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Oct 27, 2020

The Mâconnais is the southernmost area of Burgundy, known for excellent Chardonnay. Although it's often overshadowed by the other parts of Burgundy and only given credit for AOC Pouilly-Fuissé, this picturesque and historic Chardonnay-dominated region has some of exciting appellations you should seek out to see what Mâcon is capable of (hint: a lot, at great prices to boot!)


Source: Vins de Bourgogne

 

Here are the show notes: 

Mâcon location:

  • The Mâconnais is located between the Côte Chalonnaise and Beaujolais in Burgundy. It is a transitional area between the north and south of France, where the climate starts to warm a bit, and plusher, fuller styles of wine are possible.
  • The vineyards are on a long strip between two valleys split by the Saône River in the east as it flows south to meet the Rhône and Grosne River in the west.
  • The Mâconnais has 3,345.82 ha/8,268 acres of vineyard over rolling hills that intersperse with pastures, orchards and other agriculture.
  • Chardonnay represents 80% of all vines planted in the region. Reds are made of Gamay and Pinot Noir. Mâcon covers wines of white, red, and rosé.

 

 

History

  • Vines have been here since Gallo-Roman times but viticulture took off with the Abbey of Cluny, a Benedictine monastery founded in AD 910. These monks were dedicated to viticulture and were responsible for spreading it all over Europe: The order of monks from Cluny at its height had 20,000 monks in 2,000 dependent monasteries from Portugal to Poland. In response to the success of Cluny, the Cistercian Abbey of Cîteau, equally influential in wine, began in 1098.The monastic influence lasted through 15th -16th centuries, but as that tradition waned, so did the demand for wines from the homeland at Cluny in the Mâconnais.
  • Historically reds were favored for wine (there is a lot of Gamay, since Mâcon was not part of the Duchy of Burgundy and hence it was never outlawed to grow it here as it was farther north), but whites began to increase in popularity after phylloxera in the 1870s. Still, even in 1952, over 60% of the wine was red

 

Source: Vins de Bourgogne

Mâcon Location/Land

  • The Mâcon is separated by a series of parallel faults, many vineyards like on north/north-westerly or south/south-easterly exposure. To the southwest of the town of Tournus,there are little valleys that are great for vines. To the south the hills open to an area that has two rocky outcrops, the most important being Vergisson and Solutré – the lower slopes of these rocky peaks is the best area in the Mâcon. Soils range from limestone to flinty clay with sandstone pebbles, and schist. This is a sunny area with warm summers and a risk of spring frosts.

 

Source: Vins de Bourgogne

 

The Appellations 

Mâcon Appellation

  • This broad appellation makes red, white, and rosé from anywhere in the Mâconnais. The main grapes are Chardonnay for white, and Gamay and Pinot Noir for the reds and rosés, although most of the Pinot Noir is used for general AOC Bourgogne rouge. Lots of other regional wines are sourced from here – Crémant, Bourgogne Passe-tout-grains and Bourgogne Aligoté. Since many wines classify for the higher specificity Mâcon-Villages, the Mâcon appellation is used far less. They are easy drinkers -- the white is Chardonnay, red Gamay and Pinot Noir.

 


Macon-Villages

  • If a wine is harvested within a specific commune, producers can use the word Villages on the label. The best comes from a delimited region of dozens of villages in the southern section of the Mâcon – from the town of Chardonnay down to the border with Beaujolais.
  • The limited amount of red is mainly Gamay and is fruity, violet scented, and fill. The reds are simple and easy to drink. The rosés have similar flavors to the reds, but are acidic yet mouth filling. Mâcon Villages Blanc are reliable Chardonnays with good acidity and honeysuckle, apple, and some grassy/shrubby notes. Like everything in the Mâconnais, the flavors will vary based on village/terroir and the winemaker.
  • A higher and more reliable version of Mâcon-Villages is Mâcon plus the name of the village. These include:
    • Lugny, Mancey, Milly, Lamartine, Péronne, Pierreclos, Prissé, La Roche-Vineuse, Serrières, Saint-Gengoux-le-National, Verzé.
    • Best villages are usually Lugny or Prissé
  • A lot of wine sold to big merchants. Good producers: Joseph Drouhin, Louis Latour, Verget

 

 

Pouilly Fuissé

  • AOC Pouilly-Fuissé was created in 1936. It was well known as an excellent collection of sites and regulators chose land for the appellation that was covered in the best soil -- clay with limestone base. It was decided that there would be no Premier Crus and there are none to this day.
  • Pouilly-Fuissé is a large appellation: 1,871 acres of vineyard land, which yield about 400,000 cases per year. Located between the cliffs of Solutré and Vergisson lie the villages: Solutré-Pouilly, Fuissé, Vergisson and Chaintré. They vary in rainfall, climate, altitude but the best vines grow on lower slopes of the two cliffs, where sun exposure and diurnals are ideal. Slopes face east and southeast and some are northwest facing and rise to altitudes of 200m/650 ft to 300m/984 ft.
  • The wines range greatly in this appellation both because of varied terroir, and because of diverse winemaking techniques. The best is known to be a little smoky not from oak, but from terroir. The Chardonnays can range in flavor – those aged in stainless steel or concrete egg are like apple, citrus, and peach with good acidity. If oak aged and quite ripe, they may be more like honey, pineapple, nuts, and butter. In bad examples, the oak overcomes the fruit. Some are ull and rich in flavor and soft in texture, and can have alcohol levels exceeding 14% ABV.

Top Producers: Olivier Merlin, Jean Rijckaert, Chateau Fuissé, Verget


Source: Vins de Bourgogne

 Pouilly-Loché

  • One of the smallest of appellations Bourgogne in terms of land, this is an historic area with an east-facing hillside overlooking the Saône. There are some older soils north of the village of Loché with schist and sandstone, and in the south there is heavier, mineral rich soil. Although these Chardonnay-based wines are floral and peachy, and can be acidic and refreshing, the quality and flavor varies because the terroir varies so much.

 

Pouilly-Vinzelles

  • This appellations shares an East-facing slope with Chaintré (in Pouilly-Fuissé appellation) and is near the big rock of Solutré. Much like Pouilly-Loché, soils vary – so the wine will taste different depending on whether the vines are planted on upper or lower slopes. They are similar to those of Pouilly-Loché, but can take on fuller brioche and almond notes if from those heavier soil types and if oak aged. Older wines (5+years) can even gain mushroom and earth notes.

 

 

Saint-Véran AOC: A top appellation and a great value

  • Gaining its AOC in 1971, Saint-Véran forms a belt around Pouilly-Fuissé. It is 1,590 acres, slightly smaller than Pouilly-Fuissé, which splits Saint-Véran into two areas, both of which lie on the slopes of the rock of Solutré. The old fossilized limestone soils on the west side create lighter wines than those on the eastern slopes, which are made up of marly limestone, clay, and flint. Lower in altitude than others, with some flat areas, parts of Saint-Véran overlap Beaujolais, particularly St. Amour (a cru of Beaujolais), which usually uses the Saint-Véran appellation for its whites.
  • These wines are acidic with smoke, white flower, peach, pear, and pineapple aromas and flavors. Oak can make the wine a bit nutty nuttiness. These wines are a bit zippier than those of Pouilly-Fuissé

Top Producers:  La Soufrandiere, Domaine Cordier

Source: Vins de Bourgogne

 

Viré-Clessé - High quality appellation

  • A high-quality appellation formed from the top two of the Mâcon-Villages, Viré and Clessé, this appellation is a baby – it was created in 1999. With limestone hills and chalky clay soils, these vines grow on hills and include white wines of Chardonnay only. The wines range from smoky and balsamic to citrusy, herbal, minty, and acidic. There can be oak treatment on the wines, which can add notes of nuts and butter, but these are generally acidic, great value Chardonnay (good ones start under US$20).

Top Producers: Domaine de la Bongran, Domaine Andre Bonhomme, Domaine des Heritiers, Chanson

 

Source: Vins de Bourgogne

Here is a great video on the Mâconnais from Vins de Bourgogne

 

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