As with all good stories, this one takes us on a journey through time. The past, its roots; the present, the new generation; evolution, not revolution... An erudite blend, balanced between tradition and modernity...we dare say it is the continuity of change..
The family's origins can be traced back to the middle of the 17th century at Créancey in the Auxois region, with the Lords of Commeau. Then comes the 18th century. 'The domaine pre-dates the revolution; it was created in the 1750s,' states Hubert de Montille. It was re-named de Montille after the union of Marie Eléonore Chauvelot de Chevannes and Étienne Joseph Marie Léonce Bizouard de Montille, the grandfather of Hubert, on April 9, 1863. 'Montille' as he was known at the time, divided his time between the domaines in Volnay and Créancey and the Société des Agriculteurs de France, of which he was one of the founders.
A need to reconstruct
The domaine sat on a veritable treasure, which at the time, was not recognised for its inherent value. Musigny, Bonnes Mares, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru 'les Amoureuses'...in total, 12 hectares of magnificent terroir, planted with Pinot Noir in the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. Though today these parcels make wine lovers (and winemakers) swoon, they were sold off as and when the family's financial situation dictated. 'At the time,' notes Étienne de Montille, 'it was more common to sell vines than fields, as fields were more profitable.' Little by little, the ancestors chipped away at the domaine. In Burgundy, there is a saying: it only takes one generation to undo the work of many.... When Hubert decided to stop this erosion, the family domaine had been reduced to its smallest size of barely 3 hectares, composed of various parcels of Volnay 1er Cru.
Hubert's arrival is a turning point
Now, if the family tradition demanded that the men should embrace a career in law, then the arrival of Hubert de Montille marked a turning of the page. Granted, he became a lawyer like his father, but he lived a double life between Volnay and Dijon, between the vines and the court. Today there is still fire in his eyes when he speaks of his career as a winegrower. This pioneering and passionate man has engraved each vintage in his memory. Beginning with his first harvest in 1947, he broke with the custom of selling wine to negociants. Hubert de Montille was one of the first to believe in the future of the bottle. This new in-house strategy played an important role in the future of the domaine. 'When you sell your wine in bottles, and not in bulk, the approach is completely different,' explains Étienne.
The 1950s saw the birth of a new type of viticulture. The domaine Hubert de Montille made its mark throughout Burgundy. 'My father is a man of character and taste. He very quickly understood that what he wanted to do was to make wines that he loved, not necessarily wines that would sell easily,' remarks Étienne. 'His wines are not technical or round. On the contrary, they are authentic and improve with time, even if, on occasion, they can seem pretentious in their first flush of youth.' The wines of Hubert de Montille have personality.
Terroir, always the terroir
It is this radically different approach that propelled the domaine to nestle amongst the great domaines of Burgundy. At a point when 90% of the region's wines were sold to negociants, who mades wines that could be described as stylistically standardized, the 'little' domains began to make wine that was radically different. Their idea was to revitalize this very particular Burgundian notion called 'terroir.' Each appellation, each 'climat' (a small parcel of land, sometimes even smaller than an appellation), that the monks classified and cultivated for over a millennia, gives a wine its distinct personality. Étienne explains, 'Above all my father looked to respect the authenticity of each of his terroirs by making wines of moderate alcohol, elegance and refined aromatic purity.'
« Homemade »...
Étienne and Alix de Montille learned about viticulture from an early age. But Hubert never would have passed his children the baton without them first learning 'a real profession'. And, while the children followed in the family footsteps by orienting themselves towards legal careers, the inevitable return to the vine came quickly.
In 1983, after a year in the USA, Étienne started working at the domaine. He learned from his father and through his oenology studies until 1990, when he took over the vinifications. In 1995, he became co-manager and began to move the domaine towards organic farming. He also started to adapt the vinifications to his own way of thinking.
In 2001, he returned full-time to Burgundian soil to devote himself to the domaine and the Château de Puligny-Montrachet. He took full control and asserted his style and philosophy: biodynamic farming, whole cluster fermentation to add aromatics and silkier wines with less austerity. All the while, he remained true to the vision he learned by his father's side: authenticity, purity, elegance and balance.
In 2003, Alix also returned to her childhood love, Volnay. She and Étienne created 'Deux Montille Sœur-Frère', a negociant house devoted primarily to white wines. 'All our Sœur-Frère grapes are rigorously selected, harvested and vinified with the same know-how and philosophy as our domaine grapes,' explains Alix. Since 2006 she has taken over responsibility for the domaine's whites, notably the precious Puligny-Montrachet Cailleret Premier Cru and Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru. With Étienne watching over the reds and Alix the whites, the family history will continue.
In 2003, Étienne began to enlarge the domaine with exceptional vineyards and then in 2005 brought back into the fold some Clos Vougeot from the Côte de Nuit and a parcel just next to la Tâche in Vosne-Romanée "Les Malconsorts" !
In 2011, the domaine counted 20 hectares of vines, of which 75% were Premiers or Grands Crus from both Côtes.