n the 12th century the monks planted the first vines near the hamlet of Blagny, a kilometre and a half north of Puligny-Montrachet. Today Puligny-Montrachet is among the finest wine-producing villages in the world, if not the finest when it comes to white wine. Follow Rue de Poiseul from the village square westward out of the village and you are in chardonnay heaven. Once past the village vines of Les Meix and Rue Rousseau you are surrounded by premier and grand crus – Les Pucelles, Les Cailleret, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet and Le Montrachet itself, the most expensive dry white wine in the world.
There are a total of four grand crus (whole or in part) in Puligny-Montrachet – Chevalier-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet and Le Montrachet. The village shares both Le Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet with the neighbouring Chassagne-Montrachet, while both Chevalier-Montrachet and Bienvenues-Bâtard-
From Puligny-Montrachet Chassagne-Montrachet is within comfortable walking distance (2 km/1,24 miles). This is a nice way to see all the grand crus up close, including the one that is entirely within the Chassagne-Montrachet boundaries – Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet. I tried it a hot summer's day and very quickly got to experience what excellent exposition does for the temperature. It was warm in Puligny, but it was considerably warmer out by the grand cru vines.
Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet is the first grand cru you come across as you stroll along the vines towards Chassagne-Montrachet. Surrounded by Bâtard-Montrachet on two sides, village vines on one side and the premier cru Les Pucelles just across the road to the north it covers 3,69 hectares. Ownership is split between a dozen or so proprietors and the average annual output is only 1910 cases. Remington Norman tells us that the name dates back to the 19th century when the vines were farmed en metayage (share-cropped) by outside workers referred to as Les Bienvenues.
Then comes the considerably larger Bâtard-Montrachet. Its 11,83 hectares are split between Puligny-Montrachet (6,02 ha) and Chassagne-Montrachet (5,81 ha), stretched out downslope of Le Montrachet. Of the grand crus Bâtard-Montrachet has the deepest soil, with the highest proportion of clay. As you move up the hill – Le Montrachet midslope and Chevalier-Montrachet above – the steepness increases and the percentage of clay decreases, from 50 to 35 in Le Montrachet and to 20 in Chevalier-Montrachet.
When you reach the intersection by the cross of Montrachet, 900 metres from the village, you are surrounded by some of the finest names in the wine world. This is where the grand crus of Le Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet meet the premier crus of Les Pucelles and Le Cailleret.
Uphill you see the often-photographed arch and stonewall surrounding the Clos des Chevalier. This part of Chevalier-Montrachet is a monopole that has belonged to Domaine Jean Chartron in Puligny-Montrachet since 1917. The whole of Chevalier-Montrachet is stretched out above Le Montrachet. While Le Montrachet continues across the border into Chassagne-Montrachet the 7,47 hectares of Chevalier-Montrachet lie entirely within the limits of Puligny-Montrachet. It has some 15 different owners, with Bouchard Père & Fils (2,56 hectares) and Domaine Leflaive (1,99 hectares) being the largest owners.
Walking towards Chassagne-Montrachet you have Bâtard-Montrachet on your left and Le Montrachet on your right. 4,01 hectares of Le Montrachet are on the Puligny side, the rest in Chassagne.
Unless you are familiar with Puligny-Montrachet and its place in the wine world, there is not much in this village of gallo-roman origin that will give away the fact that you are walking the streets of such a renowned place. Altogether there is not much of commerce here at all. There is the once Michelin-starred restaurant/hotel Le Montrachet at the shaded Place des Marronniers. At the roundabout at the beginning of Rue de Poiseul you will find Caveau de Puligny-Montrachet, a small wine-shop run by Julien Wallerand selling the wine from some 70 Burgundian producers. And at decent prices too.
© 2013 Ola Bergman