Domaine Stéphane Aladame

Chalonnaise Stardust from One of Montagny's Leading Lights

Around 180km south of Chablis, Montagny is the southernmost appellation of the Côte Chalonnaise and blessed with the kind of hilly, calcareous Burgundian terroir that most winemakers would sell a kidney for. Before the Great War, records show that Gamay and Aligoté were Montagny’s key varieties, but today the vineyards are classified for white only. The appellation owes its modern renown to the Buxy cooperative, which vinifies a whopping three-quarters of Montagny’s harvest.

Within a picture of modest aspirations, Stéphane Aladame has emerged as something of a lone wolf. Bringing the insight and rigour of a self-made grower, the young graduate set up shop in Montagny-les-Buxy at the ripe age of 18, renting three hectares of vines from a retiring grower. Since that time, he has earned an outstanding reputation in France, and the Domaine has grown to eight hectares (with seven of those classed as Premier Cru).

“Montagny is really quite unlike the other whites of the Côte Chalonnaise. There is a lively, fresh aspect that heads at least part of the way towards the marine character of Chablis, without the same oyster shells in the soils.” Jasper Morris MW

Like all of France’s most driven winegrowers, Aladame works tirelessly in his vineyards to produce the highest standards of grapes possible. The vineyards are densely planted, Stéphane works the soils (often by horse) and yields are kept thoughtfully low. Thanks to scale and to proximity, the harvesting is precise—and naturally, by hand.

Stéphane has predominantly worked organically since the early 2000s. In most years, he will use only natural treatments in the vineyard (when there’s heavy disease pressure, such as in 2016, minimal synthetic therapies may be employed throughout the year), and no herbicides will ever touch the vines. In the winery, the philosophy is classically minimalist with natural yeasts and minimal fining and/or filtration (which is only used if required). There is no new oak in the cellar; Aladame prefers to work with neutral 350-litre barrels, supported by stainless steel for his racier and younger-vine cuvées. The use of sulphur is sparse, with none of the wines from this Domaine passing 25 mg/L.

Jasper Morris explains that: “Montagny is really quite unlike the other whites of the Côte Chalonnaise. There is a lively, fresh aspect that heads at least part of the way towards the marine character of Chablis, without the same oyster shells in the soils.” Not only does Morris’ synopsis make us feel slightly better about our blind tasting experiences at this Domaine, but it also goes some way to describe the signature of Aladame’s whites. They are temptingly ripe and pretty, with succulent palates tethered to a core of mouth-watering brightness, which is born from a trio of lively acidity, mineral zip and phenolic freshness.

These are not the safe-and-pleasant regional stereotypes of yore, but top-drawer Chalonnaise wines with the stamp of quality grower street-cred. They are for those open-minded drinkers who don't drink vineyard names but instead are more concerned with the quality and integrity they find in the glass.

The Range

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“For me the star Montagny producer is Stéphane Aladame, who bucks the safe-and-pleasant Chalonnaise stereotype to conjure wines of real and enduring interest... whites of delicious precision.” Raymond Blake, The World of Fine Wine

“Winemakers, such as Stéphane Aladame, demonstrate that Montagny’s calcareous soils have a lot of untapped potential.” Neal Martin, Vinous

“As I wrote last year, Stéphane Aladame is one of Montagny's leading lights. His wines are pure, charming and worth seeking out.” William Kelley, The Wine Advocate

Country

France

Primary Region

Côte Chalonnaise.

People

Winemaker: Stéphane Aladame

Availability

National

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