Laurent Cognard Pouilly Loche 2012
Laurent Cognard's parents and grandparents sold the grapes from their small vineyard in Buxy to local cooperatives. Laurent began domaine bottling his family's wines in 1997, returning each year for harvest, but also working as a wine seller in Lyon and Paris. He returned to Buxy permanently in 2006 and today farms 26 acres of vines in the appellations of Montagny, Mercurey, and Pouilly-Loché. The specialty of the domaine is white wine made in a fresh and balanced style, though a small amount of Mercurey rouge is also produced. Laurent practices lutte raisonée (“reasoned struggle”) and is converting to organic farming. The region of Côte Chalonnaise extends 25 kilometers from the southern end of the Côte d'Or to the Maconnais in the south. The region includes five village appellations: Bouzeron (white wine from Aligoté), Rully, Givry, Mercurey (white, rosé, and red wines), and Montagny (white wine only). The soil is like the Côte de Beaune with weathered limestone and clay, but lacks the protection from wind provided by the Côte d’Or's escarpment. Laurent Cognard's 26 acres are spread across Bissey-sous-Cruchaud (for Crémant de Bourgogne), Montagny, Mercurey, and a small holding Pouilly-Loché in the Maconnais.
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.