Domaine Gilles Bouton Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru 'Sous le Puits' 2021
The vineyard is located at the top of the hill, overlooked by the woodland of Trézin and Blagny. Fantastic terroir that has a perfect balance of intense ‘stony’ minerality yet richness emerging, especially with some ageing. The winemaker has achieved their aim of expressing this character in the wine, the mineral notes dominate with a complexity of fruit, nuts, spice, great length!
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.
Nothing abides. Just as we Burgundy purists begrudgingly acknowledged the vitality and variety of the three previous hot-weather vintages, along came 2021, classic Burgundy with its frost, damp and low yields.
Way back when, in pre-climate-change conditions, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay would struggle, year after year, to come to maturity in what was this, the northernmost spot in Europe where grapes could ripen enough to make still wine. That struggle was, in fact, the very definition of viticulture in Burgundy (chaptalization notwithstanding).
But then weather patterns started to change, not drastically, but gradually: milder winters and earlier springs; hotter summers and earlier autumns. By the time we got to 2018, then 2019 and then 2020, those mild winters were breeding grounds for mildew, the early springs were prone to killer frosts, those hot summers forced ripeness onto reticent grapes varieties, and early autumns left little time to the winemaker to sort it all out.
If this all sounds like an accident waiting to happen, hang on to your hat; it’s all perspective.
2018 was wet, wet, wet through winter and up to mid-April. Then an explosive bud-burst sent the winemakers scurrying to control the vegetation. But then it got hot, hot, south-of-Spain hot, and mildew never stood a chance. Early harvest, no health issues. Big crop. Great vintage.
2019 was wet through the winter. Early bud burst, then frost took part of the crop. A warm set up flowering, but cold weather set in, taking another part of the crop. Then it got hot and very dry. Well-tend vines and, especially, old vines did well because there was last winter’s water in the water table, and good vines can go deep for water. Hot, healthy harvest. Great really ripe vintage.
2020 was precocious. Mild wet winter. Bud burst in mid-April. From that point on, there is not much to report weatherwise. It was hot and dry from June through to the end. Harvest started in August. Indeed, there was more stress on the winemakers than there was on the vines. When to pick? Overall, great vintage both white and red.
See a pattern?
And 2021…well in 2021 things returned to ‘normal’ (if such a thing is possible in Burgundy!) First came devastating frosts in the early part of April, which were followed by a cool May, leading to a damp summer with the ever-present threat of hail.
Chardonnay was more affected than Pinot Noir in that the red grapes come into leaf later. What all this means for the Burgundy harvest is that it will be a story of low yields (miniscule in places) and a late harvest.
When the older winemakers talk about what to expect this year, words such as ‘historic’ are used and comparisons are drawn with the harvest of 1970.
Some say we could be down 30% on 2020s already low yields. But it isn’t all bad news. Winemakers are nothing if not hardy, and their optimism cannot be shaken that easily. Fewer grapes on the vine means that those which have survived should have an intensity of flavor which sets them apart and may mark this harvest out as extraordinary. There may be other upsides, too: because the harvest is later, the grapes have had more ‘hang time’ which could mean good phenolic maturity.
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