Monthélie : A Quiet Village in Burgundy

Monthélie is a small village in the heart of Burgundy in the vicinity of better known towns, Volnay and Meursault.

Monthélie is a small appellation that very few people know. It makes it an attractive place to find quality wines at reasonable prices.

In the middle of vines, stands a lovely village that has been there for thousands of years. A 12th century church, an 18th century castle, old houses and cellars are surrounded by tiny and steep streets.

Around 90% of Monthélie wines are red and come from the Pinot Noir grape. The 10% of white wine are made with Chardonnay. A well made Monthélie will be a pleasant wine, usually very fruity. Not built on structure and flesh, its main qualities are balance and finesse. If you are familiar with the wines from that area, Monthélie will remind you more of Volnay (generally considered a feminine wine) than Pommard.

I don’t appreciate the whites from that appellation as much, as I have never tasted anything special.

Before getting into details about this appellation, it is necessary to understand a few things about the region: Burgundy is a set of  small plots of land called “climats”. There are 1.463 climats and each of them enjoys specific geological and climatic conditions. As a result, they all have a unique identity. Some of them were first referenced as far back as the 7th century, such as Clos de Bèze in Gevrey!

All of these plots are classified according to the wines’ quality. In decreasing order, the classification goes like this: Grand Cru, Premier Cru, Village. There is no Grand Cru in Monthélie but there are 15 Premiers Crus. ‘Le Clou des Chênes’, ‘Les Champs Fulliot’, ‘Les Clous’, ‘Les Duresses’ are some of the best ones.

The appellation consists of two hillsides separated by a valley “la combe Danay”. A higher altitude than surrounding villages and a different exposure to sunlight both play a role on the grapes’ ripening. There are two main kinds of wine in Monthélie:

– Next to Volnay and Meursault, on the east hillside, soils contain a great deal of limestone. Wines from that area are all about finesse and delicacy.

– On the other side, by the village of Auxey-Duresses, the soils consist mainly of clay. The wines made there are more powerful, more colored and more tannic. I recommend waiting a little longer before opening these bottles, the wine might be a little raw the first few years. There are only two Premiers Crus on that hillside : ‘Les Duresses’ and ‘Les Clous’.

Wine/Food Pairing Tips:

A Monthélie should be served at around 63°F. It will pair well with roasted poultry, roasted lamb and veal. It will also work nicely with Brie cheese.

During my last stay in Burgundy, I discovered a wonderful wine “Les Champs de l’Abbaye 2011″. It matched the veal dish perfectly.