One of Burgundy's most respected winemakers, Hubert de Montille, has died aged 84. Christy Canterbury MW reflects on the life of the outspoken lawyer who saved his family domaine.


Hubert de Montille with his son, Etienne, and daughter, Alix. Image credit: Decanter / Clay MacLachlan (2011)

Hubert de Montille
passed away Saturday 1 November at the dining table with family, friends and a glass of Pommard Rugiens 1999.

Quick to smile – and to argue – de Montille was a tour de force in Burgundy. As Dominique Lafon said yesterday, de Montille’s capacity for a good argument, especially about wine, made him larger than life.

Born into a winemaking tradition that began in the 18th Century, before the French Revolution, he was thrust into winemaking in his late teens following his father’s death. His mother proposed that she sell the family home and vineyards to give him an education, but Hubert adamantly refused.

De Montille embraced his Burgundian homeland and its wine culture. He celebrated wine that showed its terroir, but wine to him was never a social trophy.

When he inherited his family estate, what had been a grand domaine with holdings in the Cote de Nuits and the Cote de Beaune had been whittled down to just three hectares. As a barrister in Dijon during the week and vigneron over the weekend, de Montille more than saved the family domaine. He grew it and its reputation.

He did not, however, set out to become known for his wines. He always said that he made wines that suited his own tastes. He bottled his own wines rather than selling them to negociants, and he said he preferred lower alcohol wines and cared more about perfume than colour. His wines were infamously tough early on, yet they aged beautifully.

Hubert de Montille is survived by his children Isabelle, Etienne and Alix, three grandchildren. Services for de Montille will be held in Beaune at 2:30 pm on Friday, 7 November.

Written by Christy Canterbury MW