The five Grands Crus of Montrachet, all situated in the villages of Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, or between both, produce some of the most desirable, expensive white wine in the world. The five Grands Crus make up more than half those of the entire Côte de Beaune.
The wines from the Montrachet areas, when from good producers and in good vintages, combine power, intensity, balance, and an elegant but upfront core of fruit and minerals. The best can age for 25 years or more, developing further in bottle while retaining the same refinement that makes them Grand Cru wine. It's no easy distinction to be labeled as Grand Cru in Burgundy, and the wines of Montrachet are almost always exceptional enough to warrant their status.
Confusion is inevitable due to the vineyards and villages that attach their name to the legendary Montrachet name. The thing to remember is that all five Grands Crus are shared between two villages: Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet. Both of these communes also produce their own Chardonnay-based wine at the village and Premier Cru level.
Here is a list of the Montrachet appellations that hopefully will help to clear away some of the confusion.
- Bâtard-Montrachet: Bâtard-Montrachet, which produces white wine of a more minerally style than Montrachet itself, is almost equally famous. The vineyard itself is shared between Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet, but two nearby Grand Crus can be considered part of Bâtard-Montrachet. These are Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, located entirely within Puligny-Montrachet, and Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, which belongs entirely to Chassagne-Montrachet. Both of these appellations are as consistent as Bâtard-Montrachet itself, but are considerably less famous in their own right.
- Chassagne-Montrachet: Chassagne-Montrachet is a commune in the Côte de Beaune that lays claim to one Grand Cru vineyard, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, and has a share of Bâtard-Montrachet and Montrachet. As if that were not good enough, it has a whopping 50 Premiers Crus for white wine growth, and produces some village-level wine as well.
- Chevalier-Montrachet: A somewhat less famous vineyard located entirely in Puligny-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet has the highest elevation of any of the Montrachet vineyards. This can make for wine of an initially overly austere style, but aging will more often than not sort this out.
- Montrachet: The famed white wine vineyard is so valuable that no producer has yet been able to buy it out. Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, however, owns some of the land, as do other famous domaines such as Leroy and Ramonet. The wines produced there are some of the most expensive in the world, and almost certainly constitute the most expensive white in the world. At best, the wines are simply perfect: they balance classic Chardonnay fruits with a mineral undertone, and have just the right amount of intensity to ensure that the wine will be better after long aging.
- Puligny-Montrachet: The other Montrachet village has a share of Bâtard-Montrachet and Montrachet, while entirely encompassing the vineyards of Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet and Chevalier-Montrachet. With these holdings, it has to be considered the world's best white wine village, but there are also 17 outstanding Premiers Crus and some great village Chardonnay.