Domaine des Chazelles Viré-Clessé AOC 2017
Winegrower: Jean-Marie Chaland
Region: Viré (Mâconnais, South Burgundy)
Shipping: September 2018
“Consumers looking for one of the richest, most concentrated styles from Mâcon, akin to some of the wines of Chassange-Montrechet, should try this lovely, elegant, compelling wine. It competes with white Burgundies selling for 3 times the price. Unfortunately, little of it is seen in the export markets.” Robert Parker
Domaine des Chazelles is all about Mâconnais Chardonnay that rivals the likes of Meursault in texture and depth – only at a much lower price! There is a hedonistic quality to Domaine des Chezelles’ Viré Clessé that is the product of strict, scrupulous farming to grow pristine Chardonnay grapes. This is a wine that demands a crispy-skinned, lemon-stuffed roast chicken to share with a tableful of friends.
Two of the most resonant words we can use to describe a wine are “old vine.” It’s easy to understand why; older vines produce fewer grapes with more deeply concentrated flavours. These grapes are also generally smaller, and the roots of their vines go much deeper, allowing them access to more terroir flavours and vital moisture to help fortify them against drought. Today’s Chazelles Viré-Clessé is the product of just such vines. Additionally, 2017 continues the recent run of high quality vintages but is even better than 2016 and 2015. One of the features of this vintage is that throughout the growing season and into the harvest the nights were cool so acidities are refreshingly high.
Jean-Marie Chaland’s vineyards are in the small Burgundian Appellation of Viré Clessé in the northern Mâconnais. And he is one of a handful of winegrowers in the region who crafts wines of unsurpassed excellence and complexity. He’s a strict non-interventionist and practically lives in his biodynamically farmed vineyards, which have never seen any chemicals. This results in wines that pulsate with life, a great mineral expression of their terroir and precise purity of fruit. Today’s Chezelles Viré Clessé 2017 is bright, crisp and rich and will be at its best in 3 to 5 years. But it is poised to deliver great pleasure now, and at $32 represents an excellent price for its quality. This boutique Domaine, with its small production, is not known on our shores but enchants some of the finest palates in France.
This is the third Chardonnay we have offered from the Mâconnais this year. The finest wines from the region are, as you might have guessed, some of our favourites, and Jean-Marie Chaland’s Domaine des Chezelles Viré Clessé is one of them. His grandparents created Domaine des Chazelles, in the village of Viré, shortly after WWII. The family sold their grapes to négociants and co-ops until 1967 when his father, Jean-Noel, started to bottle his wines under the estate name Domaine des Chazelles. Jean-Marie and his wife Josette have managed the estate for over 40 years. Josette runs a small bed and breakfast while Jean-Marie takes meticulous care of his 8.2 hectares of vineyards, which are spread over 23 separate micro-plots. These are located in the villages of Viré and Montellet in the appellations of Viré Clessé, Mâcon Villages and Mason. Seventy-five percent of the estate’s vines are over 50 years old and one prized parcel is over 100. The vineyards are plowed, no chemicals of any kind are used and all work is by hand. In the cellar fermentation is by natural yeasts, and other than a touch of sulphur, nothing is added. The estate became formally certified organic in 2006 and was the first in Viré Clessé to do so.
Today’s Viré-Clessé AOC 2017 comes from 55-year-old vines grown on clay and limestone soils over brown clay. The grapes were handpicked and placed in small baskets, and fermentation occurred naturally in large, old wood barrels. The wine was then aged on its lees in stainless steel tanks for eight months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered with a bare minimum of sulphites added. The focus of this wine is the minerality of the terroir and purity of fruit. In the glass its beautiful, deep gold colour - with silvery highlights – gives a visual hint of the vineyard’s sun-bathed location. Fresh citrus notes tantalise the nose, along with white flowers and yellow fruits. These carry over to the palate where they are joined by green apple and honeysuckle all wrapped in a penetrating mineral core. This is a fresh, elegant yet fleshy, beautifully balanced dry wine. I’m thinking a Coquilles St. Jacques with Mornay, or better yet this recipe for lemon and garlic roasted chicken. As always, don’t serve this wine too cold or you’ll cheat yourself by diminishing its aromas and flavours; 10˚ to 12˚ is best. You can serve it in a standard white wine glass but I suggest a Burgundy stem to bring out the aromas more. Salut!