Moving south, we arrive in the sunnier Maconnais, a part of Burgundy blessed with just the slightest hint of the Mediterranean’s balmy influence. Riper fruit mingles with floral charm, backed by a lively acidity and the concentrated minerality of deeply rooted vines planted in the 1940s. Perrusset excels at crafting wines that are accessible, true to their origin, and reliably delicious at a great price—that’s satisfaction guaranteed.
A few decades ago, in a small, local vigneron hangout in the Beaujolais, Kermit and Henri Perrusset met rather serendipitously. There weren’t enough tables in the restaurant and the hostess seated Kermit with Henri, who was just finishing up his meal. Their conversation blossomed, and Henri invited Kermit to visit and taste his first vintage. We have been buying these delicious, distinctive Chardonnays ever since. For decades, the Mâconnais has been dominated by the banal bottlings of cooperative cellars. But at the same time, Henri Perrusset has been working his vineyards by hand, reducing his yields to improve grape quality, all while offering us very reasonable prices.
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.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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