Organic-certified Mâconnais ’18s from André Bonhomme
2018 marks the fifth harvest since we began our association with this low-key high-achiever from the Mâconnais. There were plenty of reasons we were drawn to André Bonhomme in the first place. This is a modest, hard-working pioneer family – the first to domaine-bottle wines in the appellation that subsequently became Viré-Clessé. There’s no ego or technical meddling in the cellar; everything at this place begins and ends with the certified-organic fruit.
And on that note, there’s a fascinating patchwork of terroirs across their old-vine holdings. These really get to shine through, with so much to explore in textures and spectrum of fruit and minerals. And then the interplay between richness of body and that pulsing Burgundian acidity which gives us Chardonnay lovers another realm to revel in.
With so many virtues on offer, it seems somewhat ungenerous to bring the conversation back to money. But it’s hard not to add to the long list of positives the fact that these wines remain a remarkably good-value route to enjoying characterful, beautifully composed old-world Chardonnay that is true to its unique place.
The Mâcon Villages is produced from Chardonnay vines with an average age of about 50 years. After a manual harvest at optimal ripeness, the bunches are gently pressed and the juices fermented naturally in stainless steel vats.
This cuvée comes from vines that are between 70 to 95 years old on clay and limestone. All the wines are separated during winemaking before blending. Traditional vinification and ageing take place in oak barrels with indigenous yeasts then natural MLF, for a period of 20 months.
From 75- to 95-year-old vines. 100% made and aged in barrel with 20% new wood. A little bit lighter in colour and less luxuriant on the nose. Bottled in January 2020. Clean oak emerges behind, integrating very nicely with a little muscat touch and keeping the weight of fruit in balance.88 points. Jasper Morris, Inside Burgundy July 2020
Bonhomme’s Prêtres de Quintaine is a cuvée produced in tiny quantities (about 2,000 bottles). This powerful blend is very refined coming from very old vines of close to 100 years of age situated on the Quintaine lieu-dit, which sits at the point where the communes of Viré and Clessé meet. Quintaine is a climat in the heart of the appellation which is unique on account of its soils (limestone from the Middle Jurassic Bathonian period and marl from the Upper Jurassic Oxfordian period) and also from its east/south east exposure. The name of the cuvée comes from the fact the parcel is planted on the slope facing the Quintaine chapel. The wine is fermented and aged for 24 months in oak casks. The result is a distinguished, mineral wine with beautiful layers which will take some years to fully fan out.
Bonhomme’s Viré-Clessé Les Hauts des Ménards comes from an old parcel planted about 90 years ago. The shallow clay-limestone of this fairly steep slope has a large proportion of red clay. Fermentation and maturation take place in oak casks over 24 months before bottling. The wine is naturally rich with a beautiful structure balanced by a refreshing minerality which also contributes to its satisfying length.
L’Epinet is a unique and exceptional climat located at the extreme north of Viré-Clessé, opposite Bonhomme’s Quintaine parcel. Planted in 1923, the old roots have been able to express themselves in a microcuvée of around 800 bottles since 2010. The soil here consists of reddish clay with stony outcrops which bring finesse, beautiful ripeness and great length in the mouth. These characters get to shine thanks to a slow, natural, long vinification over 24 months in oak casks. The wines from this climat have a more marked minerality and depth than Quintaine, allied sometimes to a certain austerity in their youth.