CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: From a Burgundian sweet spot, bargain white
By Lawrence B. Johnson
The Chardonnay produced in the principal appellations of Burgundy has long laid legitimate claim to being, collectively, the finest white wine in the world. And it once was reasonably affordable, at least at the entry level, the so-called “village” wines, and they were terrific.
But in recent years, Burgundy prices, for both red and white, have escalated to the point where even the purchase of a village white gives one pause. Now would be a perfect time to consider the white wines from Burgundy’s deep south – from the appellation of Pouilly-Fuissé. The 2013 vintage from Louis Jadot typifies one of the world’s best wine values.
The vineyards of Pouilly-Fuissé (pronounced Pwee-YEE Fwee-SAY) lie in a small sweet spot just above the northern boundary of Beaujolais, near the town of Mâcon. Hence the surrounding area is known as the Mâconnais. By no means are all the wines from the region are equal: In general, the inexpensive Mâcon-Villages whites ($11-$13) are agreeable but nothing to excite your palate.
But the soil of Pouilly-Fuissé just happens to be endowed with the alkaline-rich clay in which Chardonnay flourishes. Vintage after vintage, Jadot turns out a luscious, buttery Pouilly-Fuissé that typically approaches the village wines produced in that trio of great white-wine districts to the north, in the heart or Burgundy – Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. And at a much kindlier cost.
The Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé 2013 ($24) displays a hue of pale gold and offers scents of honeysuckle and ginger with a trace of scorched wood – though restrained oak is one of its key virtues. On the palate, the wine shows clover, honey and spice with a pronounced minerality. With its chalky background and crisp acid frame, Jadot’s full-bodied 2013 Pouilly- Fuissé hints — characteristically — at the grandeur of Meursault.
Olivier Leflaive’s Bougogne “Les Sétilles” 2012 ($21) is an intriguing instance of a Chardonnay from the Burgundian heartland known as the Côte d’Or – literally the golden slope – that does not come at a golden price.
Long one of the top producers of white Burgundy, Leflaive typically blends “Les Sétilles” from Chardonnay draw about equally from vineyards in Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. The 2012 “Les Les Sétilles” is a light-straw color, with a nose of grapefruit, apricot and grass. The wine is somewhat light in body with dominant flavors of butter, spice and pear. Yet the seemingly light weight proves deceptive in the wine’s lingering finish.
Not the least striking quality about “Les Sétilles” is the refined presence of oak. About 60 percent of the blend is aged in oak, the remaining 40 percent in stainless steel, the object being to preserve the sense of place – what the French devoutly refer to as terroir. On that score, Leflaive’s “Les Sétilles” 2013 is an authentic pleasure.