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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.
It is once again a year with "ups and downs" and difficult climatic conditions, even abnormal sometimes, that the vignerons and their vineyards had to face :
- A mild end of winter ; a beautiful and early bunch setting.
- A summery June, very like August, resulting in a rapid and complete flowering, without coulure. The harvest promised to be large, especially in the younger vines (the old vines - which represent the greater part at the Domaine - were reasonably loaded) ; above all, the vegetative cycle was well ahead of schedule and the season's works followed at an unusual fast rate.
- Despite humidity, the véraison started at the end of July (very early) and we thinned out the younger vineyards, which would prove later to be essential : without this operation, the vineyards would have never been able to ripen the large natural harvest.
- July and August were cold (temperatures were as low as in March). A lot of rain, storms. A good part of the earliness of the vegetative cycle was lost, but it was still in advance, compared to 1999. Some botrytis began to appear.
- Fortunately, the heat returned from August 20 and the vigour of the vineyards, maintained by the humidity that had preceded, permitted maturation to progress rapidly. We gained more than one degree per week and when we started harvesting, the musts reached more than 13° alcohol and botrytis was stopped.
- The harvest proceeded in fine weather ; it lasted 9 days and was completed by September 22 for the reds. We waited until September 25th for harvesting the Montrachet whose complete ripeness was a little late.
Because botrytis was significant enough, it was necessary to do a very selective sorting : first in the vineyards where the grape-pickers, under the close watch of our staff, did a very meticulous work ("haute-couture"), then in the winery where only the perfectly ripe and healthy grapes were kept. The rest was eliminated.
Yields after sorting are about the same as 1999, between 28 and 32hl/ha.
To conclude, as you can see, climatic conditions were not favourable, but thanks to the work we achieved towards the balance of the soil, the finesse of the plant material and the conservation of the old vines, we could resist both the attacks of the unfriendly climate and the potential overproduction of the vines. These, on condition that their load was sufficiently reduced, "got out of trouble" and, thanks to the earliness of the vegetative cycle, benefited from an outstanding ripening : rare are the years indeed when we have such sugar levels at the same time as reasonable acidities.
The year 2000 is, as we say in Burgundy, a "vigneron's year" - unlike 1999 which was rather lenient towards excessive yields - it will subject them to the hard law of mediocrity ; but it will also be able to lead to paradise, in other words to the level of the best vintages, the wines that were below the maximum yields that it was forbidden, this time, to exceed.
It is not possible today, just after the devatting and before the malolactic fermentation, to give reliable information on the quality of the vintage.
All we can say is that the wines are well-coloured, rather supple and harmonious, with great purity of fruit. They should enhance the qualities of finesse, rather than power, of their different soils. We may think of 1995, but once again, it is necessary to wait and see ...!