The first destination from Beaune was within the Cote de Beaune most prestigious Gran Crus: Chassagne and Puligny Montrachet. It was a hot afternoon as we drove through the southern part of the Cote de Beaune within the best and most iconic Chardonnay vineyards. From Beaune following D974 we finally arrived in Puligny-Montrachet in 18 minutes. The town was small and very quaint but deserted with a population of 400 people and the time of the day, we parked in a little square to walk to our appointment to Jean Chartron Winery. There was no breeze and absolutely not solace from the heat wave, but the excitement to see the vineyards of the Holy Land of wine was keeping us cool and focused.
The origin of Puligny-Montrachet goes back to the Gallo-roman times, then called Puliniacus. The first vineyards have appeared in these times. However, the real expansion of the vineyards will only take place in 1095 when Pope Urban the Second ratifies the donation of the parish of Puligny and its land to the famous Abbey of Cluny.
The Burgundian viticultural civilisation started in the early first Century A.D. through the impetus given by the Romans. It developed during the sixth Century when numerous monasteries have been settled in Burgundy, amongst which the abbeys of Cluny and Cîteaux, famous for their influence on winegrowing.
These monks who, century after century, divided the vineyards in many different plots (called "climats") and started the hierarchy of the wines, unique in the world and still in use in Burgundy. The influence of these abbeys over the whole Europe combined with the economic and cultural power of the Dukes of Burgundy will build up the fame of Burgundy wines.
This appellation includes 17 Premiers Crus Climats.
The commune of Puligny-Montrachet also produces 5 Grands Crus
Red wines from the defined area of this appellation may use the alternative appellation CÔTE DE BEAUNE-VILLAGES.'
Producing commune: Puligny-Montrachet.
The appellation PULIGNY-MONTRACHET and PULIGNY-MONTRACHET PREMIER CRU may be followed by the name of the Climat of origin.
The vines in the Premier Crus areas in many cases occupy brown limestone soils, or soils where limestone alternates with marls and limey-clays. Soils are deep in some places. In others, the rock is exposed at the surface. Where there are clayey alluvia, these are coarser higher up and finer at the foot of the slope. Exposures East and SouthEast. Altitude: 230-320 metres.
Tasting notes of Premier Crus
White: this wine is a bright gold colour with greenish highlights, becoming more intense with age. The bouquet brings together hawthorn blossoms, ripe grapes, marzipan, hazelnut, amber, lemon-grass and green apple. Milky (butter, hot croissant) and mineral aromas (flint) are commonplace, as is honey. Body and bouquet blend into a subtle harmony. This wine combines grace with a well defined characters.
The Gran Crus vineyards are:
Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Criots-Batard-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet
MONTRACHET: Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet.
BÂTARD-MONTRACHET: Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet. CHEVALIER-MONTRACHET^
On the label, the words GRAND CRU must appear immediately below the name of any of these appellations in characters of identical size.
Montrachet is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) and Grand Cru vineyard for white wine made of Chardonnay in the Côte de Beaune subregion of Burgundy. It straddles the border between the two communes of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet and produces what many consider to be the greatest dry white wine in the world. It is surrounded by four other Grand Cru vineyards all having "Montrachet" as part of their names. Montrachet itself is generally considered superior to its four Grand Cru neighbours, and this is reflected in its higher price.
Montrachet is located in the south of the Côte de Beaune, which is the southern half of the Côte d'Or, which in turn is the most important of the several wine producing subregions of Burgundy.
Mont rachet on the 1839 cadastre. Former spellings are given - > Mont Rachaz - Mont Rachat. The term Rachat or Rachet comes from the old French word Rache, formerly designating the scab: thus a shaven and scabby hill, its flat slabs of rock and kind of low walls made of just piled stones (locally called "murgers") forming its baldness.
Never such a descriptive name could have been so accurately given to a hill: hardly emerging from the plain, the minute Montrachet hill looks like a « gougère » in the landscape (gougère is a well-known Burgundian small cake, made of cheesed choux pastry and served with the aperitif).
Because The Montrachet vineyard is almost equally divided between Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet; the wine from the Chassagne side is usually known as Le Montrachet while the wine from the Puligny side is known as Montrachet.
In AD 92 the Roman emperor Domitian forbade planting new grapevines outside Italy. Indeed, some of the vines of Burgundy were ripped out to lessen competition. The vines that remained sufficed for local needs. The edict was annulled in AD 280. The Montrachet vineyard was first planted in the Middle Ages. Although the date of its establishment is unknown, Pierre and Arnolet de Puligny gifted wines in "Mont Rachaz" to the Abbey of Maizières in 1252.
During the 19th century Montrachet along with Burgundy as a whole was ravaged by a succession of vineyard diseases. In the mid-nineteenth century oidium struck. At the end of the nineteenth century phylloxera struck, eventually overcome by the grafting of European vines on American stock.
The Appellation Controlée system was introduced in Burgundy in 1935. Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet (see below) were both recognised as AOC Grands Crus in 1937.
GRAND CRUS Soils
The underlying rocks date from the Jurassic, 175 million years BC. Exposures lie to the East and the South. Attitudes: 265-290 metres (Chevalier) ; 250-270 metres (Montrachet) ; 240-250 metres (Bâtard, Bienvenues, Criots). In the Climat of Montrachet, the soils are thinnish and lie on hard limestone traversed by a band of reddish marl. In Chevalier, the soils are thin and stony rendzinas derived from marls and marly-limestones. In the Bâtard Climat soils are brown limestone which are deeper and, at the foot of the slope, more clayey.
Area under production - ( production )
1 hectare (ha) = 10,000 m2 = 24 ouvrées. MONTRACHET: 7.80 ha ( 44,000 bottles)
BÂTARD-MONTRACHET: 11.13ha ( 66,000 bottles)
CHEVALIER-MONTRACHET: 7.47 ha' (41,000 bottles)
BIEÎMVENUES-BÂTARD-MONTRACHET: 3.57 ha. ( 23,000 bottles)
CRIOTS-BÂTARD-MONTRACHET 1.57 ha ( 10,000 bottles)
White: subtle differences in the wines signal variations in Climat but they also share many common traits. Their colour is gold flecked with emerald, darkening towards yellow with age. Their bouquet evokes butter and warm croissants, bracken, dried fruit, spices and honey. Body and bouquet are not separately distinguishable, so closely blended are structure and harmony into a single perfect whole. Unctuous and firm, dry and caressing, enveloped and profound, these wines combine every virtue in a firmty-established personality.
The power and aromatic persistence of these lofty wines demands aristocratic and sophisticated dishes with complex textures: foie gras, of course, and caviar. Lobster, crawfish, and large wild prawns, with their powerful flavours and firm textures, pay well-deserved homage to the wine and match its opulence. Firm-fleshed white fish such as monkfish would be equally at home in their company. And let us not forget well-bred and well-fattened free-range poultry whose delicate flesh, with the addition of a cream-and-mushroom sauce, will be lapped up in the unctuous and noble texture of this wine. Even a simple piece of veal, fried or in sauce, would be raised to heavenly heights by the Montrachet's long and subtle acidity. Serving temperature: 12 to 14°C.
We visited this producer on the hot day, as I mentioned the Puligny-Montrachet was very deserted ( after all with 400 people population) what would you expect. We parked 1/2 mile away from the entrance of the cellar of the Domain .. as we walked the only sound was our steps on the stone road.
Established in 1859 by the cooper-craftsman Jean-Edouard Dupard, Domaine Jean Chartron has been governed by five generations concerned with both the expansion and prosperity of the prestigious vineyards as the management of the rural district.
The village owes him its name. In 1873, Jean-Edouard Dupard as mayor of Puligny, asked the city council to authorize by decision that the name Montrachet - the most prestigious local growth name - could be added to Puligny, the original name of the village.
Strongly backed on many vineyards of best terroirs of Puligny-Montrachet and in its neighbourhood, Domaine Jean Chartron has naturally specialized in the vinification and the ageing of great Burgundy wines.
With a restricted number of vine varictics - mainly pinot noir and chardonnay, the area is a study in excellence of the expression of the soil. Parcels of differing type and structure, geological variations offer a complex and diverse range of wines.
With the passage of time, acreage of the domaine has increased, extending today to 14 hectares in Puligny and its neighbouring villages. Wines made from the magical "terroir" of Burgundy , the domaine is one of the most superb estates in the village of Puligny, in particular for the 1ers and Grands Crus.
The village of Puligny Montrachet, established in the lower part of the slope, lives only by and for its vineyards.Vines are of such value that in the village the houses are clustered together, no room to expand! In Puligny all the wine cellars are at ground level, because the water table is very close to the surface.
In this village of exceptional 'terroir' , the wines of Jean Chartron are gold.
The white wine is made traditionally.
Most of the wines are fermented and aged in barrel, except wines of regional Appellations which are made partly in stainless steel tanks and partly in barrels.
The percentage of new oak barrels varies between 10 to 40%, with an average of 5 years of use for the whole number of barrels.
Alcoholic fermentation lasts about 6 to 8 weeks. It is quickly followed by the malolactic fermentation, favorized by an optimal cellar temperature of 17°C (62-63°F). During this period the wines are lightly stirred ("bâtonnés"), taking into account their level of evolution.
Once the malolactic fermentation is achieved, the wines are racked. Then starts the maturing process, always in barrels, in cold cellars (12 to 13°C = 53 - 55°F) for a period of 8 to 12 months according to the appellation and the vintage of the wine.
Before bottling a light fining take place.
We we were welcomed by a middle age woman very cordial who introduced to the long history of the Domain as we tasted some of their Primeur Crus wine. I was left impressed by their unctuous bodies and long persistence with an outstanding bouquets. The in depth tasting notes of their wine will be added when I will proper taste the wine which I purchased.
As we left the cellar we already had planned our next stop: the Beautiful town of Meursault.
As the sun was starting its descend towards the horizon , the colors were just perfects. Meursault is literally 10 minutes ride from Puligny-Montrache.
It is truly a jewel with its stone streets , the small restaurants and the bars where their fabulous wines are served.
Meursault has a population od 1500 people therefore 4 times the one in Puligny-Montrachet and it is situated on a prehistoric settlement.
Mont Mélian is a Gallo-Roman camp. The old Roman Fort remains are still visible on the hill (known and signposted as "La Montagne") above the village. The name of Meursault derives from muris saltus, the "mouse-leap" stream of the Ruisseau des Cloux, so named by the Roman soldiers.
The hôpital de Meursault is an old hospital, dating from the twelfth century, that was originally used to treat leprosy.
Meursault was used in the film La Grande Vadrouille. The town hall, very recognisable with its Burgundy coloured roof, is used in some scenes, with it catching fire.
The hard Comblanchian limestone which disappears deep underground around Nuits-Saint-Georges reappears here where, as one moves southward. red wines give way to whites. Nowhere in the Côte de Beaune does the Chardonnay grape do better than it does here. Along the village streets are a succession of little houses belonging to the vineyard workers, mixed with more imposing dwellings. The stone-work on the 53 metre-high church tower looks like it could be the work of fairies. The excellent soils were planted with vines by the monks of Cîteaux as early as 1098. A small amount of red wine is produced here, though white definitely dominates. Meursault's appellation of origin status dates from 1937.
The best soils are found at heights of 260 metres with exposures along an arc between East and South. They consist of Jurassic marls and marly limestones. There are some patches of magnesian limestone. The ancient callovien limestone and argovien marls shave the crus.
Meursault has no Gran Crus but numerous Premier Crus which are among the best in bourgogne. The production is limited 60,000 bottles across all the Premier Crus, of course it will demand higher cost per bottle.
There are observable but minor differences between the wines of the different Climats (named plots). In most cases, Meursault is greeny-gold in colour or canary yellow, leaning towards bronze as it ages. Limpid and brilliant, it sometimes exhibits silvery highlights. Its bouquet has strong aromas of ripe grapes, apples and oatmeal. The young wine is redolent of toasted almonds and hazelnuts in a floral (mayflower, elder, bracken, lime, verbena) and mineral (flint) setting. Butter, honey, and citrus fruits are also present. On the palate it is rich , creamy and fat with a cheerful and appealing taste of hazelnut. Unctuousness and freshness are in silky balance. Long and structured, it needs time to mature - this is a great white wine for laying down
As we drove back to Beaune to catch an open restaurant for dinner , we were already excited to explore more of this beautiful part of France . To the next one.. Follow us on the Wine Voyager