New Releases from Jean-Marc Pillot: February 2021

Posted on Posted in Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot, Rosenthal Wine Merchant News, RWM Contributor

With his impressive array of holdings throughout Chassagne-Montrachet, complemented by parcels in Puligny-Montrachet, Santenay, Montagny, and Rully, Jean-Marc Pillot is among our most important suppliers of Burgundy. Since our first vintage together over twenty years ago, we have watched Jean-Marc—a fourth-generation vigneron—find his way and master his craft, and today his generous, electrifying renderings of these great terroirs tend to sell out before they even reach us. In person, Jean-Marc is lively and warm; one can sense his tireless work ethic even in the nimble and speedy way in which he navigates his cellar during our visits. And, as is so often the case, his wines mirror his personality: exuberant, expressive, and bristling with energy. Jean-Marc works his domaine’s exceedingly old vines—averaging over 50 years but reaching as high as 110—without the use of chemicals, and his fermentations always begin naturally. His use of oak is thoughtful and measured—never formulaic and always tailored to each wine in each vintage—and he has an uncanny knack for employing new wood as a skilled chef employs salt: barely enough to notice, and just enough to enhance balance.

Compared to the relatively easygoing 2017 growing season, 2018 offered Jean-Marc its share of twists and turns: a rainy winter and early spring led to extreme mildew pressure, and the vineyards were occasionally so wet that even just entering them with a tractor for copper-sulfate treatments was nigh impossible; then, although flowering was even and smooth, weather in summer turned aggressively hot and dry, carrying the attendant challenges of hydric stress. Thankfully, Jean-Marc’s large proportion of quite old vines helped mitigate the heat wave, as their deep roots are able to access the water table with greater facility. Furthermore, his always judicious approach in the cellar—he employed a relatively gentle pressing in 2018 to prevent the over-extraction of potassium, which lowers the impression of acidity in the finished wines—led to wines of outstanding vibrancy and equilibrium, particularly given the vintage’s potential pitfalls. These are wines that found their spine through élevage, according to Jean-Marc, and this collection of bottled 2018s is as nervy and mineral-driven as one could hope for.

Though perhaps known better for his white wines, Pillot also possesses a remarkably deft touch with Pinot Noir. The incoming trio of 2016 red wines display the superb concentration and tension of this frost-affected vintage, as well as presenting a new aromatic paradigm—the result of Jean-Marc employing 100% whole clusters for the first time. This shift toward total stem inclusion coincides with a welcome lessening of extraction over the past handful of vintages, and these 2016s attain heretofore unseen heights of nuance and finesse.

2018 Montagny “Les Bassets”

Pillot has a friend in the appellation of Montagny, in the Côte Chalonnaise, with some old vineyard holdings, the fruit of which he is happy to sell to Jean-Marc each year to help him round out his lineup with some accessibly priced wines of a different character. “Les Bassets” is a “split” vineyard, part of which is villages-classified and part of which is premier cru, and this parcel is just on the villages side. Vinified and aged entirely in stainless steel, this wine displays the racy acidity and blatantly chalky, almost Chablis-like character of Montagny at is best, but with a satisfying mid-palate richness.

2018 Montagny 1er Cru “Les Gouresses”

Jean-Marc purchases fruit from a friend who owns a parcel of 110-year-old vines in this well-situated premier cru, and from it he crafts a wine of mineral-driven intensity, aging it entirely in previously used barrels and bottling it after an 18-month élevage—the same length of aging as his more expensive offerings from the Côte de Beaune.

2018 Rully Blanc “La Chaume”

Beginning with the 2017 vintage, Jean-Marc has been able to access fruit in this terrific appellation in the northern part of the Côte Chalonnaise from parcels owned by an old friend with whom he served in the military. “La Chaume”—from a large 41-hectare lieu-dit—is more straightforward in its personality and more thickly fruited than the “Les Gaudoirs” below, but nonetheless offers attractive minerality and ample acid. This is given a proper 18-month élevage just like Jean-Marc’s pricier wines in the Côte de Beaune, and its modest 20% new oak is already well-integrated. 

2018 Rully Blanc “Les Gaudoirs”

Les Gaudoirs is situated on a limestone plateau, and this cuvée comes from a parcel of 30-year-old Chardonnay planted in extremely stony, pebbly soils. It wears its 20% new oak very well (Jean-Marc is particularly deft in his balancing of wood and wine), and offers electric acidity and a salty, palate-staining minerality. It’s a crystalline and stylish wine very much in line with his Chassagne-Montrachet crus, and it offers tremendous value.

2018 Rully Blanc 1er Cru “Les Raclots”

Jean-Marc’s friend’s parcel in Les Raclots is 60 years old, planted in the appellation’s classic clay-limestone terrain. This cuvée offers a similar saline impression to the “Les Gaudoirs,” but with greater power and depth of fruit, and a sense of underlying richness that stops short of viscosity. “Les Raclots” more than holds its own against some of Jean-Marc’s more gras-oriented Chassagne-Montrachet 1er crus, and it should age terrifically.

2017 Saint-Romain Blanc “La Périère”

From this renowned poor-soiled vineyard in the valley of Saint-Romain, Jean-Marc produces a wine of impressive power for the appellation—Saint-Romain as rendered by a master of Chassagne-Montrachet. Aged one-quarter new barrels, this offers succulent orchard fruits on a relatively easygoing frame, with enough acidity to harmonize its elements but without pitching the wine toward shrillness.

2018 Puligny-Montrachet “Les Noyers Bret”

Les Noyers Bret lies just downslope of Le Montrachet and its assorted hyphenations, and Jean-Marc owns a small parcel of vines between 50 and 100 years old here. Often among the most elegant of his wines (as befits the appellation), this is classical and precise, with truly outstanding length and a palate-coating intensity which swells toward the finish.

2018 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc “Les Masures”

Pillot owns half a hectare of Chardonnay in this well-positioned lieu-dit, which sits just below premier cru Champs-Gains on the slope. One third of his vines here were planted in 1950, one-third in 1990, and one-third in 2010. This is a classically rendered Chassagne-Montrachet, one which deftly balances rich, mouth-filling fruit with a powerful mineral thrust. [Note: as of the 2016 vintage, this replaced the Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc “Les Chaumes” with which we had worked for many years.]

2018 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Macherelles”

Les Macherelles sits just to the south of the premier cru Les Chenevottes in the northern sector of Chassagne-Montrachet, just north of the village itself. Pillot’s 0.28 hectares of vines here were planted in the early 1950s, and this cuvée presents a remarkably stony nose, with focused, lean, strikingly refined flavors of lime zest and sea salt.

2018 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Chenevottes”

Jean-Marc owns a small 0.29-hectare parcel of 70-year-old vines in this premier cru, which lies at the northernmost extreme of the appellation, near the sweet spot of Saint-Aubin and within striking distance of Le Montrachet itself. “Les Chenevottes” offers a more explosively chalky character than the “Les Macherelles” above, with both greater amplitude and sharper acidity, making for a wine of remarkable tension.

2018 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Vergers”

Jean-Marc farms half a hectare of vines planted in the late 1940s in this premier cru, which sits immediately above Les Chenevottes and Les Macherelles on the slope, flanking them both. Always a standout in the lineup, it offers a nose of lemon-lime and quinine, and its minerality—while nonetheless formidable—melds into the fruit more than in “Les Chenevottes” above, contributing to an overall impression of seamless power.

2018 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Morgeot – Les Fairendes”

A “vineyard within a vineyard,” Les Fairendes is the prime filet of the southern-Chassagne premier cru of Morgeot; poorer topsoil here facilitates a more profound mineral expression than is found in its surrounding area. Pillot owns a quarter-hectare of 50-year-old-vines here, and he has purposefully begun harvesting it slightly earlier the past few vintages to counterbalance the intense richness this site tends to engender. “Les Fairendes” delivers an appealing combination of textural generosity and firm acidity that characterizes the overall house style here.  

2018 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Caillerets”

Among the most coveted of Chassagne’s premier crus, Les Caillerets is situated high on the slope, roughly equidistant between the village’s northern and southern borders. Pillot’s tiny holding here—a mere 0.18 hectares—yields what is often the most complex, full-spectrum premier cru in his cellar. This cuvée ratchets up the intensity to a level that exceeds the previous wines in the lineup, and its finely chiseled, ultra-long finish suggests years of positive development. 

2018 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Baudines”

Les Baudines occupies a unique position within Chassagne-Montrachet, lying at the extreme south of the appellation (adjacent to Santenay) at the very highest point on the slope. Jean-Marc owns a 0.15-hectare sliver in this well-drained, less sun-drenched vineyard, and the wine he produces from here is always his most purely mineral-driven. Less overtly intense than the “Les Caillerets” above, this presents a cool, stony personality and moderates its sense of electricity with a texture more subdued and elegant.

2018 Chassagne-Montrachet Blanc 1er Cru “Les Vergers – Clos Saint Marc”

Jean-Marc is one of only three owners of this wall-enclosed vineyard located in the heart of Les Vergers (see above), and his vines here are an astonishing 110 years old. Always a standout in Pillot’s cellar, “Clos Saint Marc” offers grand-cru-like density and depth, with a blast of pure limestone on the nose, a dramatic, swelling finish, and an almost overwhelming sense of concentration. 

2018 Corton-Charlemagne

Jean-Marc makes a mere two barrels of Corton-Charlemagne per vintage, from fruit purchased from his friend Blair Pethel of Domaine Dublère—a parcel, in fact, which used to be worked by the Rollin family and included in their own Corton-Charlemagne before the previous owner sold it to Mr. Pethel. This cuvée is massively scaled—both intensely mineral and nearly unctuous in its sappiness of fruit—and its 50% new oak is all but swallowed by the wine’s sheer concentration.

2018 Chevalier-Montrachet

Given its higher (and thus slightly cooler) position on the slope, Chevalier-Montrachet sometimes rivals even Le Montrachet itself in quality. Certainly, Jean-Marc’s is the star of his cellar, and those fortunate enough to access the painfully minuscule quantities we are allocated will be thrilled with its multidimensionality and presence. Oily-textured and intoxicating in its enveloping saline aromatics, this completely possesses the palate, with a sizzling intensity and a finish well exceeding the minute mark.

2017 Santenay Rouge “Les Champs Claude”

Pillot owns a sizable 1.4-hectare parcel of 45-year-old Pinot Noir in this Santenay lieu-dit, and his gentle extraction (using only pump-overs) and no-new-oak élévage allow the friendly, juicy red fruit to take center stage. The 2016 offers spice-drenched flavors of mentholated cherry, with a sense of rippling energy and mouthwatering acidity. For the first time ever, Jean-Marc employed 100% whole clusters in his 2016 reds.

2016 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge “Mes Vieilles Vignes”

Jean-Marc produces a remarkable red Chassagne-Montrachet from a hectare of 60-year-old vines, and the 2016 is noteworthy in its complexity—particularly for a villages-level wine. Far more structured than the Santenay above, this nonetheless offers a similar purity of fruit, plus a gently earthy, brambly edge which speaks clearly of its Chassagne-Montrachet origins. 100% whole-cluster.

2016 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 1er Cru “Les Macherelles”

Pillot’s Pinot Noir in the premier cru of “Les Macherelles” was planted in 1954, and this cuvée presents a riper, thicker profile than the “Vieilles Vignes” above, with a darker cast to the fruit. Sappy and powerful, this possesses an almost chewy mouthfeel, with a dry and tightly mineral impression on the concentrated finish.

2016 Chassagne-Montrachet Rouge 1er Cru “Morgeot – Les Fairendes”

Pillot owns two-thirds of a hectare of Pinot Noir in “Morgeot”—again in the “Fairendes” climat—and this wine echoes the “Macherelles” above in its super-ripe character, but with a brisker, more driving sense of kinetic energy on the palate. The fruit and mineral elements are bit more interwoven here than above, and the overall impression is slightly gentler.

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