Parker 96 p / The 2009 Montrachet has come together beautifully since I last tasted it from barrel. From barrel the 2009 was super-ripe and almost tropical but it seems to have settled down over the last year. There is still plenty of signature 2009 richness and ripeness, but the wine’s minerality is now much more present. A brilliant, textured finish rounds things out in style. Overall, the 2009 is a mid-weight Montrachet. I would love to see it age for several decades, but it takes a pretty courageous soul to age white Burgundy these days. Anticipated maturity: 2014+.
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti’s 2009s have turned out just as brilliantly as I had hoped. The wines reflect the signature qualities of the year, but never lose their essential classicism. Long-time DRC fans know the domaine bottles in six-barrel lots, which naturally introduces a level of bottle variation that is not found in most other wines. I hope the massive amount of information that has recently come to light regarding counterfeit wines and their proliferation might be the catalyst for the domaine to consider bottling their wines in one homogenous lot, as is common for the vast majority of high-quality wines throughout the world. Once the domaine’s wines mature in 20-30 years it will be impossible to tell the difference between ‘normal’ bottle variation, poorly stored bottles and very good fakes. Certainly consumers who are willing and able to pay the prices these wines fetch are at the very least deserving of a consistent product.
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.
In exceptionally sunny years, it often happens that the sun accompanies the grapes, which it took so much care to ripen, from the end of vattings to the birth of the wine. This is what happened this year - a year ending with a « 9 » which once more associates this figure with the star of life.
The Indian summer set in at the end of the harvest and the glorious vineyards, relieved of their fruit, are changing colours every day, becoming more and more golden-yellow, as if the nostalgia for summer days was expressing itself through the gold that covers the leaves before they fall off and provide nourishment to the soil.
The wineries are buzzing with activity in the village streets that stretch out in the sun and the winegrowers have a smile on their faces while they smell the fragrances coming from their wineries and reminding them all the time what a blessing from gods it is to have a great vintage in Burgundy.
Not that everything was easy - on the contrary. In the winegrower's annual fight with irregular and unpredictable weather, whose whims, he knows, are necessary for making great wines, victory often takes shape very late. It was the case in 2008 as it was not until mid-September that the « window » of beautiful weather opened and permitted the vintage to be successful.
At other times, rarer, as in 1999, 2005 or in this year 2009, victory is won as early as the beginning of August. But we were then so busy protecting the vineyards against the violent attacks of oidium, of mildew especially and even of botrytis from the spring until the end of July, that we did not notice it.
After an early budburst as has often been the case in recent years, those diseases were favoured during the months of April, May, June and even July by regular stormy rains that gave no respite to the winegrower. Even though the sun kept on activating the metabolism of the vineyards, the heat brought storms almost every week. Fortunately these were not too violent - except where there was hail, in Gevrey-Chambertin for instance - but obliged us to repeat our biological treatments each time.
On the other hand, it was precisely thanks to the spring rains that the vineyards could reserve enough water to get through, without suffering, the drought period that we experienced in August - with the exception of a storm on the 13th - until the harvest. This hydric balance permitted the leaves to fully function in their role of sugar producers and the grapes could completely ripen.
Thanks to their experience of selective picking, our harvest team totally respected the natural near-perfection of the grapes. Moreover, we left aside for a second passage the vines that were overloaded or the young ones that were not fine enough.
As a result, the grapes that passed by on the sorting table are among the most beautiful we have ever seen. As in 1999 or 2005, there were a lot of small clusters, many millerandage berries, and as a sign of the great years, the old vines, not very productive in general, yielded this year a generous harvest of small berries, sumptuous examples of the finest Pinot Noir.
We also observed a phenomenon typical of great years: the grapes that were most exposed to the sun had roasted and contained nearly concentrated sugar that was released at the end of the fermentation. As a result of this occurrence, the wine experienced a truly natural and progressive sugar enrichment that resulted in higher degrees than those we noted at the beginning of fermentation.
As regards quantity, it is satisfactory too: due to the beautiful bunch setting, which was the same for all the fruits this year, and the generous flowering, the size of the harvest can be compared with 1999 or 2005.
The vines were harvested in the following order:
On September 10th: the Cortons where maturity was well in advance of Vosne-Romanée
On September 13th: the Richebourg
On September 14th: the Romanée-Conti
On September 14th and 15th: the La Tâche (the grapes of the young eight-year-old vineyards were so fine that we decided to include them in the great cuvée)
On September 15th and 16th: the Romanée-St-Vivant
On September 17 and 18th: the Grands-Echezeaux
On September 18th and 19th: the Echezeaux
Montrachet: the maturity of the Pinots and Chardonnays evolved strangely and unusually over the year. The Chardonnays were late to flower, at least one week behind the Pinots. But their reaction was so active in the last hot weeks that the difference in maturity noticed all through the growing season had almost disappeared by harvest time.
The Montrachet was harvested on September 15th, before we completed the harvest of the reds. The fruit is so beautiful, golden-coloured, ultra ripe, in a word sumptuous and beyond description that we have great hopes that it will be one of our most exceptional Montrachet.
At the time of this writing, on October 7th, fermentations are slow, regular and reach high temperatures naturally. The quality of the grapes and the richness of the "material" enable us to look for long vattings. Colours are red-garnet, almost black. It is a vintage of high lineage, at the level of the wonderful grapes that we harvested, that seems to be at birth in the vats.