While Clive Coates ranks the De Montille domaine in the second tier of Bourgogne producers (the first tier is populated by the likes of DRC, just to place things in context), some afficiandos remain unconvinced, claiming pere Hubert's wines were always in the twilight zone between "not ready" and "over the hill". Personally , I came on board with new generation Etienne's lower end bottlings of the 2002 vintage, which delighted me, but then my enthusiasm was doused by a tasting of the 2004's. These, whether due to the actual quality, the style of the vintage or poor setting, I found lacking grip. However, recent tastings have renewed my faith as I was quite enchanted by the more polished and complex post 2004 Pommard and Volnays.
Beaune Premier Cru, Aligrots, 2006
I forgot that it is sister Alix who makes the whites for the family domaine, so my first thought when sniffing and tasting this wine was that Etienne has certainly improved (I am not crazy about the white wines he makes for Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet). Certainly the aromatics are right up my alley, with subtle citrus fruit lurking beneath a smokey, flint overcast and some meaty notes that remind me of Francois Jobard. The palate is austere and seems to strain a bit to contain the oak right now, which I have to admit is subtle enough to retreat with time. My problem is that as much as I admire Alix' work, I get the feeling that the terroir itself as not as good as similarly priced Meursaults that she creates at Deux Montilles. 270 NIS.
Beaune Premier Cru, Perrieres, 2006
This wine sets the pace for some of the 2006's, which had less stuffing than the the 2005's, but with more interesting quirks, plus the price differential make some of them good buys. Since not every vintage can be a 2002 or a 2005, I'd rather have the in-between vintages resemble 2006 rather than 2004. Anyway... This wine certainly is quirky, with initially pungent, almost scathing aromas of strawberries and raspy tannins that make gleaming any complexity a very elusive task. Certainly an appealing, mineral-imbued structure is in place, but it's just so hard to get at the flavors. But I like it and time brings out more minerals and leather on the nose and then fruit and ripe acidity start asserting themselves on the palate. 220 NIS and good value for Burgundy.
Beaune Premier Cru, Greves, 2006
The nose is almost agonizingly liquerish at first (you know the cherry-filled chocolates that your mother's aunt saved in her cupboards for ages before trying to force them on you when you were eight years old?). Thank god for oxygen, because this flagrantly extroverted - in Bourgogne terms - beast of a nose calms down after a while to show minerals and even animalistic notes, and although those chocolate notes remain for the ten minutes or so it takes me to finish my glass, they become a welcome afterthought after a while. The palate is deeper than the Perrieres, which might be the more intellectually challenging wine, but it's obvious there is more stuffing in the Greves, giving the wine, winemaker and God more material to work with. Finally, and I will wine up saying this about each wine, as the wine opens, the palate shows a savoury minerality that I find very appealing. 260 NIS and another good value.
Volnay Premier Cru, Champans, 2006
I've sniffed wines like this one before and they always conjure the adjective "languid", for me. Thus strolls this wine across the stage with almost indifferent poise, without the same mineral fingerprint as the other Montilles; although, once again, it's a matter of time until that fingerprint shows up here, too, but there is, at the same time, an aroma of flowers over the red cherries that none of the other wines have. There is a step up in overall balance now, as the raspy tannins seem to skewer the fruit with great precision. At 360 NIS, this is about 25% cheaper than a 2005, so it's very appealing, although personally I'd go for the Pezrolles (see below) which is an even more convincing 2006.
Beaune Premier Cru, Perrieres, 2005
The fruit is obviously riper and sweeter than the 2006 and what's great about these 2005's is that even with such ripeness, the fruit is always well within the red fruit end of the spectrum, which is what red Burgundy is all about, to me. And there is no loss in mineral cut. In short, this has more going for it than the 2006, except it's more obvious and less challenging. The 2006 makes you think while this tries to spoil you. At 260 NIS, there is no great penalty for it being a 2005, so it's another good value and an even better wine to show off at tastings.
Beaune Premier Cru, Greves, 2005
If the Perrieres 2006 was a stylistic break from the 2005, in this case the two vintages are more similar, as the 2005 is more or less a magnification of the 2006.The meat and minerals of the nose are more prominent, the minerals are even more lovely and there is a smoky veneer that obscures the chocolate aromas. It feels bigger on the palate, too, while remaining decently balanced. At 320 NIS, I would buy it for personal use but it would present a problem at friendly tastings. I suspect some of my friends would be prejudiced against a Beaune Premier Cru at events where the entry fee is a 300-350 NIS wine, impressive as this wine may actually be.
Volnay Premier Cru, Champans, 2005
As someone remarked at the table, this is another case of a 2005 being a bigger and better balanced version of the 2006, without any change in style. The aromatics are similar but this wine really makes its splash on the palate, begging for roast beef from the first sip due to its spicy flavors and the pungent tang of its tannins. And no, these tannins cannot obscure the succulent fruit that lurks below them. 450 NIS is where the reputation of the vintage starts to take its toll. Is it worth paying 90 NIS for the additional intensity on the palate, not to mention the impression it would make on my guests? Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Pommard Premier Cru, Pezerolles, 2006
A valid challenger for Wine Of The Night - and quite likely the most delicious one due to its gorgeous acidity - it too starts out with liquerish aromatics, which quickly blow off to show great finesse and notes of raw meat and subtle nuances of minerals, which were much appreciated. It is a class act that builds its depth slowly and from within, keeping its power and complexity in reserve. Excellent value for 360 NIS.
Pommard Premier Cru, Rugiens, 2006
The nose is very similar to the Pezerolles, with a similar mix of raw meat and minerals. Last time I tasted it, Tomer posed the question whether Rugiens should have been a Grand Cru vineyard. At the time, coming after the powerful Comte Armand Clos de Epeneaux, it won an affirmative nod from me by dint of elegance and mystique. Here, following a wine of a fold and style similar to its own, it breaks ahead on sheer power and length, yet somehow in this setting, its claim to Grand Cru status is vaguer. However, one of the trademarks of a Grand Cru is that the palate manages to overshadow even a grand nose, which is certainly the case here, and I refer to an almost pungent spiciness that is balanced by joyful fruit. 480 NIS, so if you think that, despite some reservations, my arguments still win the case for this being a shoulda-been GC, then it's a great value indeed.
Corton Grand Cru, Clos-du-Roi, 2006 (from magnum)
The extroverted nose is the best of the night, combining just about everything the previous wines brought to table, without lacking in nuances and subtlety. It's only drawback is a certain obviousness. The palate, on the other hand , is less sophisticated than the Rugiens' and I swear to God it is even shorter, even though it is very vital and refreshing. Corton is one of the lesser-reputed Grand Crus, many questioning its claim for the exalted status, so let me make one thing clear: this bottle was a true Grand Cru, because frankly it leaves you wanting not a thing. It's just not a great Grand Cru.
Pulign-Montrachet Premier Cru, Cailleret, 2006
A very balanced and tasty wine, with a savoury, dry finish which could and should serve as a blueprint for top-echelon Bourgogne whites. On the nose, I get peaches and a bus-load of flint. The palate is complex and intense, with no lack of finesse, yet why did I wind up missing a certain 'wow' factor that I remember from the 2004?