One of the most intriguing and unique wines in Burgundy is the Criots-Batard-Montrachet from Domaine Hubert Lamy.
It’s made by the innovative and very dedicated Olivier Lamy, from a small plot with 24.000 vines per hectare .. and is in my view a quite spectacular wine .. and most certainly worth a terroir insight.
So lets go to Chassagne…
Hubert Lamy Criots-Batard-Montrachet – the plot
Criots-Batard-Montrachet is with it’s 1.57 ha the smallest of the white grand crus in Burgundy. It’s located just south of Batard-Montrachet in the northern end of the Chassagne appellation mainly facing south.
Criots-Batard-Montrachet was created as the last of the white grand crus, and was formerly a part of Batard-Montrachet. Criots is not mentioned by Rodier 3 in 1920, but most likely the process of changing the borders between the white grand crus began in 1921 with the trial about the use of the Montrachet name.
This process excluded Blanchot Dessus from Montrachet alongside some other plots in the outskirts of Montrachet. In the end the borders was resolved with the AOC in 1937 .. but as far as I can see the AOCs for Criots-Batard-Montrachet and Bienvenue Batard-Montrachet were finally established in a decrete dated June 13th 1939 4.
Criots-Batard-Montrachet was classified as grand cru – as opposed to Blanchots Dessus located just south of Montrachet .. and just “above” Criots – see map below.
The Lamy plot is located in the northern end of the vineyard just below the small road between Batard-Montrachet and Criots-Batard-Montrachet – see map below.
The plot is in the bottom (Eastern) part of the vineyard, but since it’s sloping down towards Chassagne it’s actually one of the highest points on the vineyard – see photo below.
It should be noted that the Lamy plot is located just north of the Domaine d’Auvenays plot .. where Mme Bize-Leroy makes a very rare and expensive Criots-Batard-Montrachet. The Lamy plot is however located slightly higher on the slope upwards and towards Batard Montrachet.
The history of the Lamy plot
Olivier Lamy acquired the plot from the Perrot family in 2014, after renting the plot for almost 60 years.
The fermage arrangement began in 1955 where Oliviers grandfather Jean Lamy rented the plot from a small Domaine in Chassagne called Perrot. Perrot was at the time retirering, and the gave Jean Lamy the possibility to ad some grand cru terroir to his estate.
The son of Jean Lamy, Hubert Lamy continued to rent the plot on Criots-Batard from the Perrot family, and this arrangement was continued when Olivier took over. In 2014 Olivier had the possibility to acquire this small gem and add it to the holdings of the Lamy estate.
The earlier history of the plot is very difficult to find, as there are no records of the owners on Criots-Batard-Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet in Rodier.
High Density Plantings
As mentioned above Olivier Lamy is making some of his wines from plots with a very high density of vines. Normally there are 10.000 – 12.000 vines on one hectare in these appellations, but Olivier have increased this density significantly in several vineyards. In Criots Batard-Montrachet the density is being increased to 24.000 vines per hectare. The old vines are planted in 1975, and the wines planted to increase the density has been added over the last decade.
The idea with high density planting is not new – as the density in the vineyards in this area were much higher before the phylloxera problems in the late 19th century. But to my knowledge only very few growers is actually producing wines from high density vineyards these days … and while the experiments with high density are very hard work … the results are in my view very positive indeed
The concept behind increasing the density of the wines is to force the vines to grow deeper roots as the competition for water and nourishment is higher in a high density vineyard. Deeper roots gives more minerality and Olivier explains that the wines also produce smaller grapes with higher sugar content and more intense flavors on the high density plots.
I have tasted the two cuvees from Derriere Chez Edouard several times – the “basic” with a density of 14.000 vines per hectare and the “Haute Densité” made from a section with 30.000 vines per hectare. The difference in intensity and quality is quite amazing … the Haute Densité section produce a wine with more of everything … more weight, more minerality, more fruit and presumably also more acidity.
The balance of the wine is however maintained and the quality level is moved at least one step up. The effect is similar to the improvement producers see when they start to use organic principles in the vineyard … but the effect of high density vines seem to been even bigger … at least in the case of Derriere Chez Edouard. The same conclusion apply to the two cuvees made from Puligny-Montrachet Les Tremblots.
There is only one cuvee from Criots-Batard-Montrachet, so there is no possibility to compare with a normal density cuvee. But it’s my impression that the high density planting in Criots has taken this wine to another level .. and in 2013 it’s on par with the best wines produced on Batard-Montrachet.
Hubert Lamy Criots-Batard-Montrachet – The wine
Criots Batard-Montrachet is due the size of the vineyard a relatively rare wine, and I have not tasted many bottles.
Wines from Criots-Batard-Montrachet are in my view more delicate and less muscular than the Batard Montrachet, and is perhaps lacking some of the weight found in the best wines from Batard.
These impressions could however be a result of location of the plot … Batard is a large vineyard, and even within Criots there is quite some variation in soil and exposure.
The Hubert Lamy version of Criots-Batard is very refined reflecting the location in the high end of the vineyard. It’s just south of Batard Montrachet .. only separated by a small road, but still I feel a more filigree minerality in Lamy’s Criots than in most Batards I have tasted.
The high density plantings have added both power, focus and weight to this Criots, so in reality it’s matching most Batards on length and intensity. It’s more refined and does not have the brute force of some Batards.
It’s in my view one of the most interesting whites produced in Burgundy today, with it’s delicate balance between refinement and power.
I do adore this wine, and as the younger wines gets older I’m sure the Criots from Lamy will be counted among the very best wines outside Montrachet itself. And it’s allready offering tremendous quality .. but knowing Olivier Lamy i’m sure we can expect even greater things in the future …
References & Sources:
- Jules Lavalle, Histoire et Statistique de la Vignes et Des Grands Vins de la Côte d’Or (1855)
- M.R. Danguy et M. Ch. Aubertin, Les Grands Vins de Bourgogne (1892)
- Camille Rodier, Le Vin de Bourgogne (1920)
- AOC document, AOC Criots Batard-Montrachet
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