High up on the hill between Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, above the legendary premiers crus, Laurent and Hélène Martelet of Comtesse de Chérisey tend a parcel that is like very few others in these exalted appellations. This premier cru vineyard called La Genelotte is a monopole, meaning the Martelets are its sole proprietors and farmers. In a region where vineyard plots are famously sliced up, divided, and farmed and vinified differently by multiple—sometimes many—vignerons, the Martelets’ position as sole guardians of La Genelotte is an utter rarity. Being there makes you feel as though you’re in Burgundy in a prior era, which makes sense as this domaine has remained in the family for over two centuries. In a way, it’s a shame that more of Meursault and Puligny’s revered winemakers don’t get to work with these vines up here, with their special microclimate that differs from both of those appellations. In another way, however, it’s difficult to imagine anyone doing a better job of translating this terroir than the Martelets. Year in and year out, regardless of how favorable the vintage was, they make exquisite wines. At five years old, the 2015 Genelotte is a masterpiece—a regal and refined Chardonnay whose chiseled, flinty frame bespeaks its terroir and the Martelets’ devotion to making fresh, mineral, and age-worthy whites. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: At our KLWM holiday parties, a few older vintages of Comtesse de Chérisey’s Genelotte usually come out and they are always among the most memorable wines of the night. Buy a few bottles to enjoy now as well as a few to drink in five and ten years. You will be so glad you did.
The lost hamlet of Blagny, up in the hills between Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault in the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, is home to Comtesse de Chérisey. This almost magical, lost-in-time corner of the world boasts a unique microclimate, with a slightly different average temperature, exposition and soil than the rest of Burgundy. In our humble opinion, our friend and vigneron, Laurent Martelet, creates the most haunting masterpieces that emerge from this terroir. All of the de Chérisey vines are premier cru, are at least 60 years old, and they encircle their ancient cellar in the Hameau de Blagny.
In eastern central France, Burgundy is nestled between the wine regions of Champagne to the north, the Jura to the east, the Loire to the west, and the Rhône to the south. This is the terroir par excellence for producing world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The southeast-facing hillside between Dijon in the north and Maranges in the south is known as the Côte d’Or or “golden slope.” The Côte d’Or comprises two main sections, both composed of limestone and clay soils: the Côte de Nuits in the northern sector, and the Côte de Beaune in the south. Both areas produce magnificent whites and reds, although the Côte de Beaune produces more white wine and the Côte de Nuits more red.
Chablis is Burgundy’s northern outpost, known for its flinty and age-worthy Chardonnays planted in Kimmeridgian limestone on an ancient seabed. Vézelay is a smaller area south of Chablis with similar qualities, although the limestone there is not Kimmeridgian.
To the south of the Côte de Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise extends from Chagny on its northern end, down past Chalon-sur-Saône and encompasses the appellations of Bouzeron in the north, followed by Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny.
Directly south of the Chalonnaise begins the Côte Mâconnais, which extends south past Mâcon to the hamlets of Fuissé, Vinzelles, Chaintré, and Saint-Véran. The Mâconnais is prime Chardonnay country and contains an incredible diversity of soils.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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