2012 Puligny Montrachet Les Combettes

Etienne Sauzet

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Average Score 91.5

This is slightly more aromatically elegant than the Champ Canet yet not quite as ripe as there is only a trace of exoticism to the acacia blossom and white orchard fruit aromas that include spice hints. There is excellent volume to the concentrated medium-bodied flavors that possess a wonderfully refined mouth feel though in contrast to what I typically find with the Sauzet Combettes it is not necessarily the most complex and complete 1er in the range. It is of course possible that this impeccably well-balanced effort will prove itself yet again but at present the Champ Canet and Perrières are every bit as interesting. Tasted: Jun 15, 2014. Drink: 2020+
The 2012 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes comes from a single hectare on the Meursault side close to Dominique Lafon’s Charmes. This has a very attractive bouquet with light scents of flint, gypsum and bruised apple that expands nicely in the glass with aeration. The palate is nicely focused with touches of bitter lemon and dried orange peel that segues into a stony, flinty finish that is perhaps atypical for this, habitually one of their fattest premier crus. The bottom line is that this is a commendable wine for the vintage, though this year, not my pick of the bunch. ||Etienne Sauzet has been a source of fine Puligny wines since I first dipped my toe into Burgundy. I visited their winery located on the fringe of Puligny that was constructed just over ten years ago: a tastefully furnished facility equipped with a comfortable tasting room, ideal for laptops tired of being precariously balanced between barrels. Sauzet’s policy has been to buy in fruit to augment their own 9.5-hectare of holdings, almost exclusively from within Puligny-Montrachet. The original parcels had been accumulated by Etienne Sauzet in the 1920s and expanded in piecemeal fashion until 1989, whereupon his daughter divided their vineyards for tax purposes. After almost inevitable familial dissention the holdings were splintered to form domains Jean-Marc Boillot (based in Pommard and taking a significant proportion of the vines) and Henri Boillot (Volnay). Together they essentially deprived daughter Jeanine and her husband Gerard Boudot of the lion’s share of their premier crus. Ergo from 1991 Gerard and Jeanine supplemented the family’s remaining vines with out-sourced fruit and set about rebuilding their own portfolio in Batard-Montrachet and Bienvenue-Batard-Montrachet. Jeanine’s son-in-law Benoit Riffault, who escorted me through their 2012s, commented that these days the domaine is out-sourcing less than previously. Now approximately 15% of fruit is bought in through contracts and I can imagine that figure might ultimately be zero. Their portfolio did not go unscathed by the difficult growing season. There were one or two esteemed premier crus such as Les Folatieres and Les Champs Canet whereby the triple whammy of hail damage confiscated the wines of their usual breeding. Some of these parcels were up to 80% down and the total crop was depleted by half. Fortunately, they are in the minority. Otherwise, I found that their best wines were brimming over with vigor and tension, encapsulating the mineralite of their terroirs. Sauzet’s wines can sometimes be obscured by sulfur in their youth. However, I did not find such problems here. And I feel that as the domaine as relied less and less on out-sourced fruit, so their wines have become more and more consistent. In 2012 they are crowned by a scintillating Chevalier-Montrachet that ranks as one of the finest that I tasted. If that is beyond your means, then apart from some outstanding premier crus, their Puligny village cru is as dependable as ever. Spotting a couple of palates of village cru destined for “The Wine Society” in the UK, I imagined a lot of satisfied members savoring this superb wine over the next three or four years. N.B. Readers can view Benoit expressing his opinions of the 2012 vintage on www.erobertparker.com. eRobertParker.com.December, 2013

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