Domaine Robert-Denogent Macon-Solutre Clos des Bertillonnes 2016
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Barrel Sample: 90-92
When first tasting the wines of Domaine Robert-Denogent, it is essential to put aside any preconceived notions about the young, over-cropped whites of southern Burgundy. These are wines of a much different class, whose reflection of terroir is one more likely found farther north in the prestigious Côte d’Or. Jean-Jacques Robert took over five hectares of his grandfather’s vines in the Mâconnais just outside the village of Fuissé after finishing law school in 1988. Though most of the harvest had always been sold off to the cooperatives, the small parcels that made up the domaine were already understood to enjoy unique microclimates, producing Pouilly-Fuissés of great pedigree. Jean-Jacques soon came under the influence of two ardent defenders of terroir, the great master of Morgon, Marcel Lapierre, and American importer, Kermit Lynch. Little by little, Jean-Jacques has introduced radical changes to the domaine (while staying faithful to his grandfather’s wisdom about the complexity of the land), finally realizing its full potential. He is now joined by his son, Nicolas.
The Roberts’ individual vineyard parcels are planted with old vines (remarkably so!) on varied soils of granite, schist, limestone, clay, and gravel. Naturally reduced yields imbue the grapes with terrific concentration. The wines undergo a long, slow élévage in barrel that lasts anywhere from fifteen to eighteen months. They are bottled after two winters in barrel, a treatment more common (yet still far from the norm) in the Côte d’Or, and something that really sets them apart in the Mâconnais. At a fraction of the price of the appellations of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, to which they are often compared by aficionados and critics alike, the wines of Robert-Denogent offer tremendous value, wonderful richness, and impressive complexity. An added attraction for some—they age sooner than their counterparts to the north.
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 it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.