The Indefatigable Etienne de Montille
Originally Posted: 10:14 AM ET, February 06, 2008
One of my last visits in Burgundy was with Etienne de Montille of Domaine de Montille, Deux Montille (the négociant business he runs with his sister Alix) and Domaine du Château de Puligny-Montrachet, where he is the estate manager.
De Montille has just finished reorganizing the domaine, where he and Alix are now the owners. He is in charge of vinifying the reds, she the whites for both the domaine and the négoce business.
None of the reds had been bottled. One group had been racked into tank in early November for bottling in March. Two cuvées were just racked two weeks prior to my visit for bottling in April. The third group was still in barrel and yet to be racked. They are scheduled for bottling in May or June.
De Montille’s insight into winemaking is fascinating to hear (see video). “I adapt every year,” he said. “With white wine, people are more careful, but with reds, people are more systematic each year. But I think it’s just as important to adapt the maturation for reds too,” he added.
For example, he will bottle the 2006s earlier than the ’05s, which saw 21 months in barrel, two months in tank and were bottled just before the 2007 harvest.
The Beaune Grèves, with 40 percent of the stems retained, was closed on the nose, but long, rich and fruity, offering cherry, mineral and spice notes (88–91). Also with 40 percent of the stems, the Pommard Pezerolles showed elegance for the appellation. It was dense and solid, with cherry and iron flavors. Perhaps a tad less complex than above today (88–91).
The Volnay Mitans revealed aromatic floral and red currant aromas and elegance. Its tannins were just a little coarse on the finish from the racking and filtering, but this was very Volnay (88-91). The Corton Clos du Roi, an approximate blend from barrel, was more stern, with wild garrigue scents, yet pure, mineral and racy with a long, cherry and spice aftertaste (90–93).
“There was a big gap between the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits at the beginning, but the Côte de Beaune is catching up,” de Montille said. “They won’t have the structure, roundness and profundity of the Côte de Nuits, but they will have the complexity and character.”
From the Côte de Nuits, the Nuits-St.-Georges Aux St.-Juliens is a new wine for the domaine in 2006. It offered blackberry and black currant flavors in a fresh, elegant, charming way (87–90). Its premier cru big brother, the Nuits-St.-Georges Les Thoreys, from further up the slope, was still in barrel. It featured blackberry and black cherry notes in a classy, refined manner (89–92).
There are two Vosne-Romanée Malconsorts chez de Montille, as of the 2005 vintage. The “normale” dished up a huge nose of black pepper, cinnamon, rose and red currant, with elegance, depth and length (90–93). The Christiane, from older vines, was deeper, sappier and more silky, a backward red with more structure and mineral than the regular bottling (91–94).
Several 2006 whites stood out. From the Deux Montille range, there was a fresh Meursault Tessons, showing honey, citrus and mineral flavors (88–91) and a riper, peach-, lemon- and mineral-tinged St.-Aubin Les Murgers des Dents de Chien (88–91). Under the Domaine Montille label, the Puligny-Montrachet Caillerets was full of passion fruit and mineral notes. It’s a linear white, very long and complete (90–93). The Corton-Charlemagne, from the first commercial release after grafting from Pinot Noir, displayed great intensity and mineral character, along with lemon, floral and apple flavors. A tensile white and very long in the mouth (92–95).
We then drove over to Château de Puligny-Montrachet, where we tasted a range of 2006s from tank and a few 2007s from barrel. “This  is the first vintage since I have been here that we are close to what we want to do in the vineyards and cellar,” said de Montille.
The ’06s are impressive. I particularly liked the Puligny-Montrachet, a lively, straight-laced, hazelnut- and mineral-infused white (88–91). The St.-Aubin En Remilly was richer, with floral, peach and pear notes and a chalky, mineral finish (88–91).
The Puligny-Montrachet Chalumeaux was round and honeyed, with floral and peach flavors and a hint of orange blossom on the fresh finish (89–92). The Folatières also had floral and orange blossom notes on an elegant, harmonious frame (89–92). The Meursault Perrières was cut from different cloth: Stone, apple and chalk elements were coiled tightly in the lean, tensile structure. It was very intense and long (91–94).
We tasted a Chevalier-Montrachet 2006, but it was in an awkward stage and compared with the Perrières, difficult to see where it was going. Judgment reserved.