White Burgundy Grand Cru

Parts of the vineyards around Montrachet. In the foreground Chevalier-Montrachet, in the middle and to the right of the small road is Montrachet, and beyond the next road Bâtard-Montrachet. The village is Puligny-Montrachet and in front of it there are village level vineyards, i.e. “regular” Puligny-Montrachet. Image borrowed from Wikipedia Commons.

Another blogger (Erik) and I pooled our cellar resources to put together a wine tasting club tasting in AuZone on the theme white Burgundy Grand Cru, or in other terms, non-sparkling Chardonnay at its best. Since my dear colleague is of the opinion that Chablis Grand Cru isn’t real Burgundy Grand Cru, our choice of wines was restricted to the Burgundian heartland of Côte d’Or. I don’t mind Chablis at all, but his blog has more readers than mine and he’s been a member of AuZone much longer than I have, so I let him have things his way. 🙂 In any case, since we excluded Chablis Grand Cru, we ended up with fairly expensive wines, although we did  try to keep the selection at a reasonable level for this theme. So no Montrachet from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, to my best knowledge the most expensive white Burgundy, and the entire flight of eight wines actually costed less than the release price of a single bottle of DRC Montrachet (not to mention the later auction price)…

The Corton hill in autumn coloyrs, seen from southwest. On this side white wine production – Corton-Charlemagne – dominates, but some red wine is produced from the lower parts of the hillside. Below the hill proper are premier cru vineyards of Aloxe-Corton and closest to the camera premier cru vineyards of Pernand-Vergelesses.

When sighing over the prices, one should be aware just how small the production of top Burgundies actually is. These numbers refer to 2010 and come from the regional wine organisation BIVB, and in their statistics Beaujolais is not included as a part of Burgundy. There is a total of 550 hectares (multiply hectares by 2.5 to get the number of acres) of vineyards classified grand cry, of which 194 ha produce white wine. Of these, 104 ha are in Chablis and 90 ha in Côte d’Or. The total white wine production in Burgundy is larger than the red wine production – by vineyard surface the proportion is about 1.5:1 and by volume about 2:1 – but at the grand cru level in Côte d’Or there is more red than white: the 356 ha Pinot Noir produce a little more than three times as much as the 90 ha Chardonnay. And 90 hectares is approximately the average size of each of the five premier granc cru classé châteaux of Bordeaux!

Anyone who is still surprised that the wines are expensive, after having thought through the consequences of this limited supply? But don’t worry, ’cause it’s still allowed to be irritated over high prices, and to grumble and use expletives – even if you realise why the prices are what they are… 🙂

The white grand crus of Côte d’Or can be broken down into 57 ha on the Corton hill (52 ha Corton-Charlemagne and 5 ha white Corton), 32 ha in Montrachet and its four “hyphenated” grand cru neighbours, and finally just over half a hectare of white Musigny in Côte de Nuits. Montrachet & co often represent a richer and more oily style of wine, while Corton-Charlemagne is a little more steely, acid-driven and represent a stylistic step in the direction of Chablis.

The eight wines were:

Corton-Charlemagne 2008, Bonneau du Martray

Light yellow colour. Nose with ripe citrus fruit and some zest, ripe green apple, almost Sauvignon Blanc-like hints of asparagus and nettle, strong mineral notes, some white flowers, a hint of smoke, very elegant. On the palate citrus, quite high acidity, spice, some oily texture, and “gunpowder smoke-style” mineral. Long aftertaste with grapefruit and some zesty and oily impression. Young, but rather approachable now. 92-93+ p.

It was obvious that this wine was of a cooler vintage than the two following.

Corton-Charlemagne 2009, Bonneau du Martray

Light yellow colour. Nose with ripe citrus fruit and zest with some dried notes, some green apple, a hint of peach and other tropical fruit, mineral, a hint of oak, elegant. On the palate ripe citrus, high acidity, clearly oily with spice, noticeable minerality. Long mineral aftertaste with citrus. Young, but rather approachable now. 93+ p.

Somewhat similar to the 2008, but with somewhat hotter and more exotic notes in the nose, although the palate comes across as less warm. I recently tasted the 2002 (93 p) and 2010 (92+ p) as well, and the latter came across as much younger at this stage than 2008 and 2009. I found the two Bonneau du Martrays in the current tasting to be closer in style to each other than the two Corton-Charlemagne 2009s were.

Corton-Charlemagne 2009,  Louis Jadot

Light yellow colour. Nose with ripe pear and almost pear candy/pear-flavoured ice cream impression, citrus, mineral, white flower, soice, a hint of butter, oak and some “oak vanilla”. On the palate citrus, strong pear notes, high acidity, mineral, some spice, finishes with grapefruit notes including rather strong grapefruit bitterness. Young, approachable now, but could gain in complexity by cellaring. 91+ p.

Definitely a good wine, but I found its style to be more “in your face” compared to the two previous, and it also showed its oak a bit more. The two wines from Bonneau du Martray were more firm and elegant, and showed a bit more class.

Bourgogne Blanc 2007, Comte Georges de Vogüé

Actually a Musigny blanc (grand cru), but declassified by the producer since it was produced by rather young vines. White Chambolle-Musigny is not allowed, so it has to be classified all the way down to Bourgogne blanc. In principle this is the white sibling of de Vogüé’s Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru, a red wine produced from young vines in Musigny.

Light yellow colour, some oeil de perdrix notes. The nose shows a strong nutty flavour with hazelnut and almond, but not really seem to be oxidised notes, spice, cocoa powder, some pear and yellow fruit hiding behind the nuts. Somewhat similar to the nose of semi-mature Champagne. On the palate green apple, pear, citrus, high acidity, some spice, mineral, and some bitterness in the aftertaste. The palate is firm in a good way, gives a cool impression, but it doesn’t have the elegance and class of the rest. 89 p.

This was voted the worst wine, and I put my vote here as well. Interesting enough, it worked fine with duck foie gras, so there is a power in this wine that was not as obvious when tasted on its own. Someone thought it was actually “tannic”.

Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay 2008

Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Bright yellow colour. In the nose ripe yellow fruit, citrus, a hint of herbs, mineral, some honey, some oak. Some notes give a hot impression, and some a cool one. Full-bodied and oily on the palate with notes of ripe yellow fruit, zest, rather high acidity (but probably lowest of the flight). Aftertaste with oiliness, spice and citrus. Rather young but somewhat accessible. 92 p.

A classy wine, but somewhat different in style to the rest. “Coconut” was an opinion I heard. This wine didn’t take higher temperature (as it sat in the glass) as well as the other ones.

This wine was our ringer, brought by Erik, to see if our participants could tell the difference between a Burgundy and a well-made Californian wine at about half the price of the Burgundies (and some of them we actually laid our hands on at a very favourable price). Many of the participants spotted this as the ringer, but had rather expected a New Zealand wine due to Erik’s preferences and assumed cellar contents.

Bâtard-Montrachet 2005, Olivier Leflaive

Light yellow colour with discrete golden tinge. Nose of ripe yellow fruit, ripe citrus, some nectarine, tropical fruit, some honey, mineral. Powerful and noticeably elegant nose. Full-bodied and with ripe yellow fruit on the palate: yellow apple, citrus, some tropical fruit, rather high acidity, some mineral, slightly oily texture. Aftertaste with a hint of bitterness and alcohol, and a fresh finish with citrus. A lot of power, not fully mature, can develop more and become more integrated, 94+ p.

Voted the best wine, and I laid my vote here as well.

Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet 2007, Vincent Girardin

Light yellow colour. Nose with citrus, pronounced minerality, perfumed, white flowers, a hint of honey, discrete herbal notes. Quite elegant. Rather full-bodied on the palate, strong citrus taste with ripe grapefruit, high acidity, mineral. Aftertaste with grapefruit and mineral. Young, reasonably drinkable now but will gain from further cellaring. 93-94+ p.

Very good nose with a cool impression.

Montrachet 1990, Le Savour Club

Golden yellow colour. Nose with noticeably nutty notes with toasted hazelnuts and cocoa powder, ripe yellow fruit and some honey. Like a fully mature Champagne! Quite full-bodied and oily on the palate with ripe yellow apples mixed with winter apples, some honey, spice, a hint of betterness and quite a long finish with mineral and good acidity. Quite developed in the nose, but the palate and the finish contributes to a fresher and more complex impression. 92 p.

Gate to Baron Thénard’s part of Montrachet.

Bought quite cheaply for a Montrachet. Savour Club is a French mail order company for wine, the heyday of which was in the past. This should mean that the wine was produced by someone else, and bottled for Savour Club. A qualified guess is that the wine was sourced from Domaine Baron Thénard, because they have for a long time sold Montrachet in barrel to négociants, in particular Remoissenet, whose bottlings are usually the cheapest (or least horribly expensive) Montrachets commonly encountered. The big négociants usually prefer to buy in grapes rather than finished wines from top vineyards. I can’t find any traces of any other vintage of Savour Club Montrachet than this one, so it seems they temporarily managed to lay their hands on one or a few barrels. Since there was a financial crisis in the early 1990s, perhaps some wines were difficult enough to sell for a mail order firm to be able to secure some Montrachet in barrel around 1992? The combination of uncertain origin, no track record for this label and some age of the bottle, made it something of a gamble to include this bottle, althouh the fill level was perfect and the colour not at all worrying. However, we couldn’t resist the temptation to include in our lineup a non-hyphenated Montrachet that  actually could be squeezed into our budget. I have to say that it worked out well, given the condition of the bottle I had hoped for more, but based on “the label” I had feared worse.

Summing up, most of these wines were quite good, and they tended to show mineral notes, in particular crushed stones. I noticed that opinions in terms of relative preferences were rather mixed this time, such as preference for the 2008 or 2009 Bonneau du Martrays, or the Bonneau du Martray or the Jadot among the 2009s. The tolerance for the nutty or developed notes in two of the wines varied quite a lot among the participants. Actually, the 1990 aside, this tasting featured quite young wines for being an AuZone tasting. I’d really like to try some of the young wines of this lineup at 10-15 years of age. And if they were cheaper I’d definitely drink them more often!

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

This entry was posted in AuZone, Burgundy, Chardonnay. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to White Burgundy Grand Cru

  1. Pingback: Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay | Tomas's wine blog

  2. Pingback: DRC Montrachet 2008 | Tomas's wine blog

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