Last week, Etienne de Montille purchased the Château de Puligny-Montrachet. The acquisition comprises 21.5 hectares of vineyards spanning 23 appellations, including three Grand Crus and ten Premier Crus, along with the winemaking facilities and château.
The dawn of this transaction began over three years ago, when the world markets were beginning to sort through the 2007 banking collapse wreckage. The Château’s owner at the time, Crédit Foncier de France, a Caisse d’Epargne subsidiary, began considering the liquidation of its vineyard and winery holdings.
De Montille was particularly well-placed to understand this need and encourage the transaction. He has not only overseen the Château’s production since 2002, he grew up with wine at Domaine de Montille, which has owned vineyards since just before the French Revolution. Furthermore, and very importantly, De Montille is also an ex-banker. Being well connected to and understanding the needs of both Parisian bankers and local agricultural agencies proved immensely helpful while negotiating –and re-negotiating—arrangements.
The estates’ productions uniquely compliment one another. The Domaine produces mostly red while the Château produces predominantly white. Over the last ten years, Etienne realized much operational efficiency between the two properties, from cork purchasing to global shipping. He also significantly revamped the style and image of the Château, crafting terroir-driven wines with greater purity and depth and a lighter oak influence while progressively evolving the labels into a modern appearance. Etienne also changed the vine culture, beginning with an immediate conversion to organic farming in 2002 (the Domaine had been organic since 1995) then to biodynamic in 2005. From the 2012 vintage, the Domaine and Château wines will be certified ECOCERT.
Over the next few years, operations between the Domaine and Château will be further reviewed. Some wines produced under the Château label will be debuted under the Domaine’s name, and some vineyards will be sold. What will hold true for both is the continuation of a delineated, mineral-focused wine style that speaks of its Burgundian provenance. After restructuring, the combined surfaces will encompass 35 hectares of prime vineyards, of which 20 will be Premier and Grand Crus—one of the most significant, high-end holdings in Côte de Beaune.