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2013 Puligny-Montrachet, Les Referts, 1er Cru, Jean-Philippe Fichet
Jean-Philippe Fichet is a grower from Meursault who is driven by the desire to make great wines. From the second you enter his immaculate cave you know there will be serious wine to be found. The spotless converted barn close by l'Hôpital in Meursault is airconditioned and provides a welcome relief from his scattered and cramped conditions of a few years ago.
Jean-Philippe's father bottled a few wines himself but mostly sold in bulk. The Bourgogne Blanc, Meursault Criots, Gruyaches and Puligny Montrachet Referts come from him. The other wines are on share-cropping agreements with various owners. Fichet’s big step forward came in 2000 when he moved the whole operation to splendid cellars at ‘Le Creux du Coche’ by the Hôpital de Meursault where he has been able to oversee all aspects of vinification and maturation with much greater efficiency. He has a negociant’s licence to enable him to buy the owners part of the wines he makes under the share-cropping system, as well as his brother’s and sister’s vines.
Jean-Philippe is looking for purity in his wines. He uses whole bunches when the grapes are fully ripe, but crushes some in less ripe years before pressing. The juice is left to settle for 12 hours and the fine lees are retained. They may occasionally be stirred but as gently as possible. The lesser wines are raised in demi-muids for the first year, then assembled in tank. The single vineyard wines receive 18 months in barrels which range from new to 6 years old with a maximum of 30% new barrels on any cuvée.
He deals mostly with lieux-dits in Meursault with just one 1er Cru in Puligny. Constantly experimenting and refining, his wines have real definition and individuality,with the individual terroirs clearly exposed. Les Chevalières is the most mineral and austere of his wines and rewards keeping for between 5-10 years.
Though this is essentially a white wine domaine there are also red wines from the appellations Bourgogne Rouge, Côte de Beaune Villages and Monthélie.
Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.
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)
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