The first of many words to come to mind when I think of the Montanets and their wines is unpretentious. In an era of unfortunate and rampant “luxurization” of Burgundy, here is a family that has achieved enormous success in France, as well as in export markets the world over, yet manages to keep a modest approach in all they do. Value, drinkability, organic farming, and noninterventionist winemaking are the pillars of all their wines. How often are those words associated with Burgundy anymore? We’ve been working with the Montanets for nearly fifteen years now, a partnership that was a no-brainer, given that Bernard Raveneau first taught Jean Montanet the techniques and importance of getting things right in the vineyard before anything comes into the cellar, and it was Marcel Lapierre who showed Jean the splendor and purity of natural winemaking. It has always been and remains a great pleasure to work with Jean and his son Valentin, both of whom are ever smiling, ever optimistic, and quick to joke at their own expense. But don’t be fooled. Their wines—every last one of them—are world-class, serious, and, most important, delicious Burgundies.
The 2014 Bourgogne Vézelay Blanc “Galerne,” from their Montanet-Thoden label, is grown on the ancient limestone soils that put Vézelay on the wine map. That limestone provides a Chablis-like precision, and the local northern wind (Galerne) on this parcel keeps the grapes dry and ripe, giving ample body and character, too. Here’s the perfect representation to show why Vézelay has its own appellation.
Domaine Montanet-Thoden was founded in 2000 by Catherine Montanet of Domaine de La Cadette in collaboration with associate Tom Thoden. Though Catherine was still very much involved with La Cadette, she created the new domaine from her family's vineyards, which express a character of their own due to slight differences in the underlying terroir. Additional planting in the early 2000s brought the total vineyard area up to eight hectares, which are now managed by Catherine's son, Valentin.
Confident in the natural, traditional approach that Catherine had established from the start, Valentin maintained the methods and standards used by both of his parents to fashion fresh, succulent wines.
In eastern central France, Burgundy is nestled between the wine regions of Champagne to the north, the Jura to the east, the Loire to the west, and the Rhône to the south. This is the terroir par excellence for producing world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The southeast-facing hillside between Dijon in the north and Maranges in the south is known as the Côte d’Or or “golden slope.” The Côte d’Or comprises two main sections, both composed of limestone and clay soils: the Côte de Nuits in the northern sector, and the Côte de Beaune in the south. Both areas produce magnificent whites and reds, although the Côte de Beaune produces more white wine and the Côte de Nuits more red.
Chablis is Burgundy’s northern outpost, known for its flinty and age-worthy Chardonnays planted in Kimmeridgian limestone on an ancient seabed. Vézelay is a smaller area south of Chablis with similar qualities, although the limestone there is not Kimmeridgian.
To the south of the Côte de Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise extends from Chagny on its northern end, down past Chalon-sur-Saône and encompasses the appellations of Bouzeron in the north, followed by Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny.
Directly south of the Chalonnaise begins the Côte Mâconnais, which extends south past Mâcon to the hamlets of Fuissé, Vinzelles, Chaintré, and Saint-Véran. The Mâconnais is prime Chardonnay country and contains an incredible diversity of soils.
Great winemakers, great terroirs, there is never any hurry. And I no longer buy into this idea of “peak” maturity. Great winemakers, great terroirs, their wines offer different pleasures at different ages.
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