Potinet-Ampeau Monthelie 1er Cru 'Champs Fulliots' 2016
Monthelie is one of the great bargains in Burgundy. But be careful: there are two parts to Monthelie. With the exception of the first growth 'Les Duresses' (which is an extension of Auxey-Duresses' best parcel) in the west, most of the best vineyards are clustered on the border with Volnay to the east of the village. No surprise. But there really are some great undiscovered gems there. This Monthelie 1er Cru 'Champs-Fulliots' from the Domaine Potinet-Ampeau among them. Dense, generous, spicy fruit, both red and black, with good concentration and structure. And a very Volnay finish on violets!
The Domaine Potinet-Ampeau is situated in the village of Monthelie in the southern part of the Cote de Beaune, between Meursault and Volnay. The domain is one of very few remaining who have a policy of holding vintages in their own cellars to allow them to age correctly before release. For this reason we can offer you not only older vintages, but older vintages that have been perfectly stored.
BURGUNDY 2016 VINTAGE
If that first taste of the 2016 Burgundy vintage really grabs your attention, count yourself lucky. Lucky in the same way that wine makers in Burgundy consider themselves lucky.
The excellent 2016 vintage was a nightmare for them, running a gamut of emotions from depression to despair, then out the other side towards hope and something resembling jubilation. It’s no exaggeration to say that 2016 took its toll on the collective psyche of the region.
After a very mild winter, April was frigid, with early hail in Macon and (yet again) Chablis. Then, on the night of the 26th, a freak frost descended on much of the Cotes de Nuits and almost all of the Cote de Beaune. I say ‘freak’ because it was a winter frost, not an April frost; meaning that it hit higher up the slopes than a spring frost would, touching vineyards that almost never freeze, notably Musigny and Montrachet.
It got worse. May was cool and depressingly wet, with storms when it wasn’t drizzling. It’s then that the first corridors of mildew appeared. It hailed again in Chablis. The mood was like the weather: chilly and grey. And it continued like this until the solstice, by which time the estimates were for an overall 50% crop loss across the region. It was hard to coax a smile from even the most seasoned winemakers.
Flowering took place in mid-June and was a bit protracted. It forecast a late September harvest, 100 days away. And given what had come before, the small crop looked incredibly vulnerable.
But with the solstice came summer. A magnificent July and August, with heat enough to curb the mildew, brought exceptional conditions for grapes. Talk in the cellars turned from tales of woe to the benefits of low-yield vintages.
As always in Burgundy, September makes the wine. In 2016, the perfect amount of rain fell on September 14th, at the perfect time to counter the heat stress that the vines were starting to show. And the fruit then ripened quickly in impeccable dry and sunny conditions.
What in mid-June seemed like a doomed crop was suddenly being touted as the equivalent of 2015, and maybe even better! Low yield years give intensity and concentration. Cool vintages give good acidity and balance. 2016 was both. Not a lot of fruit; but from serious ‘vignerons’, what there was was beautiful.
The wines, both red and white, are fresh, chiseled, with balanced acidity and concentration. The whites are definitely better than the 2015s, which lacked a touch of acidity. They are cool and energetic. Maybe not to the level of the fabulous 14s, but there are many similarities.
As to the comparisons between 2015 and 2016, many commentators cite 1990 and 1991. Both 1990 and 2015 are considered among the finest red vintages in living memory. And the vintages that followed them were both low-yield vintages that suffered early frost damage. Both 1990 and 2015 were hot years; both 1991 and 2016 were relatively cool. Both 1990 and 2015 were media darlings, and still are. 1991 got lost in the blare; maybe 2016 as well. But both 1991 and 2016 are arguably much more typically Burgundian than their world-stage predecessors. Classy and classic, ‘typical’ (in the best sense of the word), the greatest fault of the 2016 vintage could be its irregularity.
COTE DE BEAUNE
Monthélie is situated between Volnay and Meursault, with one of the prettiest views in the Côte de Beaune. The vineyards form a horseshoe shape around the village, from the slopes leading down from Volnay and continuing into the Auxey-Duresses valley. For a small village with a population of fewer than 200, Monthélie produces a lot of wine: 65,000 bottles per year. And many of the village inhabitants are directly involved in that production.
Produced only in the commune of Monthélie appellation Monthélie includes 15 premiers crus.
Monthélie is nearly all red, and that red should be brilliant ruby. Cherry and blackcurrant fruit, and, in certain vineyards, a similar floral arrangement to Volnay (violets!) highlight the bouquet. As the wines evolve, they take on the typical Pinot Noir secondary aromas of undergrowth, leather and mushroom. Monthélie, on the Volnay side of the village, is fine and delicate like Volnay. And on the Auxey-Duresses side, the wines can be firmer with more obvious tannic structure.
As with nearly every village in this zone, the plantation of Chardonnay is on the rise in Monthélie, though it accounts for only 10% of the production today. These whites are often described as being similar to the wines of neighboring Meursault. That is true, though in terms of finesse, slightly exaggerated. You get lemony acidity, white flowers, sweet apple and nuttiness which when in balance make for a great value Chardonnay.
There are two distinct vineyards zones in appellation Monthélie. Some of the vines are on the Volnay side of the village facing south and south-east and planted on pebbly bathonien limestone with a top layer of red clay and marl. And some of the vines are on the Auxey-Duresses side where the rock is argovien limestone and exposures are easterly or westerly, depending on course of the Auxey valley. Altitudes are between 270-320 meters.
Nearly all reds - Pinot Noir
Whites - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Reds : 106.38 ha (including 34.31 ha premier cru)
Whites : 12.96 ha (including 1.69 ha premier cru)
The reds of Monthélie can be velvety but quite firm, with tannins that need roasted meats with a crunchiness: roast fowl (dark or white meat), roast lamb, or rabbit. These wines also go well with country pâtés. For cheese, go for creaminess Brillat-Savarin, Brie or Reblochon.
On the label, the appellations 'Monthélie' and 'Monthélie 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The followin climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos des Toisières
Le Cas Rougeot
Le Château Gaillard
Le Clos Gauthey
Le Clou des Chênes
Le Meix Bataille
Les Champs Fulliots
Les Vignes Rondes
Sur la Velle
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
La Combe Danay
La Petite Fitte
Le Meix de Mypont
Le Meix de Ressie
Le Meix Garnier
Les Champs Ronds
Les Hauts Brins
Sous le Cellier