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Puligny-Montrachet, along with Chassagne, is the most perfect expression of the Chardonnay grape. The appellation was created in 1937 on « terroirs » separated by only a few metres from the Grands Crus. The white wines have well-defined personalities and an established reputation. The plots which adjoin the hamlet of Blagny produce an excellent red wine from the Pinot Noir grape.
The vines in many cases occupy brown limestone soils, or soils where limestone alternates with marls and limey-clays. Soils are deep in some places. In others, the rock is exposed at the surface. Where there are clayey alluvia, these are coarser higher up and finer at the foot of the slope. Exposures east and south east. Altitudes : 230-320 metres.
White: this wine is a bright gold colour with greenish highlights, becoming more intense with age. The bouquet brings together hawthorn blossoms, ripe grapes, marzipan, hazelnut, amber, lemon-grass and green apple. Milky (butter, hot croissant) and mineral aromas (flint) are commonplace, as is honey. Body and bouquet blend into a subtle harmony. This wine combines grace with a welldefined character and a remarkable concentration.
Red: the red wine is bright ruby when young, darkening with age. Its bouquet is divided between small red fruits (raspberry gooseberry) and black fruits (blackcurrant blackberry) later shifting towards leather, musk and fur. Tender and well-fruited, it is well put-together and does well with several years' aging.
White: Puligny-Montrachet and its Premiers Crus are concentrated and well-bred. Their balance, aromatic complexity, and purified style demand delicate but rich food. They are equally at home with poultry in sauce or veal fried with mushrooms. Their great distinction elicits a grateful response from fattened goose liver (foie gras), lobster, crawfish, and grilled or fried sea-fish. On the cheese-board, its natural allies are goat cheeses, Reblochon, or soft-centred cheeses like Brie de Meaux.Serving temperature: 11 to 13 °C
Red: its opulent and fleshy structure will lend lusciousness and fullness to veal, pork, and roast fowl, as well as to hard cheeses like Comté.
Serving temperature: 14 to 16 °C
The 2011 Vintage: Puligny-Montrachet
The 2010-2011 winter was marked by snow at the end of November and during December 2010, followed by dry and not particularly cold weather in January and February. In March, after some rainfall at the beginning of the month, temperatures rose and budburst was noted at month’s end.
The April sun sent temperatures up, while the vines developed quickly in the dry atmosphere. A lovely month of May enabled flowering under the most favorable auspices, although somewhat prematurely (May 13-16). June was magnificent, preserving the vintage’s sunny, precocious nature.
July was marked by storms, as well as temperatures that were chilly for the season. From the beginning of August, however, the sun was back, along with several very hot days, resulting in rapid ripening.
The harvest ran from August 25-31, the earliest ever seen at Domaine Leflaive.
Once the wines hummed their way through alcoholic fermentation, malolactic fermentation kept them fizzing throughout the winter. The wines have an acid/mineral structure and framework showing finesse and elegance. They are the very definition of the qualities inherent in each of our magnificent parcels.
The 2011 vintage can be appreciated at the earliest as follows:
Bourgogne Blanc beginning in 2013
Puligny-Montrachet beginning in 2014
Premiers Crus beginning in 2015
Grand Crus beginning in 2017
Montrachet beginning in 2019
'We are beginning to get spoilt with all these fine vintages', said Lalou Bize in October 2011. 'We are very happy with our 2011s.' 'Much better than we had expected,' said Denis Bachelet. 'Lots of colour and fruit, together with good acidity and souplesse.'
Yes. It would appear that Burgundy has done it again. And if views are not quite as enthusiastic in Chablis and in the Côte Chalonnaise, at least in the Côte d'Or (and particularly in the Côte de Nuits) we have another big one to follow 2008, 2009, and 2010. Nature is smiling on the Burgundy lover.
Burgundy suffered the worst of its winter as early as the end of November/beginning of December. It was cold and grey, and there was quite a bit of snow. It continued cold but drier in January, but a little warmer in February and March, and then in April, just as in 2007, summer arrived with a bang. In temperatures which climbed into the low 30°s bud break started early and the devemopement of the shoots was rapid. One thing was already clear: barring catastrophe the harvest would be early. This fine weather continued into May.
June was pleasant enough, without being really warm, and July cool and wet. Even August, except for the occasional pair of days, lacked heat until the middle of the month. This came just when it was required, and while there were three days of wet weather just as the harvest was due to start in the Côte d'Or (August 24-26) these were the only periods of anxiety to worry the growers. September continued dry and warm, enabling the Hautes Côtes and other late pickers to finish their collection at their ease.
Of course rarely does a summer season go by without some hail damage somewhere in Burgundy. Rully has received the worst of it this year, being blitzed on the 8th of June, and then, and more seriously, on July 12th. Decimated is frequently an over-exaggerated term, but that is certainly what parts of the vignoble looked like. There were several frost attacks in Chablis in the spring, plus hail damage there too on 29th June, which has affected the size of the harvest in Fourchaume and neighbouring grands crus. Overall, it was wetter in Chablis that in the Côte d'Or – and it seems also to have been drier in the Côte de Nuits than the Côte de Beaune. Both these factors underlie the relative success of these three areas.
The white wine crop looks to be healthily-sized; if anything a little more plentiful than the average, growers talking about having produced 45 to 52 hectolitres per hectare in the Côte de Beaune. The fruit was healthy, pHs were around 3.10 - 3.15, and fermentations have been quite rapid. Some suggest slightly lower levels of alcohol than 2009 or 2010. Where red wines of equal reputation are made in the same cellar it seems that there is more satisfaction with the red wine results than with the white.
The red wines are even better in the Côte de Nuits. The crop is not large, there being less juice in the grapes than they promised, but this has led to added concentration. Alcohol levels are at a natural 11.5° - 12.5°, so the wines will not be too heavy. The colours are encouraging and there is plenty of fruit.
We need now (I wrote in November 2011) to wait patiently until the wines are tastable. Someone said to me long ago that you need to hold back and give the wines six weeks after the malos were complete before you can attack them with confidence. Only then, when the CO2 content has sunk to half, can you properly experience the mouth feel, the physical aspect of the wine.
One thing, though, is already clear. Two thousand and eleven Burgundy is a success.
Twelve months on, with the wines now well post malo and ready for tasting, what do we make of the 2011s? The whites are following a pattern which seems to have arisen in previous years: very pleasant, reasonably fresh, obligingly fruity, but without real backbone, depth and staying power. Drink them soon. Don't, I suggest, be prepared to spend the high prices today asked for premier cru Puligny unless you have tasted them first and are convinced they will be better in 2020 than 2015. Go for Rully instead.
The reds, lighter than the 2010s and less exotically rich than the 2009s, are delicious. They may not have enormous backbone, but there are many which have a delightful purity of Pinot fruit – and pure Pinot is one of the world's most seductive vinous aromas. They should not take too long to come round. But while delicious then, I do believe they will last, at least in the medium to long term. Yes, at least in red, 2011 is a success.
Prices are beginning to be released as I write. The high prices for the 2012s seen at the Hospices auction are bound to have its effect. But this seems to more evident among the already pricey, more fashionable wines and domaines. The polarization between simple (perhaps better rephrased as unpretentions) Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits grand and top premier cru is continuing. Many, particularly the white wine growers, have kept to their 2010 prices. More have raised their demands by five to eight percent, which means that British wine merchants can hold to last years prices, as the rate of exchange has improved. A few are increasing by 15 or even 20 percent as growers view the tiny amounts of 2012 in their cellars.
by Clive Coates MW: