Spotlight on White Burgundy: Domaine J.A. Ferret “Le Clos” Tete de Cru Pouilly-Fuisse 2009

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Of all the wines I drink, it is white Burgundy that flows into my glass most frequently without me bothering with sustained thought. The wines match my preferences and food choices so well that I usually decide to simply enjoy rather than contemplate. I feel, however, that time has come for focused thinking and more in-depth exploration. As such, I’ll be embarking on one of my more ambitious Spotlights, focusing on white Burgundy.

Chardonnay is perhaps the greatest white wine in the world, competing only against Riesling for the title. Despite the crazy love-on for new world Chardonnay in years past, it is the white wines of Burgundy that really matter. These wines have a food pairing diversity and acid and fruit balance that is extremely uncommon elsewhere in the world. I also find them more consistent than red Burgundy for the prices you pay (which is not a comment on the brilliance of Burgundy Pinot but more-so on the climatic difficulties of Burgundy). The range is incredible: from the nuances of Chablis terroir to the stately, divine complexity of the Cote d’Or and the fleshy, sexual wines of the Maconnais, Burgundy Chardonnay is unparalleled.

Of course, the greatest stain on white burgs is the huge issue with premature oxidation, which destroys expensive wines far before their time. The remedy for many has been increased sulphuring, which unfortunately has also increased reduction given the lower exposure to oxygen. You can overcome this somewhat in young wines by decanting for several hours before drinking. Otherwise, with age this reduction seems to dissipate. The debate still rages on premox and various producers are trying different techniques to avoid the problem.

The Character of Pouilly-Fuisse

I have no pretentions that this spotlight can be comprehensive. I instead propose to look at most of the major villages across a broad range of producers, seeking insight and a deeper understanding of what is perhaps the world’s greatest wine region.

Pouilly-Fuisse is arguably the most important AOC in the Maconnais, the large southerly region west of the Saone river halfway between Dijon and Lyon. This is Chardonnay territory, with 90% of the production being white wine. While the Maconnais produces very large volumes of wine, much of which is unexciting, once you hit the village level the wines start popping with character, food friendliness and value. The “Pouilly” villages of the southern Maconnais offer even greater distinction.

The soils in the southern Maconnais are alkaline clay and limestone, the great white-wine character builder and, some say, the base for truly great Chardonnay. Pouilly-Fuisse is comprised of five distinct villages, each with its unique terroir. The Le Clos vineyard, where the grapes for this wine are grown, is situated near the town of Chaintre, which with its distinction as the southernmost village and with its southern facing slopes, is the earliest ripening village in Pouilly-Fuisse.

Wine and Chicken

Domaine Ferret is one of the Maconnais’ top producers and this is one of their top bottlings. They have been making wine since 1840, and though held in family hands until 2008, are now in the hands of the famous Negocient Jadot family, though the Domaine is still operated by the same winemaking team.

Made from 20-40 year old vines, this is aged 18 months in oak. The plush nose is extremely expressive even at this young age. This exciting wine has all the classic hallmarks of the new quality focused Pouilly-Fuisse – it has the weight of an excellent Cote d’Or village wine, but a far plusher and rounder texture and an easy, immediately likeable personality. It is rare to find such tremendous weight and elegance together in a Maconnais white and the ripeness of the fruit overcomes the tightness and austerity you can find in young wines from less ripe vintages, making this quite accessible right now. This is a masterful wine and an exemplary archetype of Pouilly-Fuisse.

Most importantly, it is just this sort of wine that I grab without question as a serious match for roast chicken.

$70 at Kits Wine


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