Tasted with Alain Billard in Monthelie, 09 February 2016.
Domaine Alain Billard
8 Rue Derriere l’Eglise
Tel: +33 3 80 21 62 92
Alain Billard is a long-time resident of Volnay. His cuverie is also in Volnay but today he receives guests in his tasting room in the Rue du Puits in Monthelie.
It was Alain’s maternal grandfather began this domaine in the 1920s – Claude Rossignol was his name. The domaine name changed to that of his father, Roger Billard, in 1961, with Alain succeeding in 1980. The domaine, today, is 4.30 hectares, it was over 6 before Alain sold some of his regional vines. Alain does everything for a range that covers the labels Monthelie, Pommard, Beaune, Meursault and Volnay plus some regional wines.
Alain’s Beaune Les Aigrots, where he neighbours Lafarge, was bought by his parents in 1966. His Monthelie is ‘Sur la Velle’ and his magnificently venerable parcel of Meursault vines in Le Corbin retains many centenarians.
Alain says he follows ‘raisonnée’ in the vines – complicated by owning many small parcels. Alain had use of a vibrating triage table for the first time in 2014 and he says that he was very happy to have it! 95% of his grapes are destemmed before being left cool in the tanks for about 4 days – Alain confides that this is more to do with keeping things ‘tranquille’ while still harvesting.
“We do everything by hand, our fermentations in concrete and plus stainless-steel for the smaller cuvées. I do 1 year in barrels then a further 3 months assembled in tank before bottling – though last year was a little quicker as had no wine to sell! At one time I preferred to release wines only with a little bottle age, but that hasn’t been possible after the run of low yielding vintages. I think the wines need a little time to come round and to smooth out, I normally prefer to wait 5-6 years.”
The market for these wines is mainly France, but lots are sold in, and to, the Belgians and Swiss (et-cetera), much to private visitors.
Amongst those not tasted was also the Bourgogne – Alain used to have much more, including Passetoutgrains but he sold a large part, leaving a single parcel directly across the vineyard road from some of his villages Volnay.The 2014s were bottled at the end of November.
For me a super new address, and I really love the style of the reds here – no white tasted.
Grand Champs, Buttes and Pluchots, about half a hectare worth of vines here, and the vines are at least 60 years old on average.
Medium, medium-plus colour. The wine is cold, it needs coaxing from the glass, but its worth it – lovely, lovely floral-inflected fruit. Round in the mouth, not over sweet, and with a modest base of faintly dry tannin texture – but not grainy. Relatively a more savoury wine than overtly fruity – a minerally long finish. A wine that needs 3 or 4 yours to become more attractive, but everything seems in place!
Clos des Chênes and Mitans – about 0.20 ha from the Ormeaux part of Mitans. ‘Young vines’ – only about 40 on average! ‘Our Mitans is a little degenerated so delivers tiny concentrated grapes.’
Deeper colour. A deep but beautiful dark-fruited nose that has a certain gloss to it – lovely – a certain purity and a slowly evolving mineral note too. Rounder in the mouth, more supple, finer textured – encapsulating the palate. Really tons of material here – nothing facile and easy-sweet – rather lots of material that will need some time to relax and open. Very long. Another wine to wait for though is easier on the palate today than the villages due to a little more comfort on the tongue. Excellent!
Just to finish, a Beaune Aigrots for the road.
Very old vines, the most recent replanted here date from 1976, most are much older.
A little older colour. The colour medium, medium-plus. Not the deepest, but wide and silky fruit on the nose – red almost orange. Mouth-filling, silky, a certain sweetness and a growing intensity of flavour. Long finishing. Lovely wine. Nose adds a really captivating floral impression. Just a super wine.