Jasper Morris MW, insideburgundy.com (December 2020)
About this WINE
Maison Camille Giroud
At Maison Camille Giroud, a diversity of terroir allows for delicious variety. From perfumed, plush reds to perfumed whites; their precise wines are made from plots all across the famed Côte d’Or – what unites each parcel is a signature precision and character.
Founded in 1865, Maison Camille Giroud began as a specialist négociant. They had a few hectares of their own vines, but the vast majority of their wines were purchased from top-ranked growers across the region. They’d then age these wines in their cellars until they reached peak maturity; sometimes decades later.
In 2001, Giroud was purchased by a consortium, counting Napa Valley winery owner Ann Colgin and a number of wine investors as members. They wished to retain the distinctive business model of the maison as well as developing their terroir-driven approach with new, modern techniques. They brought in young winemaker David Croix and undertook a major revamping of the winery.
Many new techniques were introduced, including a wooden press for the red wines, open wooden vats for fermentation, subtle use of oak and minimal racking. David's legacy of innovation was succeeded in 2016 by Carel Voorhuis, who is crafting similarly pure, seductive and terroir-driven wines; and is continuing to manage the valuable cellar.
During the tenure of winemaker David Croix, all wines were made from purchased grapes, with the exception of three cuvées: Beaune Les Avaux and Aux Cras, and Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Au Crêtot. Most of the grapes purchased come from old vines – up to 90 years old in some cases – and all come from producers with whom the maison has longstanding personal relationships.
All grapes are sorted twice. Reds are partially or fully de-stemmed depending on the vintage, and vinified in stainless steel. Whites are vinified in 228- to 600-litre casks; the choice of barrels for ageing is carefully matched to the appellation, and only 15-30% of maturation involves new oak. All wines are fermented with natural yeasts, bottled without fining and with only coarse filtration.
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.