, des Dents de Chien
- 2007 Clos du Cailleret: This was my favorite one that I tasted from this domaine. I loved the finish, minerality and complexity. I make a mean scallop and pumpkin risotto. This would be an unbelievable pairing.