This week marks the start of the annual Burgundy En-primeur tasting week in London. Fantastically, Burgundy and its importers have achieved what neither Bordeaux nor the Rhone has managed to do… isolate a specific tasting window in the annual London tasting calendar, focus industry minds both in Burgundy and in the UK merchant shipper trade, and present a concise, well organised series of comprehensive tastings over 1 to 2 weeks that now draw journalists and buyers from across the globe. A real achievement indeed. This could only happen in London.
So for this occasion, I thought it would be fun to highlight one of the greatest white wine appellations in Burgundy and pitch two Montrachet Grand Cru whites against each other, head to head, with bare knuckles!
Le Montrachet has its origins in the 13th century. The Cistercian monks were donated a few vineyards on ” le Mont Chauve ” or ” Mont Rachaz ” between Puligny and Chassagne. Over the centuries, Le Montrachet was nicknamed the “vigne blanche du Seigneur” or “Roi des rois”. It is today considered to be one of the greatest of all dry white wines in the world. With vines grown on extremely barren triassic gravelly limestone soils, it is the very proof that the greatest wines often come from the most extreme sites.
Pale crystalline brightness. Lovely rich sweet nose of lemon butter, honey suckle, white blossom and leesy, mealy nuances. Wonderfully complex in its youth, there is such alluring depth with a real glycerol textured, full bodied palate that’s round and honied, fresh, succulent and endlessly long on the finish. Normally aged 12 to 13 months in up to 15% new oak, this is a beautiful expression but lacks the tension, drive and acidity of vintages like 2011, 2013 or even 2014. But certainly every bit as regal and seductive as you imagine it should be. (Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Domaine Drouhin Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet Grand Cru 2015 ~ 2.06Ha
This shows a rich dusty nose of limestone, white grapefruit and wet chalk, spliced together with nuances of creamy lemon pie, white buttered toast, lemon biscuits, and stoney pithy minerality. The palate is so vibrant and fresh, almost zippy, with massive concentration and intense power. There’s a majestic focus to the purity, soft crystalline acids, liquid mineral power, and a complex green apple and lemon cordial concentration on the finish. Exudes breeding and class. Slightly softer with less “coiled spring” tension than some years, but still eye wateringly fine. A real icon wine. (Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
So the Drouhin takes it by a clear point. Their 10,000 vines per hectare yielded approximately 28-32 Hl/Ha in 2015 and with less than 50% new oak used, they left the wine on its lees but employed no battonage this year due to the lower acidity. Two regal wines, tasted side by side, both a splendour in their own right.