This is a historic moment for us here at the Domaine, because we have just added one of the most prestigious white Burgundies to our existing five white wines*: Bâtard-Montrachet.
About six miles south of Beaune lies this small area of the Côte that produces some of the great Burgundy whites. It comes as something of a surprise compared to the steep escarpments of our vines on the Côte de Nuits. Here, the relatively low and arid rise in the land once known as “mont rachet” (bare mount) over the years became known as Montrachet.
Concentrated on the villages of Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet are five of the six great white crus of the Côte d’Or: Montrachet, Chevaliers-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Montrachet and Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, in descending order of reputation. Only the Corton-Charlemagne situated farther north is considered part of this elite. One must look to the minerality of Chablis to find the seven other white grand crus of Burgundy, which underlines just how rare these great whites are.
This Bâtard – or “bastard” – has been prized since the Middle Ages when, despite its birth, it was recognized and ennobled along with the legitimate offspring of the Seigneur de Puligny. History tells that he divided his land between his descendants: The oldest son or “chevalier” (knight), his daughters or “maids”, and the bastard. Each took possession of their share and the three climats, or plots, kept their names**.
Bâtard-Montrachet is located just below the road that separates it from Montrachet, at an elevation of 240-250 meters, similar to Clos-Vougeot. It is on a gentle slope, and if it wasn’t for the names of the grand crus cut into the stone, one would have no idea that this Burgundian liquid gold has its source here. There’s nothing elaborate to mark the spot, it all happens in the soil. A soil which is quite a deep brown enriched with clay and silts carried down from the hilltops with many little limestone pebbles that prove so beneficial to our Chardonnay.
Burgundy is a patchwork. To prove this point, Bâtard-Montrachet covers just under 12 hectares spread among 16 owners – in other words, a very fragmented area. We managed to acquire two plots which cover a total of 19.88 ares (almost one-fifth of a hectare), which should produce three or four pièces annually, equivalent to around 1,000-1,200 bottles. These vines are so prized that there have only been four transactions in the past 35 years.
The upper plot, below the famous route to Montrachet, numbers just 15 rows. It is a plantation comprised mainly of magnificent knotty old vines. One very noticeable particularity in this area is the pruning using the so-called Cordon de Royat system, which opens out on either side of the wire in wide arms. The vines grow quite high here and are densely planted, as is usual among the great whites, with around 12,000 vines/hectare. The competition between the vines encourages a low number of bunches per plant, resulting in the sought-after concentration.
The lower plot, just a few yards distant from the first, is made up of 10 rows. Planted more recently on slightly deeper, well-tended soil, it seems to have more energy.
These two plots are ideally exposed mainly to the east but a little south, with a maximum authorized yield of 48hl/ha.
The wines of Bâtard-Montrachet are generally very opulent, and are carefully cultivated to avoid heaviness in the tradition of the Cistercian monks who were once a major influence here, according to wine writer and Burgundy specialist Jacky Rigaux. In his opinion, the best years can rival Montrachet. In any case, we will do everything in our power to raise it to excellence through biodynamic cultivation which brings out the authenticity of the soil, and the precision choice of harvest date to obtain grapes in tip-top condition, followed by gentle vinification. Blending of the older vine and the younger should mean balance as well as elegance. We welcome this bonny baby among us and wish it a long and happy life!
* Our other whites, in ascending order: Côte-de-Beaune Les Pierres Blanches, Beaune, Vougeot Clos du Prieuré Monopole, Vougeot Premier Cru Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot Monopole, Corton-Charlemagne.
**Marie-Hélène Landrieu-Lussigny: “Les Lieux-dits dans le Vignoble Bourguignon”, 1983.
The 2010 wines, gentle malolactic action
No two years are the same, and this is simply what the winemaker must deal with. Although we might dream of ideal conditions, nature provides us with more challenges than easy pickings!
In the cellar, the stunning 2009 vintage will sit for a few months longer alongside its delicate little brother from 2010. By the start of the year, the first of the malolactic fermentations had begun in the benign atmosphere of the cellar with a constant temperature of 14°C, ideal for this transformation. We don’t want to take any unnecessary risks with sluggish fermentations, so the whole art consists of letting them occur slowly but surely so the wine finds its own balance and stability.
It is always hard to judge a wine before the malolactic transformation is complete, since its personality comes through much more clearly afterwards. Nonetheless, our first impressions are promising: The wines are already exhibiting freshness and fruit. It is still a sketchy portrait; one that will be gradually fleshed out over the coming months of ageing. Meanwhile, we shall allow them to mature in serenity.
Our other whites, in ascending order: Côte-de-Beaune Les Pierres Blanches, Beaune, Vougeot Clos du Prieuré Monopole, Vougeot Premier Cru Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot Monopole, Corton-Charlemagne.