Breathtaking Chassagne-Montrachet

Today’s Story: Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey

To say Pierre-Yves Colin was a rising star turned legend in Chassagne-Montrachet over the last decade or so might be an understatement. Pierre-Yves started working with his father Marc Colin (the Burgundian legend in his own right) in 1994 and became winemaker until the 2005 vintage when he decided to branch out into his own venture. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey was established by Pierre-Yves and his wife Caroline Morey (daughter of Jean-Marc Morey) and spawned out of a negociant business the couple started in 2001. Pierre-Yves inherited 6 hectares from his family and purchases fruit from carefully selected growers, but there is no question he knows all of this terroir like the back of his hand. When making his wines, Pierre-Yves presses the fruit very slowly and at higher pressures than normal, racks directly into 350L barrels for natural fermentation, never stirs the lees, and diverts his wine by gravity into his cellar. Pierre-Yves’ wines spend two winters aging in the cellar before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Whether it be thanks to the intense attention to terroir, his winemaking practices, or any minute decision he makes throughout the year, there is no question that Pierre-Yves’ wines are something special.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2017 Chassagne-Montrachet is transparent pale gold in color with water white variation near the rim. I recommend decanting this wine due to its youth, but try to keep it a few degrees below cellar temperature as you do. The nose showcases aromas of ripe golden pear, yellow apple skins, white lily, matchstick, incense, cotton candy, white pepper, and crushed stone minerality; the matchstick and incense are most pronounced. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of lemon, honeydew melon, stone fruit, white wildflowers, smoke, white tea, and saline mineral. The wine is medium- to full-bodied with beautiful and vibrant high acidity into a long, well-rounded finish. This continued to get better as it opened up over a couple hours, but will be unbelievable with a few more years of cellaring.

Price: $100. Though not an inexpensive bottle of wine, the PYCM Chassagne-Montrachet is actually quite a good value because it drinks significantly better than even the highest quality village wines. Though I certainly popped the cork too soon on this, the precision, depth, complexity, and quality are all there to make this a necessity in your cellar. Pair with lobster, foie gras, or blue cheese.

Exploring a Red From a Legendary Producer of White Burgundy

Today’s Story: Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet

Domaine Ramonet was established in Chassagne-Montrachet in the late 1920s by Pierre Ramonet, and quickly became one of the preeminent producers of white Burgundy. The 1934 Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Ruchottes, for instance, was the first estate-bottled white Burgundy imported in the US and catapulted the domaine to international fame and admiration. Ramonet remained one of the most highly-sought producers throughout the 20th century, until issues with premature oxidation damaged their status like many other producers in the mid to late 1990s. The domaine ultimately passed to Pierre’s son André until he passed away in 2011, and then to Pierre’s grandchildren Noël and Jean-Claude who worked in the vineyards since 1984. Since 2013, Domaine Ramonet labels bear Jean-Claude Ramonet alone following Noël’s semi-retirement and his wines, particularly the whites, remain a force to be reckoned with.

In the vineyards, Ramonet likes to work with older vines and keep his yields low. Most of the wines are produced from vines 12 to 50 years old, though they typically like to use vines 18 years or older. The domaine’s vinification practices are traditional in nature, with the whites starting in tanks before transfer to French oak barrels and the reds in cement vats for maceration and fermentation. New oak usage varies by wine and vintage, with the whites typically seeing 10-15% for village wines, 30-40% for 1er Crus, and 50%+ for the Grand Crus. Reds typically see 10-20% new oak for village wines and 30-40% for 1er Crus. None of the white wines are bottled fined or filtered.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos Saint-Jean

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Clos Saint-Jean is pale to medium ruby in color and moderately transparent. Once this opens up in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, lavender, raw leather, slight barnyard, black tea, cinnamon, rosemary, and mineral. There is some slight heat as well. On the palate, I get notes of red plum, cranberry, black cherry, tobacco, forest floor, charred herbs, underbrush, chalky minerality, and blood. This is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Not as balanced as the 2014 vintage I had in November, 2019.

Price: $100. This is not a bad price, but I can’t go as far as saying this is a good value because there are many outstanding Red Burgundy options at or less than $100. That being said, I’d be curious to try this again in a few years. Pair with seared duck breast, herb-crusted lamb, or mushroom stroganoff.

A Fixture in Chassagne-Montrachet

Today’s Story: Domaine Bernard Moreau et Fils

The history of Domaine Bernard Moreau began in 1809 when Auguste Moreau built a cellar near the Champs Gain vineyard for ease when farming his Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It wasn’t until the 1930s, however, under Marcel Moreau that the family’s holdings started to grow exponentially. For instance, the domaine today operates on 14 hectares of vineyard land (9 hectares they own, 5 hectares they farm) and about 80% of that land was acquired by Marcel. Bernard Moreau took over the vineyards and cellar during the 1960s (at the age of 14!!) and the name “Domaine Bernard Moreau” came in 1977 under guide of Bernard and Françoise Moreau. With Bernard and Françoise at the helm, the domaine updated their winery, farming methods, and equipment in addition to buying more land to get to that 14 hectare total number. Their sons Alex and Benoît joined the team to help with winemaking and in the cellars, with their first vintage being 1995. From 1999 onward, Alex took over winemaking responsibilities and Benoît specializes in the vineyards.

The winemaking style at Domaine Bernard Moreau is best described as “hands off.” Like most estates producing exceptional wines in Burgundy, Alex and Benoît take a view that terroir should be the forefront of a wine and therefore they must care for the vineyards. While the farming practices at the domaine are characterized as sustainable (not organic or biodynamic), they use organic fertilizers with the soil and do not use pesticides. Also like many great estates, Moreau utilizes rigorous pruning, debudding, and green harvesting in an attempt to lower yields that are more expressive of the terroir. During aging of the wines, Alex uses 10-50% new French oak barrels (depending on wine and vintage) for 12-20 months (also depending on wine and vintage). For the Pinot Noir, Moreau does not rack, filter, or fine the wines at all.

Domaine Bernard Moreau produces a broad range of wines, and I highly suggest trying some of them. From the Bourgogne Blanc and Rouge to their Aligote and up through the multitude of 1er Cru Chassagne-Montrachet to the big-daddy Bâtard-Montrachet, I have not met a wine I didn’t like.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes Rouge

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

This wine is medium ruby in color and moderately transparent. Though young, this is fairly approachable after some time in a decanter or your wine glass. The nose emits aromas of black cherry, plum, black raspberry, tomato sauce, black olive, earth, green underbrush, gravel, and saline minerality. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of tart cherry, underripe strawberry and raspberry, chalky earth, slight barnyard, green herbs, tobacco, and milk chocolate. I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of this wine (though I suppose I shouldn’t be being familiar with their white wines). This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $55. This is a great value from an outstanding producer in Burgundy. Moreau’s wines seem to have flown mostly under the radar, though I noticed they are starting to pick up in demand and therefore price. Pair this with duck, roasted chicken, or even salmon.

Five Generations of Burgundy

Today’s Story: Albert Bichot

Domaines Albert Bichot traces its roots back to 1831 when Bernard Bichot started a wine trading business. Hippolyte, Bernard’s son, succeeded him and was the first family member to purchase vines in Volnay due to his belief that upstream control of the product is vital to his success as a merchant. This expansion of sorts prompted Albert Bichot, Hippolyte’s son and the first to bear the name, to set home base in Beaune in 1912.

As the family endeavor grew exponentially, the second Albert Bichot (born 1900) set an emphasis on international trade and travelled constantly throughout the world to introduce the family’s wines. During the second half of the 20th century, Albert’s sons Albert, Bernard, Bénigne, and Jean-Marc helped expand the domaine with this same mentality. For instance, they constructed a large cellar, bottling center, and winery to produce wine for distribution to every inhabited continent.

Still a family brand today, Albéric Bichot joined in the early 1990s and took over management responsibilities in 1996. Albéric’s main challenges thus far have been converting to organic viticulture in the Côte-d’Or vineyards, adhering and changing with global tastes, laws, and market trends, and increasing the world’s knowledge and respect for Burgundy wine. He dramatically expanded Albert Bichot’s vinification capacity again in 2010 and the company’s vineyards now total 6 estates throughout Burgundy.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Chassagne-Montrachet

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

I’ve had several wines, both white and red, from Albert Bichot and the quality to price ratio is always quite good. This easy-drinking Chassagne-Montrachet is pale yellow/straw in color with water white variation near the edges of the glass. On the nose are aromas of pear, peach, stone fruit, lemon citrus, cream, and white florals. Once in the mouth, flavors of pear, melon, pineapple, lemon zest, and white pepper abound. Full-bodied with vibrant medium (+) acidity, the wine finishes well-rounded with buttery notes.

Price: $55, great QPR for this wine. Pair this with chicken, fish, or crab.