Having a recurrent fascination with Burgundy, and an unfortunately small budget, I went to the closest store to work to pick up some Macon whites. Macon, as Neal Martin pointed out in a recent article, was the area that had made the most remarkable strides, and was still affordable, even at their very most expensive. Indeed, I’ve had a number of Pouilly-Fuisee’s that were better than a lot of Pulignys and Chassagnes, and even a cru vineyard from Domaine Ferret that was not unlike Batard-Montrachet.
This particular wine merchant has grown to be one of the big boys on the internet, and does a lot of direct importation – which is cool, I figured. There are something like 4500 producers in Burgundy, and only a small portion of them are imported. If his retailer imported the best of these unknowns, this could be my Shangri-la. Terrific wines for $12.99. Could it be that I could have a terrific source only blocks away?
“Once in a great while, you find wine from the Mâcon so good…”
The write-ups sounded fantastic. One had the following sign attached it:
“Once in a great while, you find wine from the Mâcon so good that when tasted blind you are forced to apply some much higher (and more expensive) appellation to it. Often, such a wine comes from hillside vineyards with better drainage and cooler nights. This is such a wine, from the slopes below the giant monolith of rock that is Solutré. Domaine Renaud is a small domaine, making Mâcon, Pouilly-Fuissé and St. Veran from 12 hectares of estate vineyards. Their cellar is modern, and they use upright ovals for many of the wines, and stainless for others.”
Along with that sign, I asked the clerks: “Which would you recommend: This 2012 Macon, or this 2011 Macon-Villages?” The answered “They are both good, if you like crisp, minerally chardonnay. And who doesn’t like that?”
So I bought both, plus a really cheap bottle of Chardonnay from the Loire – which I didn’t have very high expectations for but how bad could it be. But for $6.99 I wasn’t really going to complain. As it turns out, I’m complaining.
Bottle one:2011 Bernier, Chardonnay Val de Loire $6.99: Spritzy. Really Spritzy. After I knocked the gas out of it (which took quite a bit of effort, it was fine, and simple apple fruit, and the Loire’s characteristic limey-ness that you see in so many wines from the region. Fairly solid, pretty much what I would expect, though it could have been much worse.
Bottle two: 2011 Domaine des Niales, Macon-Village Vieilles Vigne $12.99: Spritzy, Really Spritzy. This too took quite a bit of doing to get the gas out of. Underneath it was a fairly simple wine with apple, and while it still had CO2 trapped in it, minerality. But once the CO2 was gone so were the minerals. Relatively light in weight for Chardonnay, and very representative of what has been made in Macon for the past two decades. Not special in any particular way. I was certainly hoping for more given the quality strides made in the region.
Bottle Three: 2011 Domaine Renaud Macon-Solutré $12.99: Spritzy, Really Spritzy! Underneath all the spritz was a lightly concentrated, very traditional Macon, much like the Niales. It was fine, but seemed a little bit simple, with all the minerality disappearing with the spritz.Ok, what’s going on here? Three bottles in a row? Seriously?
“these were near sparkling levels of CO2 – totally unacceptable levels”
OK, I’m losing my patience here a little. This Renaud was the wine I’d had the most hope for. Solutré is shared by Pouilly-Fuisse Vergisson, and the surrounding Macon-Solutré. I picture a small producer, working the land, probably a husband-wife team which is common in Macon. This was the story of hard-working artisanal farmers in a majestic location like Macon-Solutré. That is the romance of wine. This just tasted like all the cheap Macon’s I’ve ever had, without ever stepping outside-the-box. AN it was the third spritzy wine in a row!
Maybe all the spritzy bottles made me feel a little negative toward this and the others wines. I’m well aware that crisp, steel-raised whites can be bottled with a little CO2 to help protect them, as they have short life spans. And it is true, that any wine can have an occasionally spritzy bottle. But these were near sparkling levels of CO2 – totally unacceptable levels if done to protect the wine. Recently I’ve had increasing numbers of spritzy bottles, to the point where maybe a full third of the wines I buy in stores have this problem. Granted my budget precludes me from buying expensive wines, but really, this is not acceptable. I don’t return them, because they are not ruined, they can be de-gassed, but it is disappointing nonetheless.
- I Would Buy a Case of this Outstanding Chardonnay Domaine Ferret “Les Vernays” Pouilly-Fuissé (manoavino.typepad.com)
- Mâconnais (nov14th.wordpress.com)
- Terroirist Tuesday: Burgundy – Of Monks, Dukes, Bad Choices & Frickin’ Good Wine (binnotes.com)