Burgundy is known around the world for its two most famous and prolific grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Following on from our overview of the region’s red wine communes, today we explore the white wines of Burgundy from Chablis, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault and Pouilly-Fuisse. Keep reading to discover why the global thirst for village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru white Burgundy from these appellations is yet to be quenched.
In the northernmost part of Burgundy is Chablis. Geographically, Chablis is equidistant between Champagne, Sancerre and the Cote d’Or, and has cooler vineyards on Kimmeridgian and Portlandian soils. This area has become synonymous with the mineral-driven wines it produces from Chardonnay grapes. Dedicated solely to this variety – known as ‘Beaunois’ in the appellation – Chablis is home to 40 Premier Cru sites as well as Chablis Grand Cru which is split into seven climats that represent just 1% of wines produced: Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur and Vaudésir.
This famed commune was one of two villages granted permission in 1879 to add the name of its most famous vineyard, Montrachet, to the village of Puligny (the other being Chassagne-Montrachet). With 17 Premier Cru climats in addition to the four outstanding Grand Crus of Le Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet and Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet is considered to produce the most perfect expression of Chardonnay. With great character and concentration, the white wines of Puligny-Montrachet are refined and focused and the best will often last two decades or more in the cellar.
Producing wines that are more intense than its neighbour Puligny-Montrachet, the commune of Chassagne-Montrachet sprawls across 300 hectares of both red and white vineyards. However, just like its neighbour, Chassagne-Montrachet is best known for its white wines and the two communes even share some Grand Cru vineyards – Le Montrachet and Bâtard-Montrachet. Chassagne-Montrachet has a third Grand Cru site, Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, which joins the 55 Premier Cru climats. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are often grown side-by-side here as the soil is so complex it allows both varieties to achieve their full potential.
Despite being considerably larger than Puligny and Chassagne-Montachet, Meursault does not have any Grand Cru vineyards. And yet, the region is home to the greatest number of top producers compared to any other. Household names including Coche Dury and Comte Lafon are found thriving here on the Comblanchian limestone. Pinot Noir is grown here, however Chardonnay is the star once again. Meursault’s most prestigious Premier Cru plots are Les Perrières, Les Genevrières and Les Charmes, all of which can rival the quality of Grand Crus from other areas. The best white wines in Meursault have a more rounded profile and are unctuous yet fresh. Laying down cases of Meursault allows the wine to mature and develop thanks to its structure.
Further south in the Maconnais is Pouilly-Fuisse, one of the more superior appellations in the region that produces richer, occasionally buttery, white wines. Sometimes confused with Pouilly-Fume in the Loire Valley where Sauvignon Blanc flourishes, Pouilly-Fuisse produces Chardonnays that are elegant and full of charm with a characteristic hint of minerality.