Puligny-Montrachet is an appellation in the revered French wine region of Côte de Beaune in the middle of Burgundy. The commune village of Puligny on the south slope of the Mont Rachet hillside is home to grand cru and premier cru vineyards that have been making outstanding wines for centuries
Its blend of limestone soil, climate, and Chardonnay grapes enable the production of white wines with unparalleled quality. The structure and character of the style are marked by a full body with a mineral core and rich aromas of elegant fruit.
Their reputation is reflected in their price. Don’t be surprised to drop $100 or more on a bottle. However, if you’re looking for a white wine to fall in love with, the crus of Puligny-Montrachet is a great place to begin your search.
It visually ranges from pale lemon to brilliant gold. Slightly green highlights are often present, especially in older specimens. When it is improperly stored or overaged, it will take on a brown tinge and can be a sign that it’s past its prime.
More than other white burgundies, they are dominated by steely minerality. Expect a bouquet with concentrated flavors. Notes of crushed rock, wet stone, or flintiness are common descriptors as are green apple and lemongrass. The typical flavors imparted by the oak, such as toasted bread, hazelnut, licorice, and sweet baking spices, are present as well.
Puligny is a full-bodied white wine. Alcohol levels regularly climb over 13%. A balance of ripe (not overripe) fruit and crisp acidity is present in the style’s best examples. Expect a well-defined structure with concentrated flavors.
Burgundy is one of the most intricate and perhaps confusing categorization schemes in France. Within Burgundy there are 5 separate growing zones: Chablis, Côte d’Or, Côte Chalonnaise, the Mâconnais, and Beaujolais. Within Côte d’Or are Côte de Beaune in the south and Côte de Nuits in the north. Côte de Beaune contains many prestigious red and white wine appellations including Puligny-Montrachet.
Twenty-one vineyard plots known as climats cover 208 hectares of land in the Puligny-Montrachet Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). The four “Grand Cru” vineyards where the highest quality wines are produced are located in the southern part of the region. Chevalier-Montrachet and Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet are completely contained within Puligny-Montrachet. Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet lie on the border with Chassagne—the neighboring commune and home to the Chassagne-Montrachet Appellation, which shares them.
Keep in mind that the “premier cru” designation denotes a vineyard that is only slightly less praised than the grand crus and still produces outstanding wines. Some names to keep an eye out for are la Garenne, Hameau de Blagny, Sous le puits, and les Folatières.
The further north the vineyard location, the higher up it will be on the Mont Rachet slope. The hill’s name means the “scabby hill.” It’s a rocky and slightly elevated expanse that serves to delineate borders of the different villages of the area.
Production of white wine in Burgundy focuses on the Chardonnay grape. Historically, Pinot Blanc was permitted to be used in White Burgundy, but today there is very little Pinot Blanc still grown in the area.
Chardonnay is the blank canvas of grape varietals; it takes up its character from the influence of terroir and oak. The soil around the village of Puligny is a unique blend of limestone, clay, and marl. The mineral sediments are derived from the inland sea that once covered the entire region.
Like all quality french wine, the production of Puligny-Montrachet is a meticulous process. The grapes are picked in early September. Vineyards must keep a careful eye on their specific conditions affecting their plot, including frost, rain, and even hail.
After the grapes are harvested, they are pressed and the juice is fermented. Malolactic fermentation of the chardonnay allows the tart malic acid to convert to the softer tasting lactic acid while also imparting flavor notes of butter. Many vineyard owners choose to age their wine in contact with the lees (a yeast byproduct from fermentation). This leads to more body and a “creamy” mouthfeel in the final product.
Puligny-Montrachet is a white wine that can handle cellaring, especially those with higher acidity. Just don’t wait too long as you run the risk of it being completely oxidized after 10-15 years. For the most part, they are perfectly suitable to drink young.
Luscious but less overpowering dishes are most complementary to the complexity of Puligny. Lobster or other shellfish are a natural match, as are poultry or veal prepared with a creamy french sauce. Camembert, brie, or goat cheese are great cheeseboard choices.
Try it Out
Adjust your expectations before you look at the prices. Most bottles start at around $70 and the sky is the limit from there. The good news is that quality is almost universally high. Since all Puligny is produced by premier cru or grand cru vineyards, it’s unusual to end up with a bad bottle.
Puligny-Montrachet is a consistent appellation, so keeping close tabs on vintages is less necessary than for other styles. Even so, 2014 and 2017 stand out as particularly fine years.
Domaine Joseph Drouhin Montrachet Grand Cru “Marquis de Laguiche” 2017: From plantings in the north of the Montrachet Grand Cru, and this may be its best wine on offer. If you’re going to drop nearly a grand on a bottle, you want something outstanding. Drouhin delivers an endlessly captivating and artfully structured masterpiece. You’ll be stunned by the blend of limestone minerality, energetic acidity, concentrated citrus, and much more, leading to a long luxurious finish.
Chateau De Puligny-Montrachet, Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru 2014: Another textbook example of the style from a well-regarded vineyard. A citrus and subtle spice profile along with an austere and stony saline finish. Its price is typically north of $200. It can be difficult to find, but you will experience a true rewards for your search.
Domaine Etienne Sauzet “Les Combettes” Premier Cru 2018: Bargain is a relative term here as this example will still cost around $140 a bottle. However, the quality of the wine can’t be denied. The racy aroma of stone fruit and a trademark mineral character meet in this excellent offering.
Domaine Alain Chavy Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Folatieres” 2015: Intense, concentrated flavors of peach, floral citrus, and slate make up its bouquet. Even at $80, this premier cru is offering a steal.
Logically enough, you will want to use a Burgundy glass to enjoy your Puligny. The glass’s wide bowl is designed to maximize the surface of the wine exposed to air and capture the its complex scents. This is the proper glass for both red and white wines from the region.
You eventually run out of superlatives when talking about Puligny-Montrachet. It’s perhaps the most prestigious white wine in a country full of amazing white wine styles. Although the price can be intimidating, sometimes you have to search for nothing less than the best.