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Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru

Bâtard-Montrachet is one of five grand cru vineyards (climats) located in a cluster around the Mont-Rachet hill in Burgundy. These vineyards produce some of the most expensive and rare wines in the world, often regarded as the ultimate expression of the Chardonnay grape variety.

The grands crus of Puligny-Montrachet grow only Chardonnay, as their appellations are restricted to the production of dry white wines. As is the case throughout Burgundy, each of these sites has its own specific appellation, independent of the communal appellations of the area. The Bâtard-Montrachet title was created in 1937 and its strict laws control (among other things) permitted yields, planting densities, harvest ripeness levels and vinification techniques.

The Bâtard-Montrachet site and its grand cru neighbours, Chevalier-Montrachet, Le Montrachet and Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, are planted in a group on the southern apex of the Mont-Rachet hill. Curving around the corner of the hillside, the slopes face progressively from due east to due south, bringing their vines maximal exposure to the all-important ripening sunshine. Bâtard-Montrachet is the largest of the five sites, covering about 30 acres (12ha), and is divided by the commune boundary between Puligny-Montrachet and its southern neighbour Chassagne-Montrachet. As Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru is an appellation in its own right – and the local commune names do not directly figure in its title – this division has no impact on labeling laws.

Bâtard is also one of the lowest of the sites, at 820ft (250m) above sea level. Its position at the bottom of the Mont-Rachet slopes means that its soil is a little deeper and more fertile than further up, making for slightly heavier, richer wines than those of the higher Chevalier-Montrachet vineyard. Even so, the soil on the slopes is still quite thin, allowing the vines to take on all the subtle mineral components of the limestone below and forcing them to grow strong, healthy roots as anchors. The steep slopes and stony soils also provide excellent drainage, which further encourages this root development, resulting in higher quality of fruit and more-complex wines. The limestone, other than imparting mineral qualities to Bâtard-Montrachet wines, is also credited with reflecting light back up to the vine canopy, helping the grapes to reach optimal phenolic ripeness.

The name Bâtard-Montrachet is reported to be a reference to the illegitimate (bastard) son of a local lord, the Chevalier-Montrachet, after whom the grand cru vineyard is named. The involvement of local pucelles ("virgins") is reflected in the name of the neighboring Les Pucelles vineyard. Local folklore also incorporates the unfortunate baby's cries in the criots of Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet. The eastern corner of Bâtard-Montrachet is occupied by the separate nine-acre (3.7-ha) Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet site, with bienvenue ("welcome") representing the fact that it is the most common entry point to the vineyards from Puligny village.

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