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A wine to savour on bended knee
MONTRACHET - the name itself evokes awe and great expectations.
The vineyard producing Grand Cru white burgundy, one of the five Grands Crus, straddles the villages of Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. This grandest and greatest expression of Chardonnay is, naturally, the most sought-after (and the most expensive) white wine in the world; it is also the greatest white burgundy without a shadow of a doubt, and my favourite. It is not a wine one sees a lot of, so each and every time I get to drink it is a precious memory.
Montrachet Grand Cru Marquis de Laguiche 1995 en magnum, Joseph Drouhin
Purchased 1997, from local distributor of Maison Joseph Drouhin. Oct 23, 2016, at dinner at home
A brilliant light-gold colour, a fresh aroma of lemons and limes. The wine saturates the palate with its dense concentration of ripe fruit, a complex taste compounded of mixed nuts with citric accents, followed after swallowing by a lingering, haunting presence which continues to fill the mouth. There is a dense, firm texture to Montrachet, giving it a weight which sets it apart from all other white burgundies, indeed from all other dry white wines. It simply is a bigger wine than all the other dry whites.
Montrachet Grand Cru 1990, Marquis de Laguiche, Joseph Drouhin
March 24, 2009
A glistening golden liquid with a mature but wonderfully fresh aroma, an extraordinary concentration, great depth of flavour; it is big and powerful, but not in a massive way. A great wine.
Montrachet Grand Cru 1994, Domaine Ramonet
May 1, 2009, dinner at Imperial Treasure Restaurant. Bottle from host, a great wine collector
Medium golden-yellow, glistens attractively in the light. Rather heavy aroma of ripe fruit, but also loads of oak aroma, still discernible at 15 years of age. Thick, rich texture, with good weight on the palate.
Montrachet Grand Cru 2000, Domaine Lafon
May 23, 2009, dinner at Le Montrachet restaurant, Puligny-Montrachet, France
Medium golden-yellow, glistening in the light; fine bouquet of citrus with traces of vanillin; an intensely concentrated wine, a very pure taste of ripe fruit, long lingering finish, but still a trace of oak at nine years of age.
Montrachet Grand Cru 2000, Domaine Henri Boillot
Aug 31, 2011
At lunch at home
Colour quite developed, golden yellow. Aroma rather faint, citrusy, fruity. Good fruit ripeness and good minerality, with medium-length finish. Wine at peak, good but not great.
The Montrachet vineyard is not big, its total vineyard surface measuring just 7.99 ha is almost divided equally between Puligny and Chassagne. It is split up among some 18 owners, but farmed by 26 producers, as some owners lease different plots of their shares to different producers.
The total volume of Montrachet that can be produced from this small vineyard totals an annual average of only 47,000 bottles - to assuage the thirst of the whole world! This goes to explain why it is so rare even to acquire a single bottle of Montrachet, never mind who the producer is.
The largest owner is the Marquis de Laguiche family, who lease the land to Joseph Drouhin, hence the manner of nomenclature of this bottle. Among the other producers, those whose Montrachets are most prized include Domaines Romanee-Conti, Ramonet, Leflaive, Lafon, Jadot, Baron Thenard, Bouchard Pere et Fils, Guy Amiot, Jacques Prieur and Marc Colin.
Every time one gets to drink a Montrachet is a great occasion, rare and precious. It is not the price, horrendously high though it may be. It is the intrinsic quality and the sheer beauty of the wine.
It transcends even the most acclaimed red Burgundy or Bordeaux. It is simply a pure wonder. How does a simple agricultural product like a wine - and a white wine at that! - acquire such beauty, give such sublime pleasure and, for me, remain engraved in my memory for all time?
I have not had the privilege of tasting, let alone drinking, Montrachet from all the producers - sadly. The producers whose wines I know best come from a small group comprising DRC, Leflaive, Lafon, Ramonet, Drouhin and Baron Thenard.
All the factors regarding provenance - who the producer/grower is, from where and when purchased, how it is transported home, and then how it is stored between purchase and consumption - come into the equation. Pedigree comes from producer/grower, and this is important because it relates to style and character of the wine and its attributes. The source of a wine is important as it relates to the reliability of condition of the wine at the time of purchase.
How the wine is transported home is important because of the distance between the point of purchase and the home of the buyer. Imagine a bottle of Montrachet in a non-refrigerated container sitting in the cargo hold of a ship travelling from France to Singapore - in summer. It is the stuff of nightmares. And if the source is a wine shop, other questions arise. I do not need to enumerate them here.
We go back again to one single factor - provenance. And that includes the life history of the bottle, from birth to point of purchase, from point of purchase to point of consumption. I take for granted that the temperature of the wine at time of service is 15 deg C, because it warms up very quickly in the glass. (I know of no wine sin greater than serving wine, especially a white one, at so-called "room temperature". Even 7-Up is served at better temperature.)
The most pertinent single word when dealing with a Montrachet is Respect. It is "a wine to drink with head bowed on bended knee" - figuratively, of course.