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2009 Puligny-Montrachet, Les Folatières 1er cru, Domaine Faiveley
Domaine Faiveley is one of the biggest domaines (115ha) in Burgundy and, many would argue, one of the best.
This illustrious company has been based in Nuits St Georges since the days of Pierre Faiveley who founded the business in 1825. His son Joseph gave his name to the family business, to be followed by the first François, Georges who was instrumental in founding the Chevaliers du Tastevin, Guy who developed the business in the Côte Chalonnaise, François who has recently retired and now his son Erwan, born in 1979.
The change of generation, enhanced by the arrival of Bernard Hervet as Managing Director, is clear warning of the intention to dynamise the business. Already there has been a notable expansion of vineyards under Faiveley’s control – purchase of Domaine Annick Parent (Pommard, Volnay and Monthélie), Domaine Monnot (various Puligny-Montrachet vineyards including grands crus Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet) and the contract to farm the vineyards of Domaine Matrot-Wittersheim in Meursault and Blagny. Between them, these initiatives greatly expand Faiveley’s presence in the Côte de Beaune, thus also increasing the proportion of white wines in what they have to offer. It is too early for me to have formed a clear idea of the Faiveley white wine style.
There are several separate viticultural teams to cover the ground, ensuring that all the vineyards are ploughed, the vines are pruned short and debudded meticulously. The grapes are entirely destemmed and fermented in new wooden vats for the finer wines, conical stainless steel tanks for the lesser cuvées. There is less emphasis on extraction than in François Faiveley’s time, though the juice will still be punched down during fermentation. The most obvious change though is in the barrel cellar where the previous supplier has been dropped and replaced with Francois Frères, Taransaud and three other coopers. Both premier and grand cru wines may receive two-thirds new wood. Old style Faiveley wines could be massively tannic at the expense of the fruit. From 2007 the wines are much fresher and fruitier, yet still with real intensity.
Many of Faiveley's top wines are hand bottled with no filtration. This in turn results in clean, opulent wines that often show Pinot Noir at its best. Their concentration and richness are rarely equalled.
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)