Since the 2020 vintage will bring 1er Cru to Pouilly-Fuissé, I think we can expect that to some level, prices and scarcity will rise. I think it means that I should be on the lookout for recent vintages since I’ve been late to the Mâconnais game especially for whites.
I was going through my CT including consumed bottles in the past 2 years and I realized that A, I don’t have any (nada) Pouilly-Fuissé in stock and B, I have consumed 15 bottles of this AOC only over that period. That’s why I feel limited when I think of producers I should buy. The ones I’ve had over the last 2 years are: Dominique Cornin, Jean Rijckaert, Jean-Jacques Vincent, Domaine Romanin, Château des Rontets, Château Fuissé and Frantz Chagnoleau.
What are your holdings and recommendations for Pouilly-Fuissé? Any climats you are particularly fond of?
Honestly, I would be surprised, given that the US is the largest export market for these wines by a margin, and they’ve been hit hard by the tariffs. And I’m not sure consumers will be excited to pay a premium for the same wine simply because the words “premier cru” are on the label (just look at the prices of Montagny 1er Cru). For me, the best thing to come out of it is that herbicides will be prohibited for anyone using the premier cru designation (an attempt to ban machine harvesting as well was rejected).
You might be right. Time will tell. But I think that for the more general public, Pouilly-Fuissé is better known than Montagny. I also think that for a lot of consumers, if they see a 1er Cru on the label, they will accept (expect?) to pay more. For a more knowledgeable consumer with experience with the AOC, I would tend to agree but then again, wine aficionados frequently accept price hikes of 15-20% (sometimes yearly) and continue to buy the wines they like or love. For a less discerning consumer, I think it can change her/his perception and justify a higher price tag. Tariffs will go, classification will stay.
Besides, for me, this speculation is a great way to justify buying more bottles from an AOC I know less about… hurray.
Well, 70% of Pouilly-Fuissé is bottled by the Beaune négociants and goes into distribution in a context where I think price pressure is real, but as you say, we will see!
But if it brings more attention to the appellation, that’s of course a great thing.
Some producers to look at…
Guffens-Heynen - for me the best producer in the Mâconnais, brilliant, emotion-inducing wines that age very well
Jules Desjourneys - a newer label, made by Fabien Duperray who distributes the likes of Coche, Ente in France, very sophisticated winemaking, fruit sourced from Domaine Thibert as I understand it
Cornin and Rontets you both have on your list - great producers (I think Rontets, being high altitude, will be excluded from the 1er cru)
Héritiers Lafon and Chagnoleau (Franz is married to Caroline Gon who makes the Lafon wines) are both very nice in a leaner, more minimalist aesthetic
Denis Jeandeau, especially his cuvée Sécret Mineral is also a fine-boned, elegant style
Denogent in a richer, more textural, long-élevage style
Valette in a wilder, natural style that is quite (increasingly) extreme
J.A. Ferret - Jadot owned for a while, but deserves to be taken more seriously as they are some of the best wines in the AOC and made sur place with great attention by their own winemaker Audrey Braccini.
Daniel Barraud - whose best wine from lieu-dit En Bulands will be excluded from the 1er cru
Those are a few of my favorites. I have over 100 bottles of Guffens in my own cellar, so my money is where my mouth is.
It’s worth noting that the 1er cru limits seem to have been determined more with a view to avoiding setting a precedent which would enable people in the Côte d’Or to petition for even more 1ers crus than with a view to which sites are actually the best. It’s the warmest, ripest, more southerly exposed sites that have been classified as 1er cru, with several very fine high altitude or differently exposed climats being missed out. I wrote to the INAO about this, as did many others, but I don’t think any important changes were made. But perhaps someone can correct me.
Thank you for the recommendation. I can find quite a few of those here so I’ll add those to the cellar. Desjourney, I know for his Bojo crus but had never heard of his Pouilly-Fuissé.
I thought that in this day and age, classification would have been more aligned to climate and specificity but I guess it is a little naive considering how much is at stake and that it is decided by a classic French institution…!
I forgot to ask: any premox issue with Guffens-Heynen? Unfortunately, I’ve had some pretty early oxidation with Cornin wines…
Sorry about that… though I think they’re more than worth the tariff: I’ve served them blind against what would be four-digit bottles on wine searcher and watched them emerge as the wines of the night.
I think one of the problems that regions such as the Mâconnais and Côte Chalonnaise face is that, even when the wines are great, people are reluctant to pay for them. To pick two examples, Bruno Lorenzon in Mercurey and Guffens in Vergisson have both had periods without proper US representation because people have shied away from “expensive Mâcon” or “expensive Mercurey” (they’re also both powerful personalities in different ways). Lots of importers (and thus I have to assume, lots of consumers) would still rather have cheap, decent Mâcon than stunning, grand and premier cru-beating Mâcon for the price of a bottle of communal-level Puligny-Montrachet.
This has been part of the vicious cycle that has held back these regions, imposing a glass ceiling on the quality of the wines. Consider a hypothetical scenario: a young grower starts farming well in Montagny (for the most part, Monsanto ground zero in Burgundy), limiting yields, sorting the grapes, keeping more lees and fermenting the wines in barrel, experimenting with longer élevage. He or she starts out with a US importer, and all goes well. Three years later, the US importer switches to buy cheaper wine from the young producer’s neighbor, who produces twice the yields, farms chemically and bottles in the Spring after the harvest following a sterile filtration. The neighbor buys a new car, puts in a swimming pool… This is often how it plays out, and it really kills ambition, as people trying to do better have to work harder to make less money. This is why I have such admiration for people such as Lorenzon, Vincent Dureuil, Jean-Marc Vincent and so on, who have put in decades of work to make better wines in the face of what are actually quite powerful incentives to go with the flow.
My comment was not directed at you William! And not doubting the quality. Just a general and snide observation.
As always, your detailed commentary is helpful.
We all benefit from your quality participation here at WB.
One of the big challenges faced in the US is getting out of the rut of discussing region and the historical Chardonnay hierarchy, it’s less relevant today than ever, and discuss the quality of what is in the bottle. Great Chardonnay is just that, great Chardonnay. The diatribe that it is from Macon first, and thus a lesser wine due to appellation, and is Chardonnay second is a disservice to the producer and the wine.
This is true of many smaller, less known regions, frankly.
The French have been great at classifying wines, regions, vineyards etc. Thus they created a circular logic. Ch X is better than Chateau Y and therefore sells for more money. With the extra money there is more for work in the vineyards and cellar. Ch Y has less money to spend. Henri Martin took a cru bourgeois and made it the equivalent of a better classification. It took him years of working the market to make his gamble pay off. Didier Dagueneau wanted to prove his wine could be at the table with other great wines.
A friend of mine who ran Bibendum Wines in the UK used to say that behind every wine sale there was a big argument. One could say that the Paris tasting was a big argument for California wine. American Pinot producers made a big argument. The only expensive Macon wine I see regularly here seems to be the Lafon versions. I sometimes think that buyers think his Macon vineyards are across the road from Meursault. In any event, his fame helps sell the wine.
Selling a terrific wine that is an outlier from its appellation has always been hard.
I’m always on the lookout for up-and-coming regions, to try new things and avoid paying the price premium in more famous appellations.
Nowhere is this more true than for white burgundy where prices have gone from obscene to unfathomable. In response, I’ve searched farther afield and to my delight I’ve found some excellent chardonnay from places like St Aubin and Pernand-Vergelesses, but prices are climbing fast there too.
Given all that, are Mâconnais wines in general and Pouilly-Fuissé in particular the next hot place to find great French chardonnay? Despite a cool sounding name, I almost never drink Pouilly-Fuissé but I’m starting to notice them at my favorite retailers and some strong notes from the pros (John Gilman in particular seems to review a lot there).
General thoughts and specific suggestions on what to try, the best recent vintages, and things like how long these can age/ if they need age, etc. would be helpful as I start to explore.