Alex Gambal Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseigneres 2014
THE MOVE: In 1991-1992, I began to explore the possibility of living abroad for a year or two while our children were young. We had become interested in wine and it had become our major avocation.
In May 1993, my family and I moved to Burgundy, France to take a year off to work with and help manage a small wine export company based in Beaune, France. Our goal was simply to take a year's sabbatical from Washington but we hoped that if we and the children were content we might stay longer. We moved to a small village of 150 people just outside Beaune, in the center of Burgundy, put the children in French schools, and four years later we looked back on a wonderful experience that changed our lives.
FIRST STEPS IN BURGUNDY: When we arrived in 1993 the wine business was in the dumps because of the world recession and a glut of fine wine. As we worked our way through the recession I was able to taste a variety of old, young and great wines with some of the greatest winemakers in the world. In addition, because we lived, worked and had our children in French schools, we were not perceived as tourists and were welcomed into the hidden Burgundy as parents and friends. And thus had a unique and wonderful experience.
A source of some of the finest, juicy, silky and elegantly floral Chardonnay in the Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet lies just to the north of Chassagne-Montrachet, a village with which it shares two of its Grands Crus vineyards: Le Montrachet itself and Bâtard-Montrachet. Its other two, which it owns in their entirety, are Chevalier-Montrachet and Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. And still, some of the finest white Burgundy wines come from the prized Premiers Crus vineyards of Puligny-Montrachet. To name a few, Les Pucelles, Le Clavoillon, Les Perrières, Les Referts and Les Combettes, as well as the rest, lie northeast and up slope from the Grands Crus.
Farther to the southeast are village level whites and the hamlet of Blagny where Pinot Noir grows best and has achieved Premier Cru status.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.