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Christophe Cordier Macon Vieilles Vignes 2015
Christophe Cordier is the third generation of his family to work the vines of southern Burgundy. His father, Roger Cordier, established the current family estate in 1968 in the village of Fuissé with only five hectares of vineyards, and Christophe joined him in 1987, determined to create great wines from the terroirs of the Mâconnais. In an area known for simple, over-produced wines he has been one of the rare pioneers to study the soils and farm, vinify and bottle the best terroirs of the region.
Today, he farms and manages 30 hectares in clay and limestone soils, spread over 100 individual parcels and nine villages, which he bottles into 22 cuvees for Domaine Cordier and 10 for Christophe Cordier. All but one of his parcels is planted to Chardonnay. Eighteen of his holdings are situated in lieux-dits, with ten in AOC Pouilly-Fuissé alone.
The new winery, constructed in 2012, is impeccably kept and entirely temperature-controlled. Equipped with gravity-fed, stainless steel decanting tanks, two aging cellars for the barrels and one for foudres, both the space and modern equipment allow Christophe to meet his high standards for making “grands vins.”
These are the fun, fruit-driven and lively Chardonnays of white Burgundy, often offering some fantastic values and options that you don’t have to cellar. Flavors range from fresh green apple and lemon to melon or pineapple; some of the best are fleshy and mineral driven or balanced by a light touch of oak.
Mâconnais Chardonnay may have the weight of their more serious Côte de Beaune sisters, but not quite the refinement. Still, this appellation is one of the best ways to jump from California Chardonnay to something new and begin to understand white Burgundy.
The Mâconnais region is warmer and drier than the rest of Burgundy to its north (Côte d’Or) and has a landscape of rolling hills and farmland interspersed among vineyards. The region produces a lot of Chardonnay—Viré-Clessé and Pouilly-Fuisse are among the best—and a very small amount of red wine from Gamay and Pinot noir. The soils of Mâconnais remain limestone dominant like in the Côte d’Or, making it a wonderful spot for Chardonnay to thrive. Gamay's home of Beaujolais lies just to the south.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.