This morning, we took a quick 18 minute bike ride from Meursault to Montrachet for our final day of our Chardonnay journey. The air was crisp and a bit breezy as we rode the couple of miles through the rolling countryside of Cote de Beaune (part of Burgundy). Understanding the wines from here may be a bit confusing, but we're going to try.
First, the appellation d'origine controllee (AOC) of Montrachet is itself split in three, in order by fame (and fortune): Puligny-Montrachet (sometimes just Montrachet), Chassagne-Montrachet (sometimes Le Montrachet) and Batard-Montrachet, the poor stepchild with no alternate moniker. In fact, each of Puligny, Chassagne, and Batard is a commune within Montrachet. Producers of wine in each of those communes customarily append the name of the commune of origin before Montrachet in the name of the wine. For example, if your wallet is incredibly large and your pallet equally impressive, you might try the likes of Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet. Frankly, the younger vintages can be had for prices as low as $100 per bottle, but the older and finer vintages may command hundreds of dollars more. The 2010 vintage, in particular, will fetch a pretty penny.
It all starts on Mont Rachaz (the "scabby hill"), a veritable bump in the landscape between Puligny and Chassagne. Somewhere at the bottom of the bump lies Batard.
While the wines here command great prices, none of these communes is larger than what the term commune implies. In fact, the land for the vineyards was originally the property of the French knught Seigneur Montrachet. He divided it upon his death to his sons one of whom was a bastard, that is le batard.
So what makes this all so special? It's the ageworthiness and complexity of the wines. Le Seigneur Montrachet had some particularly special land. The Chardonnay grapes from the small area (and they would not dare another grape spoil the legend) reflect the terroir. Aged exclusively in new French oak from only specially selected coopers (barrelmakers), the finest of the AOC represent a fully assembled puzzle of fruit and earth tones.
Expect lots of fleshy apple on the nose and perhaps some Meyer lemon, yellow plum, unripened pear, and quince. All of those will enchant on the front and mid-palate as the wine evolves into cinnamon, toasted nuts such as almond and hazelnut, and french toast. Expect the finish to be long and luxurious with a finish of button mushrooms and maybe even freshly-shaved truffles.
The finest Montrachets are indeed food wines, but many connoisseurs would tell you that no food is comparable. Do not serve them too cold. 12C/54F should be fine. Enjoy them alone or with fine food. You might try roast duck or veal sauteed in mushrooms, garlic, and butter. Or, go with the more traditional white fish or shellfish (save oysters for Chablis and lobster for Meursault, however). Or, as the locals might, serve with escargot bourguinon.