Having lived for a year in the town of Mâcon, I am partial to wines from this lesser-known Burgundian region. Wines from the Mâconnais are often overlooked, and whenever I’m defending my uncouth preference, I turn to the wines of Domaine Robert-Denogent to argue my case—to highly pleasing results. Case in point: their Pouilly-Fuissé La Croix. From a vineyard of eighty-year-old vines on blue schist soil comes this complex and chiseled wine with a striking mineral backbone and lush, round body. Bright acidity from the soil, warm suppleness from the sun, and depth of flavor from the old vines—what more can you ask for?
Jean-Jacques Robert took over five hectares of his grandfather’s vines in the Mâconnais just outside the village of Fuissé after finishing law school in 1988. Though most of the harvest had always been sold off to the cooperatives, the small parcels that made up the domaine were already understood to enjoy unique microclimates, producing Pouilly-Fuissés of great pedigree. Jean-Jacques soon came under the influence of two ardent defenders of terroir, the great master of Morgon, Marcel Lapierre, and American importer, Kermit Lynch. Little by little, Jean-Jacques has introduced radical changes to the domaine, finally realizing its full potential. He is now joined by his sons, Nicolas and Antoine.
In eastern central France, Burgundy is nestled between the wine regions of Champagne to the north, the Jura to the east, the Loire to the west, and the Rhône to the south. This is the terroir par excellence for producing world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The southeast-facing hillside between Dijon in the north and Maranges in the south is known as the Côte d’Or or “golden slope.” The Côte d’Or comprises two main sections, both composed of limestone and clay soils: the Côte de Nuits in the northern sector, and the Côte de Beaune in the south. Both areas produce magnificent whites and reds, although the Côte de Beaune produces more white wine and the Côte de Nuits more red.
Chablis is Burgundy’s northern outpost, known for its flinty and age-worthy Chardonnays planted in Kimmeridgian limestone on an ancient seabed. Vézelay is a smaller area south of Chablis with similar qualities, although the limestone there is not Kimmeridgian.
To the south of the Côte de Beaune, the Côte Chalonnaise extends from Chagny on its northern end, down past Chalon-sur-Saône and encompasses the appellations of Bouzeron in the north, followed by Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny.
Directly south of the Chalonnaise begins the Côte Mâconnais, which extends south past Mâcon to the hamlets of Fuissé, Vinzelles, Chaintré, and Saint-Véran. The Mâconnais is prime Chardonnay country and contains an incredible diversity of soils.
When buying red Burgundy, I think we should remember:
1. Big wines do not age better than light wine. 2. A so-called great vintage at the outset does not guarantee a great vintage for the duration. 3. A so-called off vintage at the outset does not mean the wines do not have a brilliant future ahead of them. 4. Red Burgundy should not taste like Guigal Côte-Rôtie, even if most wine writers wish it would. 5. Don’t follow leaders; watch yer parking meters.
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