New Releases from Jean-Marc Pillot: Mid February 2020

Posted on Posted in Articles, Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot, Rosenthal Wine Merchant News, RWM Contributor

With his impressive array of holdings throughout Chassagne-Montrachet, complemented by parcels in Puligny-Montrachet, Santenay, Montagny, and Rully, Jean-Marc Pillot is among our most important suppliers of Burgundy. Since our first vintage together over twenty years ago, we have watched Jean-Marc—a fourth-generation vigneron—find his way and master his craft, and today his generous, electrifying renderings of the great terroirs of Chassagne-Montrachet sell out before they even reach us. In person, Jean-Marc is lively and warm; one can sense his tireless work ethic even in the nimble and speedy way in which he navigates his cellar during our visits. And, as is so often the case, his wines mirror his personality: exuberant, expressive, and bristling with energy. Jean-Marc works his domaine’s exceedingly old vines—averaging over 50 years but reaching as high as 110—without the use of chemicals, and his fermentations always begin naturally. His use of oak is thoughtful and measured—never formulaic and always tailored to each wine in each vintage—and he has an uncanny knack for employing new wood as a skilled chef employs salt: barely enough to notice, and just enough to enhance balance.

After a devastating 70% reduction in crop size in the frost-affected 2016 vintage, Pillot welcomed 2017’s relative bounty with open arms. The 2017 whites—comprising the bulk of our incoming shipment—offer the weight and density of a warm vintage like 2015, but with starker acidity. Thus, they come off nimbler and more energetic overall despite the season’s heat. Jean-Marc began harvest on September 3rd, nearly a week ahead of what he had initially forecasted, in order to preserve acidity—a decision that played out very well in the finished wines. Proving that the character of a Burgundy vintage can never be reduced to pure metrics, the 2017s display a notable vivacity which belies the fruit’s lower-than-usual levels of malic acid, and despite relatively high yields—around 45 hectoliters per hectare for the premier crus, and 55 for the villages-level wines—the wines bear no trace of dilution or enervation.

Though perhaps known better for his white wines, Pillot also possesses a remarkably deft touch with Pinot Noir. The incoming pair of 2016 red wines display the superb concentration and tension of this frost-affected vintage, as well as presenting a new aromatic paradigm—the result of Jean-Marc employing 100% whole clusters for the first time. This shift toward total stem inclusion coincides with a welcome lessening of extraction over the past handful of vintages, and these 2016s attain heretofore unseen heights of nuance and finesse. Accompanying this duo is the delicious, textbook 2018 Bourgogne Rouge “Les Grandes Terres”—a stunning value and a perennial favorite.

2018 Bourgogne Aligoté
Jean-Marc owns a parcel of Aligoté in the village of Remigny planted in 2000. Vinified and aged entirely in stainless steel, the 2018—the first vintage we have purchased—is brisk in its acidity, with pure, tensile flavors of preserved lemon, sage, and musk melon. Nimble and easy-drinking, it nonetheless displays a modest degree of complexity for its variety, as well as a mouthwatering saline edge.

2017 Montagny 1er Cru “Les Gouresses”
Pillot has a friend in the appellation of Montagny, in the Côte Chalonnaise, with some old vineyard holdings, the fruit of which he is happy to sell to Jean-Marc each year to help him round out his lineup with some accessibly priced wines of a different character. From a parcel of 110-year-old vines in the well-situated premier cru of Les Gouresses, Jean-Marc renders a wine of intensity and depth, aging it entirely in previously used barrels. This 2017 is powerful and dense, with an intriguing citrus-zest edge to its deeply stony core.

2016 Saint-Romain Blanc “La Périère”
From this renowned poor-soiled vineyard in the valley of Saint-Romain, Jean-Marc produces a wine of impressive power for the appellation—Saint-Romain as rendered by a master of Chassagne-Montrachet. Aged in one-quarter new barrels, this 2016 offers succulent orchard fruits on a relatively easygoing frame, with enough acidity to harmonize its elements but without pitching the wine toward shrillness.

2017 Puligny-Montrachet “Les Noyers Bret”
Les Noyers Bret lies just downslope of Le Montrachet and its assorted hyphenations, and Jean-Marc owns a small parcel of vines between 50 and 100 years old here. Often among the most elegant of his wines (as befits the appellation), the 2017 is classical and precise, with truly outstanding length and a palate-coating intensity which swells toward the finish.

2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc “Les Masures”
Pillot owns half a hectare of Chardonnay in this well-positioned lieu-dit, which sits just below premier cru Champs-Gains on the slope. One third of his vines here were planted in 1950, one-third in 1990, and one-third in 2010. This 2017 is a classically rendered Chassagne-Montrachet, one which deftly balances rich, mouth-filling fruit with a powerful mineral thrust. [Note: as of the 2016 vintage, this replaces the Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc “Les Chaumes” with which we had worked for many years.]

2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Macherelles”
Les Macherelles sits just to the south of the premier cru Les Chenevottes in the northern sector of Chassagne-Montrachet, just north of the village itself. Pillot’s 0.28 hectares of vines here were planted in the early 1950s, and this 2017 presents a remarkably stony nose, with focused, lean, strikingly pure flavors of lime zest and sea salt. This cuvée continues to gain refinement with each passing vintage.

2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Chenevottes”
Jean-Marc owns a small 0.29-hectare parcel of 70-year-old vines in this premier cru, which lies at the northernmost extreme of the appellation, near the sweet spot of Saint-Aubin and within striking distance of Le Montrachet itself. The 2017 “Les Chenevottes” offers a more explosively chalky character than the “Les Macherelles” above, with both greater amplitude and sharper acidity—making for a wine of remarkable tension.

2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Vergers”
Jean-Marc farms half a hectare of vines planted in the late 1940s in this premier cru, which sits immediately above Les Chenevottes and Les Macherelles on the slope, flanking them both. Always a standout in the lineup, the 2017 offers a nose of lemon-lime and quinine, and its minerality—while nonetheless formidable—melds into the fruit more than in “Les Chenevottes” above, contributing to an overall impression of seamless power.

2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Morgeot – Les Fairendes”
A “vineyard within a vineyard,” Les Fairendes is the prime filet of the southern-Chassagne premier cru of Morgeot; poorer topsoil here facilitates a more profound mineral expression than is found in its surrounding area. Pillot owns a quarter-hectare of 50-year-old-vines here, and he has purposefully begun harvesting it slightly earlier the past few vintages to counterbalance the intense richness this site tends to engender. This 2017 delivers the appealing combination of textural generosity and firm acidity that characterizes the overall vintage here.

2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Caillerets”
Among the most coveted of Chassagne’s premier crus, Les Caillerets is situated high on the slope, roughly equidistant between the village’s northern and southern borders. Pillot’s tiny holding here—a mere 0.18 hectares—yields what is often the most complex, full-spectrum premier cru in his cellar. This 2017 ratchets up the intensity to a level that exceeds the previous wines in the lineup, and its finely chiseled, ultra-long finish promises years of positive development.

2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Baudines”
Les Baudines occupies a unique position within Chassagne-Montrachet, lying at the extreme south of the appellation (adjacent to Santenay) at the very highest point on the slope. Jean-Marc owns a 0.15-hectare sliver in this well-drained, less sun-drenched vineyard, and the wine he produces from here is always his most purely mineral-driven. Less overtly intense than the “Les Caillerets” above, this 2017 presents a cool, stony personality and moderates its vintage-appropriate sense of electricity with a texture more subdued and elegant.

2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Vergers – Clos Saint Marc”
Jean-Marc is one of only three owners of this wall-enclosed vineyard located in the heart of Les Vergers (see above), and his vines here are an astonishing 110 years old. Always a standout in Pillot’s cellar, “Clos Saint Marc” offers grand-cru-like density and depth, and this 2017 is a blast of pure limestone on the nose, with a dramatic, swelling finish and an almost overwhelming sense of concentration.

2017 Corton-Charlemagne
Jean-Marc makes a mere two barrels of Corton-Charlemagne per vintage, from fruit purchased from his friend Blair Pethel of Domaine Dublère—a parcel, in fact, which used to be worked by the Rollin family and included in their own Corton-Charlemagne before the previous owner sold it to Mr. Pethel. The 2017 is massively scaled—both intensely mineral and nearly unctuous in its sappiness of fruit—and its 50% new oak is all but swallowed by the wine’s sheer concentration even at this early stage.

2017 Chevalier-Montrachet
Given its higher (and thus slightly cooler) position on the slope, Chevalier-Montrachet sometimes rivals even Le Montrachet itself in quality. Certainly, Jean-Marc’s is the star of his cellar, and those fortunate enough to access the painfully minuscule quantities we are allocated will be thrilled with its multidimensionality and presence. Oily-textured and intoxicating in its enveloping saline aromatics, the 2017 completely possesses the palate, with a sizzling intensity and a finish well exceeding the minute mark.

2018 Bourgogne Rouge “Les Grandes Terres”
Jean-Marc owns a parcel Pinot Noir in the village of Remigny, just south of Chassagne-Montrachet, and produces an exemplary Bourgogne Rouge from his 65-year-old vines there. Given a proper 12-month élévage in used barrels, the 2018 is succulent and exuberant, with energetic tannins and an overall impression of vibrant silkiness.

2016 Santenay Rouge “Les Champs Claude”
Pillot owns a sizable 1.4-hectare parcel of 45-year-old Pinot Noir in this Santenay lieu-dit, and his gentle extraction (using only pump-overs) and no-new-oak élévage allow the friendly, juicy red fruit to take center stage. The 2016 offers spice-drenched flavors of mentholated cherry, with a sense of rippling energy and mouthwatering acidity. For the first time ever, Jean-Marc employed 100% whole clusters in his 2016 reds.

2016 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge “Mes Vieilles Vignes”
Jean-Marc produces a remarkable red Chassagne-Montrachet from a hectare of 60-year-old vines, and the 2016 is noteworthy in its complexity—particularly for a villages-level wine. Far more structured than the Santenay above, this nonetheless offers a similar purity of fruit, plus a gently earthy, brambly edge which speaks clearly of its Chassagne-Montrachet origins. 100% whole-cluster.

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