Making it with Macon, pulling rabbits out of the Pouilly hat

More deals from Burgundy

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

23 March 2016

Just as one can find high calibre, low price octane wines in Chablis, the same can be said for the Mâconnaise region of Burgundy, billed as the Symphonie Mâconnaise during this wine filled Grands Jours de Bourgogne week in late March, a wonderfully festive biennial event for wine professionals and hacks like me.


2014? A no brainer vintage for white Burgundy. And from quality minded producers in the Maconnais like Domaine de la Garenne.

As I have told people many times over, you can find premier cru Puligny Montrachet for $150 a bottle, that is probably going to be very delicious. But what about finding delicious $15 white Burgundy? It is possible. And here some wines that prove that point. Please, people. Wine is not just a status symbol with which to impress your neighbors. It is not a work of art that you hang on your wall so that everyone can say ooh and ah. Well, yes, I love expensive wines that are amazing. Who doesn’t? But is a wine that costs 10 times more necessarily 10 times better?

No way, Jose.

The trick is to find serious producers from (still, now) less heralded regions that take the best advantage of microclimates – and make darn good fermented grape juice.

Here a few highlights from tastings from nearly 200 Mâconnais producers at the #GrandsJoursdeBourgogne this week:

Château de Lavernette has some fine terroirs in Chaintré and Fuissé. 2013 was a challenge for many vintners but here we find wines that exude freshness and precision even in a tough vintage. For example, the Pouilly-Fuissé Maison du Villard Cuvee J Jacques de Boissieu – with 15% new oak – carried weight and conveys precision. Even better is their Pouilly-Fuissé Vers Châne 2013, which is lovely and fresh, coming from a cooler higher elevation terroir (320 meters) from a rather large appellation whose climates are not always this interesting. This producer’s soils include much limestone for example.


With Pierre-Henri Lassarat of Domaine Roger Lassarat

Of course it is always a pleasure to taste the excellent wines of Pierre-Henri Lassarat of Domaine Roger Lassarat. I introduced the 2014s, 2013s and 2012s (from magnum) that he was pouring to importers based in both Germany and Ukraine and everyone liked them. Thanks to my having worked as a wine steward on Nantucket Island, I discovered his wines back in 2007.  His Saint Veran Le Cras in 2014, to take but one example, was lovely, focused, and the Le Cras 2012 from magnum, while a touch heavier, was brisk and delicious, too.

I also loved the Domaine Barraud, which has 11 hectares in the northern village of Vergisson. Take the Pouilly-Fuissé “La Verchère” made from 60-year-old vines, cultivated on limestone and marl soils yielding wine with iodine like freshness and verve as well as substance. Sure the terrific 2014 vintage brings out the best of the climate/terroir, but for about 20 euros a bottle, this is very good indeed.

Some of the well known negociant houses are making superlative wines, too, such as the Mâcon-Bussières Les Clos 2014 by Joseph Drouhin: at just about 10 euros this comes across as fresh, elegant, smooth and focused – with decent length, too. Bravo!

Vintage does make a difference, even in lower price points

And you can even get lower priced wines with fine quality, especially in 2014. For example for 7 euros a bottle, the Domaine de la Garenne Mâcon-Azé 2014, made from vines on stony soils in cooler locations, is smooth, tasty and fresh. Of course vintage makes a difference – and 2014 is going to be judged ultimately as superlative, generally speaking, for white Burgundy. I tried the 2013 of the same wine and it was far less inspiring, with some botrytis that got in the blend, yielding a sticky aspect that was not so appealing. Buy, hey, buying based on vintages is nothing new…

I will post more examples with updates on this page, so stay tuned ;-).






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