About this WINE
Robert Parker describes Jean-François Coche-Dury as "one of the greatest winemakers on planet earth", and few would beg to differ. Painfully small yields and meticulously precise winemaking are what give the wines their character and intensity. His top wines spend an astonishing 22 months in barriques and are lightly fined but never filtered prior to bottling.
What is it that makes a domaine a cult? This is arguably the most sought after internationally of all white Burgundy domaines. You might expect to be able to put a finger on why the wines are so good. Are the yields low? Not exceptionally. Is there some wizardry during the vinification or élévage? Sometimes I think it is just that Jean François Coche-Dury has green fingers! His reds are beautiful, perfumed wines as well, though mostly from lesser appellations. They are destalked and only lightly extracted during a relatively short vinification. They can be an excellent inexpensive choice in restaurants.
These are exceptionally intense, powerful and long-lived wines. They are full bodied but never cloying, with the concentrated fruit always being underpinned by crisp and balanced acidity.
Jean-Francois Coche officially retired in 2010 but there will clearly be continuity of style in the hands of his son Raphael who has been working alongside his father since 2003. There have been some changes already in the detail: the vineyards are now all ploughed, and a pneumatic press has been ordered to work alongside the old mechanical Vaslin.
The wines are firmly crushed before pressing, which must surely be a factor in the Coche-Dury style, then fermented and matured in barrels using a relatively low percentage of new wood, not exceeding 25% except for the very top wines. The whites are racked in July, when the barrels of a given cuvée are blended, then returned to cask for a second winter, being bottled cask by cask in April of their second year. It should be noted that bottles labelled Meursault without designation of vineyard may come from different vineyards. For example the cuvées of Narvaux, Chaumes and Vireuils are kept separate, though each importer will know which he has ordered and received.
My first two visits in Burgundy, as a fledgling merchant in 1981, were to Lafon and Coche-Dury. At that stage and with the money available I felt I could not work with both, so chose the former. Would that I had had the common sense or courage to have taken up allocations from both, which were then available!. As if to rub it in, I found a bottle of 1985 Meursault Rougeots lurking in the back of my cellar in 2008 and it was a sublime bottle of wine, having reached its peak of flavour in unhurried fashion.
Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.
When it comes to the world's greatest white wines, the border between Chassagne and Puligny is the ‘X’ that marks the spot, the treasure at the end of the rainbow. Within a few hundred metres lie five wonderful Grands Crus, three of which are in Chassagne. They are led by the luscious, perfumed but variable Le Montrachet, to which Chassagne gained permission in 1879, along with Puligny, to hyphenate its name.Both Montrachet and the rich, nutty, honeyed Bâtard-Montrachet are shared between Chassagne and Puligny. The fragrant, very fine and rare Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet however, lies entirely within Chassagne's borders. The Grands Crus have their own appellations, which is why Chassagne (or Puligny) does not appear on the label.
Although the most southerly of the three great names of the Côte de Beaune, Chassagne's style is often described as lying between that of Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault: less fine than Puligny, less rich than Meursault but containing elements of both. Chassagne is minerally yet succulent, and often floral with hints of hazelnuts. Despite a bevy of very good Premiers Crus, it is not as good or famous, overall, as Meursault and Puligny, but it is usually extremely good value. Grands Crus should not be opened before eight years of age, and can last for 20 or more. Premiers Crus are at their best from five to 15 years of age; village wines from three to eight.
Perhaps surprisingly, given that the name ‘Montrachet’ is so synonymous with white wine, much of the soil in Chassagne is more suited to Pinot Noir than Chardonnay. Indeed it was only really in the second half of the 20th century that white wines began to dominate here. The reds have a firm tannic style that needs time to soften, with the best examples coming from the Premiers Crus Morgeot, Boudriotte and Clos-St Jean. At their best they combine the weight of the Côte de Nuits with the suppleness of the Côte de Beaune.
- 180 hectares of village Chassagne-Montrachet
- 159 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards. Several of the larger ones are subdivided and may be cited under various different names. The best include Caillerets, Ruchottes, Chaumées, La Boudriotte
- 11 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards: Le Montrachet (part), Bâtard-Montrachet (part) and Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet
- Recommended producers: Ramonet, Niellon
- Recommended restaurant: Le Chassagne (good cuisine and wine list)
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.
Neal Martin - 29/11/2016