In June 2022 I ran three tours to Southern Burgundy, and a further tour in 2023. We focussed on the Mâconnais, Chalonnais and southerly parts of the Cote d’Or, regions that lack the prestige of their northern brethren, but are capable of producing wines of extremely high quality and value for money. Given the close proximity of Mâcon, where we stayed, to the ‘cru’ vineyards of Beaujolais we spent a day there too.
All the tours began with dinner at L’Ardoise restaurant, to which we strolled from the 360 Panorama hotel (the beautifully converted post office in the centre of town with its spectacular rooftop bar).
Each day we boarded our coach to visit at least two wineries in a specific region, meeting owners and winemakers and exploring the winemaking approaches before tasting a comprehensive range of their wines.
Domaine Corsin is in the village of Davayé, in the heart of Pouilly Fuissé country. Giles Corsin makes wine from his own vines, and is also a négociant, making wine from bought in grapes.
Led by Giles and his assistant Marine, we tasted Saint-Vérans, of increasing age and complexity and then worked through four Pouilly Fuissés. All the wines reflected their diverse terroir and gave everyone a first insight into the nuances of the region.
Nadine Ferrand started making wine after the death of her husband over 20 years ago. She works with her daughter (also called Marine), who hosted our visits.
Marine not only works in the vineyard, she also manages the very handsome cave in which we enjoyed a lovely tasting and light lunch, she sells their wines to local restaurants, and then she goes home to her baby (toddler in 2023)! We felt very lazy.
Our tasting covered a number of appellations: Mâcon Villages, Saint Véran, Viré Clessé, Pouilly Fuissé and their Ambre – so called because of its deeper colour, reflecting grapes harvested 45 days later than normal (and so starting to raisinate on the vine) and 2 years in oak – a delicious ‘Vendages Tardives’ dry wine with very savoury character.
At Domaine Luquet in Pouilly Fuissé, we were hosted by 5th generation winemaker Christine Luquet, who described the trials and tribulations of winemaking in an increasingly extreme climate. While our first visit was in glorious sunshine, our second required us to move quickly from the vineyard into the winery to avoid the heavy thunderstorms. This year, which was full of promise, 20% of the crop was lost in the last couple of weeks due to storms. Needless to say the wines, from a variety of Macon appellations, were excellent.
In 2023 we visited one of the titans of the region – the historic Château de Fuissé. Owner Benedicte Vincent hosted an amazing visit as she took us round the estate and delivered a fascinating insight into the three distinct ‘climats’ of the estate.
We learnt about the terrible destruction in 2021 of 70% of the vineyards caused by hail (echoed by Corsin and Ferrand).
We tasted a number of their wines, including 2020 Le Clos and Les Combettes, in their beautiful tasting room which oozed history and was a beautiful place to end our first day. Benedicte hosted a brilliant tasting that confirmed the stunning quality of this estate.
Chalonnais and the Cote d’Or
At the exquisitely pretty Château de Santenay, we crossed what had been the moat of the original ‘camp’, used as a refuge by locals during marauding raids prior to the Middle Ages. It has its own water source so a siege could be withstood for a long time, and the same source also feeds thermal springs which for some quirk of French planning laws means the village of Santenay is allowed to have a casino.
The current château dates from the 14th and 16th centuries, and its most important owner from a wine perspective was the founder of the Duchy of Burgundy – Philippe le Hardi. The last son of king John II of France, in 1395 he decreed that no Gamay was to be grown in his duchy, the very first rule that would lead to the system of French appellations, with the result that Gamay to this day can be found in very parts of Burgundy itself.
The winery was recently renamed Château Philippe le Hardi, and has 98ha of vineyards in Mercurey, Côtes de Beaune and Côtes de Nuits, and a pretty phenomenal reputation for quality.
We descended into the moat to access the cellar, the oldest part of which had been the village gaol. A lot of barrels, of course, but also amphorae made of sandstone and clay being used experimetally for both red and white wines to understand the extent to which oak influences wine rather than terroir. The hope is that such vessels used in hot vintages may help keep wines fresher.
In the tasting room we tasted whites and three reds, each distinctive and representative of its terroir.
These were amazing visits and we were very glad that Tim sells their wines at home!
After a very pleasant lunch in the Terroir restaurant in Santenay we headed to the Côte Chalonnais.
Two groups visited André Delorme in Rully.
In the cellar our guide Monique described the varied soils of the Côte Chalonnais and we could see layers of limestone that lie beneath the Rully appellation.
There were a lot of barrels, all French of course. Some were emptied ready for cleaning before next years wines are made. All Delorme’s still wines are matured in oak, with the exception of the Bouzeron of which more below.
We tasted two Crémants, and a delicious Bouzeron 2019 which provedit is a mistake to pass over this appellation, which can only use the Aligoté grape, often considered inferior to the ubiquitous Chardonnay.
The whites from Givry and Montagny and reds from Mercurey and Rully gave us a complete tour of the Chalonnais appellations, and were a great finale to our programme of visits.
One group visited Domaine Chevrot in Maranges, which is next door to Santenay in the Côte de Beaune. Pablo Chevrot also makes wines from the Chalonnais, and our tasting revealed subtleties of terroir for both whites and reds. Pablo was on extremely good form during our visit as he had pretty much sold out of current vintages!
In 2023 we visited the renowned negociant André Delorme. Set up in 1942, this negociant has established an excellent reputation for Crémant de Bourgogne as well as a number of other wines from the region. We were hosted by Loic and Monique who took us on a very laid back and light hearted journey through the history of the estate and into the cellar.
A great tasting ensued with Crémant of course, a Bouzeron white made from Aligoté, Mercurey Blanc, Montagny 1er Cru, Givry red and Rully 1er Cru.
Our each tour we visited Château Moulin-a-Vent.
The estate owns 23 lieu-dit (‘named sites). Grapes from these lieu-dit are vinified separately, and around a third are matured, most for up to a year, in oak, as we saw in the cool cellars under the château.
At the back of the château we walked to the Clos de Londres, a walled vineyard less than 0.5h area, protected by the walls and woods surrounding it. The famous windmill was virtually next door. The view was glorious,
Our tasting took us from a basic AOC Moulin-a-Vent, through three wines from specific lieu-dit, Les Verillats, Champ de Cour, La Rochelle, all from recent vintages and each showing great character and ageing potential.
Lunch was either at Les Maritonnes or the Auberge du Cep, and then a short drive took us to Château de Poncié, which has over a thousand years of history – the owner of Villa Ponciago, as it was known in the 10th Century, donated his vineyard to the Abbey of Cluny (in the hope of eternal salvation), and wine has been made since. We learnt this from our host Robin Allouin, who accompanied on a stroll up into a neighbouring vineyard, describing the history and the current status of the estate. They have 32ha of vines interspersed among 22ha of woods and other plantings to provide biodiversity. They farm organically, with grasses and wheat planted between the rows of vines to aid soil health, and sheep graze after harvest.
In the winery we tasted their wines: contrasting vintages of Beaujolais Villages Blanc, a youthful Beaujolais Villages red, and a progression of Gamays culminating with their two lieu-dit wines. Les Hauts de Py, 55 year old vines on a high south facing slope, was lighter and more floral, while Les Moriers, with 80 year old vines on a north facing slope, was more structured. The contrast between the 2018 and the 2016 vintages showed how beautifully Fleurie can age.
Our final night dinner was at the Poisson d’Or restaurant on the River Saône, a couple of km north of Macon. On fine nights we sat outside enjoying cooling breezes from the river, on one we ate inside as the rain lashed down! On every occasion it was super meal, with great exchanges of memories and hopes to see one another again. On Sunday, apart from breakfast and a free morning in Mâcon, and the return to Lyon airport, our tours has ended.
What my clients said about this tour
“We just wanted to say how happy we were with the Southern Burgundy tour. Full of interest and wines that we had not come across before. The food was delicious and my vegetarian experience was better than I might have expected. The Michelin star lunch was great, so indeed was the last night by the river – really good! I thought the hotel was probably the best we had experienced on a wine tour before with very good facilities, particularly the sky bar. All in all a great success, so thank you very much for all your hard work in making this just that.” – Margaret Steer, St Austell