eParker 98 points: The 2008 Montrachet is simply off the charts. Where to start? Layers of fruit literally explode in the glass as the wine conquers all of the senses. The aromatics alone are breathtaking, while the fruit shows striking nuance and transparency. But those descriptors totally fail to capture what is in the glass. This is one of the most moving young wines I have ever tasted. The 2008 is rich, seductive and powerful, but never heavy. Finely chiseled mineral nuances saturate the palate all the way through to the intensely saline finish. When I think of what I want Montrachet to be, it is this. The 2008 Montrachet is an aspirational wine in the very best sense. Ideally another few years in bottle will help the wine become even more expressive and several decades of profound drinking seem likely. Wow! Anticipated maturity: 2018+.
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.
The weather sometimes makes it as hard and complicated to give birth to a new vintage as it must be to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs. 2008 will remain a concentrated demonstration of how difficult, fascinating and also rewarding it is to be a vigneron in Burgundy.
We first became aware of these difficulties on Palm Sunday when a firm West wind blew for the whole week-end. The wind that blows on that day remains, practically every year, the dominant wind of the season. West wind brings rain. We knew then that we were heading for a challenging vintage. But at the same time, the cool spring weather helped the vines to produce grapes with small clusters and, most important, a lot of "millerand" berries: grapes ideally built to make a great vintage.
The flowering was late compared to most recent vintages. It began on June 1st and took three weeks to be completed. As a result, the veraison, two months later, also took three weeks. This was a setback, but the grapes still had their "great vintage" structure.
Unfortunately in June, July and August, the West winds brought frequent rain. This made the vines subject to attacks of all sorts: mildew, oidium and later botrytis. We managed to fight these victoriously while entirely keeping to our organic methods. This meant that we had to be ready to intervene every time the weather would offer us a "window". Any wrong step would have been severely punished.
Nature's last wicked attack was the severe rain it brought the second week of September. Botrytis was progressing and, if this weather had continued, we would have run the risk of losing the entire crop. It is at this time that, once more, what we call the "burgundian miracle" came to the rescue. From the morning of Sunday, September 14th, after the last day of rain on Saturday, the North wind set in, strong, cold, exhilarating for us as well as for the grapes. With it came a succession of cold nights and luminous days. This had a brutal effect on the botrytis causing it to dry up rapidly. The maturation slowly progressed and, under the action of the North wind, sugar and acidity were spectacularly concentrated. It is to be noted that these climatic conditions are quite similar to 1996 and had the same effect: a fast increase of the sugar content and a concentration of the acidity.
We waited until the end of September to pick, letting our grapes benefit for as long as possible from the wind and sun to heal their wounds. When we decided to pick on September 27th, the vines were at the end of their vegetative cycle. There was nothing more to gain. Botrytis was still there, but dry. It was up to our team of pickers to do the "haute couture" work of sorting that we have trained them to do.
It was hard work and a good part of the crop was left on the ground or discarded from the sorting table. The grapes that ended up in the vats were of the finest quality: small clusters and small black berries showing some of the highest sugar contents of these last years, as well as the high acidities that make long-ageing wines.
With a little more luck or help from the weather in July and August, 2008 could have been one of the greatest vintages ever. But with the help of the dry conditions in the 2nd part of September, we believe that we have saved the "heart" of the crop and that the grapes we have so carefully picked will show, if not all, at least a good part of their initial potential. Once more, in Burgundy 2008 is a "millésime de vigneron".
Here are the harvest dates and approximate yields:
Harvest dates Yields
Echezeaux ......................... Oct. 4th, 5th&6th ................ 18 hl/ha
Grands-Echezeaux ............ Oct. 4th ............................... 19 hl/ha
Romanée-St-Vivant .......... Sept. 30th, Oct. 1st&2nd ...... 18 hl/ha
Richebourg ....................... Sept. 29th&30th ................... 15 hl/ha
La Tâche ........................... Sept. 27th, 28th&29th .......... 16 hl/ha
Romanée-Conti ................. Sept. 30th ............................ 16 hl/ha
Montrachet was harvested on October 1st.
Contrary to the red wines where the yield, as shown above, is extremely reduced, the crop of Montrachet is normal (40 hl/ha). We had some noble botrytis, a lot of "millerand" berries and as a result, a high concentration of sugar. 2008 should produce very good white wines and a particularly great Montrachet. In the barrels the fermenting must shows already some penetrating aromas of sweet honey.
The vinifications have been oenological examples. The grapes being taken cold to the winery, the vats "simmered" for a good week before starting the fermentations. These lasted over three weeks and proceeded ideally: slow and regular increase of temperatures, good extraction of colour and tannins, winery full of penetrating aromas.
We have waited for the first "devattings" to be finished to send you this report. The colours are a bright and healthy red. Aromas are fine, delicate and noble. The first wines show a good minerality and a promising depth. It would be surprising if the North wind at the end of the season did not bring some firmness to the wines, but it is truly after the malolactic - which we shall certainly not hasten - that we shall be able to evaluate the real balance these wines have.
Recommended glass shape
Average Bottle Price
|4 290€ +17.5%||3 650€ -6.9%||3 922€ +65.0%||2 377€ -27.8%||3 290€|