Francois Carillon came to Hong Kong a few weeks ago and we were able to have a series of tastings and dinners with him. Domaine Francois Carillon is an estate that I’ve tried a handful of times before but none quite stood out to me.
This time however with him to guide me through each cuvee every step of the way, his subtle evocative shows itself. There is still a lot debate between him and Jacques, his brother; they both split after inheriting their father’s domaine, Louis Carillon in 2009. I think it’s both fair and unfair when you bring it up to compare the two — quite like Arnaud Ente and Benoit Ente, or Pascal or Francois Cotat. Jacques is some of a rising star and underrated darling, garnering great reviews with his recent 2017s. However Francois Carillon has the clear upper hand, with over 15ha across multiple appellations including Puligny-Montrachet 1er crus, Combettes, Champ Gains, Perrieres and Folatieres.
Recently, William Kelley released his tasting note of Francois Carillon 2017s on The Wine Advocate:
“François's style is richer and more gourmand than his brother's, and he harvests later; but in 2017, the texture and flesh is tempered by succulent acids, and though the wines are broad and textural, they are also pure and precise on both the nose and the palate. The influence of new wood—in the past, sometimes a little prominent for this reviewer's palate—is also deftly judged. In short, this is an exceptional set of wines that suggests that Carillon has arrived at a mature style of his own.”
In a very concise way, he has settled the debate between the two; one, Francois, that is more extravagant and exuberant and the other, Jacques, more tempered but elegant. Not having the opportunity to taste Jacques Carillon’s wines, I cannot personally add anything to the debate. However what I have noticed is that the wines have definitely gotten better every year since the 2013s, with the 2016s noticeably a step up in finesse, restraint but with the same levels of complexity and depth as before. What is most commendable about Francois Carillon is the consistency across each cuvee with each wine expressing the clear typicity of their terroir.
Bourgogne Aligote 2015: Suprisingly easy to drink with it’s concentrated, expressive fruit and bright acidity. The warmth of the vintage shows, with it intense citrus notes and minerality.
Bourgogne Chardonnay 2015: Equally as easily palatable as Aligote, the chardonnay is absolutely lovely with it’s stone fruit, honey, honeysuckle and acacia notes.
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos Saint Jean 2015: Though the domaine has ample holdings in Puligny, they also have 1er crus in St Aubin and Chassagne (crazy right?). Their Chassagne has a Puligny touch to them — they’re not nearly as rich or as textured as the typical Chassagnes. Even so, they’re approachable, elegant and fresh.
Puligny-Montrachet 2015: A signature of the domaine and a clear example of their newer style. Though it’s 2015, it’s not nearly as fatty or rich as the vintage would lead you to believe, with it’s lemon and lime notes, coupled with touches of peach and white blossom. Pretty with a clear and defined finish.
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Champ Gains 2016: Compared to the other 1er crus, Champ Gains was the least expressive. It has all the delicacy you would expect from a pretty 1er cru, but nothing much more than this. Still enjoyable if you are looking for a classic example.
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes 2016: Finally giving you the delicacy with the intensity you want from a 1er cru wine. It has a good balance between citrus and stone fruit notes, thrown in with the honey suckle, hay and toast. The oak is starting to be noticeable here but it’s not off putting. There is clearly depth and enough complexity that will show as it continues to age.
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatieres 2016: One of the most exciting wines that every body has been waiting to try all night. It’s clearly the most opulent of them all, with its richness, borderline fatty textures, barely held back the acidity and minerality that keeps it too heavy to drink. Definitely one to age as it will be perfect once tempered with some years in it — it’s just a pubescent teenager at this point.
Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Perrieres 2016: Definitely my personal favourite out of them, all. Combette is a close call, combining the richness of Folatieres with the restraint of Champ Gains. However Perrieres has all of the above, with exceptional depth and complexity — for some reason the minerality here is of a different kind that is the simple steeliness found elsewhere. This one lends itself into the fruit, giving it a whole new level of floral notes that combines honeysuckle with acacia and white blossom. Beautiful.
St Aubin Rouge Les Pitangerets 1er Cru 2015: If you thought Francois Carillon only made good St Aubin then you would be clearly mistaken. St Aubin Rouge is a simple yet expressive, easy to drink red that is good bookmark to the intense and rich whites.
All wines tasted in Hong Kong, April 2019.