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Bâtard-Montrachet


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Bâtard-Montrachet is one of the five Montrachet Grand Cru vineyards that, through all the turmoil of French wine, has remained one of the best places to find white Chardonnay in the world. It encompasses only about 27.8 acres, and yields are so low that many of the wines are collectible as soon as they begin to be sold on the market.

Many critics might describe Bâtard-Montrachet wines as "perfect." And indeed, several of them do approach the perfect balance between fruit and minerals, as well as between power and elegance. There is very little difference in flavor from Montrachet, but most wines emphasize the minerally end of things more on Bâtard-Montrachet, giving the wines an incredible earthy, stony core. They probably peak a bit sooner than Montrachet's own wines.

Bâtard-Montrachet retains its reputation as one of Burgundy's best Grands Crus, and within Burgundy is second only to Montrachet in the amount of world-class Chardonnay produced. Comparing the wines to California Chardonnay is a tough call, but a number of sticklers believe the purity of the Bâtard-Montrachet minerals exceeds many Californian offerings.

History

Along with many other Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy, Bâtard-Montrachet was officially granted recognition in 1937. Even before then, the limited-production wines issuing from these rows of vines commanded high prices and symbolized greatly refined wine. After the AOC, Bâtard-Montrachet enjoyed a very high reputation, although it may never have been more famous than Montrachet itself. A shake-up occurred in 1976, when a 1973 Domaine Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet failed to prove itself superior to Californian Chardonnays in the 1976 Judgement of Paris.

Various challenges to the credibility of the contest were made, a number of them quite reasonable, but the damage was already done: Burgundy was no longer the certain best place to find white wine. Then, of course, came the "California wine bubble", after which a lot of buyers rushed back to Burgundy even despite its higher prices. Nowadays competition between the two regions has kept the wine of an excellent general quality.

Climate and Viticulture

The Chardonnay grape thrives in the high hills of Bâtard-Montrachet. Montrachet itself is higher on the slope of the Côte de Beaune, which for whatever reason makes wine of greater fruit and purity. But Bâtard-Montrachet is good enough, with great weather conditions and rainfall patterns. The gentle but firm slope helps to bring a strictly defined core to the wine whilst intensifying its minerally flavors.

The really defining factor, however, is the same as all the Montrachet areas: they are sheltered from the wind. Since there are hills on 3 sides of all the Montrachet areas, Bâtard-Montrachet is kept from that leanness and austerity that some of the more exposed vineyards' wine can take on. Instead, they are greatly approachable at any age whilst maintaining a mineral center that preserves the wine for decades if desired.

Grape Varieties

Major Producers

The best Bâtard-Montrachet producer is hard to specify, as a number of them produce wines of a general quality so high that comparison would be hairsplitting. Indeed there are so many great producers that a list of bad producers would be far shorter, and in fact may not have any members whatsoever. A solid dozen producers made our list of the best.

Subregions

While they are in fact separate Grands Crus lying within the Montrachet areas, the two Grands Crus that attach their name to the Bâtard-Montrachet suffix produce wine of a similar enough style to be considered satellites of Bâtard-Montrachet itself.