When the AOC of Chassagne-Montrachet was created, Chassagne was relatively generous in giving out the 1ers crus to vineyards. Also, the commercialising strategy was to group together smaller names into larger ones. For example, 1er cru ‘Morgeot’ is 63ha in size and contains 22 lieux-dits. So, you don’t really know where a bottle of Morgeot is really from within that unless you know the domaine’s holding. Today, we are seeing some growers include the lieu-dit name to their Morgeot. Remember that the 1er Cru Morgeot is bigger than Clos Vougeot.
The winemaking tradition at Heitz-Lochardet dates back to 1857. Domaine Heitz-Lochardet is located in Chassagne-Montrachet and was founded in the mid-1980s by Armand Heitz’s parents Brigitte and Christian with initially just 5 hectares. Armand studied oenology and then decided to take over his family’s vines after completing his studies in 2011. For years, his mother, Brigitte had contracted these vines to Maison Joseph Drouhin. And since taking over Armand has sought about regaining control of more of the vines under the domaine. He made his first vintage in 2013. Armand farms the vineyards using biodynamic practices and his winemaking style is traditional in approach with the use of new oak kept at a minimum, usually around just 20-25%.
When we visited Armand in November 2019, he described that they have vines in both the bottom part and the top part of this vineyard. He said the soil in the bottom part is more clay and in the top part of the vineyard there is more limestone and rocks. For this wine, they are blending grapes from both areas.
Domaine Ramonet owns 17 hectares mainly in Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet. It was established by Pierre Ramonet with his first vineyard purchase in 1934, and it was ‘Les Ruchottes’ in Chassagne-Montrachet. The wines he produced from this vineyard helped him become famous. With the younger generation now leading the domaine, the label now reads, ‘Domaine Jean-Claude Ramonet’. And for their 1er Cru ‘Morgeot’, it is in ‘Abbaye de Morgeot’ at the southern upper slope of Morgeot. After Pierre, the next generation to take over was his son André with Pierre’s grandsons, Noël and Jean-Claude taking over the reins in 1984. These wines are made more from instinct as Noël and Jean-Claude don’t have any technical training. For the winemaking, they like lots of lees, so the wines tend to have a richness and textural quality to them with an ability to age well. In terms of the oak, for the premiers crus, it’s usually around one third new oak barrels, and they bottle after eighteen months of ageing. In our Masterclass on Understanding Burgundy Whites with Special Guest Allen Meadows last September, Allen described the wines of Ramonet as being very distinctive. He said the wines never seem to get old, and they all have this distinct ‘mintiness’ to them. ‘I’ve asked why, but they won’t say,’ said Allen. How will the style of these two producers compare in the glasses tonight, and we will pick up that these are both 1er Cru ‘Morgeot’.
The point of this pair of wines is to introduce you to some great value wines made by the same family, the Guinaudeau family, that makes Château Lafleur. Henri Greloud, the great grandfather of the current owners purchased the 4.5 hectares that would become Château Lafleur on the Pomerol plateau in 1872.
Château Grand Village was founded in 1650 by Jacques Verdery, a Guinaudeau family ancestor; it is the ‘birthplace’ of this family of vignerons. Sylvie and Jacques Guinaudeau and their family use it as their home. This estate is located just north of Fronsac in the commune of Mouillac on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. The grapes for this wine grow in clay-limestone rich soils. For this wine, the blend is 78% Merlot and 22% Cabernet Franc, and it’s aged in oak barrels with 30% new.
‘Les Perrières’ was created in 2018 by Julie and Baptiste Guinaudeau, the next generation of the family behind Château Lafleur. With this cuvée Bouchet (Cabernet Franc) cuttings from the Château Lafleur vineyard in Pomerol are grown in the limestone soils of nearby Fronsac. The family spent nine years to put this project together. The initial vintages were experimental and labeled ‘Acte’ with the first vintage 2018 labeled as ‘Les Perrières’. We are tasting the very first vintage tonight. It’s a blend of 51% Cabernet Franc and 49% Merlot aged for fifteen months in French oak with one-third new oak barrels. Let’s see what we think of these two wines from the same family and winemaking approach behind the legendary wine Lafleur.
John Shafer planted Cabernet at his winery in Stag’s Leap District at the beginning of the 1970s. By the 1983 vintage the top label – ‘Hillside Select’ was born, from grapes grown on volcanic, elevated sites at Sunspot and John’s Upper Seven, and later a combination of up to 14 vineyard blocks. It’s always been a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon varietal wine; something that is possible in Napa given the extra degree of ripeness attainable here.
The 1997 vintage in Napa stood out; it was a large and very ripe crop in the valley, that naturally produced distinctly opulent wines. For Hillside Select, however, this marked the beginning of a much riper, larger-scaled style in general. John and his son Doug seemed to handle this riper style well and made a marked improvement in their wines with the 1997 vintage and forward. Let’s see if we see a shift qualitatively between the 1996 and 1999.
Max Schubert started at Penfolds when he was 16-years-old taking care of the horses but soon he was helping out in the laboratory and moved up from there to assistant winemaker. Then, in 1940, he left Penfolds to serve in the army. By 1946 he returned to Penfolds with the position of laboratory assistant but was promoted to Chief winemaker within twelve months. Mr. Schubert never went to winemaking school but learned and taught himself on the job and through watching others. In 1950, he was sent to Europe on a trip that was aimed at helping him learn more about Sherry and fortified wine production, but it turned into being one of the most impactful learning experiences of his career. He also visited Bordeaux on this trip and learned many of their winemaking techniques while also having the opportunity to taste the outstanding 1949 vintage. Max came back from his European trip with new ideas and concepts that took a while to become embraced.
With this new project Grange, he made a wine that had ripe fruit and used American oak for ageing, and these were revolutionary ideas in Australia at that time. And Max Schubert’s practices of allowing the wine time to mature in barrel was another added cost that was causing this winemaking venture to get extra attention from the Penfolds board. In 1957, they held a tasting and decided to stop production. However, Max didn’t give up and along with support from others in his team, he managed to make wine secretly during the years of 1957, 1958 and 1959. In 1960, another tasting was held by the Penfolds board, and the Grange project resumed. Max Schubert’s determination and commitment to his vision persevered. Penfolds Grange is a wine that almost ceased being yet has continued with the winemakers who came after Max Schubert sharing his passion and continuing to make great wines. Don Ditter took over as winemaker in 1976 with his last vintage being the superb 1986. Then, John Duval took over the helm, and we are tasting two vintages he made including the benchmark vintage of 1998.
Weingut Zilliken was established in 1742 in the Saar, and Hanno Zilliken has been the cellarmaster since 1976 and the proprietor since 1981. Now, he and his daughter, Dorothee Zilliken, manage the estate where the grapes are grown in a climate cooler than the Mosel with slate soils. Like the Ruwer river, the Saar river is another tributary of the Mosel with top vineyard sites located along it. Weingut Zilliken is a very traditional producer with the Saarburger Rausch their most famous vineyard.
Describing the wines of the Saar, Frank Schoonmaker wrote in his 1956 book The Wines of Germany, ‘In these great and exceedingly rare wines of the Saar, there is a combination of qualities which I can perhaps best describe as indescribable austerity coupled with delicacy and extreme finesse, an incomparable bouquet, a clean, very attractive hardness tempered by a wealth of fruit and flavour which is overwhelming.’ For me, this quote best describes the wines of the Saar and why this area is so special. I adore the wines from here.
All the fruit is estate owned, hand-picked and aged in neutral fuders, large barrels. Saarburger Rausch (10 hectares) is the most important vineyard for Zilliken as the soil quality, location of the vineyard, and the fact that the roots reach up to 10 meters deep into the grey, slate soil result in a Riesling with minerality and elegance. These are the hallmarks of Zilliken.