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.
At the time of this writing, the vineyards resemble a purplish red and gold tapestry under the sun that is shining through a light autumnal mist. The picture is sumptuous. At last we can feel the calm and softness of the "Indian Summer" which has set in over Burgundy.
This calm and this softness strikingly contrast with the chaotic year we went through : successively rainy, cold, warm, often without any transition, every warm spell being followed by storms... once again we were faced with a difficult year and we had to be as vigilant as ever regarding our treatments and work in the vineyards.
What are the turning points of the year 2001 ?
- The budburst (débourrement) took place at the beginning of May and was two weeks late compared to last year, which was excessively early. Beautiful bunch setting resulting in a severe disbudding.
- May was beautiful, but June was cold and rainy. The flowering began around June 10th in cool weather, which, surprisingly enough, did not slow it down and therefore did not prevent a rather uniform maturation of the grapes.
- The month of July was a succession of beautiful days and storms, of cold and heat. The beginning and second part of August were "bakingly hot" (up to 38°C during 4 consecutive days !) resulting in storms that struck very hard some places in the Côte, but did not affect the Domaine. In every way, the number of sunny days and accumulated heat were equal to what we observed in a year like 1995.
Through that ever changing weather, grapes were forming with rather thick and anthocyane-rich skins, but also fragile, which the vines were not always going to bring to complete maturity.
It is, I believe, the greatest characteristic of the year, which had major consequences on our decisions : the old vines with few grapes and the younger ones that had been carefully thinned out brought their grapes to complete maturity. But, much more perhaps than in other years, the grapes that were borne by vines that were a little more loaded, too vigorous or with large bunches, did not mature completely and created all the conditions for botrytis to develop.
This heterogeneity among the vines was worsened by the few days of cold that preceded the harvest and the day before we started, it appeared obvious to us that it would be necessary to sort out the perfectly ripe and healthy fine grapes from those whose maturation had stopped, leaving aside the grapes that were not ripe enough or exposed to grey rot.
That is the reason why we decided to have a very selective picking and to pass twice through the vineyards. The work was very difficult and required everybody to be very vigilant : from the pickers to the sorting-team at the winery. But the expected result was achieved and if the 2001 vintage reaches the quality that we hope for, we shall owe victory to the "haute-couture" selection that was performed.
It is at present too early to give our opinion on the final quality or to venture comparisons with other vintages. The vinifications proceeded very well and at the time of the devatting, which we are finishing, we can already say that the wines have beautiful colours, are extremely aromatic - the powerful fragrances are fit to knock you down ! - and show a beautiful length in the mouth. We shall see during the next weeks and months whether these positive impressions are confirmed.
The harvest began on September 24th and was completed by the 30th in the following order : Echezeaux, Grands-Echezeaux, Richebourg, Romanée-Conti, La Tâche and Romanée-St-Vivant.
The Montrachet was also harvested on September 30th, which was very late compared to other producers, but as you know now, this very great terroir makes it possible to wait for extreme ripeness without losing the freshness that gives it its balance.
2001 is once again a "vigneron's year" : that is to say as far as the work before the harvest enabled us to bring in ripe grapes that were produced according to a controlled yield, we can expect a beautiful quality.