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2013 Mâcon-la Roche Vineuse, Les Cras, Olivier Merlin
Olivier Merlin (originally from the Charolais) is widely regarded as being one of the very finest wine makers in the Mâconnais. He and his wife Corinne (a Montbéliarde) began in 1987 by renting 4.5ha. from René Gaillard, of Domaine du Vieux St Sorlin, who wished to retire. Since then he has been buying the property in stages as well as adding new vineyards such as St Véran (in 1994 & 1996). In September 1997 Olivier took out a negociants' licence in order to be able to make some Pouilly Fuissé, since land in this appellation is neither available to buy nor to rent.
He makes three cuvées of Pouilly-Fuissé (one each from Fuissé, Vergisson and Chaintré) and a Viré-Clessé. From 2000 some Moulin-à-Vent joined the stable. The single-vineyard wines, including Mâcon La Roche-Vineuse Les Cras and St Véran Le Grand Bussière, get 18 months barrel-ageing with 30-50 per cent new wood. The latest big project has been the purchase of a steep slope above the village, En Montessu, and its clearance and replanting after being left fallow for five years with cover crops to help the land recuperate. Olivier has old photographs showing this whole slope covered in vineyard in earlier times.
He has established a reputation as one of the region’s most dynamic growers, a reference point for the Maconnais.The whites demonstrate Olivier's exceptional winemaking talents from lowly appellations. They are frequently taken for Côte d'Or wines if tasted blind. His Bourgogne Rouge is at its best after 2 to 3 years when the fruit expresses itself fully.
Jasper Morris MW, author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook.
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
The city of Mâcon represents the capital of the Mâconnais district in the region of Burgundy, to which it lends its name. There are various appellations under the name Mâcon: the generic Mâcon AC, Mâcon Supérieur and the Mâcon-Villages, in ascending order of how much land each appellation entails.
The standard Mâcon AC controls around 53 hectares of vineyard, 70 percent of which is used to produce just white wine, primarily from the Chardonnay grape. Mâcon used to be recognised for its red wines, but in the last century Mâconnais whites have come to the forefront far more. This generic appellation represents a specific style of wine made across the Mâconnais district, rather than an appellation which would cover a select area or terroir.
The ‘Supérieur’ in Mâcon Supérieur refers not to an increase in quality but rather to the boost in alcohol content, a term which can be applied to either red or white wines.
Mâcon-Villages is a specific appellation which refers to white wines produced in certain areas of the Mâconnais region, and usually denotes an improvement in quality over the straightforward Mâcon AC wines.
Many of the small communes under the Mâcon classification opt to add their name to that of the appellation on their wines; notable examples include La Roche Vineuse, Uchizy and Lugny.
Wines from Mâcon tend to be uncomplicated affairs, simple but enjoyable, and the whites in particular are notable for their dry, light bodies and the presence of floral and nutty facets.
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