Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Burghound Seminar "A Study in Terroir" at La Paulee 2010 in San Francisco - Part 1.2: Le Montrachet

...continued from Part 1.1.

Burgschnauzer in his well-written post about Le Montrachet put it nicely:
"The mythology of a famous vineyard can be greater than the wines it actually produces. Our preconceived notions regarding a plot of earth often create expectations that are unrealistic and impossible for a beverage to reach. No one grape growing region is more susceptible to this than Burgundy. The best vineyards of the Cote d’Or have been written about and praised for centuries, but none more so then Montrachet. I have to confess to being obsessed with this vineyard and that my infatuation started long before I ever tasted a sip of its wine. Like many budding wine geeks, I had drooled over the descriptions of great bottles and imagined what it would be like to actually experience them. This can happen with wines from any vineyard, but Montrachet certainly is one of the most alluring. Perhaps the astronomical prices charged for bottles bearing the Montrachet label made me crave for a taste, but the same could have been true of other vineyards such as La Romanee Conti, or even Chevalier-Montrachet. More probable is that I had just become enamored with a wine that others called the best. It can be argued that several red wine producing grand crus are the crème de la crème, Musigny, La Tache and Chambertin among them, but only one stands at the top when it comes to white. Whatever the reason, I had become a Montrachet groupie."

Part 1.2

My nose was stuck in a glass of the most legendary white wine in the world - Le Montrachet. Joseph Drouhin's Montrachet is called "Marquis de Laguiche", named after a long-time (since world war I) friend of the family who owns a plot of the vineyard whose grapes he sells exclusively to the Drouhins. Funny, Allen Meadows said if you look at the vineyard, you can never tell that something regal stems from here. "Montrachet is just ugly", he said. But dig deeper into the layers of sub-soil, pay attention to the orientation of the slope and the exposure to the sun and wind, and a different story emerges. A snapshot of the Montrachet map to the right (by Cote d'Or Imports) reveals a striking tale of the exquisite fragmentation of different parcels and owners within Le Montrachet. The essence of Burgundy illustrated. Marquis de Laguiche plot is the farthest on the right-hand-side. At 2 hectars, they are the largest owner of land within Le Montrachet. You can play with an interactive map here.

Montrachet can age for decades. But even now, just a baby (2006), could I tell the difference between the ordinary and the sublime? One hour in the glass, color not very deep, the nose not particularly expressive, just a whiff of creaminess. On the palate - elegant creaminess, impeccable balance between fruit, oak and acid, not too much of anything, medium acidity, plush texture and long thick finish. Smelling and drinking it (this I would not spit) over the course of the next half hour, the nose revealed delicious waffles, baked peaches and apples. The taste remained very primary, with honey, grapefruit, pear and apple. Looking at my notes now, I read "very good, but not amazing". Shocking - not amazing??? How dare I?

Let me explain. With prices on wine-searcher at around $500-700/bottle, for whatever its worth, I could say - this wine tasted marginally better than most white wines I'd ever tried (at such young age), but not *that* much better. I'd pay $150, not $500. I think it's very clear that with wine, as with many other objects of obsession, as the quality jumps incrementally, the price goes up exponentially. For a wine that is slightly better, you can easily pay two, three, four times the price. If you want the prestige and the taste of the best, then yes. But otherwise, the QPR is clearly not there. Granted, the wine was young and unevolved, and Drouhin is not the absolute top producer of Montrachet, still I was slightly disappointed by the case of the reality not living up to the anticipation.

Nevertheless, I remain open minded about the possibility of this vineyard knocking my socks off in the future. Your Montrachet is always welcome in my glass!

...To be continued in Part 2.

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