Domaine Gilles Bouton Saint Aubin 1er Cru 'Murgers des Dents de Chiens' 2017
Gilles has two different parcels in this, the best known of the Saint-Aubin premier crus. One with old vines, situated near the Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Les Garennes’ (which he also makes), and the other near Puligny 1er Cru ‘Folatieres’. He makes these wine in double-sized barrels, 40% new oak, to tame the tannins. There is a deep, almost Meursault quality to the Dents de Chien, spicy and complex. Great continuity from attack, through mid-palate and on to a superb finish.
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.
BURGUNDY 2017 VINTAGE
If 2016 tested the faith and resolve of wine makers in Burgundy, 2017 has to be seen as recompense, and as a miracle of sorts. While the rest of wine-growing Europe suffered crippling late-spring frosts in 2017, Burgundy for the most part (for once!) survived.
A mild winter and an accelerated spring left the Burgundy vineyards in a vulnerable position when, in the second half of April, temperatures across France barely rose above freezing for two weeks.
Three hard-frost nights pretty much did in Right Bank Chablis once again. But as the rest of Burgundy survived the first week, the growers found the will to fight back. And on the night of April 27th, a year and a day after the 2016 frost that took 80% of the 2016 harvest, a severe frost was forecast for the length of the Cote d’Or.
It’s now a part of local legend how, on the following morning, we awoke in a thick cloud of smoke. In the early hours, from north to south, the vignerons had mobilized to set alight dampened bales of hay, sending up a cloud cover to filter the first burning rays of dawn. And it worked.
The air was thick, and driving was tricky. A customer at the butcher shop in Meursault jokingly asked for a smoked chicken. And, of course, the authorities were up in arms over the pollution risks. But the crop was saved, and there has been ever since a spirit of cooperation and solidarity not often seen in farming communities.
After the freeze, May brought in an extended period of warm dry weather. No mildew or oidium to speak of, no thunderstorms or hail. Sunny periods, but no lack of rain. And the vines went in to flower at a very-normal first week of June. Pretty much ideal.
July had a couple of heat spikes, and a hailstorm hit the fancy vineyards in Morey St Denis on the 10th. But nothing worse. August was warm; the lead up to the harvest at the end of the month, hot and dry.
The first grapes were picked in the Cote de Beaune in the last few days of August. And most everyone was out picking in the first week of September.
There was (as there often is in Burgundy) serious disagreement in 2017 about when to pick. Do you pick early to preserve the acid-sugar balance and freshness? Or do you hang in there and wait for a little rain to kick-start a stalled photosynthesis, and thereby achieve the holy grail of phenolic maturity?
It’s hard to say who was right. There are very good wines coming from both camps. But there are iffy wines too. And that’s the key to understanding 2017.
Picked early, the best wines, both red and white, are fresh, fruit-driven and floral with long minerality. The iffy wines seem not have adjusted for the solid levels of tartaric acid which left them tart rather than bright, dry and tannic rather than juicy.
Picking late did not seem to have an effect on the balance between alcohol and acidity. But then, there was no ‘over maturity’ in 2017. The extra phenolic maturity seems to mean more density and riper tannins, with no sign of flabbiness.
The whites shine, particularly in hard-done Chablis (where there is better balance even than the marvelous 2014s). In the rest of Burgundy, the whites have the tension of 2014 but the open flattery of 2015.
The reds are juicy and crisp and open, and the regional appellations will be ready to drink soon. More serious appellations will be considered ‘typical’, in the best sense of the word: classic wines from a vintage that Burgundians will love. They are likely to be lost in the hub-bub that the 2018s will bring. But the yields were good in 2017, so you will be able to find them for a while. And you’ll do well to seek them out.
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