My first visit in Burgundy was with Etienne de Montille, the knowledgeable co-owner (with his sister Alix) of Domaine de Montille in Volnay and its négociant arm Deux Montille, and the manager of Domaine du Château de Puligny-Montrachet. De Montille showed me a range of both reds and whites from the Côte de Beaune, as well as a few reds from the Côte de Nuits.
“In 2008 we were heading for disaster, like 1977 or 1975, a real challenge,” he recalled. “Then we had a north wind, cold and dry, around the beginning of the second week of September, for about three or four weeks. This brought density to a vintage where you didn’t have density.”
It also increased the sugar levels in the grapes, dried out any rot, making it easy to eliminate bad berries on the sorting table, and dessicated the grapes. Along with the coulure (a condition where some berries don't set and drop off not long after flowering), these factors decreased yields 25 to 50 percent, except in Pommard, where it was normal.
The 2008s finished malolactic conversion late at chez Montille, in June and July 2009. Normally, there is only one racking before unifying each cuvée in tank and bottling, but de Montille felt the ’08s needed air to focus the aromas. They also contained a lot of carbonic gas, and not all the lees were the best quality. So Montille decided to rack most of the wines in August, selecting the finest lees and returning the wines to barrel on those fine lees for further aging.
De Montille likes to ferment the reds with whole clusters when possible. “I couldn’t link ’08 to another vintage I have vinified, but I gambled with whole cluster (from zero percent to 100 percent, depending on the cuvée) to get a floral character,” he explained.
The reds are built around their firm, fresh acidities, with light tannin structures. They have good density due to lower yields. The whites are vibrant, with a little more flesh than in 2007.
From Domaine de Montille, I tasted a very fragrant, floral and sandalwood-scented Beaune Les Grèves, full of finesse and elegance, with a long, vibrant finish. The Volnay Les Taillepieds, fermented with 100 percent of the stems, revealed spice, floral, licorice and mineral flavors. It was firmer and tighter than the Beaune Les Grèves and will likely spend a little more time in barrel to round out its tannins.
The Pommard Les Rugiens was compact, powerful and dense, featuring red cherry, berry and mineral notes backed by firm tannins. In the Côte de Nuits, the Nuits-St.-Georges Les Thoreys was classy, with freshness driving its black currant and mineral flavors.
The Corton Clos du Roi, rich and expansive, offered wild strawberry and mineral flavors. The Clos de Vougeot was less evolved than the Corton, yet intense, lively and long, evoking pure red fruit notes. The Vosne-Romanée Les Malconsorts featured black currant and black cherry tones, all stylish and silky in texture and structured.
De Montille purchased a quarter of a hectare (about a half-acre) of Meursault Les Narvaux Dessous, and it was superb, boasting lingering hazelnut, lime blossom and mineral flavors on a sleek frame. The Puligny-Montrachet Le Cailleret impressed with its refined, classy character and the Corton-Charlemagne was reserved and stony, almost chalky, with a submerged core of fruit.
From Deux Montille, there was an aromatic, floral and detailed Pernand-Vergelesses Sous Frétille and a fleshy, apple-tinged Meursault Les Bouchères.
The whites at Château de Puligny-Montrachet had been racked into tank in August, where they will rest for another two to three months before bottling. The standouts in this cellar were the viscous, brooding Meursault Perrières, racy Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières and creamy, floral- and lime-infused Chevalier-Montrachet with its long, mineral aftertaste.
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