The Burgundian village of Puligny-Montrachet is home to some of the world's most respected white wines, the best of which are made from its four Grand Cru vineyards (or climats): Chevalier-Montrachet, Le Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet and Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet. As is the case throughout Burgundy, each Grand Cru has its own specific appellation, independent of the communal appellations of the area. The appellation laws control, among other things, planting densities, harvest ripeness levels and vinification techniques, and are some of the strictest in the entire French appellation system.
The Grand Cru sites are reserved exclusively for Chardonnay vines, as their appellation laws cover only dry white wines. While Pinot Blanc is tolerated to a certain degree in other local white wine appellations, wines from these Grand Cru sites must be made purely from Chardonnay.
Puligny shares the prestigious Le Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru vineyards with its southern neighbor, Chassagne-Montrachet. The commune boundary divides the two sites, with the northern half being in Puligny and the southern half in Chassagne. Unusually, this split is actually visible in the way that Le Montrachet's vines are planted; the Chassagne section follows an east–west orientation, while the Puligny vines run from north to south. The reason for this is that the Grand Crus are planted together in a cluster, on the southern apex of the Mont-Rachet hillside. Curving around the corner of the hillside, the slopes face progressively from due east to due south, so the row orientation is adapted to ensure maximal exposure to the all-important sunshine.
The four Grand Cru sites cover 50 acres (20ha) of highly prized land, climbing up the Mont-Rachet slopes (part of the Cote d'Or escarpment) from 820 to 975ft (250–297m) above sea level. The soil on the slopes is generally very thin, allowing the vines to take on all the subtle mineral components of the limestone below, and forcing them to grow strong, healthy roots as anchors. The steep slopes and thin, stony soils also provide excellent drainage, which further encourages this root development – resulting in a higher quality of fruit and more-complex wines. As well as imparting mineral qualities to Montrachet wines, the limestone is credited with reflecting light back up to the vine canopy, helping the grapes to ripen fully.