2012 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Bourgogne Blanc

A Simply Superb White Burgundy

Pierre-Yves Coin and Caroline Morey: The merging of two great Chassagne families.
Pierre-Yves Coin and Caroline Morey: The merging of two great Chassagne families.

Pierre-Yves Colin is one of the hottest winemakers in Burgundy. His domaine, which shares the name of his wife, Caroline Morey, is not even a decade old in its full-fledged form. The target of every Sommelier or collector with their ear to the ground, they clamor to have his wines on their list, or in their cellar. It’s a feeding frenzy.  And while I really have no desire to add to that hysteria, I would be less than honest to say this wasn’t one of the very best Bourgogne Blancs I have ever had.

Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey (aka Colin-Morey, or even PYCM for short) came into being in 2001 when Pierre-Yves was still the winemaker at his family’s Chassagne winery, Domaine Marc Colin. He bought the first 1700 bottles worth of fermenting must and began his fledgling negociant label. His  wife, Caroline Morey (according to the chassagnemontrachet.com site, was given 6 ha. by her father, the stalwart Chassagne producer Jean-Marc Morey, in 2006, (although the

Berry Brothers and Rudd site claims that he took the vineyard from his family.

The road leading out of Chassagne-Montrachet: The 1er Cru "En Remilly" is directly to the right & above; the vineyard to the left is Les Combes au Sud. Somewhere ahead, up on the hillside, resides Pierre-Yves' vineyard that supplies part of this Bourgogne Blanc.
The road leading out of Chassagne-Montrachet: The 1er Cru “En Remilly” is directly to the right & above; the vineyard to the left is Les Combes au Sud. Somewhere ahead, up on the hillside, resides Pierre-Yves’ vineyard that supplies part of this Bourgogne Blanc.

In either case, this allowed the couple to start in earnest. Pierre-Yves left his position as winemaker (his last vintage at Marc Colin being 2005) and with the 2006 harvest, the domaine was born.  Production is said to be around 70,000 bottles, with 2/3rd of the grapes coming from their own Chassagne Montrachet vineyards, the rest being purchased grapes, or wine. I suspect this changes with each vintage, depending on

what is available. PYCM is particularly well-known for  his numerous Saint-Aubin bottlings, particularly en Remilly which sits atop Chevalier-Montrachet.  New bottlings with the 2012 vintage are a Rully 1er Cru and a Montagny Premier Cru. These two bottlings are showing much higher acidity and are much tighter than the Bourgogne now, and need time in the bottle.

His is White Burgundy of a new style, with elevage being in larger 350 ltr barrels, given no battonage, and left in barrel for an extended 20 months. His Criots-Montrachet (the vineyard I understand is owned by American Burgundy expert and California-based venture capitalist, Wilf Jaeger), gets even longer time in barrel and is released months after the Chassagne’s, Puligny’s and Batard. Addendum 3/15/14: After talking to Pierre-Yves, the Bourgogne Blanc comes from two estate plots, one from Puligny-Montrachet, below the village and the other from high up on the hill in Saint Aubin. It was not clear what appellation the Puligny vineyard is actually in, whether it is Bourgogne or Village. It is pretty clear the Saint Aubin is Village level, as there seem to be no Bourgogne appellated vineyards high up on the hill.

2012 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Bourgogne Blanc

Part from a Puligny vineyard and the balance from a hillside Saint Aubin plot. Both plots are estate owned.
Part from a Puligny vineyard and the balance from a hillside Saint Aubin plot. Both plots are estate owned.

From first sip this was a wow wine. It has verve and complexity right up-front, with a textural quality of a higher level wine, and a very distinct salinity. The fruit is of crisp green apple, and even to a greater extent of a rich

lemon, like one that has been charred on the grill. Don’t interpret that to mean the wine was oaky or toasty, because it is not. There are elements of cream and vanilla to the body of the wine, as it rolls off the sharp corners of its acidity, that leaves the wine fresh and clean, with subtle notes of river-stone on the finish.  This particular bottle had taken an extended mid winter, lost by UPS trip across the mid-West, and it came back to us having been frozen, and the cork protruding by almost an inch. It definitely got a serious cold stabilization in America that it never got in Pierre-Yves’ cellar, as tartaric crystals littered bounced and buoyed their way across the bottom of the bottle,

like a snow globe.  No fear, this was fabulous. Even at $30 for full retail, this is a real value in White Burgundy. Score: 91 points any way you slice it.

Bourgogne Blanc can come from any one (or more) of 300 communes within Burgundy. Although most Bourgogne Blancs are made of Chardonnay, both Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are permitted. There a 1000 hectares planted in Bourgogne Blanc appellated vineyards. Regulations regarding maximum yields are relaxed, as are vine training techniques and planting densities.  None of these things seem to factor into Pierre-Yves Bourgogne Blanc. I would not be surprised if village level or misfit lots of premier cru appellated wine ended up in this cuvee. Outstanding.

Now I digress into a related (but none-the-less) subtopic. 

I will meet Pierre Yves after La Paulee in San Francisco, and I may get a few of my questions answered.  However, French winemakers truly don’t understand American’s need to know all the details of how a wine is made, and sometimes it seems they resent being pressed for technical information.  Because of that some winemakers have been somewhat notorious for not being forth-coming and allowing misconceptions to remain, leading to some pretty inaccurate facts printed in books regarding how much vineyard land is owned by a producers, vs how much more wine is actually produced by that same producer from that particular vineyard.  By many, this is all considered confidential information.  As an importer, and a representative of a particular domaine, it can make it difficult to come off as an authority to a technically inclined, detail oriented, and enthusiastic American wine-buying public.

Although I am hardly an authority on French culture, I think it comes down to the fact that wine is considered first as a finished product, whose primary job is to provide enjoyment, and secondly must represent its appellation authentically.  The grape type is not on the label unless it is put there for the export market. On the other hand, in the United States, the primary objective of a wine is to be the best Cabernet, or the best Chardonnay. Where the grapes comes from has become an ingredient to make the best Cabernet, not thought of as the reason for being what it is, and in particular, never a directive of what a wine should be.  That’s a huge fundamental difference in outlook. Their position is: It’s a Bourgogne Blanc. It tastes like Bourgogne Blanc, and you enjoy it. End of story.  Our culture wants the particular ingredients of what makes it a great Bourgogne Blanc, which they don’t feel is relevant to the narrative.

While the younger generation is more evolutionary in the winemaking process, they are more open to discussing their techniques in the cellar, but that doesn’t mean they will lay open what vineyards are blended together, how much wine is actually made, or in any way invite scrutiny into allocations. Not to mention that sometimes these questions are just too annoying questions in general. Information is often given grudgingly, and with that, incorrect information is allowed to perpetuate in books by noted authors.  The way they see it is, that stuff is just none of our business.

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Diary of a Winebuyer

About Me: Thirty years ago, I graduated with a degree in political science from the College of Letters and Science at the University of California at Berkeley. Having grown up at the height of the Cold War, I still have vivid remembrances of being instructed to hide under our elementary school desk, covering our heads. The young, white, female teacher, training us without explanation, to face away from the windows. I suppose it is not all that surprising that I had a particular interest in the realpolitik of international relations. My fascination grew with the discovery that certain conditions almost uniformly exist where all revolutions ferment. Did this mean that the revolutions which had occurred in the first half century were revolutions which had been usurped by Marxists who were in the right place at the right time? Probably. A favorite professor was A. J. Gregor. This was a man who, while rakishly wearing a Gestapo-styled black leather motorcycle jacket, exuded expertise on fascism (which he looked the part) and Marxism. Improbably, he did it with a significant swagger. Then in my last semester, I had the blind luck to take a class on Asian Marxist revolution, and the professor, who just happened to be visiting that year while he worked on some unnamed project, was Chalmers Johnson. In retrospect, I should have known his name, as he was a luminary in the political science community but at that time, I did not. It was a remarkable opportunity to experience the ivory tower, but I seem to remember being anxious to get on with life. After college, I drifted through a few of jobs that were of interest to me. One of my former high school teachers said to me. "If I were in your shoes, I'd get a job as a flight attendant." So in order to be young while I could still afford to, I accepted a job serving chicken or beef at Pan American. With that airline losing money faster than it could sell its routes, I got a job doing cellar work at David Bruce Winery. This was the beginning of my wine career. All during this period, I wrote a still unpublished novel about homegrown terrorists the U.C. Berkeley campus, attempting to use some of what I learned in school, weaving in the Vietnamese political and military strategies of Dau Tranh as professor Johnson had lectured years before. Since the early 1990's, I have been involved in the wine industry, selling fine wine in both the retail and wholesale arenas. I have approached learning about wine, by always challenging myself to question how I know what I think I know? And in an effort to try to find answers I've turned, with varying degrees of success to wine books. Overall, I've not been happy with the quality of most wine writing, finding the authors either to lack any deep knowledge, or unable to move much past what I consider to be superficial information. I recognize that wine writers have to monetize their work, but I believe this has dramatically held back our knowledge and understanding of wine. I have set out to add to our industry's base of knowledge where I can. My first series, 'The Terroir of Burgundy' (which I should probably re-edit and complete some kind of conclusion, but I got involved in this project), can be viewed here. I currently work as a sales and marketing manager for a Burgundy and Bordeaux importer based in Atherton, California.

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