Few villages in the Côte d’Or are as famous as Puligny-Montrachet, home to some of the world’s most acclaimed vineyards. Surprisingly, only a small number of the wines bearing the name of the appellation are actually made by vignerons based in the village. For centuries, producers throughout Burgundy have coveted the area’s vineyards and grapes, enticing the locals into selling to the highest bidder. Despite this temptation, several families held onto their land and established their own domaines. Names such as Sauzet, Carillon and Leflaive have become synonymous with Puligny, but one local family has remained out of the spotlight.
The Chavy family has had roots in Puligny for almost 200 years. In 1976, after years of selling grapes to negociants, they began to bottle wines under their own label. Domaine Gérard Chavy et Fils soon established itself as one of the finest domaines in the village. However, in 2003, after a family dispute, the estate was dissolved. The brothers Jean-Louis and Alain Chavy, who had jointly run the domaine, parted company and created their own estates.
Alain Chavy’s 7 hectare estate has the distinction of possessing the deepest cellar (5.5 metres) in Puligny. The high water table of the village makes it difficult to dig a proper cellar and, as a result, most of Puligny’s domaines have above-ground caves that rely upon air conditioning. The barrels resting in Chavy’s beautiful, arched cavern contain wine from some of the finest premier cru vineyards found in the appellation. In addition to land in the prestigious Puligny premiers crus Les Folatières, Les Champs Gain and Les Pucelles, he owns a precious parcel in Les Clavoillons. Les Pucelles and Les Clavoillons are contiguous on the slope, but Chavy is one of only two cellars in Burgundy where you can taste the the two wines side by side. Domaine Laflaive owns the vast majority of the 5.59 hectare Les Clavoillons, but the Chavy brothers each own a small portion which prevents it from being a monopole. Alain farms 0.49 hectares of 50 year old vines in Les Clavoillons, and from it he produces a wine of great depth and minerality. The estate’s bottling from Les Pucelles, which is directly south of Les Clavoillons, is a wine of similar character but with even greater refinement.
Since the establishment of Domaine Alain Chavy, the quality of the wines is always improving. Alain makes a restrained style of Puligny, with ripe (but never over ripe) fruit balanced by crisp acidity, designed for long ageing.
Almost no chemicals are used in the vineyards apart for protection against mildew. All grapes are hand harvested, pressed and fermented in barrel at not more than 25° C. The entire crop is barrel fermented which gives additional depth and intensity to the wines. 20% of the barrels are larger (400 litres) as Alaun believes this keeps the wines rich and complex but with less overtly oaky flavour. The amount of batonnage is low and the malolactic fermentation normally starts late, probably due to the relatively cold temperature in the underground cellar. The wines are not racked before September and have been bottled as late as January, some 16 months after the harvest.
Alain Chavy does not own land in any of the illustrious Grand Crus that stare down on his domaine, but he is able to express the essence of Puligny through some of its finest premier crus. His winemaking is hands off, and a low percentage of new oak allows the terroir to shine through in these pure, elegant wines.