From his five-and-a-half hectares of prime real estate in Puligny-Montrachet—with a sliver in Chassagne-Montrachet—Jacques Carillon produces among the most focused, mineral-drenched, age-worthy white wines in the Côte de Beaune. We at Rosenthal Wine Merchant enjoyed the privilege of working with his father Louis for nearly three decades, and Jacques’s methodology follows directly from his father’s—as does the character of the wines. Never green even in lean vintages, never overripe even in the warmest years, Carillon’s wines are zoom-lenses into their particular sites, expressing nuances of minerality with overwhelming clarity. They reveal a grower with an uncanny knack for harvest timing, who knows exactly how to manage pressing to achieve poise and harness the vintage’s best qualities. Jacques’s wines are sleek but never slick, as he employs a judicious new-oak regimen of around 15-20% on all but the Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet (of which he produces only two barrels per vintage!). Fermentation proceeds in barrel without added yeasts, and the wines spend six months in stainless steel for settling and assemblage after a year in oak. Bottling occurs after a very light filtration, and, notably, Carillon has recently elevated his free sulfur at bottling to a fairly robust 50 milligrams per liter in order to preserve the wines’ longevity; these, after all, are intended to be cellared. Given their scarcity, and especially given what sheer awe they inspire with age, it would be a shame to open them too early, particularly while still shedding their free sulfur.
Jacques describes his 2017s—slated to reach our shores in early September—as a hypothetical blend of 2015 and 2016, with less richness than 2015 and less overt minerality than 2016. “Less mineral” when it comes to Carillon is certainly a relative expression, as these 2017s are as profoundly chiseled as white Burgundy gets. Furthermore, they display a certain exuberance and energy that characterize the vintage’s best wines. Jacques began harvesting on September 1st, and his yields on the premier crus were actually lower than in 2016 due to the vintage’s uneven flowering. Those fortunate few to access a share of our pittance from this tiny domaine will undoubtedly be thrilled, as these represent a master vigneron operating at the peak of his powers.
Jacques’ Puligny-Montrachet comes from eleven small parcels in seven different lieux-dits scattered throughout the appellation, with vines averaging 38 years old as of 2017. Jacques operates on a six-year barrel rotation for his villages-level wines, and the modest 15% new oak allows the pure limestone typical of Carillon to shine through. The palate is lean, fine, and quite long, showing youthful verve and a stern minerality that will repay a few years of cellaring.
From vines planted in 2013 in Voillenot-Dessous, located immediately south of the village itself, Jacques’s villages-level Chassagne-Montrachet displays more breadth and flesh than the Puligny mentioned above, with a slightly less kinetic and focused mineral element. Still, the wine shows impressive verve, with surprising depth from such young vines. Again, a modest proportion of new barrels keeps the delicate fruit-mineral interplay at the forefront.
2017 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Macherelles”
Carillon’s Macherelles comes from a half-hectare parcel in this premier cru sandwiched between the village of Chassagne-Montrachet itself (to the south) and Les Chenevottes (to the north). The relatively young vines—14 years old as of the 2017 vintage—have shown remarkable development over the past few vintages, and this wine is a clear and decisive step up in complexity and intensity from the two preceding villages-level offerings. Unfortunately, due to a stipulation in the ever-labyrinthine inheritance laws, 2017 is the final vintage in which Jacques produced this cru.
2017 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Champ Canet”
Located at the northern limit of Puligny on the border of Meursault, Jacques’ ever-elegant Champ Canet comes from a 0.55-hectare parcel planted by his father in 1973. It offers a gorgeous combination of generosity and minerality, always with a floral overlay and a mouthwatering impression of quinine. This 2017 displays an uncanny equilibrium, with a kinetic palate on which the ripe citrus fruits and punchy chalk engage in a saliva-inducing tug-of-war.
2017 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Perrieres”
Carillon owns just over a hectare of 40-year-old vines in this enviably located cru just south of Les Referts (see below) on the slope, in the northern sector of Puligny. As is typically the case with his Perrieres, the 2017 shows a more pungent limestone essence than the Champ Canet above. It is sleek, with less gras, but almost more overpowering in its overall carriage due to its electric acid-mineral interplay. The finish is tightly coiled, dominating the palate with chalky intensity and suggesting a long life ahead.
2017 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Referts”
Jacques exploits a mere quarter-hectare of 40-year-old vines in this great northern-Puligny 1er cru. Where Perrieres is punchily mineral, Referts is broodingly intense, with a limestone core that murmurs rather than shouts. There is a hair’s breadth more concentration and richness to the fruit here, but the impression of freshness and salty acidity is still notable, and the 2017 displays a subtle note of chlorophyll that lends the wine a gleaming energy on the palate.
In 2017, Jacques produced but two barrels (one new, one two years old) from this hallowed vineyard in which he owns barely a tenth of a hectare. More than justifying its grand cru status, this delivers almost overwhelming density—there is simply more material here, more viscosity, more layers, but with an elemental minerality underpinning everything. As befits such a mammoth, ample cellar time is demanded for the wine to reveal its charms and nuances.