Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru
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 grand cru sites has its own specific appellation, independent of the communal appellations of the area. The Chevalier-Montrachet title was created in 1937, and its strict laws control (among other things) permitted yields, planting densities, harvest ripeness levels and vinification techniques.
Along with its grand cru neighbours, Le Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet and Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet, the Chevalier-Montrachet site is planted in a group on the southern apex of the Mont-Rachet hill. Curving around the corner of the hillside, the slopes progressively face from due east to due south, bringing their vines maximal exposure to the all-important ripening sunshine. Chevalier-Montrachet covers about 18 acres (7.3ha), and is located entirely within the commune boundaries of Puligny-Montrachet. As Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru is an appellation in its own right, the name "Puligny" does not need to directly figure on its labels.
Chevalier has the highest elevation of the five sites, reaching heights of up to 985ft (300m) up the Mont-Rachet hillside. Its lofty position means that its soil is thinner, stonier and less fertile than the lower sites such as Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, making its wines very elegant and refined in style. The poor soil here allows the vines easy access to the subtle mineral components of the limestone substrata below, and forces them to grow strong, healthy roots as anchors. Chevalier also benefits from excellent drainage, which further encourages root development, resulting in a higher quality of fruit and more complex wines. As well as imparting mineral qualities to Chevalier-Montrachet wines, the limestone in the soils is credited with reflecting light back up to the vine canopy. This helps the grapes to reach optimal phenolic ripeness, largely influenced by the site's south-easterly aspect.
It is widely agreed that in the prestige hierarchy of the Montrachet grand crus, Chevalier-Montrachet is second only to Le Montrachet – the jewel in the crown of Burgundy's white wines.
The name Chevalier-Montrachet is reported to be a reference to the illegitimate (bastard) son of a local lord (the Chevalier of Montrachet), who provided the name of the Bâtard-Montrachet vineyard.
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