Every now an then in the world of wine we come across descriptions that suggest a particular wine is either masculine or feminine in style. Across the great regions of France, some of the appellations are even pigeonholed by these terms. In the Cote de Beaune in Burgundy, the wines of Volnay are often termed feminine, whereas Pommard, which is right next door, is often described as masculine. In Bordeaux, the wines of Margaux are softer, while wines from Paulliac are “fuller” and more manly, and in the Northern Rhone are the great wines of Hermitage really “girly” compared with the brute force of Cote Rotie?
I have done this myself, especially when talking about Volnay or Chambolle Musigny (feminine) so I thought it was time to take a closer look. Feminine wines are often characterised as having finesses and elegance (see the photo from the vineyard in Chambolle). “Masculine” wines have lots of body and big tannins. This actually does a disservice to the variation within appellations, even wines made in the same vineyard! I suppose its an easy or lazy way of describing a wine so I think in future I’m going to ditch the battle of the sexes. If I think a wine has finesse and elegance, you can decide whether it is feminine or not and I will concentrate on the more important attributes of sight, aroma and taste.
If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, Volnay is from Volnay and Pommard is from, well Pommard!
The truth behind this post is that it gave me the opportunity to open two fantastic bottles of wine from the superb Burgundy domaine of Hubert de Montille. Hubert was the real star of the wine documentary Mondovino, which looks at the globalisation of wine styles. If you are a wine fan then order a copy as it is a really interesting, and often very amusing and frustrating watch. The domaine is now run by Hubert’s son and daughter, who both feature in film.
So a Friday night with The Fish and the in-laws. A beautiful dish of slow cooked partridge prepared by Den and some great cheese sourcing from Jan, and away we went…
Domaine Hubert de Montille, Les Pezerolles 1er Cru, Pommard 2001 (The Wine Society £49.00)
Very light crimson colour for Pommard but the nose is very interesting indeed. Autumnal with lots of musty leather, sweet spice and sweet red fruit. Raspberries and red currants on the palate with a deep smokey, cigar-like finish. Not super-concentrated but very sweet and refined – I was surprised to find this vineyard is on the Beaune side of Pommard as it is actually very reminiscent of Volnay. Was an excellent accompaniment to the partridge but I do wish I had decanted and given the wine a couple of hours to really open up. Top notch stuff indeed. 92 points
Domaine Hubert de Montille, Les Taillepieds 1er Cru, Volnay 2001 (The Wine Society £46.00)
Oh yes, this is very exciting! Very pale, almost rose look in the glass but the aromas are incredible. Strawberries, raspberries, sweet cherries, mushroom, truffle and undergrowth. Very sweet fruit on the palate with lively acidity and such freshness. Nicely integrated oak, and dashes of leather and sweet (vanilla?) spice. Warm, long, concentrated and sumptuous. Tannins are prominent but silky. This is my kind of wine and wish I could afford to drink it every night! 96 points