White, Ready, but will improve

2011 Puligny-Montrachet, Champ-Canet, 1er Cru, Domaine Etienne Sauzet

2011 Puligny-Montrachet, Champ-Canet, 1er Cru, Domaine Etienne Sauzet

White | Ready, but will improve | Etienne Sauzet | Code: 16219 | 2011 | France > Burgundy > Cote de Beaune > Puligny Montrachet | Chardonnay | Medium Bodied, Dry | 13.5 % alcohol

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The Producer

Etienne Sauzet

Etienne Sauzet

The original Etienne Sauzet (1903-75) put together a wine domaine of around 12 hectares and established the Sauzet name as one of the top two or three addresses in the village. Initially the domaine was taken over by his son-in-law Gérard Boudot, who arrived in 1974, but in 1991 the inheritance was split up between the three grandchildren, one of whom (Jean-Marc Boillot) chose to take out his share of the vineyards.

Since that time Gérard Boudot, now joined by daughter Emilie, and son-in-law Benoît Riffault, has augmented his holdings by purchasing grapes, some from the same appellations as his own holdings below, others to complement the range, such as Champs Gains, Chevalier-Montrachet and Le Montrachet itself.

SARL Sauzet buys the grapes from three family property-owning companies (the original Sauzet vineyards, those purchased since by Gérard Boudot, and those recently purchased by Emilie and Benoît) and also grapes from two other producers with whom they have close contact.

The vineyards have been farmed organically since 2006 and after two years of experimentation all switched to biodynamic cultivation from 2010. The grapes are sorted to remove grey rot where necessary, then pressed without crushing and fermented in oak until racking into tank before the next harvest, for a further six months élévage on the fine lees. The premiers crus receive between 20 per cent (La Garenne) and 33 per cent (Combettes) new oak with 40 per cent for the grands crus.

The generic and village wines are elegant and stylish, while the 1er and Grands Crus are splendidly concentrated and opulent, yet beautifully proportioned and never overbearing.They are some of the most sought-after wines from Puligny and are models of intensity and balance.

Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.

The Grape

Chardonnay

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.

Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.

It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.

Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.

The Region

Puligny Montrachet

Puligny Montrachet

Puligny was one of two villages (along with Chassagne) which gained permission in 1879 to hyphenate the name of its most famous vineyard, Montrachet, to its own.

The reputation of Puligny-Montrachet is based around its four Grands Crus. Montrachet labels often boast a noble, triumphant ‘Le’ in front of its name, lest you dare confuse it with any lesser wine. It has much to be proud of, with many considering Montrachet to be the greatest white wine in the world. At its best it has an intensity, complexity and elegance that make you wonder how such a wine could be made from mere grapes.

The luxurious and explosive Chevalier-Montrachet is not quite as deep, although it is probably the next best. Only marginally less impressive, and rather more consistent than Montrachet is the richly textured Bâtard-Montrachet (also shared with Chassagne). Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet is equally good, with the focus on honeyed finesse and exquisite balance rather than richness.

These legendary wines are supported by a host of fabulous Premier Cru vineyards capable of reaching Grand Cru quality. Brimming with flavour and intensity, Le Cailleret and Les Pucelles (which both lie across the road from Le Montrachet) are prime candidates, along with Les Demoiselles, Les Combettes and Folatières.

Sandwiched between the larger Chassagne and Meursault, Puligny produces wines that are more striking than any in the Côte d’Or, portraying a floral elegance alongside a stylish, steely concentration. They are very different to Meursault: more refined and delicate, and less rich.

Village level Puligny-Montrachet from top growers can be very good indeed, but is all too often unexciting and disappointing. Grands Crus normally need at least eight years before they can be broached, and last for 20 or more. Premiers Crus should generally be enjoyed between five and 15 years of age; village wines from three to 10 years.

In theory, you can find red Puligny-Montrachet, but it scarcely exists anymore, and is rarely worth the price tag.

  • 114 hectares of village Puligny-Montrachet
  • 100 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards (17 in all). The best vineyards include Les Demoiselles, Le Cailleret, Les Pucelles, Les Combettes, Les Folatières
  • 21 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards: Le Montrachet (part), Chevalier-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet (part), Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet
  • Recommended Producers: LeflaiveCarillon
  • Recommended Restaurant: Le Montrachet (excellent cuisine and good wine list; also an hotel)

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