Chassagne-Montrachet is a commune of about 2.5 square miles that, along with Puligny-Montrachet, contains much of the world's best white wine land. Those wines are separately classified under the five Montrachet Grands Crus, but wines labeled Chassagne-Montrachet can also be world-class. As well as possessing a share of Bâtard-Montrachet and Montrachet (wines from the Chassagne side of Montrachet are known as Le Montrachet), Chassagne-Montrachet also fully encompasses the small Grand Cru of Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet.
The two Montrachet villages constitute an immensely important part of the white wine world. While some of the best white wines, and the ones that give Montrachet its famous name, are labeled under one of the five Montrachet Grands Crus, a great deal of world-class white wine is also produced at Premier Cru level and even plain old village wine level.
While Puligny-Montrachet has a greater share of the Grands Crus, Chassagne-Montrachet declares its advantage on the Premier Cru level. Though a number of them are obscure, no less than 50 Premiers Crus exist within Chassagne-Montrachet's boundaries. There are about 865 acres of vineyards, of which about 358 acres are Premier Cru. Therefore, a little less than half of Chassagne-Montrachet's vineyards are Premiers Crus. As a result of these very convincing statistics, Chassagne takes its place as one of the top few white wine villages in the world.
Like many of the "second-wave" appellations, Chassagne-Montrachet was made an AOC for white wine in 1970. Strangely, the regulations also allowed red wine, but red wine has always been of miniscule importance in the village's history.
A Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru was selected as one of the four Chardonnays to compete with the California Chardonnays in the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Chassagne-Montrachet wine was not included, but the effect was just as severe: Burgundian producers were no longer allowed to rest on their laurels and had to prove that they were the best white wine producers in the world. Despite the turmoil that arose from this and other commotion in the 1980s, Chassagne-Montrachet has remained one of the top white wine villages.
Climate and Viticulture
The entire Montrachet area has some of the best temperature, rainfall, and wind conditions of all Burgundy, particularly due to the shelter afforded by the three-way hills surrounding the area. But the limestone soil is most concentrated, and the slopes most optimal, in the five Montrachet Grands Crus. As a result, Chassagne-Montrachet and its Premiers Crus are not really afforded the absolute best land. Still, the excellently concentrated limestone and cool climate makes for premier Chardonnay.
- Chardonnay: Diverse growing climates for Chardonnay, too many to describe in one paragraph, exist within the Chassagne-Montrachet village appellation and its Premiers Crus. With 865 acres of vineyards Chassagne-Montrachet is no small appellation. Unsurprisingly, the general style follows Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet: powerful, concentrated, and intensely flavored, but with a light, elegant touch that balances the wine and makes for true excellence. They rarely reach the high complexity or sheer power of the Grand Cru examples, but for most people the difference is far too slight to outweigh the gigantic price differential between Grands Crus and lower-level examples.
- Pinot Noir: Red wine is rare here; it usually takes on a simple-minded earthy, plummy characteristic. Leading producers are Château de la Maltroye and Domaine Bachelet Ramonet.
This is one of Burgundy's primary appellations and to compile a list of "good" producers would be an overwhelming task. In fact, there are enough Premiers Crus so that memorization of a few of those names might be better than attempting to remember a whole list of producers whose offerings within Chassagne-Montrachet are themselves variable.
Here is a list of the world-class Chassagne-Montrachet producers. In addition to quality, these have all been vetted for availability outside France. Most producers are trustworthy here, though, so this list is by no means a be-all and end-all for the region. A total of 18 producers make the list; their wines are discussed under the Premiers Crus in the subregion section below.
- Domaine Bruno Colin
- Domaine Colin-Deleger
- Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey
- Domaine Vincent Dancer
- Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard
- Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard
- Château de la Maltroye
- Lucien Le Moine
- Domaine Bernard Morey et Fils
- Domaine Marc Morey
- Domaine Thomas Morey
- Domaine Michel Niellon
- Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot
- Domaine Ramonet
There's so much Premier Cru land that the best wines are mostly filed under this designation. Here is a list of the 50 Premier Cru designations with brief descriptions for the commonly seen ones.
- Les Baudines: Densely rich and intense, Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey's Les Baudines is often the best from this Premier Cru. It's easier to find—and less expensive to buy—Bernard Morey's exotically ripe and balanced Chardonnay from this Premier Cru. Girardin, Morey, and Pillot also make good wines here. All in all it's a generally reliable designation.
- Blanchot Dessus: The intensely smoky and powerful wine from Jean-Noel Gagnard is the unquestioned leader of this appellation, especially from the late 1990s to the early 2000s.
- Les Boirettes
- Bois de Chassagne
- Les Bondues
- La Boudriotte: Bruno Colin and Ramonet make sweet, citrussy, rather simple but good cuvées here.
- Les Brussonnes
- Les Caillerets: Among the most common and best of the Premier Cru vineyards in Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Caillerets is home to a cuvée from almost every major producer in Chassagne. The ripe, sweet Bernard Morey is among the best of this producer's offerings, and the expensive Colin-Morey is similar, with interesting floral notes. Wines from Girardin and Marc Morey are sweet, approachable and simple but remarkably good. Jean-Noel Gagnard's cuvée is rich and intense but also not too difficult. On the other end of the scale, the Fontaine-Gagnard is a very austere wine at first; offerings from Pillot and Ramonet are generally similar, with aging a requirement for all three.
- La Cardeuse
- Les Champs-Gains: Although this Premier Cru designation lacks wines with great complexity, it still is reliable for ultra-rich, luscious white Burgundy.
- Champs Jendreau
- La Chapelle
- Les Chaumées: Rich, ripe wines come from this Premier Cru, which is not highly distinguished but generally reliable. Bruno Colin makes some of the best wine, which strikes a great balance between mineral intensity and richness of fruit, but Niellon and Pillot are more backward in style. Most of the other cuvées are more simple and straightforward, with notes of yellow fruit.
- Les Chaumes
- Chassagne du Clos Saint-Jean
- Les Chenevottes: This is another of the main Chassagne-Montrachet Premiers Crus, which in turn makes it among the most important white Premier Cru Burgundy designations. They make wine of a quite different style from Les Caillerets; although there are some reserved examples the best wines are usually quite approachable. Bernard Morey, Maltroye (although their wine has quite complex yellow fruit) Lucien Le Moine, Pillot, and the smoky Verget follow this style. Bruno Colin and Colin-Morey make more intense, but still balanced, examples.
- Clos Chareau
- Clos Pitois
- Clos Saint Jean: Many producers have holdings here, but the wines, which are generally a bit more lively in style, have two clear leaders: Bernard Morey et Fils and Michel Niellon. Morey's wines are generally more intense and ageable, but Niellon makes feminine, lightly structured, mild Chardonnay from the Clos St. Jean vines.
- Les Combards
- Les Combes
- Les Embazées: This not-too-common Premier Cru is fairly reliable; Bernard Morey makes some of the best wine which is forward and yet complex.
- En Remilly: The leading wine from this Premier Cru is undoubtedly that from Domaine Colin-Deleger. In fact, it is Deleger's best Chassagne-Montrachet offering, and that's saying a lot. In addition to the usual citrussy flavors, more pleasant peach and pineapple flavors back up the structure of the wine. Although firm it is forward in style and can be drunk early on. Domaine Bruno Colin makes much sweeter, creamier wine in a much different style.
- En Virondot
- Ez Cretz
- Ez Crottes
- Les Fairendes: Pillot's wine here is fairly important.
- Francemont: Incredibly rich and intense, the Verget here is a standout.
- La Grande Borne
- La Grande Montagne: Smoky, lemony, and pleasant but not usually deep enough to be a leader of the appellation, Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard's example of this Premier Cru is a generally good wine. The 2004 vintage, though it might be too late to drink it now, had Grand Cru-level depth and concentration.
- Les Grandes Ruchottes: Jadot, Maltroye, and Lucien Le Moine are important producers here. The former is deceptively silky but quite powerful, the second is minerally, almost steely, and the latter is rich and deep.
- Les Grands Clos
- Les Macherelles: Bernard Morey's intense example from this Premier Cru tends to be some of the best of this wine.
- La Maltroie: This vineyard is like Caillerets in its size and the number of producers that have holdings here, but occupies a slightly lower average quality tier. Bruno Colin and Pierre-Yves Colin Morey make classically structured, firm but elegant wines here; general reliability is high.
- Morgeot: A Premier Cru with even more wines than Les Caillerets. The size of the vineyard and the amount of wine produced do not, however, vary inversely with quality, as Morgeot is also one of the leading Premier Cru vineyards of Chassagne-Montrachet and therefore the Côte de Beaune. Unlike Les Caillerets, even among leading wines the general style varies greatly. The great Morgeots, all of which are more expensive than the average Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru but not by much, come from six domaines. Bruno Colin's is rich but with a dry intensity and mineral flavor that can make aging beneficial to the wine. The more citrussy, lemony, acidic Fontaine-Gagnard is also good. Both Girardin and Jadot make great "Abbaye de Morgeot" from old vines, and Jadot's Clos de Chapelle Domaine du Duc de Magenta is also good in its fruity-rich but nonetheless complex style. Thomas Morey's example also combines complexity with elegance in a pleasing way. The more spicy, exotic, but also fruit-forward Ramonet wines are also leaders.
- Morgeot Vigne Blanche: The only known producer for this designation is Château de la Maltroye, whose Chardonnay from there can last at least 20 years. Although obscure and hard to find, these wines are remarkable for their ripe, creamy, honeyed flavors.
- Les Murées
- Les Pasquelles
- Les Petites Fairendes
- Les Petits Clos
- Les Places
- Les Rebichets
- La Romanée: This great Premier Cru vineyard is not to be confused with the La Romanée in the Côte de Nuits, which is a Grand Cru vineyard for red wine. Chassagne-Montrachet's La Romanée is also a leader for its style; while it's not as common as Les Caillerets or Morgeot, the designation is found on many great bottles of Chassagne-Montrachet. Rich, sweet, lusciously round wines are produced by Vincent Dancer and Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard; they do a good job of keeping the fruit approachable without making the richness cloying. From Jadot, Château de la Maltroye, Lucien Le Moine, and Verget, bottlings combine the mineral intensity with the same spicy, fruity richness.
- La Roquemaure
- Les Ruchottes: Only a few producers utilize this vineyard, and only one is a true standout. Ramonet's offerings in Chassagne-Montrachet don't generally compete with their Grand Cru wines, but Les Ruchottes is the one that is often an exception. Although powerful, the Ruchottes is never really too intense, combining layered mineral and fruit flavors without overusing either. First rate balance. Pleasantly, it costs less than $100.
- Tête du Clos: Recent vintages of Dancer's cuvée have gotten better and better, offering more and more precision along with their usual fruity, upfront style. Exotic and sometimes creamy, they are concentrated but closer to Meursault than Montrachet in style.
- Les Vergers: You almost can't go wrong with wine from this Premier Cru, which along with Les Caillerets and Morgeot should be considered not only one of the most common and available, but also one of the best Chassagne-Montrachet designations. Even from basic producers, the wine is almost always pleasant, and it's easy to find since most Chassagne-Montrachet producers will have at least some holdings here. There's a lot of wine made here, meaning that while the quality is consistent the style varies greatly. Most of the time the wine is at least somewhat exotically rich, but the amount of intensity varies by domaine. There are six notables at the moment: Bruno Colin makes the most elegant and approachable style, Colin-Deleger's is drier but still not intense, Fontaine-Gagnard's and Ramonet's are explosively rich and powerful but not intense, and then there are firmer and more minerally offerings from Marc Morey and Michel Niellon. The true leader is Jean-Marc Pillot, whose Grand Cru-like offering has no hard edges with its pure, brilliantly ripe exotic sweetness and richness. Drink it early on for its unrivaled perfume. These offerings elevate Les Vergers to one of the top Côte de Beaune white wine designations.
- Vigne Derrière
Chassagne-Montrachet has a share of two Grands Crus and the entirety of a third.
- Bâtard-Montrachet: This outstanding Grand Cru is split by Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet.
- Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet: This small vineyard lies entirely within Chassagne-Montrachet and produces some of the best white wines in the world. Although expensive to produce and therefore to buy, they are among true Burgundy collectibles.
- Montrachet: About half of Montrachet makes wine known as Le Montrachet, on the Chassagne-Montrachet side of Montrachet. Confusing though it is, there's no doubt that Chassagne-Montrachet lends its character to this most lauded of white wine Grands Crus.