February 2, 2022|In Winery Spotlight, Wines

Domaine Morey-Coffinet: The Allure of the Côte d’Or

An Historic Family Cellar in the Heart of Burgundy

“Incredible producer Thibault Morey has upped his game at Domaine Morey-Coffinet the last 10 years, now approaching the upper-echelon of Côte de Beaune producers.” – Ian Cauble, Master Sommelier

Chardonnay isn’t just the most popular white wine in the world – it’s angelic! And a little bit devilish as well! And no one can express the many facets and potential of Chardonnay quite like the vintner visionaries from Burgundy. Fortunately for us at Dhall & Nash we represent one of the most exciting producers of white Burgundy from the esteemed appellation of Chassagne-Montrachet – this month’s Wondermaker is Domaine Morey-Coffinet. With an almost entirely single-minded devotion to the noble varietal in question, (they do a few divine pinots as well) they continue to push the boundaries of quality, to the joy of their cult-like following of fans worldwide.

Without a doubt, as succinctly espoused by renown Master Sommelier, Ian Cauble, “Morey-Coffinet has become one of the most exciting producers to watch in the last 5 years. Thibault Morey has been working biodynamically for a decade now and has increased the quality here intensely.” What better signal to scoop up wines from this somewhat ‘under the radar’ producer of incredibly well-priced white burgundy.

The wine subregion of Chassagne-Montrachet is synonymous with fine white wine, but definitely less well-known or understood than the other show ponies of white burgundy. Chassagne’s Chardonnay wine style is often defined as lying between Puligny and Meursault because it is perhaps not quite as refined as Puligny but less rich than a Meursault. More mineral and restrained than Meursault, yet not as elegant and profound as Puligny. Summed up as mineral, yet succulent. In fact, some find Chassagne-Montrachet Chardonnay to be the best of both worlds. Time to give it a swirl with some Morey-Coffinet.

The Family Story:

The Morey family’s history in Burgundy dates back to at least the 16th century with evidence of winemaking in nearby Meursault since 1793. Their history in Chassagne-Montrachet dates back to Claude Morey’s arrival from the village of Paris l’Hôpital in 1643. The Coffinet family also has a long and celebrated history in Chassagne with their Domaine being established in 1860.

With the passage of time, as often happens in Burgundy thanks to Napoleonic inheritance laws, there were many incarnations of the family running the Morey and Coffinet land holdings. Domaine Marc Morey was started in 1919. By 1944 it had passed to Marie-Joseph Morey. Interestingly, in 1950, Albert Morey (father of Jean-Marc and Bernard) was one of the first estates in Chassagne-Montrachet to Domaine bottle, that is, all bottling is done on the estate. Between these two salubrious wine dynasties, they have been steeped in a strong sense of family tradition and wine innovation.

Finally, it was in 1978 that the modern Domaine Morey-Coffinet came into being. This was when Michel Morey and his wife Fabienne Coffinet combined vineyard parcels they’d received as wedding gifts. Michel Morey is the son of the late, highly regarded producer Marc Morey, and Fabienne is the daughter of Fernand Coffinet from the equally distinguished Pillot winemaking clan (on the grandmother’s side). Confused yet? Welcome to the intricacies of the tightly woven fabric of landowning in Burgundy!

The Domaine:

So, with this rollcall of Chassagne icons at its core, it remains decidedly Chassagne to this day, with almost all of its Domaine holdings lying within the Chassagne-Montrachet borders, the one exception being its premier cru Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles. Morey-Coffinet also includes grand cru parcels in Batard Montrachet and Corton Charlemagne, as well as many other premier crus.

Right from the beginning, Michel and Fabienne worked their prime 22-acre domain with a strong familial understanding of their terroir – and with vigorous dedication. Michel’s son, Thibault, joined the business in the late 1990s, and the Domaine’s wines have since reached new heights. Every week, father and son taste each cuvee together in an ancient cellar, exchanging opinions and sharing ideas. Thibault continues to push the quality of his Domaine to a whole different level with his expressive, powerful, wonderfully hedonistic wines. Remarkably, in a few short years, this father and son duo have gone on to transform Domaine Morey-Coffinet.

It wasn’t long before the wine community was taking notice! The legendary wine critic Robert Parker Jr. noted that the Morey family name is well regarded in Burgundy for producing “…very good, sometimes excellent white wines.”

The Vineyards:

Inheriting the Coffinet and Morey vineyards ensured the next generations have some of the most hallowed spots in the Chassagne-Montrachet area. Proudly situated on the southern edge of the village of Chassagne, Domaine Morey-Coffinet covers 8.5 hectares (22 acres) of which 30 per cent are planted with Pinot Noir, 70 per cent with Chardonnay.
With a stable foundation of Premier Crus from the southeast-facing hillside which Burgundy specialist, Clive Coates MW, calls ‘the best section for white Chassagne’. Morey-Coffinet whites speak to the very essence of Chassagne, with fragrant aromas framed by powerful minerality. The reds capture the roasted, muscular aromas of Chassagne terroir and display silky texture and balance.

The estate encompasses a treasured collection of vineyards including 0.65 ha of Chassagne-Montrachet En Caillerets and 0.80 ha of Chassagne-Montrachet La Romanée. More interestingly, perhaps, is that entrepreneurial Thibault also has small holdings in Chassagne-Montrachet Dents de Chien and a perfectly located plot in Blanchots Dessus and also a nice chunk of Chassagne-Montrachet En Remilly (0.35 ha). Furthermore, small holdings in Batard-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles compliments the Chassagne holdings. And while the plots are rather small in some places, it’s hard to find a more exciting portfolio in Chassagne than Morey-Coffinet – excluding of course the mighty Domaine Ramonet with its generous Grand Cru holdings.

Thibault also makes some truly beautiful reds from Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chaumes, Morgeot and Clos St. Jean – the latter being planted by his father 30 years ago in the area behind the estate.

“The vine is part of us. We feel his strength, his weaknesses, his wisdom, his humility, his richness. This incredible plant continues to surprise us vintage after vintage. We let it express itself and we accompany it as well as possible so that it develops in the best conditions. The balance is then made naturally.” – Domaine Morey-Coffinet website

The Philosophy:

Morey-Coffinet have been certified organic since 2018 and have been following biodynamic principles for almost a decade, which, demonstrates a clear commitment to the long-term health and sustainability of the vineyard and a mindset focused on integrity and respect.

Thibault is a thoughtful winemaker, who talks knowledgeably and insightfully about not just his own holdings, but about Burgundy as a whole. This is not so much revolution but evolution going on here, and the resultant wines show beautiful harmony and transparency.

Yes, says Thibault Morey, there are a lot of small things they have changed since his arrival. Such as, using small cases for the grapes when they harvest. They have bought a sorting table. They are pressing longer than before. Thibault explained that if the pressing is too short you will get a wine with a lot of fruit, best drunk when young. If kept longer it is likely that after a few years, it will develop very quickly. In 2001 they also added sulfites in the press at a very early stage. Since 2004 they let the wine juice oxidise. Thibault’s philosophy is that if you oxidise early, you don’t get any premature oxidation issues. Overall, he prefers his white wines to have young and fresh aromas and bottles them deliberately early, at about 11 months.

We can see and taste Thibault Morey’s white Burgundies are the epitome of elegance, restraint, and sophistication. The concentration of the fruit shows incredible density and intensity. Furthermore, Domaine Morey-Coffinet has become renowned for its luxurious, silky texture. What more could we want!

“When I asked him (Thibault Morey) about the style he is pursuing, he told me that it is important for his wines to age, but also to be approachable.” – Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate

The Terroir:

No stronger argument can be made for the validity of terroir than in Burgundy, where subtle differences of climate, soil composition and aspect identified over the course of centuries by astute vignerons and expressed in individual climats make this region so complex and very beguiling.

Chassagne-Montrachet is very diverse in its soil types, so that a wide range of styles emerge from the same commune. Here in the prestigious land holdings of Morey-Coffinet is no exception. For example, the Cailleret Premier Cru wines are regularly considered among the best of Chassagne-Montrachet’s Premier Cru wines, although they are a long way from reaching the prices or attention of the commune’s Grand Cru vineyards.

Les Caillerets is located south and above the village of Chassagne-Montrachet. It is a large 1er cru (10.86 ha) that consist of four terroirs: En Caillerets, with 5.11 ha; Chassagne with 1.14 ha; Les Combards has 0.65 ha; and Vigne Derriere consists overall of 3.76 ha. There is also a clos inside Vigne Derriere called Clos du Caillerets.

Cailleret is a reference to the pebbly stones (“cailloux” in French) that are particularly prevalent here. As in Volnay’s or Puligny’s Caillerets, for example, the topsoil here is shallow and chalky, with a little clay. This ‘bony’ soil, along with an enviable south-easterly aspect to the slope, which catches the morning sun but doesn’t bake later in the day, combine to produce a highly favourable terroir. Morey-Coffinet has two parcels here – one of the two is at the top of the hill, where it is very stony. The parcel down below has much deeper soil. Thibault said he has tried to make two separate cuvées, but it didn’t work out. The cuvée from the bottom had a bit too much ‘fat’. The solution was that these two sites are always blended. The quality of the fruit of Cailleret handles around 35% new oak. The rest is one-year old barrels.

“It is not the biggest and not the greatest, but perhaps it is the most refined, delicate, and hedonistic of the Puligny 1ers crus – the filigreed and poetic Les Pucelles.” – Steen Öhman, Wine Writer

The ‘outsider’ in the portfolio of Domaine Morey-Coffinet, the Puligny-Montrachet premier cru Les Pucelles, is a relatively young parcel. It is right next to Clos de la Pucelle of Domaine Jean Chartron. His grandfather, Marc Morey, planted the vines over 25 years ago. Then the parcel was split in two, between them and Domaine Marc Morey. So now here is a chance to taste two wines from two different domaines that come from the same parcel, planted at the same time by the same person. It is grown on fine clay and limestone soil. Then matured in oak barrels, of which 40% is new oak.

Immediately to the south of Les Pucelles is Bâtard-Montrachet. Both Les Pucelles and Bâtard-Montrachet are at the same altitude, and very close to each other. Yet, one is premier cru and the other grand cru. A telling testimony to the significance of their respective terroirs.

“The many and varied wine styles in Chassagne -Montrachet have made it one of the least understood white wine areas in the Côte d’Or.” – Stephen Brook, Wine Writer

An Interesting Aside - The identity Crisis of Chassagne-Montrachet:

The village is also characterised by the fact that a century ago almost all the vineyards, with the exception of the Grands Crus, were devoted to red grapes. However, today only about a third of the vineyards are planted with Pinot Noir. Edouard Delagrange caused a scandal in the 1960s by replanting some parcels of premier cru Morgeot with Chardonnay. That trend has continued, and vineyards once best known for robust reds, such as La Boudriotte and Clos St-Jean, now contain large sections of Chardonnay. Not everyone is happy about it. Bernard Morey points out that some top red wine sites have been replanted – “The whites from some of the heavier soils are often mediocre and end up being sold to négociants.” But the commercial reality has proven to be irresistible – there is stronger demand for Chassagne whites, as these fetch higher prices than the occasionally rustic reds.

“People say you are a great winemaker. But winemaking is 5% – I’m just here to help nature but not more – terroir is exceptional in Burgundy – not the winemakers.” – Thibault Morey, Winemaker, Co-Owner of Domaine Morey-Coffinet

The Wines:

With climate change causing uncertainty and unpredictable weather conditions, each Burgundy harvest is a complex game of luck and tough decisions. Growers strive to find the perfect balance. For white winemaking, Burgundy producers have had to make the sometimes-hard decisions to harvest early and acidify in the cellar. This does mean that terroir expression might sometimes be compromised in favour of a bit more drinkability and restraint. Not so at Domaine Morey-Coffinet who are devoted to heroing their terroir without winemaking artifice.

 

2019 Morey-Coffinet Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles:

“There is a whiff of matchstick character to the aromas of honeysuckle, spiced poached pear and a refreshing lemon-lime nuance. There is once again excellent intensity to the caressing but punchy middle weight flavors that are notably finer if not nearly as muscular or powerful on the lemon-tinged finale that is also impressively persistent. This exhibits all of the natural class of one of Puligny’s best 1ers and a wine that should age gracefully.”93 points, Burghound

 

Thibault also makes several négociant wines – under the Maison Morey-Coffinet label – here below is the high quality 1er cru from Meursault:

 

2015 Maison Morey-Coffinet Mersault-Perrieres 1er Cru:

“Here there is no reductive funk with its elegant and well-layered array of citrus peel, acacia blossom, Asian-style tea, and apple scents. There is a lovely sense of energy to the intensely stony medium weight flavors that possess fine length if a bit less complexity on the notably dry but not really austere finale. Drinking window 2031+”91 points, Allen Meadows, Burghound

2018 Domaine Morey-Coffinet Chassagne-Montrachet “En Cailleret” 1er Cru:

“A softly exotic and citrus-suffused nose exhibits additional aromas of matchstick and white peach. There is a more refined mouthfeel to the sleek mineral-driven medium weight flavors that possess even better depth on the balanced, dry, and appealingly precise finish. Drink: 2025+”91 points, Allen Meadows, Burghound

2019 Domaine Morey-Coffinet Bourgogne Blanc Cote d’Or:

“Prominent notes of matchstick and petrol dominate the underlying fruit at present. There is fine intensity and detail to the middle weight flavors where the clean, dry, and delicious finish displays excellent cut. This is a very good Bourgogne that should reward a few years of cellaring.”87 points, Burghound

 

Delving into the charms of quiet over-achieving appellation Chassagne-Montrachet, we have been enchanted by the wines of Domaine Morey-Coffinet which strike a lovely balance between power and refinement, between classic Chassagne and more “modern” styled white Burgundies. Complex. Textural. Sensual. Subtle. Burgundy at its best!

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