Tasted in Chassagne-Montrachet with Michel Coutoux, 30 January 2018.
Domaine Michel Niellon
Le Haut des Champs
Tel: +33 3 80 24 70 17
The family home of Michel Niellon with his ‘impossibly small cellars‘ (so described by Jasper Morris) remains in old Chassagne-Montrachet, but for a little while now, the new vinification home, with space a-plenty, is in the ‘Le Haut des Champs’ area of Chassagne, together with other domaines such as Pierre-Yves and Caroline Colin-Morey, Philippe Colin and Jean-Marc Pillot. It’s here that I’m greeted by Michel Coutoux, son-in-law of Michel Niellon – Michel began working with his father-in-law in 1990.
Today’s 7.5 hectare domaine itself comes from the line of Michel Niellon who began working with his father Marcel in the 1950s – there were 4 hectares at that time – though there are many generations of the family before Marcel that were involved in viticulture here. This is a domaine where commercial bottling began relatively early – towards the end of the 1960s. Today the domaine works with about 30 different countries, exporting about 85% of their production, but their most important and long-standing market has always been the US.
The domaine’s 2017s are in barrel and the 2016s were bottled in September – relatively early vs the modern trend to extend elevage ever-longer “Yes, you know there’s fruit here and we try to preserve that. Are we early bottling? We are late compared to some, and sometimes, like following the late malos in 2013, we did 18 months of elevage, but yes typically we bottle after 12 months. I aim to keep the same esprit as Michel Niellon.” Fermentation begins in stainless steel tanks before moving the wine with plenty of lees to barrels for malolactic fermentation and maturation – 20-30% new oak. There is no batonnage and no racking until bottling.
Michel Coutoux on 2017 and 2016:
“2017 was a pleasure, not just in the vines, but we harvested something too! I’d say a good, correct, harvest volume – we didn’t lose anything and it was a great season, just for a small time with too much dryness. The losses in 2016 were mainly in the chardonnay as its growth was ahead of the pinot when the frost came – unfortunately the pinot is only 25% of the production here, so all our other parcels were affected to the extent that we lost everything to about 30% losses.”
Just a short tasting as an introduction to the domaine – but really fine wines.
“The terroir and the vintage – the oak is always there – but the first two are what is important to show.” – Michel Coutoux
An assembly of 15 parcels from all over the appellation, with multiple vine ages too. Usually a production in the range of 12-16,000 bottles
A little reductive toast on the nose. Wide, bubbling, energetic, muscled – ooh this is great – such delicious wine. Bravo.
2016 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er La Maltroie
Good aromatic width and there’s more weight of flavour below too. Pure, growing in energy, more mineral versus the villages, really expanding wider and wider. Great length and complexity.
2016 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Clos St.Jean
Two parcels – one in CSJ and the other in the climat of Rebichets, below
A nice width on the nose – fresh and inviting, less overt depth to start with, faintly oaked. Lovely transparency here, lacy, complex, plenty of oak in that complexity, but nothing too overt or long-lasting.