One of the most characteristic qualities of the Burgundian wine experience is missing for visitors to the village of Puligny-Montrachet. Because of the shallowness of the water table, none of the winemakers have cellars. So instead of tramping down into an ancient cellar, you're more likely to be taken "around back" to the barrel shed, or some variation thereof.
What the village lacks in ancient stone cellars, it makes up for in quality wine, of course.
The little village (which today still has less than 1000 inhabitants) takes its name from its Roman designation Puliniacus, where vines were planted at least as far back as 1000 A.D. Puligny really got its start, however, when it was designated a parish under the care of the Abby of Cluny in 1095, and fell under the care and viticultural wizardry of the resident monks who are largely responsible for the history of Burgundian wine as we know it today.
Puligny remained Puligny for a long time, and plantings of Pinot Noir equalled if not exceeded those of Chardonnay. But then one day, Jean-Edouard Dupard, the Mayor of Puligny, hit on an idea that would forever change the course of the town (and be copied by several others), when it occurred to him that adding the word Montrachet to the name of the village might be good for business. And who was the town council to argue?
At the time, that name belonged to what was, and still is, the single most famous Chardonnay vineyard in the world. And Dupard, a cooper, craftsman, and vigneron, knew that only good could come from an association with Montrachet (the name of which translates roughly to "scabby mountain," a fitting designation for the least mountain-like bump you could imagine rising from the floodplain).
Dupard's family winery, which he began in 1859, has been handed down for five successive generations and is now known as Domaine Jean Chartron, and run by Jean-Michel Chartron, who took over from his father Jean-René Chartron.
Farming approximately 30 acres in and around the village of Puligny-Montrachet, the winery became organic in 2009 but has not, and may not ever seek the Agriculture Biologique certification.
Chartron makes about 6000 cases of very soulful wines that benefit from careful handling, fermentation on the lees, and a minimal amount of racking (removal of sediment).
The maximum amount of new oak in use by the domain is around 40% for its top cuvees, and generally tends to be around 15-20% on average. The wines are bottled unfiltered, but are fined lightly before bottling.
I had the opportunity to taste through most of his 2009 wines in barrel, and a few of his 2008 current releases when I was there in November of 2010.
Here are my notes.
2008 Domaine Jean-Chartron "Clos de la Pucelle" Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon and wet chalkboard. In the mouth it is bright and laser sharp, crackling with mineral and wet chalk flavors seared with neon lemon laced through the finish. Wonderfully electric and delicious. Score: between 9 and 9.5.
2008 Domaine Jean-Chartron "Cailleret" Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune
Light green gold in the the glass, this wine has a nose of crazy green apple and pastry cream aromas. In the mouth, green apple flavors mix with the nutty sweetness of marzipan and crisp minerality driven by bright acidity. Wonderfully balanced with a long stony finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $75. Click to buy.
2008 Domaine Jean-Chartron "Clos de Cailleret" Puligny-Montrachet, Cote de Beaune
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of roasted nuts, bright lemon curd and wet stones. In the mouth the wine is an electric lemon explosion with deep mineral undertones. The moment it enters the mouth saliva bursts from the puckering edges of the mouth and I have to fight every urge not to gulp it down. A beautiful light saline cracker savoriness dances around the edge of the palate and lingers through the exceptionally long finish. Perfectly balanced and incredibly silky all the way through, this is a killer wine. Score: between 9.5 and 10.
Note that all the wines below were tasted out of barrel and will likely be released in the Autumn of 2011.
2009 Domaine Jean-Chartron Bourgogne Blanc, Cote de Beaune
Pale green gold in the glass, this wine smells of pears and cold cream. In the mouth it is a nice blend of mineral and green apple freshness, with a nice creamy texture. Bright green apple flavors linger on the finish. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15. Click to buy other available vintages
2009 Domaine Jean-Chartron Hautes Cote de Beaune Blanc, Cote de Beaune
Light gold with greenish highlights, this wine has a nose of cold cream and lemon zest aromas. In the mouth it is zingy with lemon juice and wet stone flavors. Great acidity drives the minerality through a rather short finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20. Click to buy other available vintages
2009 Domaine Jean-Chartron "Montmorin" Rully Blanc, Cote Chalonnaise
Light green gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of marzipan and lemon zest aromas. In the mouth the wine offers bright lemon and cold cream flavors borne on a wonderfully silky texture. White floral characters emerge on the finish and stay with you for some time. Delicate and delicious. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $20. Click to buy other available vintages
2009 Domaine Jean-Chartron "Les Perriers" Saint Aubin 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, cold cream, and wet stones.
In the mouth bright lemon and wet stone flavors mix with a somewhat unusual greenish herb quality that lingers nicely through the finish. Distinctive, delicate, and nicely balanced. Score: around 9. Cost: $20. Click to buy other available vintages
2009 Domaine Jean-Chartron "Les Murger Des Dent De Chien" Saint Aubin 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune
Light greenish gold in color, this wine is bright with a sweet floral cream quality that includes a hint of marshmallow. In the mouth it is bright and lemony with some pineapple quality as well and a long lemony finish. This wines name means roughly "the dogs tooth wall." Murgers are small stone walls that separate vineyard parcels in Burgundy. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30 Click to buy other available vintages
2009 Domaine Jean-Chartron "Les Benoites" Chassagne-Montrachet, Cote de Beaune
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and fruity Mentos candy. In the mouth the wine is somewhat brief in its expression, with bright mineral undertones and light tropical fruit and citrus flavors. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. Click to buy other available vintages
2009 Domaine Jean-Chartron "Caillerets" Chassagnes-Montrachet 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream, warm white bread and melted butter, and gorgeous lemon and white flowers. In the mouth the wine has an incredible silky, weighty texture and a gorgeously seamless lemon mineral fusion of flavor that is riveting. A long, floating fantastic bright floral note soars above the wine and through the very long finish. Wow. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $75. Click to buy other available vintages
2009 Domaine Jean-Chartron Puligny-Montrachet, Cote de Beaune
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon cream and wet slate. In the mouth the wine has great length and acidity with lemon and cold cream flavors, bright wet stone and a long finish of sweet cream, but doesn't achieve profundity, despite being delicious. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $50. Click to buy other available vintages
2009 Domaine Jean-Chartron "Les Folatieres" Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune
Light greenish gold in color, this wine smells of white flowers and sweet pastry cream, with a delicacy that makes you want to simply hang your nose in the glass for some time. In the mouth it has an incredible aromatic sweetness that gives way to a slightly salty mouthwatering quality tinged with lemon and wet stone. An utterly gulpable wine, it's beautiful silky texture and lingering savory quality make it hard to spit out. The finish is long and delicate. Wonderfully balanced, and quite breathtaking at times. In short: fantastic. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $80. Click to buy other available vintages
2009 Domaine Jean-Chartron "Clos de Cailleret" Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, Cote de Beaune
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and minerals and ripe apples. In the mouth, the wine offers a bright mineral quality flavored with tart unripe apples and wet stones. The wine overall gives the impression of being long and linear, with just a slight austerity to it that may smooth out over the coming months to become quite delicate. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $80. Click to buy other available vintages
2009 Domaine Jean-Chartron "Clos de la Pucelle" Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of beurre blanc, bright mineral and lemon zest aromas. In the mouth it offers mouthwatering, bright savory and slightly spicy flavors of lemon curd and fleur de sel mixed with deep mineral undertones. Electric citrus and floral flavors linger for minutes in the mouth along with that much more complex spicy seawater quality. Expansive and resonant. Silky as hell. Utterly delicious. Roughly 50% of the vines are about 70 years-old, and the rest are around 50. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $75. Click to buy other available vintages
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