2020 Joseph Drouhin Chassagne Montrachet
Jasper Morris | 91-94 JM
(Chassagne-Montrachet- Maison Joseph Drouhin) The 2020 Chassagne AC is also very strong from the Drouhin family in this vintage. The bouquet is quite refined out of the blocks, delivering scents of pear, lemon, a stony base of soil tones, white lilies, apple blossoms and vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and quite mineral-driven in personality, with a fine core of fruit, bright acids and superb typicité on the long, zesty finish. Another lovely bottle. (Drink between 2022 - 2040)
John Gilman | 91 JG
Wine Details for 2020 Joseph Drouhin Chassagne Montrachet
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: No one can express the full potential of Chardonnay quite like the visionaries from Burgundy. With an almost entirely single-minded devotion to the noble varietal in question, they continue to push the boundaries of quality, to the joy of their many fans worldwide. Discover the nuances of every producer and come out changed forever.
: Chardonnay has carved its path towards the title “king of white grapes” in subtle yet striking fashion, playing instrumental roles throughout the course of history. It was the chosen grape variety which celebrated the inception of the very first Champagne house - Ruinart, which insists “Chardonnay is the golden thread that runs through the Ruinart taste. “ “Remember men, it’s not just France we’re fighting for, it’s Champagne,” Winston Churchill. The infamous and celebrated French author, Alexandre Dumas once declared a high quality chardonnay wine from Le Montrachet was one that is only appropriate to sip “on bended knees, with head bowed.” And of course, history was made once again when a bottle of 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay was awarded first prize in the famous tasting of the “1976 Judgement of Paris,” changing the world’s view on California Chardonnay, inspiring vintners and altering the landscape of California winemaking forever.
The origin of the Chardonnay grape can be traced back to the small village of Macon in the Burgundy appellation of France. The varietal, whose name means “a place of thistles” in Latin, is the offspring of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc. Like most prominent grape varietals, the exact circumstances of its inception are unknown; however, it is interesting to note that Gouais Blanc originated in Germany. It is speculated that the ancient Romans, who successfully subdued the Germanic tribes in 6 AD, planted Gouais Blanc in French soil, unwittingly prompting the crossbreeding of the two varietals. If this is the case, the history of the Chardonnay grape goes back much further.
The Noble Chardonnay grape variety is most happy in the winegrowing appellation of Burgundy, its home and birth place. Burgundy’s grand Terroir of marl limestone soils and cool climate allows the Chardonnay grape to express itself to its full zenith. Interestingly, the varietal is extremely flexible and can adapt to a wide diversity of soils, allowing the terroir in which it grows to dictate the qualities of the grape and thus revealing a multitude of personalities. For instance, there are subtle yet distinguishing differences in terroir in the Burgundian villages of Puligny-Montrachet, Chablis, Meursault, Corton Charlemagne, Macon, etc. which are all fashioned in their own unique way. The difference in each Climat or Lieu-dit, such as Le Montrachet (Puligny-Montrachet) and Valmur (Chablis) can take one further down the proverbial “rabbit-hole” and into the wonderful, yet complex world of Burgundy wines. However, Burgundy is but one prime growing location for this tremendously adaptable grape variety.
The spread of Chardonnay would eventually take root in Champagne, where it excelled in the region’s cool climate and chalky, sub-soils. For top Champagne producers, it became the main ingredient in their high quality, high profile Blanc de Blancs. It would also begin to be blended with the two other acceptable varietals of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (red skinned grapes). The chardonnay grape is now planted in 10,000 of the 34,000 hectares of Champagne.
Chardonnay would find its way to California in the late 1800’s but would remain obscure for more than a century due to ignorance of the varietal and lack of knowledge on how to marry it with appropriate terroir. Things changed in the 1970’s when Chardonnay saw a resurgence world-wide, mostly due to the 1976 Judgement of Paris. The unthinkable happened when a bottle of 1973 Chateau Montelena bested some of Burgundy’s finest chardonnay offerings from Batard-Montrachet and Meursault. This event helped place California on the map, changing the face of California winemaking forever. It rejuvenated the cultivation of the Chardonnay grape variety, which saw an exponential growth world-wide.
Much like the climats of Burgundy which have their own unique terroir, Chardonnay’s adaptability has found a home in the diverse appellations, terroirs and climates of California. The cool climate locations produce crisp wines with Burgundian nuances, while warmer climates produce wines with opulent, ripe fruit reminiscent of pineapple, mango and papaya. Terroir also dictates the personality, steel and concrete tanks versus oak, and the list goes. From buttery, oak-infused heady wines to crisp, refreshing cool climate fashioned Chardonnays, the grape variety can be extremely modified. There are not enough letters in Microsoft Word to demonstrate all the different nuances, qualities, differences of terroir, climate and winemaking techniques that would encompass in full, the details of the Chardonnay grape.
The well-travelled grape varietal of Chardonnay has become the fascination of consumers around the world, becoming the most written about of all grapes. Today, it is planted in over 40 countries, amassing an impressive 211,000 hectares (500,000 acres) across the globe. From Burgundy to Champagne, Napa to Sonoma, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, Chardonnay graces vineyards around the world, captivating its audience with its multiple personalities. “So powerful is the ‘C-word’ on a wine label,” as the famed Jancis Robinson exclaimed. Since its discovery in Macon, this C-word has become a dominant force in the world of wine, changing history, winemaking and the understanding of winegrowing and its powerful attributes to a single varietal.
: Wine is the lifeblood that courses through the country of France, pulsing with vigorous pride and determination. Viticulture is not just a hobby or an occupation in France; it is a passion, a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations of wine stained hands. Winemaking is a beloved art that has been ingrained in the culture, an aptitude instilled in sons by fathers and the hallmark for which France’s reputation was built, allowing it to be renowned as, arguably, the most important wine producing country in the world.
For centuries, France has been producing wines of superior quality and in much greater quantity than any other country in the world. It boasts some of the most impressive wine regions, coveted vineyards and prestigious wines on earth. The regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Sauternes and Champagne have become the benchmark, for which others aspire to become. Legendary producers such as Chateaux Margaux, Domaine De La Romanee Conti, Chapoutier, d’Yquem and Dom Perignon are idolized world-wide.
France has stamped its name on nearly every style of wine, from the nectar-like sweet Sauternes to hedonistic Chateauneuf Du Papes classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, to its sparkling dominance in Champagne. Many of the most infamous grape varietals in the world, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay originated in France and are not only beloved, but utilized in the creation of some of the greatest wines on earth. French wine production commands the attention of the wine market year after year. With over 860,000 hectares under vine, and numbers close to 50 million hectoliters of wine produced annually, France dominates the market and sets the standard for not only product quality, but also quantity.
France’s many contributions to the world of wine have been absolutely indispensable. The country is the originator of the term “Premier Cru,” coined the term Terroir (a French term so complex there is no literal translation) and has laid the blueprint for a structured appellation system, which others have implemented in their own countries. French vineyard techniques and winemaking practices are mimicked world-wide. California vintners have been replicating Rhone style wines for decades, South America has adopted the French varietal of Malbec and countries around the world are imitating Burgundian styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
With vast diversity in terroir, France is home to some of the most hospitable winegrowing locations on earth. The combination of topography, geology, climate, rainfall and even the amount of sunlight combined with the long historical tradition of winegrowing and making, has allowed the vintners of France to not only hone their skills, but learn from nature to create a product that like the world in which it resides… is very much alive.
: Situated just west of the beautiful river Saone, the hills and valleys of Burgundy stand as they have stood since medieval times, and you can almost hear the cheerful chatter of vineyard workers from miles away. Indeed, France's identity in the world of wine would be incomplete without the inclusion of Burgundy and its many viticultural achievements. Every little sub-region of the area boasts a unique soil composition, which, when combined with the area's climate conditions, creates an incredibly diverse and appealing selection of fine wines.
Every new bottle is an adventure of its own, and a snapshot of its birthplace. You could spend years sampling great Burgundian wines, and you would still have a lot to learn, which is what makes the region so compelling for veterans and novice wine lovers alike. No matter what your taste in wines may be, there is a winery in Burgundy that could mesmerize your mind and make your senses scream with joy. And what better way to spend a comfy summer afternoon with your friends and family than with a classy bottle from some of the region's most reputable wineries? From the noble slopes of Cote d'Or to the flatlands near various settlements, let us help you on your journey as we explore Burgundy's most delicious and renowned wines.
|Subregion||Cote de Beaune|
: Burgundy is one of (if not the) the most fascinating, revered and mind-expanding wine regions in the world. It possesses a multi-faceted and complex wine classification system, a mesmerizing history, unrivaled terroir and centuries of winemaking “know-how”. However, vineyard space in Burgundy, let alone, the Cote d’Or, is extremely prized, coveted and difficult to obtain. While it is considered fortunate to own a single parcel of land, it is even more remarkable to own multiple plots in several appellations. The previous statement sanctions an incredible awareness for the grandeur of Domaine Joseph Drouhin, who owns holdings in nearly every winemaking district in Burgundy (and surrounding areas) including the Cote de Nuits, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais, Chablis and Beaujolais. This incredible feat is a testament to the founding family’s sheer determination, personal sacrifice and guile. Today, Joseph Drouhin is one of the finest establishments in France and one of the largest producers of Burgundian wine, with a staggering history which defines the term, “adapt, overcome, and improvise.” Furthermore, the family’s many contributions to the region have been indispensable and advantageous.
The history of the domaine dates back to 1880 when Monsieur Joseph Drouhin, upon arriving in Beaune from Chablis founded the eponymous negociant firm (Maison Joseph Drouhin). He quickly discovered that the current trend, blending wines from throughout Burgundy and even the Rhone, was giving the region a poor reputation. Realizing this as well as finding disdain for this multi-regional blending of wines under the Burgundian label, did not sit well with Monsieur Drouhin’s son, Maurice, who took over on his father’s passing in 1918. He became heavily involved with the creation of the Institut of National des Appellations d’Origine, which would ultimately establish the French appellation control system. In chorus with this venture, Maurice began to purchase vineyards, including those in Clos des Mouches and Clos de Vougeot in order to establish a domaine for the family.
At the height of the German occupation during World War II, Maison Joseph Drouhin was the exclusive distributor of wines for Domaine de la Romanee Conti (DRC) in France and Belgium. He managed to hide many bottles along with his own wines, by building a wall in his cellar and swathing it with cobwebs in order for it to appear older, thus, fortifying the small fortune in a secure chamber. The Drouhin’s also wittingly assisted with bottling lesser quality wines under the house labels to send to the Nazis and Hitler, while keeping the good wines for the locals. This would eventually be noticed by the Nazis, who then deployed a wine master to oversee production. Fortunately, this German wine master happened to be good friends with Drouhin, so again the family was able to protect its most valuable wines in secret. Maurice’s status as the Mayor of Beaune, his production of fine wine as well as his involvement with the resistance, made him a high-profile target for the Gestapo, who began searching for him. He managed to escape, via Beaune’s underground tunnel system, to the Hospices de Beaune where remained incognito until the eventual liberation of Beaune.
After the war, the region was left devastated; however, Drouhin was able to recover financially by selling the hidden wines. This was a personal sacrifice that generated enough revenue to rebound the operations of Joseph Drouhin, which Laurent Drouhin (Grandson of Maurice) declares “another of his visionary ideas to preserve the legacy of the Domaine.” Maurice’s son, Robert, took control of operations in 1957 and like his father, recognized the value of the region’s terroir. He began expanding the domaine through the purchase of parcels in Cote de Nuits, Chambolle Musigny, and 40 hectares of unplanted land in Chablis: both an homage to his Grandfather and in recognition of the land’s immense potential. Once again, like his father and grandfather before him, he adapted to the ever-changing demands of nature and the world around it by eliminating the use of pesticides, developing organic and biodynamic approaches to viticulture which remain in use. Today, his children run the House of Joseph Drouhin, perpetuating the tradition set before them by their great grandfather, continuing his legacy 144 years later, never shying away from adapting, improvising or overcoming in order to obtain elegance and perfection, the hallmark of Joseph Drouhin.
The domaine of Joseph Drouhin spans 80 hectares throughout the Cote d’Or, Maconnais, Cote Chalonnaise, Chablis and Beaujolais, with 60% of the vineyards classified as either Premier or Grand Cru (90% in the Cote d’Or). Thanks to previous generation’s great foresight and ambitious efforts in acquiring prized land, the Drouhins own parcels in some of the most famous vineyards in Burgundy, such as Clos des Mouches, Musigny, Clos de Vougeot, and Corton Charlemagne, to name just a few. The two Burgundian grape varieties are cultivated in this historic terroir; however, Laurent Drouhin states, “We do not produce Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, we produce terroir wine. The truth is in the glass.”
In order “to bring natural answers to natural problems” Drouhin’s uses organic and biodynamic approaches in order to express the exact character of each terroir. Respecting the land of their ancestors is the surest way to preserving the terroir for future generations. The soil is ploughed by horse, while grass is permitted to grow between the vines to deter erosion and to create a natural refuge for beneficial predatory animals. Drouhin allows their vines to thrive using only natural methods such as herb-based decoctions and natural composting. The vines are densely planted, taking root as deep as possible, allowing the grapes to be receptive to the faintest message emanating from each soil. All vine-stocks are grown in their own nursery to preserve their genetic heritage and to control quality. This tedious, but incredibly brilliant method of operation in the vineyard produces a line of wines that speaks of the family’s dedication to preserving the land and ultimately, the intrinsic nature of the wines that mirror the terroir from which they are born.
The incredibly diverse portfolio of Joseph Drouhin is chock-full of elegant wines that are the truest expression of Burgundy and highlighted by their numerous Grand Cru offerings including Chablis Les Clos, Bougros and Vaudesir, Bonnes Mares, Chambertin, Clos de la Roche, Echezeaux, Musigny, Batard Montrachet, Corton Charlemagne, countless Premier Cru in each sub-region of Burgundy, and various “Cru” wines of Beaujolais. For some village or regional appellations, Joseph Drouhin complements its supplies by purchasing grapes from other vineyard owners who have been long time partners and share the same quest of excellence. This massive operation is able to produces between 300,000 to 400,000 cases each year.
As the great grandson of Joseph Drouhin so eloquently stated, “These wines reflect the passion from one vintage to the next, from one generation to the next, from one dream to the next, and from one century to the next. Wine is history and it is something special for me… As my great-grandfather looks down, I am here 139 years later sharing his legacy with you, connecting us all to generations past.” – Laurent Drouhin