Navigating wine labels, particularly from the Old World can be daunting if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
New World countries – such as New Zealand, Australia, South Africa – revolutionised the ease with which wine lovers can appreciate what they’re buying.
If it’s a wine made from chardonnay, New World wines will most likely have the grape on the label.
When it comes to understanding Old World wines it’s a little trickier.
French wine producers quite rightly love, and are proud of, the concept of terroir.
Wines speak of place, climate, weather, landscape and soil.
Not least the impact on the land of generations of people and their perseverance and dedication.
Burgundy is famous for producing some of the finest wines in the world from chardonnay.
Pinot noir is the soul of excellent red wines.
As you navigate the mystery of French wine labels, there’s one – or perhaps I should say 27 – that will make life easier (and tasty) for you. But how if there’s 27 of them!
Let me explain.
Burgundy has an incredibly diverse range of appellations. From Chablis in the north with its chardonnay wines speaking of green apple, lemon, wet stone, to the Mâconnais in the furthest south.
Here wine speaks more of sunshine, with riper fruits.
Within the Mâconnais – which mainly produces white wines – the quality labelling levels begin with the simplest inexpensive regional wines which could be labelled Bourgogne AOC.
Then it’s a step up to Mâcon AOC – but these are mainly reds.
Much like some other French wine regions, in the Mâconnais there’s a category called Mâcon-Villages which must be white wines created from chardonnay.
But separate to that, comes a group of 27 villages can add their name after the word ‘Mâcon’ on the label.
These are ‘Mâcon plus geographical denomination wines’ and often just known as ‘Mâcon plus’.
They are perfect food pairing wines; vivacious and fresh.
These wines are becoming more familiar on UK wine shelves and they offer high-quality wines at great value.
Wines fitting into the category need to meet criteria including reduced yields compared to the broader Mâcon appellation, as well as higher sugar levels at harvest.
That doesn’t mean these are sweet wines, as the sugars are fermented to dryness. But overall the wines are more complex and fruitful than other categories.
And they speak of the place they come from.
If you’re browsing aisles, you’ll now understand what the wines are when you see the labels: chardonnay from the sunnier realms of Burgundy, defined and elegant.
To help your label research, here’s the full list of ‘Mâcon plus’ wines:
Mâcon-Azé, Mâcon-Bray, Mâcon-Burgy, Mâcon-Bussières, Mâcon-Chaintre, Mâcon-Chardonnay, Mâcon Charnay-Lès-Mâcon, Mâcon-Cruzille, Mâcon-Davayé, Mâcon-Fuissé, Mâcon-Igé, Mâcon-La Roche-Vineuse, Mâcon-Loché, Mâcon-Lugny, Mâcon-Mancey, Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine, Mâcon-Montbellet, Mâcon-Peronne, Mâcon-Pierreclos, Mâcon-Prissé, Mâcon-Saint-Gengoux-Le-National, Mâcon-Serrières, Mâcon-Solutré-Pouilly, Mâcon-Uchizy, Mâcon-Vergisson, Mâcon-Verzé, Mâcon-Vinzelles
And here’s three to try:
Mâcon-Lugny, Louis Latour, 2019 (Majestic, £14.99 - £12.99 in a mix six deal). This is a wine which just keeps on giving.
The grapes grow on limestone soils in the village of Lugny.
At first I sensed both green and bruised apples, lemon citrus and gooseberry too; then peach and pears.
There’s a creamy mouthfeel with a rush of acidity.
Mâcon-Prissé, Vignerons des Terres Secrètes 2019 (£13.35, or £11.85 in a case of 12, www.hhandc.co.uk)
Burgundy, for all my talk of sunnier climes in the Mâconnais, is still a cool climate region.
The acidity in this wine is thrilling, set against green apples and lemon freshness. Then the sun comes in with soft, cushiony peach notes.
Mâcon-Uchizy, Domaine de l`Arfentière 2020 (£13.85, or £12.25 in a case of 12, as above).
Ah, another wine silky and soft with peach, and laced with citrus and a hint of floral notes. The acidity is fresh.
The memory of each sip lingers before you’re quickly tempted to take the next.
Discover more about the Mâconnais at www.bourgogne-wines.com