Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Winery visit with Domaine François Carillon (Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy)

French vacation days are (i) plentiful and (ii) fully subscribed. That was the unenviable situation we faced when trying to book appointments for winery visits in Burgundy on May 1, Labor Day on the French holiday calendar. And given that the 2nd was a Friday, people were just going to make a long weekend of it. So, try as he might, Raj could only convince one winemaker to see us on May 1: François Carillon of Domaine François Carillon.

Domaine François Carillon is a relatively new estate but has roots stretching back to one John Carillon who was listed in the records of Puligny in 1520. The most recent link back to this long-lived family vocation was Domaine Louis Carillon et Fils, incorporated by Louis Carillon in 1981 and providing a vehicle wherein he could produce wines with his sons Jacques and François. In the enterprise, Jacques was responsible for winemaking and François the viticultural aspects; and they continued this arrangement after their father's retirement. More recently, however, the brothers decided to split the assets of the company between them and form two separate wineries: Domaine François Carillon and Domaine Jacques Carillon. The 2009 vintage was the initial vintage for both Domaines.

It was François' winery that we would be visiting on this French holiday. We got there at the appointed time and pulled on the winery door but it was locked. We hung around in the street for awhile, waiting for François to show. It took a minute but, instead of being displeased, we treated him like a long lost brother. After all, he had left his family at home to come see us on a holiday. For a Frenchman, this is sacrilegious.

Hanging around in Puligny waiting for Francois
to show

After the asset split, François owned plots in Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet as well as a negociant business. His goal is to steadily degrade the quantity of the negociant business and increase the size of the estate. To that end he has grown the estate from 5 to 11 ha to include 69.12 ares in Chassagne-Montrachet and 65.67 ares in Saint-Aubin. The distribution of the Domaine's Premier Cru vineyards are shown in the maps below.

François' heart is in the vineyard and his farming practices are designed to deliver excellent fruit to the cellar door. Farming is organic with a caveat that chemical intervention will be implemented if extreme conditions are encountered. Grape production levels are managed by pruning and de-budding with a goal of 8 bunches per vine.

As we entered the cellar François mentioned that it had the capacity for 300 barrels and, like most Puligny cellars, was not deep due to the high water table. Grapes are hand-harvested and sorted prior to presentation to a pneumatic press. The juice is fermented in oak barrels (15% new for Village, 20 - 25% new for Premier Crus) for 4 to 6 weeks, with natural yeasts powering the process. The wines spend a year in the oak barrels where they are subjected to bâtonnage. Bâtonnage ceases when malolactic fermentation is complete. After the residence in oak, the wines are transferred to stainless steel tanks for 6 months in order to "refine their breeding."

Puligny wines have been described as "portraying a floral elegeance alongside a stylish, steely concentration" by BBR and "... taut, precise, and mineral" by Ben Lewis MW. François' goal is to produce wines with fruit, elegance, and finesse. We examine how close the 2012 vintage of the Domaine François Carillon wines approach these ideals. Another area of interest in tasting these wines was to examine how well a noted viticulturist (François) had transitioned into the role of vitiviniculturist. A selection of the wines tasted are presented below.

Bourgogne 2012 This wine is blended from three different parcels in Meursault, Puligny, and Chassagne. Rich, concentrated with sweet citrus fruit and melon. Fresh and balanced.

Puligny-Montrachet 2012 This wine was sourced from 11 plots on clay-limestone soils with average vine age of 35 years. Citrus, ripe white and yellow fruits, almonds. Mineral, fresh, balanced.

Les Champs Gains 2012 Clay-limestone-pebbly soils with vine age averaging 46 years. Fatter and richer in style. Floral with subtler fruit. Lemon zest, peach. Mineral. Elegant and balanced.

Les Folatieres 2012 Forty-six-year old vines on clay-limestone-pebbly soils. Only three barrels of this wine was made in this vintage. Rich with a racy finish. Saline minerality.

Les Combettes 2012 Not as cutting as some of the wines that have gone before. Great fruit balance with citrus dominant. Fresh with excellent finish.

Les Perrieres 2012 Concentrated, rich, with citrus, spice and hazelnut on the nose. Bright and elegant. Mineral with a balanced finish.

Chevalier-Montrachet 2012 Only 1 barrel of this wine made. Toasty note. Green papaya. Searing acidity. Mineral-driven.

The crispness and mineral-driven nature of the wines tasted at François Carillon are very representative of Puligny wines and the high quality of the offerings demonstrate that the Domaine is in excellent hands -- even if those hands have been formed in the vineyard.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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