- Burgundy /Mâconnais
The Mâconnais is Burgundy’s frontier region where the full potential of the Chardonnay grape is only just beginning to be realised. Thanks in part to a new wave of producers Pouilly-Fuissé is now at an unprecedented level of quality, increasingly expressed in individual climats that make this region so complex and fascinating. Not only has there been a strong movement away from previously overblown high-octane examples but a handful of growers are also revitalising the soils of exceptional vineyard plots scattered wide across the Mâconnais.
The Mâconnais produces as much wine as the Côte d’Or and Côte Chalonnaise combined, though much of it is pretty ordinary. Red under the Mâcon and Mâcon Supérieur ACs is usually poor and Gamay-based; any better reds are likely to be sold as Bourgogne Rouge. Limestone soils are important to the increasing percentage of Chardonnay planted in the region and much of what is produced is sold as Mâcon-Villages or hyphenated with the name of the individual village (such as Uchizy or Chardonnay). This is increasingly a source of good-quality, and often relatively inexpensive, white Burgundy. Many of the best examples come from producers based in Pouilly-Fuissé or Saint-Véran (see below). Of these, Jean Rijckaert has been a leader in realising the untapped potential here. Other good examples are coming from growers based in one of the many communes spread across the rolling countryside who have been brave enough to go it alone instead of selling to the dominant co-ops. Try the wines from Fichet or Maillet. Since 1998, Viré-Clessé has been a separate appellation for a stretch of vineyards near the eastern edge of the Mâcon centred on the villages of Viré and Clessé.
Heart of the Mâconnais
For long the greatest interest has been centred on Pouilly-Fuissé in the very south of the Mâconnais. This large appellation has a little over twice the vineyard area of Meursault and there are considerable differences in both quality and style across the four communes of Chaintré, Fuissé, Solutré and Vergisson – the latter two being famous for the rock bluffs that proved useful in prehistoric times for herding and killing wild animals. Now, these slopes that run down from the foot of the cliffs are some of the best in the region for producing rich, ripe, full-bodied whites. There are still some heavy, alcoholic whites but radical improvement over the last decade or so has seen the emergence of wines to rival all but the most elegant, refined and complete premier and grand cru Côte de Beaune whites. In contrast to Chablis many more growers harvest all their grapes manually and there is better identification of individual climats. As well as displaying increasing balance and harmony there is definite refinement and elegance from the top sites. At a lower level the wines are more immediate and obvious than something from the Côte de Beaune.
North of Chaintré at the eastern limit of these hills are the separate villages of Pouilly-Loché and Pouilly-Vinzelles. Quality here has been mixed at best but there has been improvement – the Bret Brothers/La Soufrandière have shown what is possible. Saint-Véran encompasses Chardonnay vineyards from villages to the north and south of Pouilly-Fuissé. Although quality is very producerdependent, ranging from the lean and angular to intense, ripe and minerally wines (usually at lower prices than Pouilly), there has generally been an enormous improvement over the last 5-10 years. From the best plots some growers are actually able to make better Saint-Véran than they do Pouilly-Fuissé. Still more potential is being realised from other sites further along a north-west axis from Pouilly-Fuissé, including Merlin at La Roche Vineuse, Guffens-Heynen/Verget at Sologny and Héritiers du Comte Lafon at Milly Lamartine.
The following wine producers have a full profile in Wine behind the label:
A to Z of producers by appellation
Héritiers du Comte Lafon
Cave de Prissé-Sologny-Verzé
Domaine Thévenet/de la Bon Grain
Denis Barraud/Dom. des Nembrets
Ch. de Beauregard/ Joseph Burrier
Ch. de Fuissé
|Ch. des Rontets |
Dom. Sophie Cinier
Dom. de La Collonge/ Gilles Noblet
A & A Devillard
Dom. Thierry Drouin
Dom. J A Ferret
Dom. des Gerbeaux
Dom. Guffens-Heynen / Verget
Dom. Roger Lassarat
Jacques & Nathalie Saumaize
Dom. La Soufrandise
Dom.Thibert Père et Fils
Dom. Pierre Vessigaud
La Soufrandière/Bret Brothers
Dom. de la Croix Senaillet
Dom. des Deux Roches