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Many wine collectors consider the best white wines of the world are Chardonnay of Burgundy, produced in the three communes in the south part of Cote d’Or – Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. Among the three, which is the best? How do they differ?

Meursault – 289 hectare of Village; 105 hectare of Premier Cru

Driving down southwards from Beaune along N74, the first white wine commune you would hit is Meursault. A very large commune in vineyard size, Meursault produces as much wine white as all other Burgundy communes combined. This of course translates to varying quality of “Meursault” wines in the market. The soil in Meursault is less humid than that of Puligny, thus the crop is naturally smaller in size. Yet this does not necessarily mean that the wines are more concentrated. Indeed there are as many weak wines as in other communes.

While there is no grand cru in Meursault, the very best premier cru wines are superb, presenting a distinctive fatness, richness and nutty-butteriness, as opposed to the more peachy and flower flavors of the two communes to the south.

Puligny-Montrachet – 111 hectare of Village; 97 hectare of Premier Cru; 21 hectare of Grand Cru

Continuing the journey down south, you would pass by Puligny-Montrachet - the best white wine commune in the world. Although only 230 hectares in vineyard size, Puligny-Montrachet proudly carries four of the six white Burgundy grand crus.

Puligny-Montrachet is a very different wine from either Meursault or Chassagne-Montrachet. It exhibits structure and raciness; can be “masculine” at times - a character missing in the other two communes. There seems to be more “grip” in the wine, thus usually requiring a longer cellar time. The wine carries such a personality rarely found in Chassagne-Montrachet; and only in the three great Meursault premier crus - Perrieres, Charmes and Genevieres - which lie at the border of Puligny.

Chassagne-Montrachet – 300 hectare of Village; 150 hectare of Premier Cru; 10 hectare of Grand Cru

Adjacent to Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet produces both red and white wines. Historically, Chassagne vineyards were mostly planted with Pinot Noir (80% of vineyard after WWII). However, due to growing world demand for reputable Cote de Beaune white wine, most producers have switched to making white Chardonnay (65% of vineyard today are white) and are able to charge higher price than Chassagne red wines.

Chassagne is much better known for its white wines now, not simply because of the presence three white grand crus there; the white wines from Chassagne are just better than its red. Chassagne reds are full-bodied, stalwart, occasionally rustic - similar in a way to those of Pommard. The whites are full and firm, while less definitive perhaps than those of Puligny, but have a better grasp than the majority of Meursaults.

Six white Grand Crus in Burgundy

Puligny-Montrachet carries four grand crus - Chevalier-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet, Le Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet. Chassagne-Montrachet has three grand crus – Criots-Batard-Montrachet, Le Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet. Actually, Puligny and Chassagne each “own” roughly half the two grand crus (Le Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet) which lie across the border of Puligny and Chassagne. By the way, the sixth white grand cru is Corton-Charlemagne from the Corton appellation.

When you have chance, it would be an excellent experience to try out and contrast these three excellent communes in a tasting. Of course, as we have emphasized repeatedly, producers make a very big difference in a wine quality. The name of the village on the wine label only tells you so much.

Written by Wine Monopole — May 13, 2013

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