Winter white wines with enough body to counter the cold
John Wilson: Easy-drinking chardonnay from France’s Maconnais region
Macon-Uchizy 2019, Saint-Véran 2018, Macon-Villages 2019 and Pouilly-Fuissé 2018.
There was a time when Pouilly-Fuissé was one of the most popular white wines in Ireland. Wine bores delighted in pronouncing the “pouwiyi” bit and informing you that it bore no relation to Pouilly-Fumé, which is over in the Loire Valley, whereas Fuissé is in Burgundy. Nowadays Lugny is the most familiar name from the Maconnais for most, and probably easier to pronounce.
The region to the west of the city of Macon produces large amounts of softly-textured, easy-drinking chardonnay. These can be the most reliable and keenly-priced wines of all. As you move upwards in price, there are some sensationally good wines at prices that won’t clean out your bank account.
The area has the classic French four-tier quality system – although no vin de pays here. The most basic is Macon, then Macon-Villages, followed by Macon with a name attached, such as Macon-Lugny or Macon-Charnay. All of these can also be labelled Bourgogne blanc. (Forest Avenue has a very good specially-sourced version for €29.)
At the top of the tree are the single villages such as the aforementioned Pouilly-Fuissé, as well as Saint-Véran, Viré-Clessé and others. These tend to be located on sites with the most favourable soils and have lower permitted yields. Pouilly-Fuissé, with its limestone soils, is capable of producing the finest wines in the region, although cheap versions can be uninspiring. Frasier Crane once proclaimed it “nectar of the gods”. From the 2020 vintage onwards, Pouilly-Fuissé will have 22 vineyards designated as premiers crus.
The Maconnais is in the south of Burgundy, so the weather is a little warmer, and the wines tend to be richer and more textured than those from farther north. They are ideal winter white wines with enough body to counter the cold, and great with seafood such as salmon, turbot, black sole and shellfish as well as white meats.
Some producers, inspired by the legendary Jean Thévenet, harvest grapes later, sometimes with a touch of noble rot. Thévenet’s Domaine de la Bongran (€39.15, winesdirect.ie) is one of the world’s great chardonnays. Look out also for the names Verget, Barraud, Corsin, Manciat-Poncet and Jean-Marie Guffens. One of my favourite wines of 2020 was a bottle of André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé 2013. Le Caveau has the current vintages for €24-€25. I have yet to be disappointed with these wines, young or old.
Most of the multiples have a decent Macon, usually priced about €10 a bottle. The co-op at Lugny is the largest in France; generally the wines are sound. Whelehans has two fine producers from the region, Domaine Guerrin and Carrette, while Wines Direct probably has the best selection of all, with the various estates of Jean Thévenet, as well as Saumaize-Michelin and the excellent Bret Brothers.
Light, rounded green apple fruits and a crisp dry finish. Drink it by itself or with grilled white fish or lighter chicken dishes.
Stockist: Lidl, lidl.ie.
Saint-Véran, En Creches, 2018, Domaine Jacques Saumaize
A crisp, refreshing wine, with green apples, pears and a long mineral finish. This would go nicely with oysters, grilled plaice or sea bass.
Stockists: Grapevine, Dalkey, Co Dublin, onthegrapevine.ie; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey, barnhillstores.ie; Cabot and Co, Westport, Co Mayo, cabotandco.com; PoppySeed, Clarinbridge, Co Galway, poppyseed.ie; Devour Deli, Ballinrobe, Co Mayo.
Macon-Uchizy 2019, Meurgey-Croses
Clean softly textured greengage and red apple fruits, with a nice tangy acidity. Try it with roast chicken, turbot or grilled hake.
Stockists: Pembroke Wines in Roly’s Bistro, Dublin 4; 64wine, Glasthule, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, 64wine.ie; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3, clontarfwines.ie.
Pouilly-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes 2018, Domaine La Soufrandise
A wonderful wine that oozes class. Succulent peach fruits and subtle grilled hazelnuts countered perfectly by a fine mineral acidity. Try this with roast chicken, grilled turbot or maybe even lobster.
Stockists: La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow, latouchewines4u.ie; Morton’s, Dublin 6, mortons.ie; The Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Thomas’s of Foxrock, thomasoffoxrock.ie; wineonline.ie.