When it comes to Chardonnay, I prefer a leaner, lower-alcohol style with subtle oak treatment, which means that I naturally gravitate toward Burgundy, the French region that sets a benchmark against which Chardonnay throughout the world is compared, if not judged. The same is true for Pinot Noir, Burgundy’s signature red variety.
If there’s a problem with Burgundy, it’s that the prices of many, if not most, of its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are off the charts and out of reach for those of us looking for good bottles for everyday drinking. But there are always exceptions, and some of the best values come from the Mâcon region in southern Burgundy.
That is where Jean-Jacques Vincent’s family has been making wine for more than 150 years, and where Antoine Vincent, Jean-Jacques’ son, now runs the family’s domaine, Chateau Fuissé, as owner and winemaker.
One of its wines, priced at about $20, is the 2015 J.J. Vincent “JJ” Bourgogne Blanc, which I tasted on a visit to the domaine last summer. Antoine Vincent noted that 2015 was “a concentrated vintage,” meaning a warm year, in which the harvest began on September 1. “The key point,” he said, “was preserving the freshness.”
Indeed, the wine was at once generous but also fresh and crisp — floral and slightly spicy with green apple, some citrus, and touches of almond and green olive. To preserve the freshness, only a small part of the wine was aged in oak.
“I prefer to make more elegant wines than powerful wines,” Vincent said. With a warming trend brought on by climate change, that is becoming a bigger challenge, many winemakers in Burgundy told me. For one thing, Vincent said, it has made predictions and decisions about the beginning (and the end) of the harvest more difficult.
The J.J. Vincent Bourgogne — the Vincent name is used for a line of wines aimed at the American market — achieves that elegance and is a top Burgundy value. For even greater depth and complexity, look for the J.J. Vincent 2015 Pouilly-Fuissé “Cuvée Marie Antoinette,” at about $25.
Although the 2016 vintage has been released, the 2015s are still widely available and will have benefited from another year of bottle age.