Editor’s note: The boss is usually way to busy to send out emails, and quite frankly, still is. Though here’s a rare glimpse into one of his discoveries earlier this year that’s NOW IN STOCK!!!
This estate was the big “eureka!” moment of my trip to France this past January. I had visited Jean-Marie a year before, and was completely taken with his wines, but I like to see a grower more than once before deciding to take on a portfolio. It’s nice to get a confirmation of two vintages in a row, and boy did I!
The family was selling grapes to the co-op until 1967, at which time Jean-Marie’s father, Jean-Noël, began estate bottling, under the Domaine des Chazelles name, a very good estate in its own right. (A side note – I originally visited them with the idea of importing the Chazelles wines. While there, Jean-Noël said, “my son makes wines under his own label; would you like to taste them too?” Well, sure! And as soon as I had the first Mâcon in my mouth I knew these were the wines I wanted.) Jean-Marie created his own separate estate in 1999, and soon, when his father retires, will take over all of his holdings as well. The family has farmed organically since those early days, and Jean-Marie’s estate became certified organic in 2006 – the first grower in Viré-Clessé to obtain that certification.
Jean-Marie farms eight hectares of Chardonnay vines, consisting of more than 20 separate micro-parcels, and produces roughly 3,000 cases a year. There’s a lot to like here: a high proportion of old vines – 3/4 of his estate is over 50 years old, and his prized Thurissey parcel is over 90. He always uses natural yeasts, and there is no chaptalization, nor acidification. His single vineyard bottlings are bottled unfined and unfiltered. One amusing change from father to son: Jean-Marie is not the horseman his father is, so he must plow with a tractor!
2009 Mâcon “Les Tilles”
This is from a parcel of 40-50 year old vines, located on a plateau of clay/limestone soil in the village of Montbellet. It is aged in stainless steel tanks, on its lees, then bottled. This wonderfully expressive, floral, citrusy Mâcon is super fresh, super mineral, and utterly delicious.
2009 Viré Clessé “Vieilles Vignes”
Viré Clessé is an AOC of the Mâconnais region (similar to Pouilly Fuissé or St. Veran), created just over 10 years ago. It’s a relatively small AOC, producing less than half the quantity of Pouilly Fuissé or St. Veran. This Vieilles Vignes cuvée is produced from three parcels of 50+ year old vines, with gravelly soils. Very fleshy, with great minerality, and in 2009 it shows just a touch of honeysuckle. Jean-Marie says he likes this best at 3-5 years of age, but it sure tastes good right now.
2009 Viré-Clessé “Perrière”
This is a new cuvée for Jean-Marie, made from a parcel that used to go into the Vieilles Vignes, but which he decided has the individuality to stand on its own. Again, great minerality (do you notice a trend?) and a long, stony, lees-y finish. Really classy stuff.
2009 Viré-Clessé “l’Epinet”
All hand harvested, from a vineyard planted in the 1940’s. He makes about 15 barrels – 375 cases or so. There’s no new oak on this, or any of his other wines. The barrels average about 5 years old, as he wants all that brilliant old-vine fruit to take center stage, not the vessel it’s aged in. This is already showing some complexity, with peach and lime, and plenty of spice, perhaps even a touch of licorice. A densely mineral wine. Wow.
2009 Viré-Clessé “Thurissey”
Viré-Clessé “Thurissey” this exceptional little (1/2 hectare) south-facing parcel is on the northern end of the appellation, away from his other parcels. The vines here are up to 95 years old, and he produces only about 200 cases. Again, no new oak; he uses a regimen of barrels between two and five years old. The wine is kept in barrel for a year on its fine lees, then bottled, without fining or filtration.
Thurissey is always a mineral wine, and even in 2009, which is a fruit-driven vintage, this is the wine for rock-heads. It’s less expressive than the l’Epinet right now; more like a coiled spring, just waiting to release its energy, filled with apple, pear, lime, and stone. Jean-Marie says this should age 5-10 years, or if you drink it now, it’s best to decant it.
2008 Crémant de Bourgogne “Perle de Roche”
Yes, there’s a sparkling wine too! Jean-Marie bottles this one under his “Domaine Sainte Barbe” label. Please pardon the confusion. It’s made from a parcel of young vines rich in limestone. It spends between 2-3 years en tirage, with a very low dosage (4 grams/liter) and there’s a small disgorgement every couple of years of about 3,000 bottles. Very fine for a Crémant, with tiny bubbles, a fresh chalky nose and quite a bit of finesse. Only a few cases available.
I guess the best thing I can say about these wines is that you will look forward to the next sip, the next bottle, the next case! With that in mind, we’ve put together a very special Sampler Case to introduce these superb wines to you. You’ll get 3 bottles of Mâcon, 2 bottles of each of the Viré-Clessés, and 1 bottle of the Crémant. For taking the plunge, you’ll save 25% off the regular prices. We think you’ll be impressed.- David Netzer