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2010 Chevalier-Montrachet, Grand Cru, Lucien Le Moine
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Lucien Lemoine is a small, haute-couture négociant house was established by Mounir and Rotem Saouma in 1999. Their aim is to bring to the market each year a maximum of 100 barrels of premier cru and grand cru burgundy which they have raised in their vaulted cellars in Beaune according to their most exacting standards of élévage.
There is no winemaking involved as the wines reach them after fermentation. Often there is but a single cask of each wine – their 100 barrels of 2007 cover 68 different wines.
There are no contracts with growers, though they will frequently return to the same sources, and no specific requirements as to how the grapes should have been grown or the wines made. Indeed it was very interesting to taste a line-up of Vosne-Romanée wines and see some which had evidently been vinified with stems and others not.
According to Rotem, her husband’s strength is that he can sniff out the quality and style of a vintage at a very early stage. They work closely with their barrel supplier, Stéphane Chassin, to ensure the right barrels for the style of a given wine, using wood from the Jupilles forest which is apparently the slowest growing in France, thus giving the most fine-grained wood. One hundred per cent new wood is used.
The general recipe, although of course each vintage and if need be each wine may require its own treatment, is to ensure late malolactic fermentations, to stir up the plentiful lees for both red and white wines, to rely more on CO2 than SO2 to preserve the wine from oxidation and to maintain the wines unracked in new barrels until the final preparation before bottling.
Typically the wines end up with a soft, sweet-fruit character but otherwise little other evidence of new oak, and those I have tasted have displayed good typicity of their vineyard origins. They are not cheap.
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.
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: Leflaive, Carillon
- Recommended Restaurant: Le Montrachet (excellent cuisine and good wine list; also an hotel)