There are two reasons to know the town of Vezelay, in the Yonne, in the northern part of Burgundy, just south of Chablis: one would be it’s magnificent Romanesque Cathedral, built in the middle ages when the town was the seat of a powerful and rich Benedictine Abbey, and the other the beautiful wines produced by Jean, Catherine and Valentin Montanet.
In 1987, Jean and Catherine Montanet created Domaine de la Cadette. Cadette in French means the youngest child, and here is a reference to Catherine, the youngest of her siblings and whose family’s vineyards were incorporated in the domain. At that time most of the wine produced in the area was sold to the local cooperative, and the focus was on quantity. At La Cadette the approach was completely different: small yields, organic agriculture and, above all, crafting wines that truly reflected the terroir of Vezeley. It took them ten years to clear land and replant vineyards.
Almost as a reward for their efforts, in 1997 the INAO granted the status of regional appellation to the white wines of Velezay made of Chardonnay (the reds still are just Bourgogne rouge). The new appellation is recognition of the unique characteristics of their terroir. The area is a geographic extension of Chablis, but the soils are completely different.Instead of the Kimmerdigian soils typical of Chablis, the clays here range from blue and gray to red, sometimes with no clay at all but just shallow limestone. The climate is also different; the vineyards are in the Morvan mountain range, with cooler temperatures and a great sun exposure, which gives the wines a good balance between fruit and minerality.
The Montanets have three different operations, sharing some infrastructure and philosophy. Domaine de la Cadette, where Jean makes the wines. La Soeur Cadette, their "negoce" under which they use some of their own organic grapes and buy some more from friends who do not make wine except for their own use. The third is Domaine Montanet-Thoden founded by Catherine Montanet and Tom Thoden.Here the wines are now made by Valentin who is showing that he has learned well from both his father and his extensive studies, making wines of the same purity but with his own distinctive stamp.
In both Domaines and negoce the farming practices are the same: organic viticulture, no use of pesticides or herbicides in the vineyard and no additives in the winemaking process. The grapes are fermented using only the naturally occurring yeast.
Our offerings from this exiting producer are:
“La Chatelaine”, Bourgogne Vezelay, from three side-by-side parcels that are fermented separately and then blended. Done entirely in stainless steel, the resulting wine is bright and mineral-driven with a richly textured palate. $30 “Melon” yes, Melon de Bourgogne from Bourgogne, rather than it’s contemporary home near Nantes. Melon was the simple local wine in the past. Farmers like the melon because it's a strong, rustic variety and because it has good yields, they could count on it year after year. This is a wine of pleasure, easy, crunchy with great acidity and a serious mineral backbone. $26
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