Domaine de Montille, Puligny-Montrachet, 2017

Domaine de Montille, Puligny-Montrachet, 2017

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    Chardonnay 100%

The 2017 Puligny-Montrachet Village comes primarily from Chalimeaux augmented by other small parcels. This has an attractive nose of Nashi pear and hints of Japanese yuzu, very citric and very focused. The palate is well balanced with a fine bead of acidity, Braeburn apples and light pear notes, not complex but fresh and with satisfying length.

The 2017 vintage at Domaine de Montille started off with a very tricky spring. The vineyards on the slopes withstood the frost, unlike in 2016, where the frost damaged, the vineyard untypically, unevenly and mainly in the white vineyards. The 2017 spring concentrated the cold in low lying parcels meaning that the majority of vignerons lost buds in their Bourgogne or even Aligoté parcels. The loss is usually considered acceptable compared to losing fruit in village or primer cru appellations.

The tannins are very well integrated in the fruits with a rather light texture and silky, comparable to the 2010 and 2002 vintages. What’s surprising and enjoyable, is the salinity present in the whites which is quite rare. The balance between the fruit and the structure allowed to work with high percentages of whole cluster for many of the winery's cuvées.

2017 is a particular vintage; thanks to the quality of the tannins and more generally the profile of the wines, theses will be pleasant to taste young (especially for the wines of Beaune, Volnay, Pommard) and also after ageing more than 10 years (especially Corton and Côte de Nuits). It is quite rare and deserves to be mentioned. In white, it is a great vintage, crystallised, beautiful aromatic complexity, mixed with hawthorn, white flowers and citrus fruit.

Early harvest, started on the 29th of September, so Montille were able to quite the freshness and tension of the vintage. The texture is fluid, the mouths are big, deep and saline.

About Domaine de Montille

Domaine de Montille is a Burgundy producer known for its Pinot Noir from highly regarded vineyards in Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. The family has an extensive history in Burgundy, and the estate has carried the Montille name since 1863. It sold grapes to negociants, which was the most common practice for vineyard owners in the early 20th century, and also sold off whole parcels of land that significantly reduced the size of the estate. Hubert de Montille inherited the remaining 2.5 hectares (6 acres) in Volnay and vinified the first vintage in 1947.

Montille turned the domaine into one of the top red Burgundy producers, starting with purchasing parcels of land in various communes along the Côte d'Or. By 2011, the estate had grown to 20ha (50 acres) with 75 percent of its land in premier or grand cru vineyards. Its most sought-after wines come from plots in Corton, Pommard, Vosne Romanée Aux Malconsorts and has grown to include plots of Chardonnay in Puligny-Montrachet's premier cru Le Cailleret vineyard as well. In the 1980s Hubert's son, Étienne, began working at the domaine followed by his daughter, Alix. In 2001 Étienne began overseeing Château de Puligny-Montrachet and in 2012 the Montille family bought it. Alix and Étienne also own the label Maison Deux Montille which has a focus on white Burgundy.

In the mid 1990s, Domaine de Montille began using organic farming practices. It took a turn towards biodynamicism in 2005 and was certified organic by a third party in 2012. The winery only uses indigenous yeast and heavily avoids chaptalization resulting in wines that are rarely higher than 12 percent abv. The use of new oak is also strictly controlled.

Grape variety

Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used in the production of white wine. The variety originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France, but is now grown wherever wine is produced, from England to New Zealand. For new and developing wine regions, growing Chardonnay is seen as a ‘rite of passage’ and an easy entry into the international wine market.

The Chardonnay grape itself is neutral, with many of the flavours commonly associated with the wine being derived from such influences as terroir and oak. It is vinified in many different styles, from the lean, crisply mineral wines of Chablis, France, to New World wines with oak and tropical fruit flavours. In cool climates (such as Chablis and the Carneros AVA of California), Chardonnay wine tends to be medium to light body with noticeable acidity and flavours of green plum, apple, and pear. In warmer locations (such as the Adelaide Hills and Mornington Peninsula in Australia and Gisborne and Marlborough region of New Zealand), the flavours become more citrus, peach, and melon, while in very warm locations (such as the Central Coast AVA of California), more fig and tropical fruit notes such as banana and mango come out. Wines that have gone through malolactic fermentation tend to have softer acidity and fruit flavours with buttery mouthfeel and hazelnut notes.

Chardonnay is an important component of many sparkling wines around the world, including Champagne and Franciacorta in Italy.

Chardonnay's popularity peaked in the late 1980s, then gave way to a backlash among those wine connoisseurs who saw the grape as a leading negative component of the globalisation of wine. Nonetheless, it is one of the most widely planted grape varieties, with 210,000 hectares (520,000 acres) worldwide, second only to Airén among white wine grapes and fifth among all wine grapes.

Chardonnay lends itself to almost any style of wine making from dry still wines, to sparkling wines to sweet late harvest and even botrytized wines (though its susceptibility to other less favourable rot makes these wines rarer). The two winemaking decisions that most widely affect the end result of a Chardonnay wine is whether or not to use malolactic fermentation and the degree of oak influence used for the wine. With malolactic fermentation (or MLF), the harder malic acid gets converted into the softer lactic acid, and diacetyl which creates the "buttery-ness" that is associated with some styles of Chardonnay. The wines that do not go through MLF will have more green (unripe) apple like flavours. Oak can be introduced during fermentation or after in the form of the barrel aging. Depending on the amount of charring that the oak was treated with, this can introduce a "toastiness" and flavours that many wine drinkers mistake as a characteristic of the grape itself. These flavours can include caramel, cream, smoke, spice, coconut, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla.

Other winemaking decisions that can have a significant effect include the temperature of fermentation and what time, if any, that the wine allowed to spend aging on the lees. Burgundian winemaking tends to favour extended contact on the lees and even "stirring up" the lees within the wine while it is aging in the barrel in a process known as bâttonage. Colder fermentation temperatures produces more "tropical" fruit flavours like mango and pineapple. The "Old World" style of winemaking favours the use of wild, or ambient yeast, though some will also use specially cultivated yeast that can impart aromatic qualities to the wine. A particular style of yeast used in Champagne is the Prise de Mousse that is cultivated for use worldwide in sparkling Chardonnay wines. A potential drawback of using wild yeast is that the fermentation process can go very slow with the results of the yeasts being very unpredictable and producing potentially a very different wine each year. One Burgundian winemaker that favours the use of only wild yeast is Domaine des Comtes Lafon which had the fermentation of its 1963 Chardonnay batch take 5 years to complete when the fermentation process normally only takes a matter of weeks.

The time of harvesting is a crucial decision because the grape quickly begins to lose acidity as it ripens. For sparkling wine production, the grapes will be harvested early and slightly unripe to maintain the acid levels. Sparkling Chardonnay based wines tend to exhibit more floral and steely flavours in their youth. As the wine ages, particularly if it spends significant time on lees, the wines will develop "toasty" notes. Chardonnay grapes usually have little trouble developing sugar content, even in cooler climates, which translates into high potential alcohol levels and limits the need for chaptalisation. On the flip side, low acid levels can be a concern which make the wine taste "flabby" and dull. Winemakers can counteract this by adding tartaric acid in a process known as "acidification". In cooler climates, the extract and acidity of Chardonnay is magnified which has the potential of producing very concentrated wines that can develop through bottle aging. Chardonnay can blend well with other grapes and still maintain some of its unique character. The grapes most often blended with Chardonnay include Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Sémillon.

Due to the "malleability" of Chardonnay in winemaking and its ability to reflect its terroir, there is not one distinct universal "style" or set of constants that could be applied to Chardonnay made across the globe. According to Jancis Robinson, a sense of "smokiness" is one clue that could be picked up in a blind tasting of Chardonnay but there are many styles that do not have any "smoky" notes. Compared to other white wine grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Viognier-Chardonnay has a more subtle and muted nose with no overwhelming aromatics that jump out of the wine glass. The identifying styles of Chardonnay are regionally based. For example, pineapple notes are more commonly associated with Chardonnay from Napa Valley while Chablis will have more notes of green apples. While many examples of Chardonnay can benefit from a few years of bottle aging, especially if they have high acidity, most Chardonnays are meant to be consumed in their youth. A notable exception to this is the most premium examples of Chablis and white Burgundies.

Alternative Names: Morillon, Pinot Chardonnay, Feiner Weisser Burgunder

About Puligny-Montrachet

Puligny-Montrachet is a village in the Cote de Beaune sub-region of Burgundy, with its own communal appellation. It is also home to four Grand Cru vineyards and 17 Premier Cru sites. The village was originally called just Puligny until 1879, when the Montrachet section was added in homage to its iconic Grand Cru vineyard, Le Montrachet. The origin of these names is the scrubby Mont-Rachet hillside above the village: mont meaning "hill" and rache translating rather less glamorously as either "scab" or "rash".

The communal Puligny-Montrachet appellation covers red wines made from Pinot Noir and white wines made from Chardonnay. However, red wines make up only a tiny fraction of the output and it is the high-quality white wines – regarded by many as the finest possible expression of Chardonnay – that are responsible for Puligny's fame and stellar reputation.

The undeniable success of Chardonnay here is the result of several factors – most of them encompassed by the concept of terroir. The local combination of topography, soil structure and climate gives producers high-quality grapes with which to make their wines. Many generations of winemakers have studied the local terrain in depth, developing a detailed theoretical map of the area, marking those sites best suited to quality viticulture. In recent years (with the help of modern technology), extensive analysis has been carried out to further this work and to examine the precise relationship between soil and wine. Although difficult to pin down, the positive effect of the limestone soils and the particular climate in Puligny is undeniable.

In 1984, the INAO (the government body responsible for the French appellation system) officially demarcated and classified the land around the village into 17 Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru vineyard sites. Wines from these vineyards may carry the Premier Cru title on their labels and include their vineyard names. The village had officially recognized prestigious vineyards long before that date, however; the famous Le Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier Montrachet and Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet sites were officially awarded their own appellations – and Grand Cru status – in the late 1930s. The first two of these are divided down the middle by the commune boundary between the Puligny and Chassagne villages, both of which proudly lay claim to their half.

The soils around Puligny-Montrachet are characteristically Burgundian, with a high content of limestone, especially on the slopes of the Cote d'Or. These slopes are of particular importance to Puligny – not only because they angle the vines towards the ripening rays of the morning sunshine, but also because they are less affected by the village's relatively high water table. The best wine comes from vines that are forced to grow long, strong root systems, which they will only do if searching for water or nutrition.

The particular terroir of Puligny gives the wines a subtle distinction compared with its neighbours Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault, which lie to the immediate south and north respectively. Puligny wines are reputed to have a greater mineral influence and a firmer structure than the more accessible wines from Chassagne and the more perfumed wines of Meursault.

The climate around Puligny-Montrachet is of continental type, with warm, dry summers and cool, extended winters. While spring arrives earlier here than in Burgundy's northern outposts like Chablis, the commune's viticulturalists must still contend with cold spring mornings and the risk of frost damage to their vines.

The southern vineyards of Blagny, a small hamlet just north-west of Puligny, are also covered by the Puligny-Montrachet appellation, but only for their white wines. They produce red wines under their own Blagny Premier Cru appellation.

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