The Burrier family, who have lived in Burgundy for 500 years, own both Château de Beauregard in Pouilly-Fuissé and the négociant Maison Joseph Burrier, and have done so for six generations. The current generation in charge is Frédéric Burrier, who returned to the family business in 1999 after many years at Jadot. The charismatic, passionate and industrious Frédéric has done much to raise the quality bar in this tiny enclave of the southern Mâconnais,
The family holds 22 hectares of Pouilly-Fuissé, 7 hectares in Saint-Véran and 12 hectares in Beaujolais.
Half of the Beaujolais vines are in Fleurie, but there are also small plots in Morgon, Moulin-à-Vent, Saint-Amour and Chiroubles. The vines range from 35 to 45 years old on average, and are located at some of the most prestigious plots in their respective appellations. In Fleurie, for instance, the vines are mostly at the highly respected Poncié site which borders Moulin-à-Vent, whereas in Moulin-à-Vent itself the family owns a superb vineyard called Les Petits Bois.
All of the family’s Beaujolais is made at a winery in Fleurie. The various crus are all vinified in a traditional style, and most spend some time in oak – for Saint-Amour and Morgon this is seven to ten months, Moulin-à-Vent spends around nine months in oak, and in the case of the Fleurie, just half of the blend is aged in oak, usually for around six to eight months.
The Burriers’ 22 hectares of Pouilly-Fuissé vines are split between the three villages of Fuissé, Solutré-Pouilly and Vergisson, with Château de Beauregard itself set on a rolling plateau in Pouilly-Fuissé, with one of the best views of the rocks of Vergisson and Solutré.
As sometime president of the local comité interprofessionel, Frédéric works tirelessly to achieve the kind of respect for Pouilly-Fuissé that is enjoyed by the Côte d’Or, and certainly the fine, complex chardonnays produced in the high, cool village of Vergisson have a lovely tension between freshness ad richness, not unlike the balance of a Meursault or a Puligny-Montrachet. The other point of interest here is the bewildering (though not to Frédéric) number of different barrels, with which he likes to experiment. What interests him, he points out, is ‘the élévage, not the wood’, which never dominates his wines.
He makes several estate Pouillys from different plots, including the exotic Vignes Blanches, the generous and charming Insarts both from the warm Fuissé amphitheatre, aristocratic Maréchaude and restrained Charmes both from the cool climate of Vergisson, which could pass for Puligny, elegant Vers Cras from the limestone plateau that surrounds the château, mineral, waxy Chataigners, and rich, Meursault-like Vers Pouilly which lies on the border with Pouilly.
Each wine is fermented in a combination of tank and barrels of different ages, from various coopers, using different woods. Grand Beauregard is an assemblage of the best barrels, parcels and crus, blended when Frédéric has tasted and digested every one of them and given 24 months in barrel, though like all Burrier wines, it has the knack of absorbing wood. Only 12 barrels of this nectar are produced in each vintage.
The family’s 43-hectare portfolio includes 7 hectares in Saint-Véran. Towards the bottom of the slope at Chasselas they have the cool Vernay vineyard, which produces a fresh, brisk wine which is bottled without oak, as well as (in increasing order of richness) La Roche and then En Faux which are both usually fermented 50% in tank and 50% in barrel. These are close to the quality of much basic Pouilly-Fuissé but can be had for around two-thirds of the price.
Frédéric also produces three Mâcons and is developing a newish plot of pinot noir, planted in 2002 from which he produces around a thousand bottles a year, snapped up by local restaurants.
From his négociant arm, Maison Joseph Burrier, we buy The Society’s Exhibition Pouilly-Fuissé, a Mâcon-Fuissé and a lovely Viré-Clesé from vines planted in 1947 at Quintaine, all made from bought in grapes.
For a man with so much going on, he seems remarkably relaxed. ‘Je suis passionné, non stressé’ he says. And it shows in his wines.