Puligny-Montrachet is a commune of about 2.8 square miles that, along with Chassagne-Montrachet, contains much of the best land for white wine in the world. All of Puligny's Grand Cru land is classified Bâtard-Montrachet, Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, or Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, the four Grands Crus that Puligny-Montrachet is involved with. Puligny-Montrachet has a share of the first two, and the last two lie completely within its boundaries.
Although Chassagne-Montrachet has far fewer Premiers Crus than Chassagne-Montrachet, they are probably roughly equal in importance. Both are considered to be among the top two white wine villages in the world. Although similar in style, there are a few key differences between the two; Chassagne wine is usually slightly less intense and concentrated, but often has more of a buttery richness. The Pulignys tend to be slightly more masculine in style.
Of the 513 acres of vineyards that make wine to be labeled Puligny-Montrachet, no less than 219 of these acres produce Premier Cru Puligny-Montrachet. This distribution is similar to Chassagne-Montrachet. From a select few Premiers Crus, the wine can range up nearly to Grand Cru-level wine in concentration and depth. Even the village wine can be extremely good, as an entry-level way to try great Chardonnay. Most of the time it is simple-minded in style, but has the same pleasant balance of minerals and fruit that all great whites do.
Like Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet was approved for AOC in 1970, and a number of regulations were then set into place. Strangely, red wines from Pinot Noir are allowed; they are so unimportant that there are practically no legitimately good examples.
The 1976 Judgement of Paris contained one Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru white wine, a Domaine Leflaive from the Les Pucelles Premier Cru. It was one of four white Burgundies to lose out to the 1973 vintage of the Californian winery Chateau Montelena. The controversial Judgement would have a humongous influence, and Puligny-Montrachet's failure to prove themselves superior to up-and-coming California made the Burgundy market slump for years. The eventual recovery has had Puligny-Montrachet in front all the way, although new trends favoring red wine have made the entire Côte de Beaune less popular.
Climate and Viticulture
The Puligny-Montrachet land not only has the best weather conditions and shelter from the wind due to the surrounding hills, but also some of the richest, most diverse soil in all of Burgundy--and that's saying a lot! While the most important and distinct vineyards are without fail classified as Grand Cru, making for four Grand Cru vineyards in Puligny-Montrachet, there are still a number of tremendous vineyards classified as Premier Cru. Most of these vineyards have a slope that, while not as optimal as the Grand Cru slopes, lends more character to the wine. While still inferior to those of Montrachet or Bâtard-Montrachet, these vineyards still are good enough to create wine that displays great complexity, masterful roundness, and power.
- Chardonnay: This is a tremendous place to find Chardonnay. The fact that Pinot Noir does not thrive within these vineyards, or at least not as much as Chardonnay does, makes Chardonnay the leading grape variety here. The top dog usually does not fail to disappoint; the best wines show an intensity of flavor and masculinity that differentiates them slightly from the lighter, more citrussy wines from Chassagne-Montrachet. Still, the difference is very slight, and the outrageously rich, layered style that people usually associate with Montrachet will apply to Puligny-Montrachet as well. Due to the better concentration, the wines from Puligny-Montrachet can actually age more than Chassagne-Montrachet, sometimes lasting well over 10 years.
- Pinot Noir: Pinot Noir does not thrive here, in fact it is even rarer than in Chassagne-Montrachet. Domaine Jean Chartron is a leading producer.
Here is a list of the leading Puligny-Montrachet producers. Note that no "boutique" producers are listed here; it is one of our requirements that these wines must be reasonably affordable and available to the average person. Most of the boutique producers in fact concentrate on their Grand Cru holdings, so most of the Puligny wines will not be nearly as overpriced.
The Puligny-Montrachet climate is so good, and regulations on the area so strict, that a good reputation has been forcefully cultivated for the name. As a result, few inferior Chardonnays come from this village, and those that do are often suspiciously inexpensive. Négociant-bottled wine is virtually always reliable. Of the few red offerings, the only distinguished ones come from Domaine Jean Chartron; both the regular and old vine examples are good.
We selected a total of 19 producers, whose wines are talked about below. Boillot is a "fragmented" domaine, with many different wines coming from the various Boillot names. This scenario is confusing, but in the below subregions section we attempt to avoid ambiguosity when talking about them. For this list Boillot is counted as one producer.
- Domaine Bachelet Monnot
- Boillot (Various)
- Bouchard Pere et Fils
- Domaine Boyer-Martenot
- Domaine Louis Carillon et Fils
- Domaine Jean-Francois Coche-Dury
- Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey
- Domaine Colin-Deleger
- Domaine Arnaud Ente
- Domaine Jean-Philippe Fichet
- Domaine Latour Giraud
- Domaine Leflaive
- Lucien Le Moine
- Domaine de Montille
- Domaine Bernard Morey et Fils
- Château de Puligny Montrachet
- Domaine Sauzet
The subregions of Puligny-Montrachet are generally more clear-cut than those of Chassagne-Montrachet. At the first level are the village wines, which are often better than the Premier Cru wines of other villages and are almost always more expensive. Then there is the lieu-dit level; in Puligny-Montrachet there are few of these. The only one worth mentioning is Les Ensegneres. Girardin and Verget have good property here, but this happens to be Coche-Dury's leading wine and as a result these exotic, buttery wines remain better than several lower-end Premier Cru wines.
Here is a list of the 17 Premiers Crus in Puligny-Montrachet, with descriptions of the wines made there by the best producers.
- Le Cailleret: Chassagne has much more of the Cailleret Premier Cru vineyard, but Puligny's side is also decent. Boyer-Martenot's rich, buttery, elegant cuvée is reminiscent of Meursault, while Montille's concentrated, powerful, more stony cuvée is its opposite but also a great wine.
- Les Chalumaux: Energetic, upfront, approachable but not simple-minded wines from Bouchard Pere et Fils and Château de Puligny Montrachet are the leaders of this vineyard. Both offer reasonably priced entry into the Puligny-Montrachet appellation.
- Champ Canet: This vineyard is pretty much locked up by some of the major producers on this list. There are four clear leaders. Jean-Marc Boillot makes Champ Canet of an extremely earthy, rich style. More intensely rich and ripe is the Carillon offering, which some may find to be among the best Puligny-Montrachets for its depth and sheer concentration. Latour Giraud, which focuses its Puligny-Montrachet efforts on the Champ Canet vineyard, makes intensely concentrated, more austere but certainly equally elegant wines from old vines. More rich and rewarding is the Sauzet, although for those who love complexity it will not satisfy as much at an early age.
- Le Champ Gain: This is a very common Premier Cru. While the wine often lacks in complexity, the creamy texture that many of the Chardonnays take on is pleasant for some. Examples in this style come from Girardin and Sauzet; more concentrated wines come from Jadot and Lucien Le Moine. Many other producers have holdings here as well.
- Clavoillon: Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey and Domaine Leflaive lead this Premier Cru. These wines are complex but at the same time elegant, the perfect combination for white Burgundy.
- Clos de la Garenne: This exclusive Premier Cru is owned by Domaine du Duc de Magenta; the wine is bottled and sold by Jadot. The usual flavors of peach and tropical fruit are underlined by subtle, indistinguishable flavors of various earthy, minerally, and spicy persuasions. Not to be confused with La Garenne. Despite low production numbers, this is a wine that can be obtained for under $100, and as such is even more appealing.
- Clos de la Mouchère: The Jean Boillot/Henri Boillot is the best wine here, apparently négociant-bottled. It has Grand Cru-level richness and intensity without practically any drawbacks, and with age the honey and oak flavors can harmonize quite impressively. Although more exclusive in price than the similarly rich and complex Clos de la Garenne, the wine sometimes offers greater depth and ageability as well. The Jean Boillot and Henri Boillot offerings are separate; while still good to be sure, they aren't nearly as eminent in style.
- Les Combettes: One of the most commonly seen and important Premiers Crus, with many domaines making usually good cuvées here. The mineral nature of Jean-Marc Boillot makes the wine quite serious, while Girardin has the same intensity derived from balanced but heavy exotic fruit flavors. Domaine Leflaive makes an also fruity, but powerful style. Meursault-like wines are made from Carillon, Jadot, and Sauzet; these toasty, round wines are very different from the others produced in the vineyard.
- Les Demoiselles: This rare Premier Cru is led by Domaine Colin-Deleger, but the wines had much more complexity and were more ripe and pure in the early 2000s. Nowadays, their sweet fruit is covered by backward early tones, and they require more aging to duly balance out.
- Les Folatières: This common Premier Cru makes a number of leading wines and also is reliable for less competitive, more reasonably priced wine. Most decent producers in Puligny-Montrachet will have a good Les Folatières offering—it's just that crucial a vineyard. There is a wide variety, but several leaders. The general style is of creamy, silky, richly textured and flavored wines in a nearly Meursault-like style. While not lacking in complexity, these wines will stress elegance more and rarely have any hard edges. Wines of this style include the firm, smoky but soft Bachelet-Monnot, the ultra-elegant Bouchard Pere et Fils, the exotic, unusual Colin-Morey, the nutty Girardin and Jadot examples, the precise, minerally but soft Leflaive, and the most ageworthy, the amazingly creamy yet powerful Château de Puligny Montrachet. But a few other styles exist. Boillot's wines are also rich, but are more concentrated and intense. The same is true of the rich, dense Lucien Le Moine offering, which has numerous flavors underneath the first layer of exotic fruits. Sauzet makes perhaps the most distinct and unusual Les Folatières, with powerful mineral and oak spice characteristics that combine complexity and elegance in a sublime way.
- La Garenne: Not to be confused with the much more exclusive Clos de la Garenne, this entirely different appellation is actually located in Blagny. As far as best wine goes, the title here can be contested between Château de Puligny Montrachet's stony, minerally wine, and Sauzet's richer tropical example. Both are backward in the first few years, and after five years will be at their best.
- Hameau de Blagny: This is one of three Puligny-Montrachet appellations that are physically located in Blagny. Sauzet's richly concentrated, spicy wines are often the best. There are few other bottlers.
- Les Perrières: The Puligny-Montrachet Les Perrières is reliable from many producers, but, truth be told, the leading wines are essentially locked up by four producers. The various Boillots make wine of an exotically intense but not ultra-complex nature; it has the backbone to age but doesn't always need to. From Carillon the wine is much more intense and concentrated, with initially closed citrus and mineral flavors that balance out to a fresh ripeness after a few years. Girardin's wine is similar, with a mineral quality that brings great intensity to the flavor. Spicy notes will emerge in the wine during its maturity. More luscious, sweet, and exotic are the Sauzet wines, which are Meursault-like in texture but have quite a bit of complexity under the surface.
- Les Pucelles: Les Pucelles, despite being one of Puligny-Montrachet's greatest vineyards, has a somewhat problematic history. A 1972 Domaine Leflaive from Les Pucelles was one of the white Burgundies defeated by Chateau Montelena of California. Of course, the vineyard has recovered since then, and remains a solid Premier Cru. Boillot had some of the most concentrated, ripe and classically made wines in the early 2000s, but they are no longer as good as they once were. Bouchard Pere et Fils' Pucelles are also somewhat austere in their youth, but can become very spicy and intriguing after a few years of aging. Despite Leflaive's fateful loss, it is still a leading producer here, with outstandingly exotic, sweet, ripe, rich flavors characterizing a smoothly textured elegant wine with no hard edges. This classy wine will be the most expensive at over $200.
- Les Referts: Certainly the most common vineyard in Puligny-Montrachet, and arguably the most prestigious, Les Referts is certainly one of a few names to keep in mind in relation to Puligny-Montrachet and its Premiers Crus. Its qualitative and quantitative superiority means that the wine is more expensive, but some world-class offerings can still be found for under $100. Every producer characterizes a different style, but the vineyard's climate qualities are so promising that bad wine is rarely produced here. Most of the producers on the Major Producers list have at least an obscure Les Referts holding. From our list, there are six producers worth mentioning. Ripe, approachable, unusually flavored wine from Bachelet Monnot is similar to the more age-needy Carillon. Light, dry, less expensive Girardin is simple but not in a bad way. Sauzet has some of the deepest wines, which boast a flavor combination of oaky notes, cutting citrus, and firm minerals. Two wines, however, clearly distinguish themselves as on a Grand Cru level. Fichet's are the less expensive of the two, with feminine, silky texture and top-notch elegance. Deeper and more complex, the Arnaud Ente is the best of this vineyard, with a Grand Cru-level combination of richness and balance as well as 15+ potential years of aging.
- Sous le Puits: This Premier Cru is one of three that is labeled Puligny-Montrachet but actually located in Blagny. The vineyard is a bit obscure.
- La Truffière: This is a fairly common Premier Cru that has the capability to produce complex, leading wine. Remarkable are the exotic wines from Boillot, and the balanced but initially austere Sauzet offering. For under $100, Bernard Morey makes a ripe but firm and deep wine with the citrus and mineral tinges of Chassagne-Montrachet, but a positively Puligny elegance. For larger budgets, Coche-Dury offers similarly citrus-and-mineral wines with more complexity and depth as well as a pleasantly approachable ripeness.
Puligny-Montrachet has a share of two Grands Crus and the entirety of two more.
- Bâtard-Montrachet: This outstanding Grand Cru is split by Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet.
- Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet: This small satellite Grand Cru vineyard lies entirely within Puligny-Montrachet. Many of the Bâtard-Montrachet producers make wine of a similarly outstanding nature in Bienvenues.
- Chevalier-Montrachet: Making often the most concentrated and powerful of all white Burgundies, the Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru appellation lies entirely within Puligny. Montrachet is generally preferred, but only barely.
- Montrachet: About half of Montrachet makes wine known as Montrachet, on the Puligny-Montrachet side of Montrachet. From the Chassagne side the wine is called Le Montrachet. Importantly, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti has its land on the Puligny side, although several lauded producers such as Ramonet make Le Montrachet on the Chassagne side.