n the same way that the neighbouring Puligny-Montrachet has an unpretentious atmosphere to it there is very little in Chassagne-Montrachet that shows that you are in one of the most prestigious white wine villages in the world. But compared to Puligny-Montrachet Chassagne-Montrachet has a considerably larger production of red wine. Despite its reputation as one of the most respected white wine communes about one third of the production is red.
Going back in time one finds that Chassagne-Montrachet was an almost entirely red commune, except for the grand crus and a few plots of Pinot Blanc. This started to change towards the end of the 19th century. When the vineyards were replanted after the phylloxera chardonnay was introduced to a larger extent. By the 1930's close to one quarter of the Chassagne vineyards produced white wine. The transition towards white wine was mainly due to a change in demand. Still today the growers can charge higher prices for white Chassagne-Montrachet then for red.
Coming from Puligny-Montrachet, as you leave the grand crus of Puligny and Chassagne behind you, you cross the N6 (Paris-Lyon) before you enter the village. Turn right up on Rue Principale by the gigantic signs giving directions to all the vignerons and it will take you to the Place de l'Europe. Here you will find the bus shelter that Remington Norman so cheerfully describes in his book "The Great Domaines of Burgundy" as well as the Caveau de Chassagne-Montrachet, a wine-shop selling the wines from the village. Further down the main street is another, slightly larger shop run by the same owner. Here you will have the chance for some tasting as well.
The premier crus in Chassagne-Montrachet are a jungle. With 19 principal premier crus and a large number of lieu-dits which may be put on the bottle label instead we end up with over 50 different names. Fortunately not all of them are used on a regular basis.
Chassagne-Montrachet shares two of its three grand crus – Le Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet – with Puligny-Montrachet. The third – Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet – is entirely within the Chassagne-Montrachet boundaries. The latter is the smallest of them all, producing less than 10 000 bottles a year.
The village's history goes back to Roman times, with early settlements found in Les Caillerets. It was known as Cassaneas back in AD 886 and would much later become Chaissagne. In 1879, at the same time as Puligny became Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne added Montrachet to its name.
One of the stars of the village, Vincent Dancer, has a very nice photo-blog. A good substitute for those of us who don't have the chance to visit the area often enough. Unfortunately I have never had the chance to taste his wines, but if his images are anything to go by I am sure his wines are lovely.
© 2013 Ola Bergman