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Thursday, 3 February 2011

Clos De La Bressande, Mâcon-Villages, 2009 - Domaine Sangouard-Guyot

Burgundy is perhaps the least homogenous of all French wine regions and is really four distinct areas lumped together as one.

The southern, white-wine Mâconnais area is generally dismissed as one of the lesser regions, albeit it does have a couple of slightly more regarded sub-regions- Mâcon-Villages and Pouilly-Fuissé.

If the geography and vineyard ownership of Burgundy is immensely complex - a legacy of the Napoleonic inheritance system which divided up plots of land into ever smaller sections - thankfully, the grape varieties are much more straightforward and familiar; essentially, Pinot Noir for reds and Chardonnay for whites.

These two, now stars in their own right, have vastly differing profiles - Chardonnay is every New World wine-maker's favourite and reliably produces vast quantities of tropical, buttery toasty whites, whilst Pinot Noir is the Prima Donna of the wine world, demanding just the right conditions to coax out its greatest performances.
It can come as quite a surprise then to remember that Chardonnay's spiritual home is actually France and not the Australian outback, but, once remembered, it should be no shock that the style of wine from this temperate-climate region is typically Old-World.

This Mâcon-Villages from Domaine Sangouard-Guyot, a member of the Patrimoine des Terroirs winemakers' association, is therefore quite different from a New-World chardie; there's not so much on the nose, and whilst the palate shows plenty of clean, refreshing lemony fruit and some elderflower, there is not the array of exotic, tropical exuberance that leaves one reaching for the Thesaurus.

There's no oak either, but this is no steely Chablis; rather, there's a mouthfilling, savoury richness; focused but rounded, it is - curiously but pleasantly - almost approaching a Riesling in style.

What impresses most, then, is not any vast variety of flavours or aromas, but the more structural matters - the mouthfilling texture, the rich-yet-refreshing balance between fruit, acidity, body and richness, and especially the depth, intensity and length of the flavour. Again, more like a good Riesling than a New-World chardie.

Re-reading wine-maker Pierre-Emmanuel Sangouard's notes on the wine, the reasons for this become obvious - the grapes are all hand-picked and gently pressed for freshness and quality and aged for 10 months on the lees in tanks to give a savoury, creamy richness.

Catherine Sangouard also explained to me that she feels the New World has done a disservice to the Chardonnay grape through excessive oaking and, as she puts it, "people are not so keen on woody stuff", adding "there is no oak at all, our Mâcon-Villages is aged in tanks; we strongly believe in the notion of terroir and it is important to work as close as possible to nature in order to extract the best of it. No need to add things (like wood) to make a good Chardonnay !".

The back label suggests this is a wine for early drinking rather than aging, but I suspect it will continue to improve for at least bit longer.

Chardonnay is one of the most food-friendly white wines around and matches well with roast chicken, white fish and almost anything in a creamy sauce.

Provided for review.


Domaine Sangouard - http://www.domaine-sangouard-guyot.com/


  1. Hi Tom

    Interesting post. My palate grew up with big buttery Chards from Napa and honestly, has never recovered.

    You've made me want to try some white Burgundy to renew my appreciation for the grape. And I will.

    You mention hand harvesting. I'm a believer that this is a prerequisite for a less intrusive method of vinification. Rigorous work in the vineyards makes possible a more natural process in the cave. I've never heard it described though as you did as part of the process of preserving freshness. I'll ponder that for a bit.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Hello Arnold

    Yes, the rise of oaky New World chardie and its subsequent fall from grace is one of the great themes of the last 30 years or so.

    I also have a Pouilly-Fuissé from Sangouard for review, so look out for that one coming soon, too.

    Cheers, Tom