My first WBW (Wine Blogging Wednesday) ! Thank you to fellow Brooklynguyloveswine from New York (Sorry, Brooklyn !) who dragged me into the party. Here is my choice of the day for a wine from the Maconnais...
We now can feel the sense of place when we remember the white Macon-wines that we tasted the other day at the inaugural opening of Racines (the wine bar) in Paris. Guy Blanchard had served us several nice Chardonnays, a surprising Macon Montbellet "les Perrières" 2005, which had quite a Savagnin feel. We tasted the same wine here but from another cask and it was still another story, a "vin de fête", or festive wine with an ample, rich mouth, yet balanced with minerality. Complex, quince-paste aromas with a good lasting in the mouth. This wine sells for 9 Euro at the winery. His other wines are Macon-Villages Montbellet [pic on left] at 7 Euro, Macon-Villages Bouchat at 8 Euro and a natural sparkling that we didn't taste.
The Maconnais is at the southern tip of the Burgundy Appellation area and most of the wines there are whites, and Chardonnays of course. The region is known for its cheaper and simpler Chardonnay wines compared with the rest of Burgundy north from here, and like other regions sharing the same quality handicap, it has a good potential to improve, helped by lower real-estate prices and by people who don't look for high yields and volumes. If you are tired of paying to much hard-won money for Chablis, that's where you can explore and look for gems, some vignerons there are doing a great job all by themselves, and still live relatively modestly by the Cote D'Or- or Chablis standard.
Guy Blanchard is one of them. We could almost label his wines garage wines if we consider his vineyard surface : 1,5 hectare. But garage wines are usually made by city types or wealthy professionals who try their chance with a wine adventure. He is no city type and the old house in the background is the house where he is born. It was bought by his grandfather and was built somewhere near 1870.
On the viticulture side, he farms organic and has been sensitive to the question since his years at the agriculture school, even though there was nothing like organic-farming training there, it was more because of discussions he had with fellow pupils, it was already in the air. His vinification philosophy is, let it go at its rhythm without any additive of any sort, the fermentation starting by itself with the natural yeasts. Here are whites that never had any sulphur addition, including at bottling.
__Macon Les Perrières 2006. Chardonnay. Harvested sept 9 2006. Named "M.L.", for Mauvaise Lune, or "Wrong Moon" because it wasn't harvested the right day according to the moon calendar : he and his friends-vignerons have a timetable to harvest at each other's plot and sometimes they can't choose the day (the best harvest time is the waning moon on fruit- or flower days). Relatively clear wine, roundness, balanced. This wine will be bottled soon, he also asked for a test to see if he can abstain from SO2. Since the 2005 millesime, there has been no SO2 in his wines (vinification or bottling).
__Macon Villages Montbellet, les Perrières 2005 (bottle). Nice nose, a Chardonnay with aromatic intensity. Bottled by gravity, leaving the lees (3-4 liters) in the bottom of the cask. More complexity here. 14,5° alcohol maybe.
__The turbid, problematic wine from the vat. Also a Macon les Perrières Chardonnay 2006. Reduction on the nose. Comes from young vines (but there are also old vines in les Perrières). We swirl the glass to let the gas out.
__Chardonnay 2006, this wine was in a stainless-steel vat and was making some "oil" at the surface, a physical process which happens sometimes but doesn't affect the taste. He put the wine in a cask on lees from 2005. Usually, the vintners stir the wine or rack it to correct this problem. He racked it, then stirred the wine. Beautiful nose, honey, white flowers, citrus. Neater wine compared with the former. B.says that it is the one which has the best substance. Old vines from the Bouchat plot.
__Macon les Perrières 2005 old vines (70-year old). 20 ares of old vines, or two casks. More density in the color, B. says. Very low yields here. Beautiful nose, every one agrees. B. finds it less neat. Her brother finds it straightforward. Nice length. B. notes that his wines are aromatically on the mirabelle (plum) side. This wine will be bottled soon.
__Macon les Perrières 2005, same plot, the 2nd cask. A bit higher in alcohol maybe. B. says it loks less rich which makes it more firm and more mineral. Guy Blanchard says that it is less on sugar than the previous one, it is more evolved.
__Macon le Bouchat 2007. Turbid, still fermenting. May need 2 years to finish its fermentations. The mouth is still "vin bourru", lots of sugar and grape juice. Perly. From a sandy plot.
__Macon les Perrières "Haut des Perrières" 2007. Color : a bit orange. More CO2. Sugar and substance. Clayish soil. Makes a very different mouth.
It is so cold and damp in Burgundy (and in the Beaujolais nearby) at this time of the year, even inside the chai and the surface cellar, we're frozen to the bones. The non-air-conditioned cellar holds 30 casks (most are 10-year old) with wines from 2005, 2006 and 2007. He doesn't vinify all his grapes and sells grapes each year (7 tons in 2007), grapes from organicly-farmed vineyards sell well, and he may keep more of his harvest when his wines sell better. The wines in the cask aren't moved or touched in any way, no stirring, and till now everything went fine. with the 2006 wines it could be more difficult but he'll see after a while. September 2006 was too hot, even quite tropical and humid, and it boosted the grapes which were already fragile that year, and had very thin skins. As a result, he has a vat of Chardonnay 2006 which isn't clearing up and remains hazy and turbid even though both fermentations are completed. That's for this wine that he asked for a test. He'll probably try to put the wine on 2005 lees to see how it turns.
The Perrières block here holds young Chardonnay vines (20 years) and older vines (70 years), but they're not that much different in size. If there's an obvious difference here, it's between his organicly-farmed vineyard and the conventional one in the back : While his vines have already lost their leaves, the conventional ones still have their now-yellowish-brownish leaves (you can see the color difference in the background 50 meters away on the picture above) and the reason can be found by scrubbing at the foot of the "conventional" vines. It took him a few seconds to find several small grey fertilizer-particules that didn't melt into the ground. The fertilzers pump energy artificially into the vines and they can't begin their rest like they should at this time of the year. Seeing that makes you realize that it can't be without effect on the wine to disturb the rest cycle of the vine.