Hubert de Montille - Droit comme la justice
Hubert de Montille is a man of conviction. Throughout his life, this lawyer defended his ideas with force and passion. Evidently, his children could not renounce the character their father transmitted to them. This character is found today in Alix's chardonnays and Etienne's pinot noirs. He gladly admits – when his children are not in the room – that he is a happy man. His Domaine, which at one time was just a toy, of sorts, is today a bona fide family business.
Hubert has two loves : his career in law, which paid the bills, and his vines. Hence, he led a double life as both attorney and winemaker. If his lawyering career reached its pinnacle in the 1980s while he was defending the Laroche family in the Grégory Villemin case, it never set aside his crazy idea to rebuild his family Domaine, which had disappeared like smoke after a series of crises and successions. The Domaine, which formerly counted 12 hectares, was at its smallest size ever. When Hubert began to rebuild the Domaine's destiny, the de Montille vineyards were less than three hectares. This was a situation Hubert had difficulty accepting. Between legal proceedings, Hubert did not cease to restore the family treasure, once the owner of great vines, notably in the famous Musigny vineyard. Passionate and pugnacious, the attorney became a pioneer, especially in his ardent defense of the notion of terroir and the idea that wines should be made to age, guaranteeing - according to him - the authenticity of Burgundy. He jokes quite a bit about having a pre-war mentality with his leaner style of winemaking. He knows the Domaine works more toward suppleness today, but he remains firmly attached to his principles.
Today, we know him as a proprietor in Volnay, watching over mythical parcels like Volnay Premier Cru « Taillepieds ». Few, however, know that this orphan, short on funds, recreated his domaine from mere shards with his deep determination and passion for his Burgundian roots. The banks refused to help him acquire new parcels. Whatever...he would find another way. Today the Domaine has built a solid reputation for wines of character, wines of terroir. His first vintage in 1947 was a small victory. At a moment's notice, he replaced his uncle who left swiftly to be at his wife's bedside while she gave birth. Hubert was only 17 years old. « It was 30 degrees outside, » he recalls. « We spread out the grapes in the courtyard overnight to cool them down. » And, the vintage was saved. In his cocky, humorous way, he reminisces about all the great vintages...going on about 1947, which gave him an « exceptional wine » that he adored for its structure but that was nontheless refused for the Tastevinage (a semi-annual tasting arranged by the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin at the Château du Clos de Vougeot.) A turning point. « That is what gave me strength. I understood at that very moment that I would, above all, make the wines I like, forgetting about the rest of them. » Independent, Hubert always followed his own path, mocking the status quo. Success followed. When asked who inspired him, he simply responds, « No one. » While opening a bottle of Volnay Premier Cru Taillepieds 1985, one of his best vintages, he quickly finds inspiration. « What pleases me in this wine is the wonderment. The amazement that one can feel when one opens a bottle. I'm like a kid again, » he declares, with a youthful vibrance that never seems to have left his face. We then understand that Hubert has said everything, so we stop there, lift our glasses, smell, taste and reflect on the work accomplished. A true voyage back in time. « This Volnay needed time to evolve ; it is complex. It is drinking now, » he concludes. It's an odd sentiment : the history, the heritage, the people, the past...1985 seems to rise to the forefront for a fraction of a second, as elusive as its is sublime. And, Hubert is content with himself, with his smile, the one of an 18 year old kid.
A question to Hubert : Why do you prefer wines that age? « Tertiary aromas and the complexity of a wine reveal themselves after 20 years. People are completely missing the point to drink wines that are too young. I hold on and fight to convince people to save their wines. We massacre them when we drink them young. No one wants to wait anymore ; we want it and and want it right now. No one has a cellar anymore, nor the means to put away wines. All of those arguments are rubbish...they certainly have the means to go tan themselves somewhere or buy a huge, fancy car.... »