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 at most 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.
The 2018 vintage was warm and solar, even by today’s post-climate-change standards. A mild winter led to an early budbreak, but ample rain the first few months of the year raised the water table and helped vines weather the growing season’s hydric stress. Jacques began picking on the 28th of August, and he describes the 2018s as akin to 2015, but with even more richness. Given his razor-sharp style, he was well-equipped to render a collection of 2018s that still possess salinity and tension, even if they are slightly less mineral-driven than the prior couple of vintages. Also, although 2018 marks the first vintage in which Jacques did not produce a Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Macherelles”—the parcel went to his brother Francois as a final resolution of their inheritances from Louis—it was a mercifully bountiful harvest, with the most quantities produced at the domaine since 2009. These luscious 2018s will reach our shores in early August, and Jacques believes they are in fact drinking better in their youth than the 2017s. Those considering checking in on the wines early on are encouraged to aerate them, due to the aforementioned notable levels of free sulfur Jacques employs.
Jacques’ Puligny-Montrachet comes from eleven small parcels in seven different lieux-dits scattered throughout the appellation, with vines averaging 40 years of age. Jacques operates on a six-year barrel rotation for his villages-level wines, and the modest 15% new oak allows the limestone essence typical in Carillon to shine through. The palate is lean 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 Blanc displays more breadth than the Puligny mentioned above, with a slightly less forward mineral element. Still, the wine shows impressive verve, with surprising depth from such young vines. A modest proportion of new barrels keeps the delicate fruit-mineral interplay at the forefront.
2018 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 2018 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.
2018 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Perrières”
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 Perrières, the 2018 shows a more pungent limestone essence than the Champ Canet above. It is sleeker and less rich, but 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.
2018 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 Perrières is punchily mineral, Referts is broodingly intense, with a limestone core that murmurs rather than shouts. There is a hair’s breadth more concentration to the fruit here, but the impression of freshness and salinity is still notable, with the palate showing a gleaming energy.
Jacques exploits barely a tenth of a hectare in this hallowed and little-seen vineyard. 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 the richness. As befits such a mammoth, ample cellar time is demanded for the wine to reveal its full spectrum.