Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sylvain Bzikot's Puligny-Montrachet, Bourgogne, France

Picture: Sylvain Bzikot and Christian G.E.Schiller

Sylvain Bzikot from Puligny-Montrachet in the Bourgogne, France visited the US East Coast for about a week. I met him and and his importer, Olivier Daubresse, and tried his wines, including his Premier Cru wines at Cecile’s in McLean, Virginia.


The Bourgogne is one of the most famous wine regions in the world. Most of the wine produced here is Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.Chablis and Beaujolais are formally part of Burgundy wine region, but wines from those subregions are usually referred to by their own names.

Picture: Wine regions of France

Some way south of Chablis is the Côte d'Or, where Burgundy's most famous wines originate. All Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are here. The Côte d'Or is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits in the north and the Côte de Beaune in the south. The wine-growing area is just 40 kilometres long, and in most places less than 2 kilometres wide; the area is made up of tiny villages. Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where a mix of mostly red and white wines are produced. Below the Côte Chalonnaise is the Mâconnais region, known for producing easy-drinking and more affordable white wine. Further south again is the Beaujolais region. The Bourgogne (including Chablis but excluding Beaujolais) covers a total of 28,000 hectares. Côte d'Or covers 8,000 hectares.

Picture: The Bourgogne

Monks and monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church had an important influence on the history of Burgundy wine. As the power of the church decreased, many vineyards which had been in the church's hands, were sold to the bourgeoisie from the 17th century. The Napoleonic inheritance laws resulted in the continued subdivision of the most precious vineyard holdings, so that some growers hold only a row or two of vines. Clos Vougeot, for example, which was a single 125 acre run by the monks, today is parceled into plots owned by nearly 80 different owners. This led to the emergence of négociants who aggregate the produce of many growers to produce a single wine. Négociants play a vital role in the Bourgogne, ranging from simple labelling and distribution, to carrying out the entire wine-making process. Négociants may supply wines at all quality levels, including Grand Cru.

Bourgogne Classification

Burgundy is the most terroir-oriented region in France. Immense attention is paid to the area of origin, as opposed to Bordeaux, where classifications are producer-driven and awarded to individual chateaux. A specific vineyard or region will bear a given classification, regardless of the wine's producer. The main levels in the Burgundy classifications, in descending order of quality, are:

Grand Cru wines are produced from a small number of vineyards in the Côte d'Or and make up 2% of the production at 35 hectoliters per hectare. The origins of Burgundy's Grand crus can be found in the work of the Cistercians who, among their vast land holdings, were able to delineate and isolate plots of land that produced wine of distinct character. There are 33 Grand Cru vineyards in the Bourgogne.

Premier Cru wines are produced from specific vineyards that are considered to be of high, but slightly lower quality; they make up 12% of production at 45 hectoliters/hectare.

Village appellation wines are produced from vineyard sites within the boundaries of one of 42 villages. Village wines make up 36% of production at 50 hectoliters/hectare.

Regional appellation wines are wines which are allowed to be produced over the entire region, or over an area significantly larger than that of an individual village. These appellations can be divided into three groups:

AOC Bourgogne, the standard appellation for wines made anywhere throughout the region; these wines may be produced at 55 hectoliters/hectare.

Subregional appellations cover a part of Burgundy larger than a village. Examples are Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune and Mâcon-Villages.

Wines of specific styles or other grape varieties include white Bourgogne Aligoté (which is primarily made with the Aligoté grape), red Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains (which can contain up to two thirds Gamay) and sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne.


Puligny-Montrachet is in the Cote de Beaune part of the Cote d’Or, situated six miles south of Beaune. It is a small village with a population of 400 people only. Puligny-Montrachet is among the finest wine-producing villages in the world, if not the finest when it comes to white wine.

Picture: Cote de Beaune

There are a total of four grand crus (whole or in part) in Puligny-Montrachet.

Montrachet – shared with with the neighbouring Chassagne-Montrachet
Area under production: 8.00 ha; average annual yield: 310 hl; about 2500 cases.

Batard-Montrachet – shared with with the neighbouring Chassagne-Montrachet
Area under production: 11.83 ha; average annual yield: 530 hl; about 4200 cases.

Area under production: 3.69 ha; average annual yield: 172 hl; about 1000 cases.

Area under production: 7.47ha; average annual yield: 327 hl; about 2000 cases

In addition, there are 23 premier crus in whole or in part in Puligny-Montrachet: Sous le Puits, La Garenne, Hameau de Blagny, La Truffière, Champ Gain, Les Chalumaux, Champ Canet, Clos de la Garenne, Les Folatières, Le Cailleret, Les Demoiselles, Les Pucelles, Clavaillon, Les Perrières, Clos de la Mouchère, Les Combettes,Les Referts.

Domaine Bzikot Pere et Fils

I was able to converse in French with Sylvain Bzikot. He is a very funny and entertaining guy. His English is almost non-existant. Also, the Domaine has no web site, which is not unusual in France. The Domaine Bzikot owns land in two premier cru vineyards.

What Sylvain poured

Bzikot Bourgogne Blanc 2008

Tasting notes: unwooded Chardonnay, on the nose the wine shows scents of green apple skin, wet rocks and lime, in the mouth fresh and vibrant, with just a bit of butter and nut character, round and very accessible.

Bzikot Puligny-Montrachet 2007

Tasting notes: the wine has a lovely perfume of green apples, fresh butter, hazelnuts and limestone, a full-bodied wine, on the palate, very rich with good acidity, loaded with mineral and citrus fruit, lasting finish, a classic village AOC.

Bzikot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatieres 2007

Tasting notes: The nose opens up nicely with air, limestone, apple, chalk, a full-bodied,a full-bodied, complex wine, the palate is round and shows good richness and acidity, a wave of apple and ripe green melon flavors, coupled with notes of butter and nut elements, the finish is long and mouthwatering, a 100% Chardonnay from one of the finest vineyards in the Cote de Beaune.

Bzikot Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Perrieres 2007

Tasting notes: A wonderful nose of chalk, lime and apple, a full-bodied wine, on the palate good acidity with melon notes and hints of nuts and fresh butter, a long mouthwatering finish of apple, limestone and nuts, another fine wine from a very fine vineyard.

Bzikot Bourgogne Rouge 2005

Tasting notes: A Bourgogne ordinaire, light in color in the glass, a lovely fruity nose with ripe cherry and strawberry notes, a vibrant structure and good acidity, plenty of earthy aromas and wet stone notes on the palate, long finish, a classic Bourgogne Rouge AOC.

Cecile's Wine Cellar, McLean, Virginia

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