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09.26.2005

2002 Domaine Ramonet "Boudriotte" Premiere Cru Chassagne-Montrachet, Cote d'Or (Burgundy), France

ramonet_02.jpgI think everyone who loves wine should occasionally go out and buy a bottle that falls into the category of "prototypical." It's an important part of one's wine education to taste the wines that are the hallmarks of a particular style or varietal. Invariably these are expensive, so finding friends who want to share a bottle can help with the hit to the pocketbook, but ultimately it's worth it to be able to say (if even to yourself), "So this is what a proper ____________ tastes like." Fill in the blank with a varietal, a style of wine, a particular winery, whatever.

This wine is certainly a contender for the category of "so this is what a proper Chardonnay tastes like." While this wine is certainly not the pinnacle of white Burgundy unto itself, it is made by one of the foremost and renown producers in the region, and as one of their vineyard designate premiere cru wines, it will do for our purposes. The big-dog-ultimate-totally-top-of-the-heap Grand Cru white Burgundy they make from Puligny-Montrachet is so expensive, in such high demand, and made in such miniscule quantities (around 50 cases) that it's useless to contemplate that as a candidate for this exercise.

Domaine Ramonet is a force of personality, so much so that it is rarely referred to as anything other than Ramonet, and for those who are particularly attached to their wines and work, it is occasionally referred to as Andre Ramonet. But before we get to Andre, we owe his father some acknowledgement. Pierre Ramonet, or "Pere Ramonet" as he was known to locals, established himself as a winemaker in Chassagne-Montrachet in the late 1920's with little more than the shirt on his back and the desire to make wine. As his grandson put it, "He started from nothing, with horses." From his start making wine in makeshift facilities with purchased grapes, Ramonet gradually assembled an estate from scratch, buying a piece of Chassagne-Montrachet here, a piece of Puligny-Montrachet there (the two villages that make up the Montrachet appellation are adjacent to one another). His first purchase in 1934 was a small piece of the "Les Ruchottes" vineyard which he and his son Andre would go on to make famous.

It's worth noting that the process of scraping together vineyard plots in what is arguably France's most famous white wine appellation is not just something that scrappy, up-and-coming winemakers did in the early part of the 20th century. The total acreage in the Grand Cru Montrachet appellation is about 20. Yes, a mere 20 acres, which is currently split among roughly 16 producers. Even Romanée-Conti, which is about as high on the Burgundy totem pole as you can get, owns a mere 1.7 acres of this appellation, which it had to acquire painstakingly over the course of multiple purchases spanning three decades.

In any case, the Ramonets have been making wine in the region since grandpa Ramonet kicked off the operation in the late Twenties, and it has been in the family ever since. Pierre Ramonet's son Andre achieved near legendary status as a winemaker (hence the use of his first name when people speak of the domaine), and it's not untypical to hear words like "genius" "mythic" and "pinnacle" thrown around when he comes up in conversation. Now Andre is the grandfather, and the estate is being run by his sons Noël and Jean-Claude.

These two continue to run the estate in the tradition of their father and grandfather. The average age of the vines in their vineyards, especially the Grand Cru vineyards is about 60 years. There are areas, however that are planted with younger vines, but in a strict regimen, fruit from vines under 18 years old is excluded from the Domain's cuvees. Yields are kept extremely low, and the wines are vinified using traditional techniques. The wines are aged on their lees (with all the seeds and pulp from pressing) in varying proportions of new oak depending on the wine for between 12 and 15 months.

This wine is from a Premiere Cru vineyard in the Chassagne-Montrachet called "La Boudriotte" or sometimes "Clos de La Boudriotte." The Ramonets produce both this Chardonnay from the vineyard, as well as a Pinot Noir which often goes unnoticed and unremarked given the fame of their white wines.

Tasting Notes:
A light yellow-gold in color with slight cloudiness in the glass, this wine has a delicious nose of white nectarines, cold cream, lemon zest, and custard. In the mouth it is silky and smooth on the tongue with bright acidity balancing excellently with flavors of crushed almonds, buttery lemon curd, and minerals tapering to a long finish.

Food Pairing:
Like most good white Burgundies this wine pairs beautifully with most food, especially seafoods. It would be a lovely accompaniment to classic crab cakes.

Overall Score: 9/9.5

How Much?: $60

This wine is readily available for purchase online.

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