For many in Burgundy – and in the world beyond its borders – wine is something akin to a religion. Its mysteries are celebrated and revered; it requires faith (in the weather and the vintner); and it brings solace and joy to millions. No surprise, therefore, that the Burgundian writer Pierre Poupin described the lovely village of Monthélie in religious terms – ‘prettily nestled into the curve of the hillside like the head of St John against the shoulder of Jesus’.
The church in Monthélie
Monthélie (pronounced ‘Mont’lie’) is a small commune in the Cote de Beaune of 200 or so residents, which produces a very large amount of wine – almost to the detriment of anything else. As the local proverb has it, ‘une poule y meurt de faim durant la moisson’ – in other words, ‘a chicken would die of hunger during the wheat harvest’. 65,000 bottles of wine per year are produced – the lion’s share of which are red – soft, fruity and similar to those from nearby Volnay.
There are 15 Premier Cru plots in Monthélie, and Elden Selections has some of the best hidden gems from them. Take the Domaine De Suremain Monthélie 1er cru ‘Le Clou des Chenes’ which has a structure you notice immediately – the vanilla and black pepper, the tender tannins, integrated but present. And it’s great for laying down too – wait a few years (if you can) for the full show. This producer also has a village appellation Chateau de Monthélie to watch out for; youthful and fruity, yet already complex and elegant. The village appellation Monthélie is an ‘assemblage’ of four different parcels of vines, each of which is vinified and raised separately. Having inherited the chateau at the centre of Monthélie, Eric de Suremain’s winemaking also proves that he inherited his ancestors’ passion for viticulture and reverence of the land; he has become one of the leading figures in biodynamic viticulture in Burgundy (to learn more about this process head over to our article on biodynamic winemaking).
Elden also offers a wine from another Premier Cru plot with the Domaine Potinet-Ampeau Monthélie 1er Cru ‘Champs Fulliots’. Most of the best vineyards of Monthélie are clustered on the border with Volnay to the east of the village, which is where this wine comes from – it’s one of the undiscovered gems from there. Dense, generous, spicy fruit (both red and black) with good concentration and structure – and a very Volnay finish on violets.
White wines from Monthélie (just 10% of the total wine produced) are close cousins of those from nearby Meursault – handsomely golden, they offer sweet apple, nuttiness and white flowers. They go very well with stir-fried prawns or even a warming fish tajine. But when pairing the reds of Monthélie with food, look for rich, roasted meats, offal – and of course, many of the local cheeses go superbly with them.
Despite being the smallest village in the Cote de Beaune, Monthélie’s quiet charm and dedication to winemaking will reward any visitor, as will the 12th century church (complete with famous Burgundy glazed roof tiles) and the 300-year-old Chateau de Monthélie. But viticulture here really goes back as far as 1000 years, when the monks of Cluny Abbey first began cultivating vines. Nearby Volnay and Meursault are also worth visiting – their wines being similar to Monthélie but different enough to warrant investigations all of their own.