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Montrachet Magic

Posted: Oct 24, 2006 1:45pm ET

I am not sure if it was realized or not, but one of the most extraordinary tastings during this year’s California Wine Experience was the small lineup of Montrachets presented by Beaune négociant Robert Drouhin of Maison Joseph Drouhin. We tasted four vintages of Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche including 2002, 2000, 1999 and 1992. Coincidentally, I drank a bottle of 1997 during a dinner two nights before with wine merchant Andy Lench.

What blows my mind about these wines is their structure. They are like red wines masquerading as whites. They are built solid as a rock with dense palates and powerful backbones of acidity. They almost seem tannic when you taste them. This is why they age so very well, as the 1992 illustrated, with their wonderful aromas of tropical fruit and white truffles, rich and decadent palates with a long, long finish. Older Montrachets usually have an underlying nuttiness with a mixture of exotic fruit that is unique to the appellation. The 1997 I had with Lench certainly had that character.

The 2002 was still very tight and reserved but I still found it glorious, with honey, apple and mineral character. I thought it needed at least another eight years of bottle age. The 1999 was also not giving all that it had yet, but there was a lot of honey, melon and apple character. The 2000 seemed more open to me than the others and what I tasted was shiningly brilliant, with green apple, melon and honey character that verged on lime. It was full, round and delicious.

Here are the points I gave in this non-blind tasting: 2002 (98), 2000 (95), 2001 (91), 1997 (90) and 1992 (95).

Drouhin said during the tasting that Laguiche family has 2 hectares of Montrachet, or about 3 acres. This represents about one-fourth of the entire appellation, and about 700 to 800 cases are made. Recent vintages are, of course, very expensive. The 2002 is about $315 a bottle. Laguiche also makes a Chassagne-Montrachet that can be very good and it sells for a fraction of the price of the big guy.

This all written, a number of my friends at the Wine Experience said they weren’t impressed with the wines. One even said that he thought they were thin and uninteresting. I can’t understand this. Maybe they are used to the more obvious New World Chardonnays? Or they had a bad hair day while tasting?

I certainly wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I felt spoiled rotten tasting the wines.

Thomas J Manzo
Brielle, NJ —  October 24, 2006 9:40pm ET
Thin and uninteresting? Wow, I'm liberal with wine talk but that seems to push the allowances of subjectivity for those Montrachets.
Thomas Bohrer
Hong Kong —  October 24, 2006 10:08pm ET
James, graet blog. However I wished you would have not written it. Drouhins Montrachet has alway been an insider wine which is exceptionally well priced. I guess this will be over soon as the word will get around......Do you realise that for one bottle Le Montrachet DRC 2002 you can buy one case (12 bottles) Montrachet Drouhin???
James Suckling
 —  October 25, 2006 2:16am ET
Hi Thomas. It's all relative in pricing. It guess it is a good deal comapred to other Montrachets. Hey. Answer your e-mails!

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