When it comes to Burgundy, Society buyer Toby Morrhall
always says to go by grower first. In the Mâconnais, Burgundy's
southernmost region, this is particularly pertinent as 70% of the
wine here comes from co-ops. Some are excellent, many less so,
but you experience a significant step up in quality and personality
when you buy from high-quality small domaines who are making
wines of world-beating quality. It's these that Toby seeks out
on our behalf. I asked him to explain what it is about these
producers that makes them stand out from the crowd:
'The main difference is that these people get their hands dirty! They
are the ones sitting on the tractor in the vineyards and making the
wine. They have an intimate knowledge of their land, even down to
individual vines; this is crucial when it comes to making decisions
about pruning and picking the grapes. It's their name on the bottle
and they want the wine to be the best it can be and to reflect their
winemaking philosophy as well as the terroir. The yields for some of
these growers are sometimes less than you find in Meursault and
other fancier appellations further north. Lower yields mean more
concentrated fruit and more complexity of flavour in the wine. It's
these small percentage differences in everything they do from grape to
glass that all add up and make all the difference. Paying just that little
bit more for these domaine-produced wines takes you not just one, but
several notches above the basic blends.'
When it comes to Burgundy, Society buyer Toby Morrhall always says to go by grower first. In the Mâconnais, Burgundy's southernmost region, this is particularly pertinent as 70% of the wine here comes from co-ops.
Toby has been buying Burgundy for The Wine Society for more
than 20 years, travelling to the region every year to get out into
the vineyards with our growers and monitor their progress with
each vintage. This is also what makes the difference.
Meet the Burgundy Wine Growers
Frédéric is the sixth generation in charge of
Maison Joseph Burrier and the family property
Château de Beauregard in Pouilly-Fuissé. After
many years at Jadot, one of Burgundy's leading
négociants (merchants), Frédéric came back to the family business
in 1999. Bright, passionate and charismatic, he has done a lot
to raise quality and the profile of his region. The family holds
22 hectares of vines in Pouilly-Fuissé, seven in Saint-Véran and
12 in Beaujolais, and they also have their own négoce business.
The mark of most great winemakers, Frédéric is constantly
experimenting, working with different barrels of various woods
from different coopers, though judging ageing just right so that
the wood does not dominate. Despite a busy schedule, Frédéric
always seems incredibly relaxed – 'Je suis passionné, non stressé'
he says. And it shows in his wines.
Toby describes Christophe of Domaine
Roger Cordier in the village of Fuissé as,
'a piercingly blue-eyed human dynamo'!
Christophe believes in pruning hard to
get maximum concentration in his wines. He's also lucky
enough to have a patchwork of 30-odd hectares of vines
across eight villages in some lovely terroirs on which
to draw. Christophe supervises everything, even the
toasting of his oak barrels so they are done to his exact
specification. The result? Wines which punch way above
the weight of their, often humble, appellation.
Jacques and Nathalie Saumaize
Jacques and Nathalie Saumaize
This husband-and-wife team have been
making both Saint-Véran and Pouilly-Fuissé
wines from their eight hectares of vines since
the 1980s sited mainly around the high-altitude village of
Vergisson which produces fine and elegant wines. They are
both from the region and feel passionate and very attached
to their land. They pay meticulous attention to detail in
vineyard and cellar, doing everything by hand and in respect
of nature. Their wines are never over-oaked, just perfectly
balanced and they are always striving to do better.
The fifth generation at his family's
domaine, Jean-François has practically
grown up in the vines, joining his
parents as soon as he left school
then taking over the reins in 1991.
He works jolly hard with just three
other people to help in the winery
and on the 14ha of vineyards. These
are divided between Pouilly-Fuissé and Mâcon in the Vergisson
commune, in cool spots on east-facing slopes of the Roche du
Solutré. Gonon goes the extra mile to do things properly, always
having back-vintages of his wines ready to taste when Toby turns
up and switching to Diam* corks for us without being asked.
*These are Toby's preferred closures for white Burgundy as they help prevent
cork-taint and premature oxidation. Read more on Diam corks here.