Domaine Gilles Bouton Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru 'La Garenne' 2019
Gilles Bouton’s Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘La Garenne’ touches the premier cru ‘Champs gains’ as well as the Saint Aubin 1er Cru ‘Murgers de Dents de Chien’ (which Gille also has a holding in. So we are in noble vineyard territory here. This is a golden wine, in many senses of the word. Ripe fruit, almond undertones, green apple minerality. Toasty croissant and flint combine in the mid-palate with just a touch of honey. Subtle and balanced. Concentrated. ‘Harmonious’ is the word that springs to mind.
We met Gilles Bouton back in the days of our hotel-barge Le Papillon when we were cruising the inland waterways in search of the real Burgundy. I remember the first taste of his Saint-Aubin 1er Cru ‘en Remilly’, thinking we had discovered the best deal in white Burgundy ever.
Gilles Bouton took the reins of his maternal grandfather’s 4 hectare (9.6 acre) domain in 1977. The holding now totals 15 hectares (36 acres) and is spread out over four villages (Saint Aubin, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault) all prime property in the so-called Golden Triangle of white Burgundy.
Gilles was joined by his son, Julien, at the end of 2008. The domain today makes on average 60,000 bottles per year. The Boutons sell most of their wine to private individuals either out-the-door at the domain or at numerous wine salons in France.
There’s a popular saying here in Burgundy which points out that, since the start of the 20th century, vintages ending in ‘9’ have been exceptional. So when 2019 came around, we were secretly anticipating something special. Little did we know!
Every vintage comes with its own hyperbole: best of the decade; greatest of the century; another 1990. And it’s true, as the climate continues to warm, there has been some remarkable wine produced in recent years. But in Burgundy in 2019, it got hot.
Both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like to come to maturity slowly. Too much heat cooks the elegance out of them. So climate change is an existential issue for Burgundy wine as we know it.
But in 2019 something remarkable happened. I hesitate to call it a paradigm shift; it may well be a one-off. But in a year where, in some places, grapes turned to raisins on the vine, Burgundy has given us a vintage worthy of the hyperbole.
You won’t find many lacey, delicate wines this year. The vintage will be unapologetically bold and unbelievably concentrated. The whites are indulgent, often explosive, and pinned to a mind-bogglingly good acidic framework, given the summer heat. The reds are sophisticated and elegant, alive.
Perhaps most tellingly, despite the hot summer, this was not one of those late-August harvests that we’re getting accustomed to. The harvest got underway in the Cote de Beaune on 12 September. And some in the Cote de Nuits did not begin picking until the 23rd. The fruit was ripe earlier, but the fine conditions allowed the growers to wait for the holy grail: phenolic maturity.
You rarely get fruit maturity (the sugar part of the equation) plus phenolic maturity (the tannins in the pips and stems) coming together at the same time. Usually you sacrifice one for the other. You can’t force it to happen. Nature bestows it upon you. But when it does happen, that, almost by definition, is a great vintage.
2019 will be a great vintage. Think 2018 with more energy. The only downside is that, as opposed to the bumper crop we saw in 2018, 2019 was a small crop. Down by as much as 60% in the southern zones where it was hottest.
Let’s look quickly at how the season developed. The winter 2018/19 was mild, with higher than average temperatures in December and February. There was a lot of rain in December which many claim could ultimately have saved the vintage from the summer’s drought.
Spring was warm and the growth cycle started earlier than usual. There were precocious zones with bud burst in early April. But cold weather set in on 5 April with frost in many areas. Frost damage would have an effect on yields, particularly in the Maconnais. The cold weather held on through mid-April with several consequential frost risks.
Warm weather returned in May and remained until early June when temperatures dropped again, slowing growth again and hindering flowering. There was a good bit of flower abortion (millerandage), which, again, took its part of the yield at harvest.
Then mid-summer was hot-hot And dry-dry. The vines, for the most part, were in good shape going into the heat wave, but the stress was excessive. Vines handled the conditions differently from one plot to the next. Consensus is that old vines, with their deep roots, were able to find water in the subsoil. And that younger, well-tended vines, had a similar advantage. Vines with roots that went looking for water near the surface, however, suffered towards the end of the season, as they scorched and shriveled.
There was just a bit of rain in August, and from then on through September was hot but fine. In certain areas Pinot Noir ripened before Chardonnay, so harvest planning was complicated. The first Cremant vineyards were picked at the very end of August, and the harvest continued through to mid-October.
Harvest was a joy for the most part. Good weather. No disease. And the fruit that survived frost and fire was beautiful. Fermentation in both white and red went off easily. Whites finished slowly, gently, giving balance and purity. The length of red fermentation varied a lot, but the tannins are fine and the wine has vigor.
COTE DE BEAUNE
Many think of Puligny-Montrachet, along with Chassagne-Montrachet, as the most perfect expression of the Chardonnay grape. As always of course, it depends on who makes the wine. But one thing is certain, the premiers crus do have pedigree, with most of them bordering the north side of the grands crus. The village wines are produced mainly in the flat-lands to the west of the village itself. Plots which adjoin the hamlet of Blagny produce a red wine, but in tiny quantities.
Produced only in the commune of Puligny-Montrachet, appellation Puligny-Montrachet includes 17 premiers crus. The commune of Puligny-Montrachet also produces 4 grands crus
Red wine is fast disappearing from Puligny-Montrachet due to the world-class reputation of and subsequent demand for the whites. A well-made one should be brilliant greeny gold color, becoming more intense with age. The bouquet brings together hedge-row blossoms, grapey fruit, almonds and hazelnut, lemon-grass and green apple. Milky and smoky mineral aromas are common, as is honey. Balance and concentration are the hallmarks of a good Puligny.
Brown limestone soils and soils where limestone alternates with marl and limey-clay are prevalent. The soils are deep in some places, and in others, the rock is exposed at the surface. Where there are clay alluvia, these are coarser higher up the slopes and finer at the base. Expositions run east and south-east at altitudes of 230-320 meters.
Almost all whites - Chardonnay
Reds - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Whites : 206.72 ha (including 96.58 ha Premier Cru)
Reds : 1.26 ha (including 0.27 ha Premier Cru)
Puligny-Montrachet should be concentrated and well-bred. Balance, aromatic complexity, and purity call out for delicate but rich food. Poultry in sauce or sauteed veal with mushrooms. They go well with foie gras, lobster, crayfish, and grilled fish. On the cheese-board, it works with creamy goat cheeses or soft-centered cheeses like Brie de Meaux.
Red wines from the defined area of this appellation may use the alternative appellation 'Cote de Beaune Village'
The following climats are classified as grands crus:
On the label, the appellations 'Puligny-Montrachet' and 'Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos de la Garenne
Clos de la Mouchère
Hameau de Blagny
Sous le Puits
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Corvée des Vignes
Derrière la Velle
La Rue aux Vaches
Les Grands Champs
Les Petites Nosroyes
Les Petits Grands Champs