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Annual Tasting Profile: Domaine Touzot

Macon: The "Friendly" Burgundy

We all know someone who is an "ABC" - "Anything But Chardonnay", right? It does get a bad rap, which is very sad in my opinion, as well-made Chardonnay is frankly unbeatable. The reputation is, however, not entirely unmerited. For a good number of years, new world producers in particular (I'm looking at you California and Australia) produced vast quantities of YUGE "oak bomb" Chardonnays, which had more in common with sucking on newly-cut wood than they did with fruit. I'm not going to go into the reasons why producers thought this was a good idea; Chardonnay is one of the relatively few varieties that does handle some time in oak, but it needs to be handled carefully if it isn't going to drown out all other flavours.

Some very oaky Chardonnays are still available, and, in the right glass (thank you Riedel), they can be spectacular - creamy, rich, mouth-watering and juicy. But Macon is not the place to look for this type of wine. It is a region best known for being the most approachable and "friendly" of the Burgundy regions, not least because they are usually amongst the cheapest in price.

But where is Macon?
As we can see from the above, Macon is the most southerly of the Burgundy regions (if we discount Beaujolais, and believe me, most Burgundians seem to want to). South means, of course, more warm, and although it may not seem like much, this does have a large impact on the style of wine. You only need to compare Chablis with a Pouilly-Fuissé to taste this difference - one is steely, hard and mineral, the other fruity, full and generous.

Indeed from the map above, you'll notice that Pouilly-Fuissé is actually part of the larger Maconnais region - the wines produced around the town of Macon. As with all wines in Burgundy, the name on the label will give you an indication of quality: basic Macon could be from anywhere in the Maconnais region, and is usually the lowest quality - just one above the entry-level Bourgogne. Then comes Macon-Villages, before you get to the ones with the place names on e.g. Viré-Clessé or Pouilly Fuissé (not to be confused with Pouilly Fumé in the Loire - different grape, very different wine).

Which brings us on to Domaine Touzot. Frédéric Touzot is the third generation vigneron who took over the family farm which belonged to his great-grandfather. Gradually replacing the cattle with vines, it wasn't until one particular plot of land - a very poor grazing site - was bought and turned over to vines, that the vineyard itself really came into its own.

Now, although not certified organic, Frédéric uses no herbicides to control the weeds and grass, instead manually ploughing, sometimes by hand. South-facing, the vines get a lot of good sunshine, and this is abundantly clear in the wine: still vibrant and fresh, yet with lovely ripe apple and even quince flavours.

His Macon-Villages is a cracking way to get anyone over their Chardonnay preconceptions. No oak, just fruit, and a wonderful example of entry-level Burgundy. And we'll be trying it on April 8th, of course.