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Heading South in Burgundy

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Jun 23, 2008 4:05pm ET

Tuesday was cloudy, and a light sprinkling of rain dotted the windshield on the drive to Chassagne-Montrachet. By mid-day, the sun came out and the temperature rose.

My first stop of the day was Domaine Morey-Coffinet, where I was greeted by Michel Morey and his wife Fabienne. The Morey's farm has 20 acres of vines, primarily in Chassagne-Montrachet, with a small parcel of Puligny premier cru and a bit of red in Santenay. The estate was created in 1980 with parcels from both sides of the family.

“Acidity and tension define the style of the range in 2007,” explained Morey, as he began drawing samples from barrels. “The people who harvested their whites late have the possibility to make some excellent whites capable of aging.”

The malolactic fermentations finished in January and Morey was beginning to rack. The wines showed very well for the most part and have the potential to be very fine. All but the Bourgogne are barrel fermented and aged nine to 11 months in wood, then racked into tank for a few months before bottling. The amount of new oak varies between 20 to 25 percent for the Bourgogne and up to 40 percent for the premiers crus.

The list of sites is impressive: Chassagne-Montrachet Les Caillerets, En Remilly, La Ramanée, Blanchot Dessus, Les Farendes (a parcel within Les Morgeot), Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles and Bâtard-Montrachet.

The Les Caillerets, from near the top of the slope south of the village of Chassagne, showed elegance and mineral notes. La Romanée is a bit richer and more powerful but also had a minerally essence. The Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles was all refinement and filigree, with ripe, exotic fruit and floral aromas. The Bâtard had power with the class showing on the depth and length.

Morey also showed me the range on 2006, which were bottled earlier this year. These are plumper, fleshier whites than the '07s, the best having good acidity to balance the ripe fruit and ample profiles. Most impressive were the hazelnut- and lemon-flavored Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles (89-92, non-blind) and the rich, stylish Chassagne-Montrachet Blanchot Dessus with its floral note and finesse (89-92, non-blind).

It was a quick drive to neighboring Santenay, where I had a tasty lunch at Le Terroir before meeting up with Marc Jessiaume at Domaine Jessiaume. This is a source of well-priced wines, rich in fruit and smooth in texture. The flagship of the estate is the Santenay Gravières, where both a white and red are produced.

The malolactic conversion was mostly finished in 2007, and some of the wines were being fined. The Santenay Les Gravières white offered richness and complexity with a beam of mineral. The Meursault Charmes, from purchased must, was rich and long.

Among the reds, the Santenay Clos Genet showed length and finesse, while the Auxey-Duresses Les Ecusseaux was more forward and charming, with an explosive nose of pure red fruit. The Volnay Les Brouillards exhibited cherry, red berry and floral notes and refinement; the Santenay Les Gravières had more weight and structure.

Jessiaume began a négociant operation in 2006, and there’s a debut Clos Vougeot with blackberry, black currant and licorice flavors matched to dense tannins, all elegant classy and long (90-93, non-blind).

It was back to Chassagne to taste the 2007s of Domaine Fernand & Laurent Pillot. Laurent Pillot makes elegant, mineral-driven whites. He has been vinifying and aging in a new space since 1994, when vineyard’s from his wife’s family were added to the holdings.

Pillot began harvesting the reds in the first week of September, waiting until the 8th to pick the whites. The whites finished fermenting at the end of 2007, and the malos occurred between January and March of this year. We tasted the ’07 samples from one-year barrels.

“It was a lot of work in the vineyards,” he commented. “Not everything was ripe, so it was necessary to do several passes. If you waited a week, you got a little more maturity, but not a lot.”

Some of the wines were very tight on the palate. In several cellars, there were distinct differences between the aromas, which were much more forward on the palate, more austere and less evolved.

The Chassagne-Montrachet Les Champs-Gains, from vines planted in 2002, was open and rich, with toast and honey notes backed by a good structure. The Vide Bourse offered floral and exotic aromas and flavors, vibrant acidity and long, complex finish. Pillot’s Les Grandes Ruchottes featured density and concentration with a strong mineral character, power and elegance.

I’m less familiar with Pillot’s reds. They were much more closed on the palate than the fruity aromas indicated, with aggressive tannins in some cases. The Beaune Boucherottes was rich and spicy, the Pommard Les Charmots opens the nose with black cherry, iron and mineral notes before shutting down with firm tannins. The Pommard Les Rugiens featured flavors of cherry, mineral and earth with density in a classy profile.

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