We met Laurent Pillot outside his parent’s home on the edge of the village of Chassagne-Montrachet on a frosty winter’s morning. All around us, the vineyards were dotted with plumes of smoke as pruners steadily made their way along the rows of Chardonnay vines. Laurent made a 360° sweep with his arms when we asked him where his vineyards were and he ushered us into his jeep to take us through the mist and fog to his winery.
Chassagne-Montrachet is synonymous with the best whites in the world. It is the most southerly of Burgundy’s Grand Cru sites and is a classically Burgundian terrain. The famous limestone escarpment, topped with forests, forms the ridge upon which Grand Cru and Premier Cru sites co-exist. A little further down the slope, on flatter land, lies the ‘Village’ level vineyards. Laurent pointed at a narrow path that separated these two classified soils, emphasisin just how important terroir is here.
The Pillot family have lived in this region for generations, and what became more apparent to us throughout our visit was just how well Laurent knew each plot of land. He wasn’t some rich, absentee-winemaker (of which there are many in Burgundy). He was a true local and one of the few winemakers who have their winery in the village itself.
Laurent has updated the old cellar and it is now a gravity fed operation which protects the grapes after the short journey from his vineyards to the press. New approaches are married with old here, however, evidenced when Laurent showed us the oak barrels that his father, Fernand, had made years before when he moonlighted as a cooper. They contribute to the traditional, barrel-fermented style of Chassagne, a balanced and bracing expression of Laurent’s homeland.
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