With his impressive array of holdings throughout Chassagne-Montrachet, complemented by parcels in Puligny-Montrachet, Santenay, and Montagny, Jean-Marc Pillot is among our most important suppliers of Burgundy. Since our first vintage together nearly twenty years ago, we have watched Jean-Marc—a fourth generation vigneron—find his way and become a true master of his craft, and today his generous, electrifying renderings of the great terroirs of Chassagne-Montrachet sell out before they even reach our shores. In person, Jean-Marc is unfailingly lively and warm, his always-alert eyes both intense and friendly—one can sense his tireless work ethic even in the nimble and speedy way in which he navigates his cellar during our tastings with him. 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 his jaw-dropping collection of 2014 white wines, Jean-Marc had a lot to live up to with the 2015 vintage. With their electrifying acidity, ample concentration, and perfect poise, the 2014s here were a white Burgundy lover’s dream. How could 2015—a much-hyped red vintage due to its warm growing season and excellent ripeness—approach the perfection of the previous year? Having heard stories of the vintage’s warmth heading into our first post-harvest visit with Jean-Marc, we were naturally concerned that the richness of 2015 may have translated into a heaviness or lack of lift in the whites. After all, these are wines we prize for their mineral intensity and vivacity, not their sheer size. In any case, our fears were allayed from the very first taste, as the acidity of the ‘15s—higher in measurements than the ‘14s here, in fact—more than counterbalanced the wines’ impressive density. Furthermore, they seemed to pick up vibrancy throughout their elevage, as the bottled versions we tasted in our last visit were downright scintillating. 2015 is truly a vintage that seems to have it all: great acidity, rich fruit, intense minerality, massive concentration, and surprisingly precise terroir delineation.
Alongside the eagerly awaited 2015 whites, however, we are also very excited to debut the most impressive and delicious collection of red wines we have ever seen from Pillot—in this case, the ethereally pure and gorgeous 2014s. In our frenzy for blue-chip white Burgundy, we sometimes seem to forget that Chassagne-Montrachet used to be renowned as a red-wine terroir, and that it wasn’t until a few decades ago that the scales began to shift in an attempt to satisfy a growing market for the Cote de Beaune’s white wines. Old Pinot Noir vines in prime locations were ripped up all throughout Chassagne, and these days well over twice as much white wine as red is produced here. Ironically, the remaining red wines of the village are now among the greatest values to be found in Burgundy, as they are uniformly priced well below their white counterparts (despite being more difficult to make, and taking up cellar space longer). At Pillot, we have witnessed with great pleasure Jean-Marc easing back on his extractions over the past handful of vintages, allowing his immaculately healthy fruit to speak with finer articulation—and sure enough, these 2014s are positively elegant. While he had long possessed an uncanny ability to simultaneously render tension and harmony in his white wines, he finally achieved that balance in his reds to the same degree with the 2014 vintage.
These new releases will arrive in New York around the 26th of February—please contact your Rosenthal Wine Merchant sales representative for further details.
The 2015 White Wines
2015 Saint-Romain Blanc “La Perriere”: From this renowned vineyard in the beautiful 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. This 2015 displays the uncanny balance of richness and tension that characterizes the vintage chez Pillot, with well-harmonized oak framing a nose of lime zest and acacia honey, and a lively, succulent palate of impressive length. Pillot employed an elevage of 30% barrels and 70% stainless steel here—a well-judged regimen that leaves the wine neither undesirably powerful nor overly austere.
2016 Montagny “Les Bassets”: What, one may ask, is a grower in Chassagne-Montrachet doing all the way down in the Cote Chalonnaise? Pillot has a good friend in the appellation of Montagny—known for its mineral-dominated, almost Chablis-like white Burgundies—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. “Les Bassets” is a “split” vineyard, part of which is villages and part of which is premier cru, and this parcel is just on the villages side. Vinified and aged entirely in stainless steel, this wine—the lone 2016 in our offering—is clean, racy, and snappy, with a blasted-chalk nose leading into a low-body-fat palate of great energy.
2015 Montagny 1er Cru “Les Gouresses”: From his friend’s parcel of 110-year-old vines in this well-situated premier cru, Jean-Marc renders a wine of intensity and depth, aging it entirely in wood (albeit none new) in contrast with the “Bassets” above. The 2015 is appropriately weighty on the palate, its core of powerful Montagny minerality coated in a more unctuous layer of sappy fruit. The ancient vines really make themselves known in the strikingly long and palate-coating finish, and this is a wine that should amply reward a few years in bottle.
2015 Puligny-Montrachet “Les Noyers Brets”: Pillot works a parcel of 45-year-old vines in this lieu-dit that lies just downslope of Le Montrachet and its assorted hyphenations—the lone Puligny-Montrachet in his cellar. Often among the most elegant of his wines (as befits the appellation), this 2015 presents a very fine and detailed nose of creamy limestone and subtle pit fruits. The palate begins with a mouthful of ripe, juicy fruit, but a tidal wave of broad yet focused minerality soon forces its way in and dominates the lengthy finish, leaving a ringing, glowing impression. Oak here is a subtle whisper, showing Jean-Marc’s deft hand with seamless barrel integration.
2015 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc “Les Chaumes”: The beautifully situated lieu-dit “Les Chaumes” is flanked on two sides by premier crus: “Les Fairendes” immediately above it on the slope, and “La Boudriotte” just to the south. Pillot wrests a villages-level wine of considerable depth from his holdings here, and this 2015 is a powerhouse—offering an assertive, punchy nose of crunchy pear, preserved lemon, and flaky salt, with a palate of plush, succulent richness. Despite the wine’s breadth, there is an underlying thread of tension and verve, making for an utterly delicious Chassagne-Montrachet that is drinking superbly even at this youthful stage.
2015 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Chenevottes”: Jean-Marc owns a small 0.29-hectare parcel of 65-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 Montachet itself. The cool, poised 2015 is a blast of pure stones on the nose, a laser beam of mineral intensity. A high proportion of iron in the soils of “Chenevottes” makes for an especially rigid mineral backbone, and indeed the driving, tonic-like palate is a monologue of pure stoniness. This cru makes for a particularly successful marriage with the ampleness of the ’15 vintage, and it should relax and flesh out appealingly with a few years of bottle age.
2015 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Macherelles”: “Les Macherelles” sits just to the south of “Chenevottes” above in the northern sector of Chassagne-Montrachet, just north of the village itself. Pillot’s 0.28 hectares of vines were planted in 1951, and while this wine is often one of the more straightforwardly textbook “Chassagne” crus in his lineup (perhaps non-coincidentally, it makes for a supremely satisfying red wine as well—see below), this 2015 shows impressive lift and freshness for the vintage. Salty and chalky where the “Chenevottes” is iron-driven and stony, this offers sizzling kinetic energy on the palate, its broad, orchard-fruit flavors reined in by a firm hand of acidity.
2015 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Vergers”: Jean-Marc farms half a hectare of vines planted in the late 1940s in this great cru, which sits immediately above “Chenevottes” and “Macherelles” on the slope, flanking them both. A dazzling wine, the 2016 “Vergers” leads with an exuberantly aromatic nose of lemon-lime, quinine, and salty limestone. The thickest wine in the lineup so far, it nonetheless crackles with energy on the palate, with downright sappy fruit playing tug-of-war with the finely etched acidity. A long, imposing finish of immense concentration suggests that a little bit of patience will be amply rewarded.
2015 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Morgeot – Les Fairendes”: “Les Fairendes” is the prime filet of the southern-Chassagne premier cru of “Morgeot,” with a poorer topsoil that facilitates a more profound mineral expression than its neighboring turf, and Pillot owns a quarter-hectare of 45-year-old-vines there. Though the textural opulence and overall weightiness of this 2015 belies its warm-vintage origins, the lingering impression is one of chalky salinity and clear-eyed drive. There is an almost oily character to the fruit here, speaking to the intense concentration of the vintage, but again the tension between richness and acidity keeps everything fresh and lively.
2015 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Caillerets”: Among the most coveted of Chassagne’s premier crus, “Caillerets” is situated high on the slope, roughly equidistant between the village’s northern and southern borders. Pillot’s tiny swath of vines here—a mere 0.18 hectares—yields what is often the most complex, full-spectrum premier cru in his cellar, and this 2015 follows suit with panache. This combines the luscious power of the “Morgeot – Les Fairendes” with the rapier-like mineral thrust of the “Chenevottes,” with more finesse and zoomed-in detail than either. This beckons for a few years of bottle age, but it is an arresting, layered, deeply complex wine.
2015 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-soaked vineyard, and the wine he produces from here is unfailingly among his most scintillatingly mineral and racy. 2015 offers a particularly attractive take, with the natural generosity of the vintage reined in by the cru’s inherent edge of austerity. The palate is thick and dense, nearly viscous, yet corseted, and the salt-drenched finish is almost overwhelmingly intense at this youthful stage.
2015 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Vergers – Clos Saint Marc”: Jean-Marc is one of only three owners of this walled-in vineyard located in the prime spot of “Les Vergers” (see above), and his vines here are a staggering 105 years old as of 2015. Vintage after vintage, this wine stands apart in Pillot’s cellar, offering grand-cru-like density and depth, and indeed this 2015 follows suit in an explosive fashion. A spellbinding nose of quinine, fresh-ground spices, and taut yellow fruits introduces a palate of chalky enormity but phenomenal energy—a vehicle both big and fast. The firmly mineral, palate-coating finish recedes slowly and gracefully, with sneaky acidity leaving an impression of freshness after all the intensity subsides. This will definitely require time to reveal its true complexity.
2015 Corton-Charlemagne: Jean-Marc was able to produce a mere two barrels of Corton-Charlemagne in 2015, from fruit he purchased from his friend Blair Pethel of Domaine Dublere—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. As befits the character of this singular cru, this is a much richer, more backward wine than anything prior in the lineup, with a mineral-saturated, almost tannic presence on the palate. The 50% new oak struggles to peek through the dense thicket of viscous fruit and limestone muscle, but its mass is leavened by a pretty floral overlay and vibrant (if not electric) acidity. This is a heavyweight fighter of a wine that all but demands some cellaring.
2015 Chevalier-Montrachet: The mighty Chevalier-Montrachet: given its higher (and thus slightly cooler) position on the slope, it sometimes rivals even Le Montrachet itself in quality, especially in a warmer vintage like 2015. 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. In true grand cru fashion, all the elements of the 2015 are dialed up from the level of the premier crus: greater density yet greater lift, and immense power without undue weight. The big, lifted nose is already singing, with notes of talcum, white pepper, chlorophyll, and spice, and the palate—though forbiddingly intense at this young age—also expresses its concentration with grace and elegance.
The 2014 Red Wines
2014 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 this 2014 captures all the delightful exuberance of the vintage. Jean-Marc employed only remontage in order not to extract too harshly or excessively, and its elevage entirely in previously used barrels allows the gorgeous strawberry-tinged fruit to really perform well. It is fresh, vibrant, and succulent on the palate, with a wisp of sous-bois that merely adds to the overall impression of deliciousness—a friendly, eminently likable red Burgundy that mirrors the vigneron behind it.
2014 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge “Mes Vieilles Vignes”: Jean-Marc produces a remarkable red Chassagne-Montrachet from a hectare of 55-year-old vines, and the 2014 is perhaps the most outstanding example he has yet made. The nose is startlingly pure, a blast of ripe cherry with a clean mineral undertone and subtle purple-flower notes adding complexity. Juicy, mineral-streaked fruit dances on the palate, with an assertive inner-mouth perfume creating an almost tonic sensation. This is an alert, vibrant wine completely lacking in hard edges or undue weight, yet it still possesses a lovely earthy interplay that speaks clearly of its origins.
2014 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 1er Cru “Les Macherelles”: Pillot’s Pinot Noir in the 1er Cru of “Les Macherelles” was planted in 1954, and this 2014 presents a riper, more thickly fruited profile than the “Vieilles Vignes” above, yet with the irresistible lift and energy of the vintage still clearly on display. A gentle note of smoke complicates the black-cherry-dominated nose, and the palate is a flood of very slightly jammy cherries and raspberries—a blast of pure Pinot Noir pleasure as rendered by the fine and mineral-expressive soils of the northern sector of Chassagne-Montrachet. Again, Jean-Marc’s extraction is just-so, and the wine’s gentle tannic tension only serves to make it even more delicious—a cleansing rather than gripping style of tannins.
2014 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 1er Cru “Morgeot – Les Fairendes”: Pillot owns two-thirds of a hectare of Pinot Noir in “Morgeot”—again in the “Fairendes” climat—and the 2014 is the most chiseled and structured of the lineup thus far. The fruit here is larger in scale but more restrained, lacking the open-knit succulence of the “Macherelles” but compensating with an intricate interplay of spice and black pepper. More obvious tannins and far greater mineral heft serve to create a drier and more austere impression on the palate—but this is a relative impression only, as the wine still possesses the zip and purity of the 2014 vintage in spades. This will reward a few years of patience.
2014 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 1er Cru “Clos Saint Jean”: Considered by many to be the greatest terroir for red wine in the entire appellation, “Clos Saint Jean” sits high up on the slope, overlooking the village itself. Pillot owns just under half a hectare of staggeringly old Pinot Noir here—104 years old as of the 2014 vintage—and produces what is unquestionably his grandest red from this vaunted site. Neither as juicy as “Macherelles” nor as powerful as “Morgeot,” the 2014 is striking in its finesse and elegance—the perfect counter-argument to the sometimes-encountered view of Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge as a straightforward or rustic wine. The regally composed 2014 presents a seamless interweaving of buffed red fruits, clean limestone, and subtly savory tannins, gliding across the palate with leanly muscled poise and energy. A beauty like this is enough to make one rue the fact that so much Pinot Noir has been replanted to Chardonnay over the years.