Château des Rontets sits at an altitude of 360 metres on the terroir of Fuissé in the south of Burgundy. The château was built between 185 and 1870 by the family of current owner Claire Gazeau. Overlooking the rest of Fuissé, the estate’s vineyard, which spans just over 6 hectares on limestone soils in the Rontets climat, produces elegant, refined wines that are less vinous than other wines in the appellation, rather structured upon a superb tension, reminiscent of the finest crus in the Côte d’Or.
Clair Gazeau’s uncle began making wine at the château in 1945, convinced of the great potential of the high-altitude vineyard. Half a century later, in 1995, Claire and her husband Fabio Montrasi arrived at the property. Both architects turned winemakers, they began their reconversion with viticultural training in the Burgundy region. From the outset, the couple set their sights high: their intention was to produce truly fine wines. Upon the advice of local winemakers, the couple decided to grow their vines organically, to increase the density of vines planted and to give their Chardonnay vines everything they needed to flourish.
In the vines, everything is done in the most natural way possible: a tractor is used for ploughing, but most of the work is done by hand. The couple even own almost a hectare of very old vines which were planted just after the phylloxera crisis. Along with another plot of old vines (almost 70 years old), these are used for the cuvée Birbettes which, in the region’s dialect means ‘old age’. This timeless cuvée delivers incredible freshness and is redolent with minerality and finesse. A hands-off approach to vinification has been adopted by the couple, with neither chaptalisation, acidification and as little sulphur as possible added, only where necessary.
The domain’s cuvées reflect their terroir brilliantly. Varambon is produced from the property’s youngest vines – between 10 and 50 years old – from the Rontets climat, is matured in 400- and 3,000-litre barrels, comes in contact with practically no new oak yet develops floral and mineral aromas. Birbette undergoes a maturation period of between 18 and 24 months and stands out for its minerality and freshness, breaking with some traditional winemaking practices in the region. Pierrefolle comes from an east-facing parcel with deep soils in the Fuissé area. Somewhat ‘warmer’ and more vinous on the palate, it delivers beautiful vibrancy.
Often criticized for its ballooning prices and the inaccessibility of its wines, Burgundy continues to offer excellent wines in lesser known appellations. Château des Rontets sits in this category of affordably priced, great Burgundy.