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Profile: Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard (Chassagne-Montrachet)

jn_gagnard_01The village of Chassagne-Montrachet is, amongst others, Gagnard country.

A daughter of the owner of Domaine Delagrange-Bachelet married Jacques Gagnard to form Domaine Gagnard-Delagrange. The brother of Jacques Gagnard, Jean-Noël, also had his own domaine of Jean-Noël Gagnard. The two daughters from the Gagnard-Delagrange operation married a Blain and a Fontaine, hence, Domaines Blain-Gagnard and Fontaine-Gagnard. It is the burgundian way.

Jean-Noël is now well into his retirement, but still finds plenty enough to do, to warrant slipping into his boiler-suit and heading into the cellar. He inherited his domaine from his parents in 1960, when the vines were split between him and his brother Jacques. Jean-Noël made several vineyard acquisitions and also began domaine bottling – the fruits of the domaine’s labour were previously sold to the négoce.

Since 1989, Jean-Noël’s daughter, Caroline Lestimé took over day-to-day running of the domaine. Caroline had studied business in Paris, and for the first year she divided her attentions between managing the commercial aspects of the estate while attending the Beaune Lycée Viticole to learn about viticulture, and Dijon University to learn about oenology. One of her early changes was to increase the number of white wine cuvées since her father’s time by introducing a terroir-based policy of separating-out the different vineyards where wines were previously amalgamated under, for instance, a bigger Morgeots cuvée. The domaine now commercialises 9 hectares of vines; one grand cru, 9 white and 2 red Chassagne-Montrachet 1ers and a Santenay 1er Clos Tavannes red. Villages and Hautes-Côtes de Beaune are also included.

Vines and Wines

jn_gagnard_02

I visited Caroline on the last day of October, it was also the last day that I could taste wine for a couple of weeks as a cold engulfed me – I hope I didn’t leave any of the ‘grippe anglaise’ behind. The domaine is rather anonymous; the house – without a sign to indicate the presence of a ‘domaine’ – sits on the corner of a street at the southern end of Chassange. Caroline is friendly and welcoming and takes me straight down to the cellar, which she says is too small – it’s certainly a rabbit-warren of turns and collections of barrels, though she has a small extension as a bottle cellar.

Caroline explains that her vines are managed in a lutte raisonée way, and the soil is more biodynamically managed. Claude Bourguignone is retained to make assessments of the soil to ensure that the domaine’s approach progresses. Claude, however, doesn’t just look at the soil, but also the roots – down or sideways etc.. In the cellar Caroline barrel ferments all her whites, often with a short 3.4 week period of batonnage before ageing them for up to 18 months in oak casks – only about a third of which will be new – the wines may be bottled with a light filtration if necessary. The whole approach is tailored to emphasise elegance and minerality, which Caroline says was also the goal of her father.

This is a very fine address for Chassagne-Montrachet, I expect (if allowed!) I will become a regular buyer.

The Whites:
Caroline tells that versus the ‘intellectual’ 2007 vintage, she finds the 2008s a little more for pleasure, but that they have a clear, strong focus – she considers their personality a little ‘sorbet-like, while 2006s were more like ice-cream! The 2008s did need quite a long elevage – four cuvées finished malos in January, the majority in April/May and another in June. Caroline says that she will wait until the wines are completely ‘ready’ before she begins bottling. The 2007s for instance were bottled in January 2009, Caroline thinks that she will likely wait until March 2010 for her 2008s.

2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chaumes
A lovely fresh nose with delicate rather than ‘manly’ Chassagne fruit. Lovely acidity which slowly leaves your mouth watering. A very nicely balanced wine with good density.
2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet Les Masures
This has a slightly warmer nose with more concentrated fruit at its core. Lovely texture, fruit and acidity here – lovely balance.
2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Les Chevenottes
There is a step-up in aromatic density here, the fruit has creamy reflections, seems more serious too whilst retaining some understatement. The texture here reminds me of an 06 but just a little less sweet – very well balanced again.
2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Les Chaumées
The nose is more open and higher-toned – Caroline says that this parcel is always very aromatic – nice width. A hint of petillance, very good acidity (perhaps emphasised by the dissolved gas) but there’s a super burst of interest across the mid-palate. A slowly lingering finish…
2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Les Champs Gain
A certain width of aromas; rather tight fruit at the core, with a litlle green-skinned fruit. Texture, density and super acidity – very impressive.
2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Clos de la Maltroye
For me, this is a classic 1er cru Chassagne nose; width of fruit, a little muscle and spice. We tasted from a new and an older barrel, the new showed as soft and supple, the older barrel was more knife-like and mineral. If I had to choose, I’d take the latter, but the blend should be really fine.
2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er La Boudriotte
From within Morgeots – 2002 was the first ‘separation’ from the Morgeots cuvée. Aromas of herbs and flowers, high-toned and a little cream. Very nice texture. Clearly a wine of concentration, but a concentration that slowly creeps up on you – really impressive flavour in the mid-palate. Super.
2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Blanchot Dessus
A Chassagne in name, but it stands out like a sore thumb in a cellar of Chassagnes. This small vineyard sits as a 1er cru corner at the junction of Montrachet and Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet – although on a map it looks like a simple continuation of Montrachet, the ground is quite different as it quickly slopes away. Three barrels are produced here. The nose has width and concentration though the family nose of the other wines is replaced by a much warmer, creamier, less spicy personality. A little fat texture, very good acidity and lovely, lovely, wide flavours that linger very well. A beautiful wine that you wouldn’t place as a Chassagne without sight of the label.
2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Morgeot
Classic, slightly masculine and certainly powerful aromas. In the mouth the power is obvious, but it’s balanced by a little ‘give’ in the texture, a sweetnes of fruit and very good acidity – this is lovely.
2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Caillerets
Aromatically this is about more delicate fruit and a mineral finesse. The acidity is slightly forward but it underpins lovely fruit flavours and a hint of mineral savouriness. Very long finishing. Very fine wine…
2008 JN Gagnard, Bâtard-Montrachet
Bought by the family in 1892. Potentially as much as 8 barrels, but 5 is more common from the ~40 year-old vinesThis came in at 14° natural – Caroline said they had to react very fast as the sugars really started to take-off. The aromas are much fuller, a little warm fruit, yet it is clearly tight at the core. Good acidity, concentration amd impact – yet it’s still light on its feet. This starts wide and slowly fades – no mid-palate burst, but it is very long finishing.

The Reds:
For this vintage, everything was de-stemmed, but there were some whole clusters used in the 2009 vintage. The malos were not too long in this cellar, the Chassagne was already in bottle for two months, and the Santenay Clos Tavannes was ready to bottle.

2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet ‘Cuvée L’Estimée’ Rouge
25% new wood used in elevage. Medium, medium-plus colour. A width of red cherry-fruit greets your nose. Super acidity and a little astringency to slightly sticky, blocky tannins. Nice, long flavours – very nice fruit. This will need a little cellar time but will be an okay bottle.
2008 JN Gagnard, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Morgeot Rouge
Finer aromas of more intense red berries and cherry. Again there is very good acidity and some astringency to the (also) slightly sticky tannins. A sneaky extra dimension of fruit flavour if not density versus the villages wine.
2008 JN Gagnard, Santenay 1er Clos des Tavannes
Three barrels of old vines production – ready to bottle Wide aromas that are very cherry-fruited, good depth too. This is very nice across the palate, indeed very pretty. There’s good acidity alongside the lovely fruit, a little grain to the tannin and lots of flavour extending through the mid-palate into the finish – bravo!

Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard
9, place des Noyers
21190 Chassagne Montrachet
France
tel: +33 3 80 21 31 68
http://domaine-gagnard.com/

17 responses to “Profile: Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard (Chassagne-Montrachet)”

  1. Phil Eaves

    Interesting that the White Morgeot is now split into Morgeot from Petits Clos and Boudriotte from Chaumes. Why produce seperate labels and then not use the more detailed names? they could show as – Les Chaumes – Appellation Boudriotte Premier Cru Controlee if it is a commercial or name recognition problem. The example from Fontaine Gagnards Clos Les Murees -Clos Saint-Jean covers this. Or is it because they issue a village white from Les Chaumes and are avoiding complications over lieu-dit and sub climat?
    Just a bit of mischief Bill, I prefer to see the most accurate place name that is allowed.

    Phil

  2. LESTIMÉ Caroline

    For the first wine mentionned above – Morgeot – I could add the Lieux-dit “Les Petits Clos” and it is true that each year I wonder if I should do it or not. I guess i should do it.

    But for the second one, as La Boudriotte is already a specific part of the big area of Morgeot I don’t feel the need to detail more the location and as you wrote if I use the name of Les Chaumes people could be confused with the wine that I produce in the AOC village Les Chaumes.
    With my best wishes,
    Caroline

  3. Jerry Hey

    I had a wonderful visit with Jean Noel Gagnard some twenty years ago, set up by John Tartaglia, a friend who told me about the domaine originally. I had been a buyer of his wines since 1978 and was pleasantly surprised when I found out that I had an appointment to visit the domaine. He was so gracious and opened the entire lineup of 1985’s for two of us. Then Jean Noel asked if we would like to taste an older wine, and we said of course – we don’t get to visit Burgundy too often. He brought up a dusty, moldy covered bottle, and opened it. Immediately the room filled with caramel, honey, and various amazing scents. The color of the wine in the glass was golden and then came the question – “What is it?” Now I am in trouble – I swilled, tasted, and responded with a guess of 1969 Batard. To my amazement it was a 1964 Chassagne Caillerets – such a fantastic wine!! I wanted to share this experience with my friend who had set up the appointment and asked Jean Noel if I could buy one bottle of the 1964 Caillerets. When I asked, it seemed as if I had stepped over the line and gone into the “ugly American” by asking to buy one of these rare wines. Nothing was said and I just guessed that I had gone too far and let it go. We thanked him very much for the tasting and started to leave the cellar. Just then, Jean Noel held up his hand and told us to wait. He went down into the cellar and GAVE us two bottles of the ’64!!! An incredible gesture that I can never repay, other than to be a buyer of these wonderful wines.

    A 2000 Batard Montrachet last weekend was bright, seductive, with great length, and just starting to open up. It is great to know that Caroline is continuing her father’s outstanding tradition of fine wine making.

    I always have a bottle from Domaine J.N. Gagnard ready to open for anyone willing to experience some great wine.

  4. Evelyne Resnick

    Fascinating article. I didn’t have the opportunity to taste the 2008 yet. But I just had a Chassagne Montrachet Les Champs Gain 2006: it was gorgeous, fine, elegant. I love Caroline’s wines because they have a lot of character and are at the same time elegant and delicate.

  5. Phil Eaves

    Caroline thanks for taking the time to respond to my mischief. I hope you are not offended I am always on my soap box when it comes to place names on labels and Morgeot is always a difficult place when the wine can come from so very many places. I for one would welcome the additional info on the Morgeot label. The Boudriotte is a particular gripe I have, although I now think the only wine that comes from the lieu-dit is red and named as Clos de la Boudriotte? The only white from La Boudriotte I have is from Domaine Blain-Gagnard and I am not sure of its exact origins. But I can understand your reasons over the confusion with a village wine, you must be the only one with a holding in both classifications? Never the less I would like to urge you to show both names because your wine is from a unique 1er place and not a mix that then enforces either Boudriotte or Morgeot.

    kind regards
    Phil

  6. Peter Brown

    Went to the J&B and HR 08 tastings on Monday last. The wine of the night was unquestionably the Gagnard Batard. It does indeed start wide but the finish is so intense and goes on forever so that I had to take a turn around the room to do it justice. Am thinking of taking a mortgage to cover the £1490 per case. Clos des Tavannes has always been an enjoyable wine for me and the Gagnard was excellent, lovely light touch,
    delicious strawberry fruit.

  7. Edith Kane

    I love those story ,Since I am French and my Amercian husband loves all the Bourgogne vine …but when I was in bourgogne no oneever gave me 2 bottles Of Montrachet Vive la france Edith KANE

  8. Joachim

    Hey Bill, I saw that you put the Gagnard Caillerets and Blanchots into your annual Top Ten – did you re-taste it recently, or was it a decision based on the tasting in 2009?

    I just had the 2008 Chenevottes and Morgeot yesterday, and it was great, even if the Chenevotts came out much more accessible and elegant, with notes of honey, blind guessed it could have been a Meursault. Still, the Morgeot seems to have more potential.

    Now I’m thinking about buying Blanchots and Caillerets as well, based on your reccomandation.

  9. it’s a bit wet…

    [...] courtesy of Caroline Lestime of Domaine Jean-Noel Gagnard in [...]

  10. Miguel C.L.

    Bill,

    If you have time, Id love to know what happend to Domaine Delagrange-Bachelet? I find nothing in the books or the internets :(

  11. jon wyand’s window on burgundian complexity…

    […] The complexity of Burgundy in just one picture – thanks to Jon Wyand. JNG, mentioned on the left of this image, is Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard. […]

  12. Burgundy Harvest 15 September 2014…

    […] perfect pic by Caroline l’Estimé of Domaine Jean-Noël Gagnard: Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Les Caillerets […]

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