Jean-Marc Pillot: The Brilliant 2014 Vintage

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None of our cellar visits in Burgundy last June were as bittersweet as our tasting with Jean-Marc Pillot. Even while experiencing the greatest set of wines we have tasted in his cellar over our 15-year relationship, we were confronted with news of his catastrophic losses to the April 26th frost that devastated much of Burgundy. Jean-Marc had the most significant losses of any of our producers in the Cote d’Or, approaching 80% of his production. That is tough news, and we can only hope that a strong 2017 vintage will help diminish the pain of a minuscule 2016 harvest.  The good news is that we have two very exciting vintages with which to work over the next two years or so. On February 20th we are expecting the full range of 2014 whites, along with the ’15 Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc, to arrive on our shores.

Jean-Marc considers 2014 to be the greatest vintage of his lifetime. Tasting through the full range of wines, we couldn’t agree more. The whites show an enormous amount of concentration and power, yet somehow remain totally disciplined.  The ’14s are not especially fruity, but show great texture and notable persistence on the palate. It is important to remember that the vast majority of his vines are quite old, some even passing the century mark. The tremendous quality of his holdings, added to the remarkable amount of time that Jean-Marc spends working his vines, ensures a concentration and structure that is not easily achieved. While these ’14s do show enough fruit to present well early on, one should not expect these ’14s to drink as easy.  We recommend that you give this great vintage some time to show its complete potential.

Bourgogne Blanc “Les Grands Champs” 2015:  The Bourgogne Blanc, produced from a parcel on the southern edge of Chassagne-Montrachet, is one of a trio of ’15s arriving with this shipment. Undergoing a shorter elevage in stainless steel, this bottling shows its typically fresh and youthful self. The richness of the ’15 vintage lends a warmth and generosity to the fruit, but it still has nice citric undertones and a flinty mineral finish.

Montagny Blanc “Les Bassets” 2015:  This is the first year that Jean-Marc is producing a wine from “Les Bassets” in Montagny. Aged for 12 months in stainless steel, it is mineral and direct on the palate. When compared to the rich and powerful “Les Gouresses”, the “Les Bassets” is representative of classic Montagny.  The fruit leans more toward green apple with a pure stony minerality. We are fortunate to receive 200 cases of this for the USA.

Montagny Blanc 1er Cru “Les Gouresses” 2014: This overachieving white, made from a parcel of century-old vines, is fermented and aged in barrel just like Jean-Marc’s more important wines from the Cote d’Or. The 2014 is a knockout: quite dense but direct on the palate. The nose is floral while the fruit is sweet and long on the finish. Tasted blind, it would not be surprising to mistake this one for a Puligny-Montrachet.  Only two barrels (50 cases) available for the USA.

Saint Romain Blanc “La Perriere” 2014:   Notably higher in elevation than Pillot’s other holdings, this offering comes from the same lieu-dit that is also farmed by the Buisson family. The 2014 expresses a distinct chalky minerality with a seductive lightweight texture, and is aged 2/3 in stainless steel and 1/3 in barrique. It is high-toned, showing its elevated vineyard position, with a beautifully sweet lemon curd element to the fruit.

Puligny-Montrachet “Les Noyers Brets” 2014:  From Pillot’s only holding in Puligny (at .46 ha), “Les Noyers Brets” is located near Chassagne on the southern end of the village. This wine is floral and mineral, firmly showing its appellation with a delicate structure, hints of chamomile and a smoky mineral finish.

Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc “Les Chaumes” 2014:  This comes from a substantial 2.5-hectare parcel just below the 1er Cru “Morgeot”. The ’14 is elegant with beautiful floral aromatics, delicate fruit and rich minerality.  It would not be a surprise to mistake the 2014, so light on its feet, for a Puligny-Montrachet.

Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Chenevottes” 2014:  This .29-hectare parcel planted in 1950 is Jean Marc’s northernmost holding in the village.  Always a charmer, the ’14 is quite open, with a dreamy, lacy texture. It is delicate with hints of borderline tropical fruit, with fresh, zippy acidity.   Only 50 cases for the USA.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Vergers” 2014:  This vineyard from a ½-hectare parcel planted in 1949 typically delivers a delicate wine with a great deal of finesse.  The structure and concentration of the 2014 ensures this wine has explosive floral aromatics, while the fruit on the palate is strict and mineral. The “Les Vergers” is delicate and will undoubtedly benefit from some time in the cellar.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Vergers – Clos Saint Marc” 2014:  The vines for this outstanding parcel are now over 100 years old (planted in 1910) and represent a walled-in section within Vergers. Like “Les Vergers”, this wine leans toward the mineral but is more dense and compact, with a dry, tannic quality to the finish.  The profound concentration of this wine lends a much silkier texture to the linear fruit and brings forth a sense of earthy and saline fruit. This 2014 is something to behold, but ideally, it will be held for a few years to actualize its potential. Only 10 cases imported.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Macherelles” 2014:  This .28-hectare parcel is located just south of Chenevottes and was planted in 1951. It tends to be one of the more approachable 1er Crus from Pillot’s cellar. The 2014 is quite open, though not too fruity, with pear and a dark note. This is a wine in which you can always sense the underlying clay in the vineyard, and the ’14 is no different.  50 cases available for the USA.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Morgeot – Les Fairendes” 2014: Pillot works ¾ of a hectare of 46-year-old vines planted in the best sector of this large premier cru south of the village. The ’14 vintage, typically the broadest of his premier crus, imparts an elegance to this oft-powerful wine.  Aromatically mineral, the lemon and pear fruit suggest an underlying red cherry character.  Those of you who rely on this bottling to be an early drinker might find it more firm and structured upon release.  A great “Morgeot” that will welcome some time to evolve.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Baudines” 2014:  This small .15-hectare parcel is situated high on the hill in the far southern corner of Chassagne, and is perhaps the most overlooked bottling from this cellar.  The 2014 is a knockout: very broad and ripe on the palate and surprisingly open for business.  While concentrated and dense, this wine remains elegant and light on its feet, supported by razor-sharp acidity and dense, saline minerality.  A mere 24 cases are available for the USA.

Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Caillerets” 2014:  Jean-Marc has just a .18-hectare parcel in this outstanding premier cru.  This is probably the most intensely-mineral wine he makes. The structured and balanced nature of the 2014 vintage marries perfectly with this wine.  Firm and focused, it is deeply concentrated, with a smoky and salty backbone.  This wine was somewhat closed at our last tasting and requires at least a few years of patience before it will reveal its true potential.  Only 25 cases for the USA.

Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2014:  Jean-Marc made 2 barrels of Corton from fruit he purchased from his friend Blair Pethel of Domaine Dublere. Coincidentally, this same parcel was farmed by the Rollin family several years ago. At first whiff, it is evident that the wine is sourced from a different hillside. The aromatics have a powerful mineral edge, with slight hints of mint and wild flowers. The fruit is broad on the palate, restrained by a rigid backbone and a nearly tannic finish.  Only 5 cases for the USA.

Bourgogne Rouge “Les Grandes Terres” 2015: This red from a single parcel located right on the southern border of Chassagne always performs well in powerful vintages like 2015. The ’15 is not necessarily an easy drinking Pinot Noir, but is utterly satisfying, offering juicy black cherry fruit with a good balance of acidity that contributes a necessary edge. While quite juicy, this wine is restrained with some gripping tannins on the finish.  150 cases for the USA.

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