As the young generation of a family that took part in the Burgundy wine History for more than 400 years, Alix de Montille and her brother Etienne have taken the reins of their highly-respected family-estate, following the path of their father Hubert de Montille who took the job in 1947. The task would be enough for most people but Alix and Etienne opened a second front in 2003 with a Négoce business (Maison Deux Montille) to complement their experience with purchased grapes or must. We meet Alix in Meursault in the newly-acquired facilities in the middle of the village.This nondescript house [pic on right] built somewhere at the end of the 19th century hides a very spacious, recently-added vatroom, and much-older cellar galleries underneath, all of which having been used previously by Bouchard Père & Fils, a major player in Burgundy. That's where the wines of both Deux Montille Soeur Frère (the Négoce) and the 15-hectare Domaine de Montille (the family estate) are now vinified. The Family winery was based for the last 50 years in Volnay, a mere 3 kilometers north from here. In 2003, Alix wanted to start a Négoce activity dealing with white Burgundies because at the time the family estate made very few whites. The word Négoce must be taken of course here in its Burgundian meaning, that is, all the vinification process and elevage of the wines being handled by her and her brother, as well as some of the harvests. Her brother Etienne joined her Négoce venture and he dealed with the red-wines part.
The storage space being too tight in Volnay, they moved first to Beaune (in the facility now occupied by Philippe pacalet) and then here in Meursault, which was more convenient especially after the family estate bought (in 2005) an additional surface of 5 hectares in the Côtes-de-Nuits and the Côte-de-Beaune (Corton side).
At one point, Alix presents us to cellar-master Cyril Raveau (above and left). We already met Cyril when he was working in the Vignoble de flavigny in northern Burgundy. We happened to drop in Flavigny two days before this visit to buy a few bottles (my choice was their Auxerrois 2003 at about 7 Euro) and the lady there told us that Cyril was precisely working for Alix de Montille now...
On the picture above, Alix shows us the use of a mirror hanging over one of the two presses : at harvest time, both presses are in use, one outside, one inside and mirrors help keep an eye on the juice flow.
As we tour the large vat room, Alix says that at harvest time these open tronconic vats on the side are all over the place for the fermentation of the reds, roughly occupying a large half of the vatroom, as they vinify here also the 24 red cuvées of the family estate in addition to the 2 reds of the Négoce. All these vats come from the Grenier cooperage, either being 80-year-old vats renovated by Marc Grenier or new ones. They of course use only wild yeast for the fermentation in these open vats, or in the casks for the whites. The whites are pressed, then racked in multi-story stainless-steel vats [picture on left] and then go into the casks for the fermentation stage.
After walking down a few worn-out steps, we enter a beautiful vaulted cellar with dark moulds on the walls. Several adjacent galleries in the cellar, full of casks. There's a young worker busy topping-up the casks. Willy is usually more on the vineyard side, taking care of the organic/biodynamic farming and tasks. Alix shows us the two consecutive cellar galleries that hold the last-vintage whites from both the Domaine and the Négoce (they needed, and got, the autorization of the French Customs to keep these Négoce & Domaine wines under the same roof). Another cellar gallery full of casks holds the 2007 whites which will be bottled sometime in the near future. They erected a physical partition to keep the 2007 and the 2008 apart and avoid any undesired yeast migration between the two vintages.
__Deux Montille Saint Aubin 1er Cru "sur Gamay" 2006. From a bottle opened yesterday (the vintage being on the market now). Richness. Lemon, pomelos aromas. Flowers.
Alix says that the 2006 wines are bottled now, plus part of the 2007 wines. The rest of the 2007 whites waiting to be bottled are stored in the multi-story stainless-steel vats above. Cyril will filter them soon before bottling them a month later. On the elevage side for her whites, she tries to intervene as little as possible and avoid making standardized, technique-oriented wines. So once pressed and racked, the juice goes into the casks (the nice French word for that operation is entonner, it comes from the ancient word for cask, tonne) at a level of 200 liters only (the full capacity of a cask being 228 liters). The goal is to avoid the overflowing of the wine with the fermentation bubbling and the gaz. When the fermentation is over, which may come at different times (the wine follows its own rythm), they fill the casks to the top. Then they check the malolactic fermentation and once they're completed too and the elevage time is over, they blend all the casks of a same cuvée in a stainless-steel cask to get a better homogeneity of the climat. The whole cask-time is about 11 months for the Villages Appellations and 15-16 months for the upper Appellations.The vat stage at the end brings freshness to these whites. Usually they use very few new casks for the elevage because they are not looking for woody notes in the wines, so there are about 10% new casks on Villages Appellation and 15-20% on other wines, except for the Grand-Cru wines because as she makes only one or two casks per Grand-Cru she can't use new wood, so she uses one-wine-old or two-wine-old casks. As she looks for a wine as close as its terroir as possible, she avoids to disturb the wine or manipulate it in any way, and the wine is mostly let alone. Speaking of additives, there is only the SO2 that they add at the end for bottling. The yeast milieu is good in this cellar, on the walls, in the air, she says, and usually everything goes fine. They leave lots of fine lees in the wine when the juice is poured into the casks because as they don't make any bâtonnage (stirring), they prefer to let the wine quietly feed itself off the lees without forcing it with a tool, and for that they need a good amount of fine lees. They'll wait the racking stage to separate the sedimented lees from the wine. The only occurence when they stir a bit wine is when a particular cask has a sluggish fermentation, they just help the yeast with a couple of short movements on the lees. This winter for example, the fermentations are longer than usual, with the problem of the malolactic fermentation that start over it, so they are always checking and taking samples for analysis. She adds that if they wanted less work and trouble they could use enzymes, industrial yeasts, it would be more easy and controlled, all the wines would reach the desired stage at the desired date, but they don't look for this type of wines.
__Deux Montille Pernand-Vergelesses Villages 2006 (bottle - opened yesterday). She opened the bottles yesterday in purpose because these young 2006 wines -plus, in the coldest of winter- need time to express themselves. Nice maturity in this Chardonnay. Freshness also. She says that 2006 had an exceptionnally warm and nice september and the maturity were beautiful. They had to harvest early because the maturity was peaking and the stormy weather was menacing the grapes to turn sour. That year (2006), she says, she made small volumes because she asked to her growers to pick because she prederred to have a must at 12,5° with a good Ph/maturity balance rather than picking something at 15°/15,5° which would be too high in alcohol, will not be balanced and will need artificial corrections on the acidity (not their style of work here). Many 2006 wines are heavy for this reason, for the fact that the grapes were harvested too late. She says that what she likes in a wine is the right acidity, and she wouldn't have had it in 2006 if she hadn't decided to harvest early.
__Deux Montille Auxey-Duresses 2006 (bottle). Floral aromas. B.feels hawthorn, white lily. Lots of substance.
__Deux Montille Meursault les Tessons 2006. Citrus aromas. Very mineral, almost saline. Nice acidity. This climat is the patriarch of the Meursault Villages, she says. In Meursault, she adds, there are two wines, the Perrières and its "son", les Tessons. She says "son" because both are part of the same Meursault family. There are basically two families of wines in Meursault : the Meursault-Charmes family first, from mid-slope vineyards on rather clayish soil, which make these traditional round, generous Meursaults. The second family is the Tessons/Perrières, from mid/upper-slope vineyards which yield more masculine wines with lots of minerality. She says that she is more interested by minerality than roundness. The saline feel comes from the limestone soil, she says, it brings this flintstone and saline side. That's typically what she looks for in the wine.
__Deux Montille Meursault 1er Cru Porusots (with an s here) 2006 (bottle).Some toasted notes, intense mouth. Mushrooms. Beautiful wine. The Porusots is a 1er Cru but its vineyards are located on the lower-slope, where the Meursault vineyards begin to tilt and become a slope. She says that the climat can yield pépère (comfortable but not very sharp) wines and to counter that, the harvest must be early rather than late to succeed a chiseled wine like this one...
__Deux Montilles Meursault Casse Tête 2006. Beautiful nose. Very chiseled wine, says Alix. A bit smoky, another type of minerality here. Very beautiful Meursault Villages wine. Mid-upper-slope vineyards. Alix says that the purchase of the grapes are decided somewhere between may and july every year, because the growers decide then which volume they'll use for themselves. B. asks if she practices yoga to handle this stress, she says no, but she runs. She works with a few organic growers, but also conventionnal ones.
__Deux Montille Rully Villages 2005 (bottle). Fresh grape aromas, floral notes, pink grapefruit. Very fresh wine.
__Deux Montille Meursault les Grands Charrons 2004. Bottle opened yesterday morning. Ripe-fruits nose. Brioche notes. She likes the way the wine tastes today, with a freshness and straightness that were not obvious before. Very beautiful nose here, the wine has a few more years. Alix de Montille looks for a wine thief to taste a few casks.
__Domaine de Montille, Corton Grand Cru, Clos du Roi 2007, a red (Pinot Noir). Vinified by her brother Etienne. Cherry notes, peony too. Tobacco leaves. Vineyards bought by the family estate in 2005. At that time the domaine de Montille also bought some vineyard plots in Clos Vougeot, Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Malconsorts, Nuits Saint Georges 1er Cru Aux Thorey, Corton Clos du Roi and Beaune 1er Cru les Grèves. Plus, they bought one hectare of red Corton-Pougets Grand Cru that they partly grafted and partly replanted with Chardonnay to make Corton-Charlemagne, because they had a right to make white Corton Charlemagne there.
__Domaine de Montille Volnay 1er Cru les Mitants 2007. A Pinot Noir vinified by Etienne de Montille too. Intensity. Red fruits, chocolate. One of the sought-after wines of the estate for many years.
Many of these wines (not the Meursaults though) cost between 12 and 15 Euro a bottle.
Alix & Etienne'sDeux Montille wines are 80% exported, the first buyer-country in volume being the United States. They work with 3/4 exporters there on both coasts through Martin Scott wines in New York, Michael Sullivan (Beaune Imports) in Berkeley, Veritas Wine in Colorado and Wine Nirvana in Texas. Japan was their first foreign buyer when they started the Négoce in 2003 and there has been up & lows there but sales move up again there (importer : Vin Passion). The wines are exported to some 15 countries including the United Kingdom (Genesis Wines) and Brasil (Mistral).
You may have watched the interesting and humor-filled Mondovino report by Johnatan Nossiter. This report/movie was to my opinion biased and unfair, with this Michael-Mooresque trend of making feel-good, manichean simplifications in the place of a complex reality. Still, there's a part in the movie featuring Alix de Montille, her brother Etienne and father Hubert de Montille, which are great moments and whatever we might think of the movie as a whole, their words were just so right and well-inspired.
Alix de Montilled is married to Jean-Marc Roulot of Domaine Roulot and they have two young children.