Domaine des Chazelles Viré-Clessé AOC Vieilles Vignes 2016
Winegrower: Jean-Marie Chaland /Domaine des Chazelles
Region: Viré Clessé (Mâconnais, South Burgundy), France
Available: Fall 2017
“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, Burgundy: A Comprehensive Guide to the Producers, Appellations and Wines, 2010 edition, page 125.
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 flavour. 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 that helps fortify them against drought. Today’s Viré-Clessé Chazelles Vieilles Vignes is a bright, crisp and rich wine that will blow you away. From the vineyards of Jean-Marie Chaland in the Burgundian Appellation of Viré Clessé in the Mâconnais, he is one of a handful of winegrowers in the region who crafts wines of unsurpassed excellence and complexity. A strict non-interventionist, Jean-Marie works tirelessly in his 8.2 hectares of biodynamically farmed vineyards, which have never seen any chemicals. The result is a wine pulsating with life, with the essence of the terroir and an incredible purity of fruit. This wine will be at its best in 3 to 5 years, but it is poised to deliver immense pleasure now, and at $29 represents an astonishing price for the quality. This boutique domaine is not known on our shores but enchants some of the finest palates in France with their small production wines.
Viré Clessé is a relatively small Appellation that was created in 1999 and is similar to Pouilly Fuissé or Saint Varen. It is located in the northern part of the Mâconnais north of the town of Mâcon.
This is the second 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. Known more for massed produced, more ordinary white wines, the Mâconnais have a few winegrowers of unsurpassed excellence, and Jean-Marie Chaland is one of them. His grandparents created his 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 (5.7 ha), Mâcon Villages (2 ha) and Mason (0.5 ha). Three quarters of the estate’s vines are over 50 years old and one prized parcel is 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 enzymes, chaptalization and acidification are never used. The estate became formally certified organic in 2006 and was the first in Viré Clessé to do so. Total production is about 3,000 cases a year.
Today’s Viré-Clessé AOC Vieilles Vignes 2016 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 10 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-drenched location. Fresh citrus notes dance on 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 foie gras, rich terrines or cream sauces; Coquilles St. Jacques with Mornay comes to mind, or better yet this recipe for King Salmon with Tarragon Chive Butter en Papillot. As always, don’t serve this wine too cold or you’ll cheat yourself by diminishing its aromas and flavours; 12˚ to 13˚ is best in a standard white wine stem. Salut!