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Pouilly-Fuissé


Wine By Region Right Europe Right France Right Burgundy Right Mâconnais Right Pouilly-Fuissé


Famous for their smoky mixture of yellow fruit flavors with more exotic spice and nut notes, the wines of Pouilly-Fuissé have emerged as the top white Burgundies outside the Côte de Beaune escarpment. Usually, they offer fractionally lower prices than Côte de Beaune boutique offerings, with proportionally more quality for the dollars. Certain cuvées have a dogged cult following, and the reputation of this area is growing to make it one of the most popular choices for Chardonnay in the world.

The Pouilly-Fuissé appellation is a trifle misleading in that there is no village of the same name. Rather, it is a composite of the four villages thought to make prime Mâconnais: Chaintré (1.28 square miles), Vergisson (2.23 square miles), Fuissé (1.88 square miles), and Solutré-Pouilly (2.38 square miles). This adds up to 7.77 square miles of village land--but due to the amazing viability of almost all land in these villages to produce wine, this ends up making for a record 1,871 acres of vineyard land.

The amazingly high amount of land used in Pouilly-Fuissé makes it the largest appellation in Burgundy in terms of production--around 430,000 cases each year. For the record, that's over five million bottles. Also, there are no Premiers Crus. One would think, then, that quality in Pouilly-Fuissé would be a gamble, but the magic of the village is that most wines rarely fail to deliver the special flavors that the appellation so often promises.

History

In 1936, the region was already known, but regulators cut out a few less esteemed parcels of land when making it into an appellation, and thus the Pouilly-Loche and Pouilly-Vinzelles appellations were made. Regulators also made the decision not to create Premiers Crus, and lieux-dits would later rise to prominence in a manner much reminiscent of the Grands Crus Corton and Clos de Vougeot.

Climate and Viticulture

The villages themselves are located southwest of the city of Mâcon, like all of the wine-producing appellations of that region. Oddly, they are actually located rather far away from each other, rather than being close together like most other villages joined in an appellation are. Rainfall and climate, then, vary slightly among the villages, not to mention the altitude of the hills on which most of the best vineyards are located.

AOC regulators selected for the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation only the land that was covered in the best soil. Rich in alkaline, the soils mainly consist of clay but have the limestone base that characterizes most hills in the area. The combination of the mineral-rich soil, which also is laced with iron in some parts, with the underlying structure of the limestone, is what makes white Burgundy so grand--and even if Pouilly-Fuissé doesn't have the altitude or coverage to rival Montrachet's perfection, it certainly makes a stylish Chardonnay.

Grape Varieties

Major Producers

Quality in Pouilly-Fuissé is not guaranteed due to the size of the appellation, the amount of wine produced, and the lack of any Premier Cru designations. All wine is Chardonnay and must have 11% alcohol, but other than that, there are no rules. This is an odd situation for French wine, which is usually tightly regulated, but the freer system has apparently worked well for the best of the Pouilly-Fuissé growers.

We consider 16 producers to be leading, and most of their prices are fairly reasonable, at least in comparison to the intimidating price tags of white Côte de Beaune. Here is a list of these producers along with descriptions of their best wines.

Subregions

The lack of Grands Crus and Premiers Crus in Pouilly-Fuissé means that everything is based around lieux-dits. As a result, the role of the producer rather than the vineyard becomes more important. Still, there are some lieux-dits that are considered very important here.

From Barraud and Rijckaert the En Buland vineyard produces magical old-vine cuvées, making it probably the best of its kind, but there are dozens of other common ones that can make for great wine. A few examples include La Roche, Vignes Blanches, Clos Reyssie, La Croix (often spelled different ways), and La Côte.