The 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
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.
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.
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.
This has a slightly warmer nose with more concentrated fruit at its core. Lovely texture, fruit and acidity here – lovely balance.
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.
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…
A certain width of aromas; rather tight fruit at the core, with a litlle green-skinned fruit. Texture, density and super acidity – very impressive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
tel: +33 3 80 21 31 68