2020 Montagny, Mont-Cuchot, 1er Cru, Domaine Berthenet, Burgundy
About this WINE
Based in the village of Montagny itself, the Berthenet family has been growing grapes for around four centuries, although the estate in its current form was set up in 1974. Initially it grew grapes for the co-op, but the decision was taken in 2001 to leave and begin bottling under its own name. They work sustainably, allowing grass to grow between rows and working the soil rather than using herbicides. They farm 20 hectares in total, 90 percent of which is planted with white grapes.
As well as still wines, they also make Crémant, managing the whole process themselves. Fruit is machine-harvested, which allows them to react quickly to difficult conditions. This was particularly useful in 2013 when wet weather caused rot but they could pick quickly to obtain healthy fruit, and 2015 when maturity arrived suddenly and fruit had to be picked quickly to preserve freshness. It is also impractical to keep a harvesting team for the four weeks required to harvest each parcel at perfect ripeness. François Berthenet is the current winemaker, and has been in place since 2009.
The region of Montagny in the Côte Chalonnaise, which includes the communes of Buxy, Jully-lès-Buxy, Montagny-lès-Buxy and Saint-Vallerin, is an appellation which dedicates itself entirely to the production of white wines. These wines in themselves are also exclusively made from the Chardonnay variety of grape.
In the past, wines from Montagny could claim Premier Cru status as long as their alcohol content exceeded 11.5%, a rule which transcended the regular Premier Cru classification in Burgundy. These days however the modern system of attributing Premier Cru status is undertaken in Montagny, and despite this the appellation is still able to boast that around two thirds of its vineyards retain the prestigious Premier Cru classification, an extremely high proportion of high quality vineyard. Unfortunately for the producers this large number of Premier Cru vineyards means that certain names are diluted and find it harder to establish themselves as leading growers, leading some to simply declare their wines as ‘Montagny Premier Cru’ without naming the vineyard of their origin.
Montagny’s white wines are known for their higher acidity and more robust body than other Chalonnaise whites. The high levels of limestone in the soil help to develop these facets, as well as imparting a certain beneficial minerality on the wine.
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
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This site is well-situated for modern conditions. East-facing and with deep soils, it retains freshness even in warm vintages. Seventy percent is made in tank to preserve this energy, while 30% goes into old barrels (one to three years old), adding some weight and complexity. This is saline, energetic and chalky, with citrus and a stony, mouth-watering finish. Drink 2023-2030.
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