Oeno-File, the Wine & Gastronomy Column

by Frank Ward

Three Puligny Domaines in 2013 & 2014

November 2015.

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ETIENNE SAUZET

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Gérard Boudot, sympathetic and close to his vines and wines, has been in charge here for over thirty years. Among many superlative wines, including a whole range of Premier and Grand Cru whites, he makes a Bourgogne Blanc from three separate plots, one of which – Les Combes – has 60-year-old vines. The rest are younger, some only a dozen years old. They’re all vinified in barrel, none of which is new, and have been used for two to four vintages.

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2014 BOURGOGNE BLANC

The nose is agreeably fruity, and quite full, suggesting greengage, apple, and elderflower. It’s quite round on the palate, with enough concentration to let it improve for at least three years.

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2014 PULIGNY MONTRACHET

As expected, this is fuller, with a fine aroma of greengage, honey, and physalis. This carries through to the palate, which expands to include chlorophyll and artichoke heart. A feeling of precision. Needs 2 years in bottle as a prelude to a good 3 years’ of enjoyable drinking. This is made from seven different plots, all vinified separately : Les Enseignères, near Bâtard Montrachet, Le Grand Clos, near Les Pucelles, and three others are close to Meursault.

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. LA GARENNE

Fine focused nose of greengage, Granny Smith apple, and lime peel. Very round, almost succulent on the palate, it’s a crisp, very precise wine with a searching aftertaste. Enfolded within the flavour, a subtle hint of melted butter.

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“The soil contains a lot of sedimentary matter and limestone. It’s very exposed, a bit cool, and is always the last to be picked,” informs M. Boudot.

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. LES REFERTS

Still more volume on a nose reminiscent of apricot, honey, and melon. The flavour is long and incisive, given extra precision by vibrant fruity acidity. You can feel the minerality and length on the palate but the details haven’t been filled in yet. They who wait will witness its steady evolution in yearly increments. This plot is close to Meursault Charmes in the next commune, comments M. Boudot.

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. PERRIÈRES

Growth by growth, as the tasting progresses, the wines grow fuller and more complex: vinous and grapy, and with more flesh, it smells like a fusion of white peach and sweet grapefruit. Expressive on the palate, it nonetheless will have a lot more to deliver when it blossoms into full maturity in 4-5 years. This vineyard is more gravelly, giving more minerality.

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Gérard Boudot, Domaine Etienne Sauzet.

2014 PULIGNY P.C. FOLATIÈRES

A refined scent of lemon sorbet, pear, and white rose leads into a medium-full flavour, smooth as silk, with lovely rippling aftertaste with a hint of sweetly-ripe melon.

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Folatières, M. Boudet explains, is Puligny’s largest Premier cru, running to 17 hectares, of which he owns a little over 1 Ha. A small part is in En La Richards, a highly-esteemed plot.

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. CHAMP CANET

A slightly richer green-gold, this has a facetted aroma of apricot, honey, and melon. A notably vinous, full nose of real weight. The flavour, too, is weighty and assertive, tasting of apricot and melon. The finish is long and marrowy. Needs 4 years to open and will evolve well for at least 4 more.

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Located close to Meursault Perrières, this is from a very sunny plot in the mid-slope, from vines averaging 60 years (one plot is 90 years old). 

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. COMBETTES

From a “gentle slope, with less erosion, giving more body”, this has a big globular aroma, a fusion of russet apple, apricot, yellow plum, and white rose – a rich, very round nose that’s solidly vinous and honeyed. As they expand and coalesce, these scents move towards white peach with stone. On the palate I discover subsidiary flavours of grapefruit and apple, with a reprise of white peach. Long on the palate, with a lovely texture, it’s clean-cut and complex. It will outlive the Champ Canet by a good four years.

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2014 BÂTARD MONTRACHET

The typical Bâtard nose is big and broad, evoking tangerine, white and yellow roses, and white truffle. As expected, the flavour is rich and mouth-filling, with masses of noble Chardonnay fruit. Good acidity provides freshness and precision, resulting in a Bâtard with all the Grand Cru weight and power one could wish for, without the slight heaviness occasionally found in this growth. A great Bâtard that will evolve beautifully over the coming dozen years.

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“From plots inside Puligny. The deep soil is flecked with crasse de fer,” comments M. Boudot.

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2014 CHEVALIER MONTRACHET

The colour is not only brilliant, it also shows the subtle colouristic nuances found only in great whites from old vines in great sites. That same subtlety informs the refined aroma of white peach, acacia honey, and pineapple. These are floating scents, creamy and bewitching. The flavour is in tune with this, being sleek, refined, and complex. The finish is long, with plenty of minerality and fine acidity. It’s the very soul of Chevalier, the white Grand Cru with the most finesse of them all.

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DOMAINE FRANCOIS CARILLON

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Like so many serious vignerons, the dark-haired François Carillon is tall, of athletic build, and always on the go. He smiles easily and is clearly close to his wines (you can tell this from the ease and fluidity with which he extracts samples from the various vats and barrels). He has some 14 hectares of vines, possessing plots in quite a few Puligny Premiers Crus as well as in the great Chevalier Montrachet.

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2014 PULIGNY MONTRACHET

This has a typical, very smooth aroma – creamy in fact – of apple and greengage. Balanced and gently succulent on the palate, it’s quite full and long for a “Village”. Better in one year, it will improve over another 2-3.

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François Carillon, Domaine François Carillon.

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2014 PULIGNY ENSEIGNÈRES

A slightly richer green-gold, this has a fine smooth nose, that conjures up apple and white clay. The flavour has almost the weight of a Premier Cru, showing good acidity and length. Made of more serious stuff than the preceding wine, it should improve for at least 3-5 years.

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Though only a “Village” it shows more body and depth than its Village peers – probably due to its proximity to the Grand Cru Bâtard-Montrachet.

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. FOLATIÈRES

Made from a 0.5 hectare plot of 35-40-year-old vines, Folatières has a round, succulent aroma hinting at greengage and orange, with a flavour to match. Good if not exceptional length.

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“Very popular with restaurants,” comments M. Carillon. “But not as precise as the Combettes.”

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. COMBETTES

When the vines are of good age, Combettes from any serious producer can achieve Grand Cru quality. That’s definitely the case here. A rich green-gold, it exhales a complex aroma of apricot, honey, and mirabelle, with a faint suspicion of vanillin from the oak. It turns towards tangerine on the palate, leading into a succulent aftertaste of considerable length. I see this improving for a good six years, staying on a plateau of perfection for a further six.

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. PERRIÈRES

Noticeably more closed up, Perrières has a grapy scent of apricot, blond tobacco, and green fig. You can feel a Chardonnay weight and thrust on the palate but otherwise it’s pretty closed up. Even so, there’s a lot of substance of the grainy, mineral aftertaste, which also shows a subtle and agreeable bitterness. Will easily live a decade.

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2014 CHEVALIER MONTRACHET

This is still in bud. Tasting it is like seeing a fine statue by a great sculptor where, while the overall contours can be discerned, the details haven’t yet been chiselled in. The focused aroma, of great nobility, conjures up white peach and apricot, with a hint of vanillin, opening out to include yellow plum and greengage. It needs 6 years to reach maturity and will grow increasingly refined over the next 10 or so.

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Different kinds of aroma show in the two 2013s that come next. Why? The wines are twice as old (!) and the harvest conditions were not the same.

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2013 PULIGNY MONTRACHET

The nose is full and distinguished, exhaling greengage, honey, and elderflower. There’s a marrowy quality to the fullish flavour, which exhibits a promising length. A very good “Village”.

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2013 PULIGNY CHAMP GAIN

M. Carillon clearly knew this would show well on this occasion (prior to bottling, all wines vary from day to day) : a brilliant green-gold, it has a lovely aroma bordering on the voluptuous, of ripe white peach, greengage, and honey. The delicious flavour tells exactly the same story, a story that flows on for quite a few minutes. Utterly accessible at this moment, it will however continue to gain in complexity over quite a few years (but it would be lovely with Bresse chicken or turbot tonight!).

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DOMAINE LEFLAIVE

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Domaine Leflaive has long been acknowledged as one of the very greatest of Burgundy domaines; luckily for wine-lovers, it is also one of the very largest, with a total area of fully 24 hectares. It boasts choice plots in a whole range of Premiers Crus, inclusive of the exquisite Les Pucelles, and no fewer than four of Burgundy’s six Grand Cru whites: Bâtard Montrachet, Bienvenues Bâtard Montrachet, Chevalier Montrachet, and the incomparable Montrachet itself. In addition, it produces an excellent Puligny Village and a Bourgogne Blanc, as well as a Meursault Premier Cru Dos D’Âne – the only Leflaive wine from outside Puligny’s borders.

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The Domaine was run for many years by Anne-Claude Leflaive, daughter of the great, much-missed Vincent. Soon after her accession, she took the courageous step of converting this venerable property to biodynamism. Not long after, when the Domaine was in transition from traditional to biodynamic methods, she gave me a blind tasting of both versions of all the Domaine’s wines from one vintage. It was easy to say which version was which: the biodynamic one – though a bit more rustic initially – showed much more terroir character, you could smell and taste the subsoil and its minerals. The traditional cuvée was of course excellent too, but somehow blander, less individual, and the terroir character less pronounced.

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Brice de la Morandière, Domaine Leflaive.

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Anne-Claude, whose tragic early death occurred last year, was succeeded by her nephew, the amiable 50-year-old Brice de la Morandière, who gave up a career in business to do so. He took to his new metier like a duck to water – or rather to vinous ambrosia. Tasting with him recently, it immediately became clear that he had an intimate knowledge of the Domaine and its wines (he has after all been a regular visitor for decades and a long-term member of the board). Like Vincent and Anne-Claude, he serves samples directly from the tiny steel vats within the ancient vaulted cellars, each tailored in size to each individual plot. He propped a short ladder against each successive vat, clambered to the top, inserted the pipette into the vat, carefully siphoning a precious measure into my glass – quite an arduous process. “You’re just about the first to taste this vintage,“ he told me, as the shiny green-gold liquid swirled into my glass.

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2014 BOURGOGNE BLANC

The nose of apricot and grapefruit is fresh and inviting, the scarcely discernible whiff of sulphur sure to disperse within weeks. The flavour is appetisingly fruity, the low acidity accentuating its roundness. A pleasant minerality on the finish. Good to drink with seafood in the coming 2-3 years.

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2014 PULIGNY MONTRACHET

This firmer and richer, with more minerality. Greengage and apricot scents meet and mingle, and the flavour, quite intense, is infused with the same elements. Something a bit like rhubarb shows on the finish. Much of this wine will doubtless be drunk in the first year or two, when it will be very tasty; but it will be still more pleasing in 5-6 years.

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. CLAVOILLON

As one ascends the vinous hierarchy, so does each colour intensify. A bright green-gold, this has an intense scent of greengage, green fig, and chlorophyll. The fine flavour is round and lush, with a touch of orange on the full, persistent aftertaste. Excellent.

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Leflaive’s Clavoillon – the Domaine owns 80% of it – used to be a bit on the heavy side. Over the years Anne-Claude slowly coaxed it into being an altogether sleeker, more refined wine.

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2014 MEURSAULT P.C. DOS D’ÂNE

Lustrous to look at, Leflaive’s single Meursault has a full mineral nose of lime, honey, and greengage, promising a satisfying fleshiness. As is so often the case with fine whites, you can actually smell the white clay that forms part of the subsoil. As intimated by the nose, the flavour is voluminous, with good tension, orangey acidity giving cut to the finish. Will improve for a decade at least.

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. FOLATIÈRES

A more intense colour and a more intense aroma. The latter conjures up kiwi, chlorophyll, and greengage. From now on each growth shows even more subtlety and finesse. The texture is smooth and caressing, the finish complex and sustained. Excellent. Those who own bottles should give the wine a chance to show its full complexity – a process that will take 4-10 years.

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. COMBETTES

The nose is full and grapy, reminiscent of apricot, white peach, and yellow plum, with a hint of honey. The complex flavour, packed with noble Chardonnay fruit, shows more of the refinement of Puligny than the succulence and weight of next-door Meursault (some other versions do the opposite). It almost has the presence, the authority, of a Grand Cru. A 10-year wine at least.

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2014 PULIGNY P.C. LES PUCELLES

While this is lighter in structure than the Combettes Brice serves it now because of its exceptional refinement and subtlety. The shining green-gold colour invites, no, commands you to sniff it – and sniff again. Your nose is filled with scents that are both flowery and ambrosial. Honey, yellow rose, and white peach spring to mind. The flavour, smooth as silk, is truly wondrous, so delicately balanced, yet discreetly steely, that it seems to shiver in the mouth. The protracted aftertaste conjures up tangerine. Frozen poetry.

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2014 BIENVENUES BÂTARD MONTRACHET

As expected, the colour is still more intense and the lovely, soaring aromas have a breathtaking quality, conjuring up apricot, tangerine, lime, and honey. This is a really lovely wine, with typical BBM finesse and complexity coupled to a kind of classic restraint. Smooth and close-meshed, nobly proportioned, it will live long.

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2014 BÂTARD MONTRACHET

This lustrous wine has a more voluminous, assertive aroma that’s all of a piece, its multiple elements – apricot, apple, chlorophyll, a hint of kiwi – being welded into a unified whole. The flavour fills the mouth with luscious Chardonnay fruit and is very round. As with Sauzet’s Bâtard, the growth’s sometimes wayward tendency to muscularity has been toned down, resulting in a classic wine with a long, balanced aftertaste. Great.

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2014 CHEVALIER MONTRACHET

This lustrous wine’s special radiance is reflected in a lovely, composite perfume of greengage, tangerine, and acacia honey. This quality follows through on to the palate which is full of that wondrous finesse and precision that no other Burgundy whites can quite equal. Not as burly as the Bâtard but its superior in subtlety and grace. A breathtaking wine that will improve for 12-15 years at least.

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BOTTLE SAMPLES

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2013 PULIGNY P.C. PUCELLES

A shiny green-gold, this has a full yet restrained aroma that suggests orange, tangerine, white peach, and white clay. The flavour is in total harmony with this and promises many years of ever-burgeoning finesse.

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2013 BIENVENUES BÂTARD MONTRACHET

This is the very quintessence of BBM – in some ways the most reticent of Burgundy’s white Grands Crus. The understated but unforgettable aroma is as smooth as silk, exhaling sheer Chardonnay complexity. Both flavour and texture are of great delicacy, with underlying strength, and the aftertaste is long and refined. .

 

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© Frank Ward 2015

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Photos : E. Ward

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>> To be continued : Burgundy Part II

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