Those who enjoy Burgundy fine wines are turning little by little towards the south of the region. It has to be said that Mâconnais is full of gems and rising stars thanks to terroirs that are ideal for growing sublime Chardonnay and flavourful, silky Pinot Noir. Let’s take a closer look at this wine-growing area to better understand its wines.
The Mâconnais region: A short history
Mâconnais covers a quarter of the Burgundy wine region. A significant proportion of it can traces its roots back to the time of the Romans who brought their viticultural knowledge to the region through their conquests. Then, like other French regions, monks played a large role in continuing this tradition as wine is an essential part of the Eucharist (a part of a church service where Christians drink wine as a symbol of the blood of Christ like the Apostles did during the Last Supper). These monks were mainly those that lived at Cluny Abbey, founded in 909 by the Count of Mâcon, William I. They then took their knowledge northwards where some of the greatest terroirs were discovered thanks to the scrumptious wines they produce.
Over time, but especially during the 19th century, improved production techniques coupled with the creation of cooperative cellars contributed towards a revival of the appellation. Today, there are 26 localities within the Mâcon AOC and the vines there are spread over 4,000 hectares.
What types of wine are produced in Mâconnais?
Mâconnais is a rich area that produces:
- Mainly dry white wines. These cover nearly 4,000 hectares and are classified as Mâcon, Mâcon Village or Mâcon followed by the name of a village or a geographical indication.
- Sparkling wines from the Crémant de Bourgogne appellation.
- Red wines and rosé. Both can be crafted in the Mâcon appellation or Mâcon followed by a name of a village or a geographical indication. The vines that produce the grapes for these only cover 345 hectares.
- Rare sweet wines that mainly come from Viré and Clessé. There, the morning mist created by the river Saône allows the fungus Botrytis Cinerea to form on the grapes. As production is miniscule, don’t rest on your laurels if you find any on iDealwine.
What varieties are grown in Mâconnais?
The vines grown here are those that are typically found in Burgundy. Alongside the iconic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, there are also Pinot Blanc and Aligoté, for the whites, and Gamay, for the reds. Chardonnay is happy on the shallow brown soil as well as on those made of marl, limestone and sand. Pinot Noir, like Gamay, prefers to get its nutrients from siliceous soils and those that are called “bélouzes” which are made from clay or limestone and clay.
What are the characteristics of Mâconnais wines?
Mâconnais wines are generally best savoured young but some of the more powerful ones can be more complex and harmonious after around ten years in the cellar.
- The white wines are generally full-bodies, charming, ample, opulent and aromatic. They often reveal notes of white fruits and yellow fruits which can sometimes be tropical, well-ripened citrus fruits like pomelo, verbena, and fresh almond. Their natural acidity is often lively and brings balance to the ample texture. These wines pair well with fleshy fish, poultry, creamy dishes, and gratins.
- The red wines are often fleshy. The ruby Pinot Noirs contain delicate notes of small red fruits, white pepper and flowers (peony and violet) which can sometimes have a hint of leather or venison about them. Meanwhile, the Gamay shimmers purple when it catches the light and has fruity aromas that becomes those of prunes and jam over time. These wines are best appreciated with autumnal dishes (pumpkins, squashes, courgettes, chestnuts, mushrooms, etc.) as well as game and flavourful red meat.
What is the climate in the Mâconnais region?
Situated in the French Saône-et-Loire département in a golden triangle between Tournus, Cluny and Mâcon, the Mâconnais region is relatively sunny and continental with milder winters than those in the Côte d’Or. This southern location on the border with Beaujolais allows the grapes to ripen earlier.
The wines remain fresh thanks to the different slopes the vines grow on and the limestone soil.
What are the appellations within Mâconnais?
As mentioned above, 26 localities are allowed to print Mâcon AOC on their labels. In alphabetical order, they are: Azé, Bray, Burgy, Bussières, Chaintré, Chardonnay, Charnay-lès-Mâcon, Cruzille, Davayé, Fuissé, Igé, Loché, Lugny, Mancey, Milly-Lamartine, Montbellet, Péronne, Pierreclos, Prissé, La Roche-Vineuse, Saint-Gengoux-le-National, Solutré-Pouilly, Uchizy, Vergisson, Verzé and Vinzelles.
The appellation system in Mâconnais works as follows:
- The regional appellations (which produce the most wine):
- Mâcon: all three colours (white, red and rosé)
- Mâcon Villages: only white
- Crémant de Bourgogne (= sparkling wines)
- The locality appellations:
- Pouilly-Vinzelles AOC
- Viré-Clessé AOC
- Saint-Véran AOC
- Pouilly-Loché AOC
- And Pouilly-Fuissé AOC (not to be confused with the Loire appellation Pouilly-Fumé) which was the first one to have some of its climates – in this case 22 of them – to be given premier cru classification in 2017.
And finally, what are the Mâconnais wineries that cannot be missed?
Our enthusiastic team has gone on a large tour of the iconic Mâconnais region. They have so many favourites and below you’ll find just some of our partner domains available on the iDealwine website:
- Les Vignes du Maynes
- Nicolas Maillet
- Frantz Chagnoleau
- La Soufrandière
- La Sœur Cadette
- Héritiers du Comte Lafon
- Domaine Leflaive
- Domaine Louis Jadot
- Bret Brothers
- Château des Rontets
- Robert Denogent