In this most historic region, Vinotas Selections has found some lovely wines being made by dedicated, artisanal craftsmen. For as long as people have enjoyed wine, Burgundy has been the symbol of the pinnacle of quality that both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir can achieve. No other region inspires such passion and devotion, and we are certain you will agree that these wines are fine examples of those heights.
I first heard of Denis Bouchacourt from some friends in Europe, who, knowing my palate, quickly had him send us some samples. It was love at first whiff, frankly, and the wines lasted for days as I kept returning to see how they’d develop.
Denis runs a small, 5.5 hectare 3rd generation domaine in Solutré, planted to hillsides. After spending several years in various aspects of the wine business, he took over the familial winery in 1987, at 29 years of age. His focus was making wine naturally, without any additives, and by respecting the various terroirs evident in his holdings’ different plots. His primary goal is to let the land express itself, and get the winemaker out of the way.
Here, vines are densely planted (9000 vines/hectare), with resulting lower yields. His Pouilly-Fuissé holdings amount to 4 hectares, but are composed of 20 separate plots (climats). The oldest vines were planted in 1927, the youngest in 1985. His Mâcon part only totals 1.5 hectares, but the average age here is 20 years. Grapes are hand-harvested, and wild yeasts are allowed to do their work uninterrupted. Malo also takes place naturally.
The use of oak is very slight and careful, as Denis doesn’t want to hide each terroir’s individual aspects. The Mâcon-Solutré and Pouilly-Fuissé “En Servy” don’t see any oak, in fact, to maintain and emphasize their minerality. The Pouilly-Fuissé Feuille de Laurier is powerful enough to hold its own with a slight touch of oak, and none new. Finally, the wines are allowed to rest 1 year on their lees before being lightly fined and filtered and finally bottled.
WINESDenis Bouchacourt’s Mâcon-Solutré is not your average Mâcon. Powerful yet light, with bright white and yellow fruit notes on an elegant frame that seems coiled to strike. The finish is long and lip-smacking, while the nose keeps you beguiled for hours.
Denis’ Pouilly-Fuissé Cuvée Feuille de Laurier is an assemblage of several parcels offering various aromatic and mineral aspects. All hand-harvested, the wines are fermented using wild yeasts in used oak. Malo is allowed to proceed naturally, and the wine is allowed to rest on its lees for 10-12 months (depending on the year), with some batonnage. After a mild fining/filtering, the wine is bottled. This is gorgeous, perfumed, offering that lovely weightless weight that we love in Burgundy, with an astonishingly long finish. This is a Pouilly-Fuissé that screams class.
Louis and Catherine Poitout
I was introduced to Louis and Catherine Poitout’s wines through the grapevine, no pun intended. Several of my contacts started hearing about this couple in Chablis making gorgeous wines with minimal intervention. And best of all, they had 100+ year old ungrafted vines of Petit Chablis, that made a supposedly outstanding bottle of wine. Intrigued, I followed up, tasted, and smiled happily. We had a new Chablis!
Louis and Catherine Poitout are from old Chablisien families. Catherine’s father made wine for years before she was given a small plot of Petit Chablis to farm on her own. Louis’ father made wine in both Algeria and Chablis. They both knew each other as children, but then in 1994 they fell in love and the rest, as they say, is history.
They now own 18 hectares (44.48 acres), scattered between plots from North to South in the Chablis appellation. These unite Catherine’s lands in Chablis and Lignorelles to Louis’ holdings in Maligny and Villy, as well as the vines they purchased in the hamlet of Fleys. Petit Chablis composes 6.06 hectares and Chablis 10 hectares. They own some Fourneaux and Vaucoupin 1er Crus within their Chablis holdings. And most interestingly, they have a tiny (1.36 acres) plot of ungrafted centenary Petit Chablis vines! That’s almost unheard of anymore.
How is this possible?
The plot’s previous owner had focused on quantity over quality, and kept on complaining about the vines’ low yields and how difficult they were to work with. Finally frustrated, he sold the plot to Louis and Catherine, who quickly learned that these old vines were indeed strong-willed. Eventually they discovered a lack of graft at the base of the vines, which were planted to thick clay soils atop a plateau near the village of Villy. It turned out that the clay absorbed so much water in winter that the phylloxera pest couldn’t survive, so the vines remained alive and thriving for decades. The rest, as they say, is history.
At harvest, grapes are hand-picked and sorting takes place both in the field and at the winery. Louis and Catherine believe in showcasing what each vineyard can offer, so they focus on their parcels and don’t do any assemblage. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel to maintain the purity of the wines.
WINESLouis’ Bienommée comes from a 25+ year old plot called “Vaudat” in Villy, with an eastern exposition on Kimmeridgian soils with small calcerous stones. Hand-harvested, the wine is fermented in stainless steel, then stays until Spring in the same vessel, until it is lightly fined and filtered before being bottled. The Bienommée offers a cheesy, leesy nose with yellow and green apples, white pears, chalky lemon, following through with a medium weight body that is crystalline and bright, ending in a long mouth-watering finish.
The Vénérées Vieilles Vignes comes from 58-66 year old vines in the “Sous plaine de Serre” and “Les Ardiats” vineyards planted on a Southeast facing slope in the commune of Fleys. The soils here are Kimmeridgian but with large chalky stones. Hand-harvested, the wine is fermented in stainless steel, where it stays until Spring, at which time it is lightly fined and filtered. This wine offers cheesy, leesy notes with a hint of sap, pears, pith, apples and chalky lemon, all carried through on a medium elegant frame that is both delicate and powerful. The mouthfeel is bright and crisp, ending in a long grippy finish.
The Stellaris Vaucoupin 1er Cru is from the Vaucoupin West-facing vineyard in the town of Chichée, on Kimmeridgian lands with thin soils and small chalky stones. Hand-harvested and fermented in stainless steel, it stays there until Spring, when it is lightly fined and filtered before being bottled. The result is a wine that is gorgeously expressive, with white flowers, pears, yellow apples, bright chalky citrus, pith, cheesy and leesy notes, carried along on a medium body that is crisp yet mouthfilling at the same time. The finish is long, and almost saline in its minerality.
Last but not least, the Inextinct Franc de Pied is an amazing rarity: ungrafted vines, over 100 years old, planted to clay soils on a plateau to the Northwest of the commune of Villy. The vines’ resistance to phylloxera can be attributed to the ground itself, which is easily water-logged in winter. Hand-harvested, the wines are vinified in stainless steel, until they are extremely lightly fined and filtered at bottling. The result is unlike any other Petit Chablis out there. An almost minty minerality leads to chalky lemon, white flowers, ginger, white almonds, and even hints of very light red fruits, all on a medium frame that is elegant yet powerful, with a super long finish.
No, this winery is not named after the Italian car, though their wines are racy and gracefully beautiful, just like a real Ferrari. Instead, this Organic producer makes gorgeously elegant and precise wines in one of the northernmost parts of Burgundy, the tiny appellation of Irancy (see map). Even though it is just south of Chablis, the region is better known for its reds. This is because Irancy forms a bowl, facing south, that captures the sun’s heat and allows grapes to ripen just so.
After working harvest as a student in 1981, Christophe Ferrari fell in love with the vine and founded his domaine in 1987. Over the years, he worked hard to keep improving the quality of his wines, ditching the usual Burgundian barrels for demi-muids, which reduced the notes of wood in the wine and let the fruit really shine forth. He has always been mindful of the environment, so Organic practices are de rigueur, despite the difficult northern latitude.
These days, they farm 25 hectares, including several well-respected lieux-dits and some small amounts of Chablis.
WINESChristophe’s gorgeous Organic Irancy comes from vines grown on slopes facing from the Southeast to the Southwest for best exposure. They are on average 36+ years old, and all hand-harvested, destemmed, wild-yeast fermented in demi-muids, where they then sit for 8-12 months depending on the vintage. The result is an elegantly perfumed, expressive wine offering a bouquet of bright red fruits, a medium fat structure that carries forth spicy red berries, earth, and ends with a crunchy, medium-length mouth-watering finish.
Manuel Olivier’s domaine is located in the hamlet of Corboin, just West of the storied vineyards of Vosne-Romanée. For generations, his family has been making beautifully elegant wines in the region using non-interventionist and nearly organic methods. Today, he farms 10 hectares (24.71 acres) between the Hautes Côtes de Nuits, Côtes de Beaune and Côtes de Nuits. At 38, he is considered one of the up-and-comers of the new generation of vignerons.
He labors the soils by hand and horse, and attention to detail is everything to him. Even though his vines are scattered up and down the valley, he manages to hand-harvest all his grapes. All the wines are fermented with wild yeast, some in stainless, some in neutral barrels, and some in both. As with all great wines, there is no set formula, he lets the wines tell him how they should be made.
WINESManuel’s Aligoté Vieilles Vignes is sourced from 35+ year old vines planted to white marl soils on high-altitude (400 meters), steep (30% slope) East-facing hillsides. Hand-harvested, wild yeast fermented in stainless, it sits on its lees for 16 months, and is bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with a drop of SO2. The result is a wine that is both fresh and deep, with a long finish, not something you see in other aligotés, which for the most part tend to be rather insipid.
The Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits Blanc is another stunning example of both terroir and Manuel’s skills as a winemaker. This comes from 20 year old vines planted on stony clay and limestone soils facing East-Southeast, about 1 km from the Clos de Vougeot. Half of this wine is fermented in stainless, the other half in barriques, of which 15% are new. The wines are then aged on their lees in their fermentation vessels (so half in stainless, half in barrel with some bâtonnage) before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. This makes for a rich yet elegant and flowery Chardonnay that is balanced and ends with a long, grippy finish.
Domaine Manuel Olivier’s Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits Rouge is a wine from Pinot Noir planted just above the Grands Crus of the Côte de Nuits. Located on an East-Southeast-facing slope 350 meters above the Clos de Vougeot on rocky clay and limestone soils, it is destemmed, cold macerated for a week, wild yeast fermented half in tank and half in old barrels then aged on its lees for 9 months. Then it is bottled unfined, unfiltered and with a minimal drop of SO2. This wine is a bright yet dense Pinot Noir that offers red berry and flowery notes, ending with a long finish.