Sometimes it seems that Mâcon, France gets about as much respect in the wine world as Macon, Georgia. This vast appellation toward the southern end of Burgundy is best known for pouring out a lake of affable, affordable, but generally lackluster Chardonnay-based white wine.
This is not entirely a fair rap. Although Mâcon does indeed produce a lot of decidedly modest wine in industrial quantity (and industrial quality), there are plenty of jewels in the mire. Particularly when you go to the Maconnais "villages" (as discussed in Wine from the Villages on Jan. 19).
One of the most interesting of the Mâcon villages is Vergisson. A tiny village perched in a valley between the Mont de Vergisson and the Mont de Solutré, high above the city of Mâon, its limestone soil has lured a number of high-quality producers, including the well-known Jean-Marie Guffens and the maker of today's wine, Jean Jacques Litaud.
Litaud's 2002 Mâcon-Vergisson Domaine des Vieilles Pierres ("Domaine of the old stones"), is a fine example. It showcases the fresh, ripe appley character of pure Chardonnay fruit in a well-balanced and appealing wine that presents this popular but often-maligned variety at its best. Sold at a Mâon price, it's capable of competing with White Burgundies from regions of more stellar reputation.
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Domaine des Vieilles Pierres 2002 Mâcon-Vergisson ($14.99)
This clear, light-gold wine offers classic Chardonnay scents of fresh apples, pure and ripe, with a back note of honey. There's no honeyed sweetness on the palate, though, where it shows medium-bodied and fully dry, fresh-apple fruit with a tang of lemon. Ripe apple and lemon flavors persist in a long, clean finish that's a winner with food. U.S. importer: Wines of France Inc., Mountainside, N.J.; Alain Junguenet Selection. (Feb. 11, 2005)
FOOD MATCH: This wine meets its natural match in seafood, and a relatively rich presentation does no harm. It was outstanding with halibut steaks with a Newburg-style sauce, a Sherry-accented Mornay, with a few fat shrimps as garnish.
VALUE: More than fair in the age of the weak dollar, particularly in contrast with Cote d'Or whites that command multiples of this mid-teens price.
WHEN TO DRINK: Made for current enjoyment, although its balance and texture suggest that, like its more pricey brethren, this wine could gain richness and complexity with a few years of careful cellaring.
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Still more charity
Following up on Monday's and Wednesday's editions, here are a few more notes on wines that share part of their proceeds to benefit charitable, non-profit and other worthy causes.
In the UK, it's time again for the biennial "Red Nose Day" charity event, coming up on March 11. As part of this venture, 10 percent of retail sales on 70 wines at supermarkets and wine shops, ranging from Laurent Perrier Vintage Champagne to Gallo, go to Wine Relief, which has raised £1.2 million since its launch in 1999. For more information on Wine Relief, click to the Red Nose Day pages,
In Canada, proceeds from golf pro Mike Weir's eponymous new Ontario winery near Niagara-on-the-Lake will benefit Canadian children's charities through the Mike Weir Foundation.
Children's hospitals also benefit from Stevens Winery in Bellevue, Wash., which donates all of its large-format bottles for hospital charity auctions.
Finally, no list of charitable wine ventures would be complete without mention of the Supporters of Bryce, a large group of Oregon wineries who've banded together to create a barrel of a very special Pinot Noir, Saint Bartholomew's, which is sold by all the participating wineries with proceeds going to defray the medical expenses of Bryce Bagnall, wine master at Witness Tree Winery, who has been diagnosed with ALS - Lou Gerhig's Disease. Website:
Our salute and best wishes go to all the many world wineries who give back to their communities, one way or another, through charitable ventures.
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Friday, Feb. 18, 2005