The Montrachet family consists of grand five Grands Crus grown in the two villages of Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. These two share the Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet appellations. Chevalier and Bienvenues belong to Puligny, Criots belongs to Chassagne. These Grands Crus are the most southerly of the Côte-d'Or, and lie between Meursault in the north and Santenay in the south. Their origins go back to the Middle Ages - the work of the Cistercian abbey of Maizières and the Lords of Chagny. The wines of Montrachet (pronounced Mon-rachay) came fully into their own in the 17th century. There is no argument : this is the finest expression of the Chardonnay grape anywhere on earth. The Grand Cru appellations date from 31 July, 1937.
The underlying rocks date from the Jurassic, 175 million years BC. Exposures lie to the east and the south. Altitudes: 265-290 metres (Chevalier) ; 250-270 metres (Montrachet) ; 240-250 metres (Bâtard, Bienvenues, Criots). In the " Climat " of Montrachet, the soils are thinnish and lie on hard limestone traversed by a band of reddish marl. In Chevalier, the soils are thin and stony rendzinas derived from marls and marly-limestones. In the Bâtard " climat " soils are brown limestone which are deeper and, at the foot of the slope, more clayey.
The power and aromatic persistence of these lofty wines demands aristocratic and sophisticated dishes with complex textures : « pâté » made from fattened goose liver, of course, and caviar. Lobster, crawfish, and large wild prawns, with their powerful flavours and firm textures, pay well-deserved homage to the wine and match its opulence. Firm-fleshed white fish such as monkfish would be equally at home in their company. And let us not forget well-bred and well-fattened free-range poultry whose delicate flesh, with the addition of a cream-and-mushroom sauce, will be lapped up in the unctuous and noble texture of this wine. Even a simple piece of veal, fried or in sauce, would be raised to heavenly heights by the Montrachet's long and subtle acidity.
Serving temperature : 12 to 14 °C.
Words fail us when we try to describe the perfection of the grapes that were passing on our sorting table in 1999 ! We already saw superb grapes during the last decade, in 1990 or 1996 for instance, but this year, in our opinion, they surpass them all in finesse and maturity. We could see a lot of small grapes, of « millerandage », and, as a sign of the great years, the older vines, not very productive in general, yielded this year a generous harvest of extremely fine grapes, sumptuous examples of the finest Pinot Noir.
The story of a vintage is so full, so rich, that it is not easy to define the most important factors, those which decided the course of events.
Once again, the scenario was disconcerting : who would have thought in Spring with the rain falling every day and mildew threatening, with the grass growing in the vineyards without our being able to plough, that on September 20, that is to say very early in the season, we would harvest grapes that rank among the most beautiful of the century ? !
It was precisely thanks to the exceptionally rainy Spring that the vineyards could reserve enough water to get through, without suffering, the very hot and dry period we experienced in Burgundy between August 15 and September 20. This consecutive balance permitted the leaves to fully function in their role of sugar producers and the grapes could completely and harmoniously ripen. We observed this year the almost miraculous combination of high contents of sugars (very high degrees), good acidity (concentration in the berries) and perfectly healthy grapes. It is interes¬ting to underline that the combination of these three factors in the same harvest only occurs very rarely.
Another exceptional phenomenon : the grapes that were right in the sun had « roasted » and contained concentrated sugar which released during the fermentations only. All the vats had some sort of natural « sugaring», ending with higher degrees than those, already high, that we noted at the beginning of fermentation.
Moreover, although the grapes were in a totally perfect health, we had a very selective harvest, leaving aside for a second picking the vines that were overloaded or the young ones that were replanted recently.
Only one regret : the fine weather abandoned us after a few days of harvest and the rain disturbed the second part of it, but on the one hand the rain fell mostly in the night, which enabled us to harvest normally during the day, on the other hand they arrived too late to create an appreciable dilution.
As regards quantity, it is exceptional too : thanks to the beautiful bunch setting and the favourable conditions during the flowering, the production is about the same as in 1990 or 1996.
It is therefore a vintage of very high lineage that seems to prepare in vats. Fermentations are slow and reach high temperatures naturally, colours are garnet-red, nearly black, typical of great years. We shall know in a few days, after the wines are drawn, whether they are equal to the splendour of the grapes we harvested. If it is the case, it is by offering a great vintage that the vineyards will have greeted the end of the millennium.