When the sky's the limit

I was reminded of all the past examples of Montrachet which I have had the good fortune to drink at a Chateau Latour vertical tasting recently. The introductory white wine was a Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet, by Drouhin - and in magnum too!

Montrachet 1995 en magnum, Marquis de Laguiche, Maison Drouhin (July 23, 2015)

Pale yellow-gold, with a light fruity bouquet, both colour and bouquet belying its 18-year age. The maturity showed on the palate which certainly tasted of a more mature but light-textured wine, full of the taste of mixed nuts and lemon. The bouquet and palate became steadily richer and more complex as the wine developed in the glass. Most impressive.

Montrachet 2011, Domaine Romanee-Conti (July 10, 2014)

Brilliant yellow-gold, beautiful aroma, rich ripe citrusy fruit and mixed nuts. Still very youthful but already drinking superbly, perfectly poised, and wondrously complex. A beautiful wine, very fine and elegant. An aristocrat of a wine, everything in place, a classic.

Montrachet 2009, Domaine Romanee-Conti (July 10, 2014)

An older wine, deep yellow colour, with a lovely aroma, more lush than 2011, rather like a "blousy blonde". A richer wine, more mature, softer, lusher on the palate. Very, very good.

Montrachet 2000, Domaine Henri Boillot (Aug 3, 2011)

Already quite a mature golden yellow, but rather faint aroma of chardonnay - citrusy fruit and mixed nuts. On the palate showed good minerality and ripeness. At peak, but a little pedestrian for its pedigree. Good not great.

Montrachet 1990, Louis Latour (Jan 24, 2009)

A bright gold colour as befits its age but a youthful bouquet, light at first, taking 10 minutes to open up fully. Rather mushroomy taste to its medium concentration orangey flavour, finishing rather thin. Mature but lacked richness, and the mushrooms on the palate indicated that it was past its peak. At 29 years age, a wine of this stature should still be at its height of powers. Unknown provenance.

Montrachet 1990, Marquis de Laguiche, Maison Joseph Drouhin (March 24, 2009)

The rich golden colour of a mature white burgundy - with a mature aroma but still very fresh. An extraordinary concentration with a great depth of flavour, big, powerful.

Montrachet 1994, Domaine Ramonet (May 1, 2009)

Brilliant medium golden-yellow with a rather heavy bouquet, full of ripe citrusy fruit but still rather oaky at 15 years age. Rather thick texture on the palate but good density and concentration. Would have been better but marred by too much of the oaky vanillin. Sadly, a rather representative example of the Ramonet style.

Montrachet 2000, Domaine Comtes Lafon (May 23, 2009)

Medium gold in colour with a fine citrusy nose, still a trace of the oak's vanillin detectable. On the palate, intense taste of very pure, very ripe fruit, still a touch oaky, balanced by its great freshness.

The eight wines tasted came from seven of the best known producers of Montrachet, providing for a good general overview of the different styles of wine-making.

Most wine lovers will know that just as Everest is the ultimate in mountain peaks, nothing else comes close to Montrachet, not even the best of Chevalier Montrachet, the top Premier Cru in Puligny Montrachet. The vineyard of Montrachet itself lies half in the commune of Puligny Montrachet and the other half in Chassagne Montrachet.

There are 16 owners of Montrachet vineyards, some holdings being very tiny, eg Leflaive 0.8 hectares, Lafon 0.31 ha, and DRC 0.34 ha. Marquis de Laguiche's Montrachet plot of 2.06 ha, by far the largest, lies in the Puligny half of Montrachet. (Both Lafon's and Leflaive's plots lie in the Chassagne half.) Laguiche's vineyard belongs to the heirs of the Marquis de Laguiche, but the wine is made and marketed by Maison Joseph Drouhin.

What is it about Montrachet that makes it the ultimate white wine?

At this level of perfection, it becomes almost impossible to define. It has a deep intensity, which may not initially be fully obvious on the palate, but which becomes noticeable later, especially on the after-taste. There seems to be an energy to the wine, (I liken it to a continued lighting-up of the taste-buds) which continues well after the wine has been swallowed, very difficult to actually describe in words. It is more in the nature of a sensory impression that lingers on and on, not only on the palate but in the sensory part of the cerebral cortex. Regrettably, one would have to taste (and drink) a Montrachet to be able to grasp the full impact of this wine.

Which Montrachet is the best?

Very much a personal question as always, a question that is both difficult as well as invidious to answer. In the public eye (and on the palate and causing the biggest hole in the bank account), it is the Domaine Romanee- Conti's Montrachet, a bottle well into five, not four, figures and in euros, not Singapore dollars.

My favourites are the Laguiche, the Leflaive and Lafon, with the Baron Thenard not far behind. The best value for me is the Marquis de Laguiche Montrachet, which is consistent vintage after vintage, displaying not power and muscle but complexity, a distinct air of superiority without being "nose-up", and elegant. My all-time favourite remains Lafon's Montrachet, followed closely by Leflaive's. The most expensive is Domaine Romanee-Conti's, and for most wine-lovers, the creme de la creme! Sadly, not within the budget of this writer!

This article was first published on August 7, 2015.
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