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Bourgogne I - Mâconnaise

Updated: Jun 29, 2019

As we left Beaujolais driving through Saint Amour the last Crus of Beaujolais ; we finally stepped into the Maconnaise.

The southernmost part of Bourgogne. It is so hard to believe how the soil and the growing condition would so dramatically change by just driving few tens of miles. The truth is that the shist and the granite subsoil are still marginally there as the only area of Bourgogne but definitely the limestone and marls become the prominent soil type and therefore the Gamay turns into Chardonnay.

Welcome to Bourgogne.

Macon is the “capitol” of the Maconnaise. A town of over 35000 people. With a long history which goes back to the Romans. From Matisco to the present day... The foundation of the ancient Matisco dates back to the 1st century BC Very quickly, the city became a crossroads of communication. Border between the Kingdom of France and the Holy German Empire between 843 and 1600, Mâcon prospered thanks to the tariffs established. In 1790, it became the capital of the department of Saône-et-Loire and saw the birth of one of his most famous children: Alphonse de Lamartine. An active centre of the Resistance during the Second World War, Mâcon will be the first city in the free zone between Paris and Lyon.

Its urban and architectural richness testifies to a history full of encounters

It was almost sunset when finally we arrived in town, sunset in June is at 9 Pm. So we quickly decided to walk down to the Saône where many restaurants were still open, but not for too long ... hey we are in the center of France not in Paris ... here by 930Pm the kitchens close ...and no luck to find any food.

As we enjoyed walking through the quaint town and admire some of its historical building, the view of Macon from

the opposite side of the Saône was beautiful with the two towers of the majestic Macon Cathedral.

It was formerly the seat of the Bishop of Mâcon, abolished under the Concordat of 1801 and merged into the Diocese of Autun.

The present church (Église cathédrale Saint-Vincent de Mâcon) was built between 1808 and 1818 under the supervision of the architect Alexandre de Gisors. Of its predecessor, known as "Vieux Saint-Vincent" (Old St. Vincent), there remain two towers, a narthexand a tympanum. The highly distinctive south tower, which is topped by a belvedere, serves as a symbol of Mâcon.

The Mâconnaise is on the verge of rediscovery and for those who like Burgundian Chardonnay but cringe at the cost, the Mâconnaise is your spot!  Chardonnay here is fruity, often with Acacia blossoms and peach, and succulent with a certain minerality. And these good-value, quality wines are easy to pair with food.

Facts about the Maconnaise

It is the Largest vineyard area in Burgundy 85% of the planted grapes are Chardonnay, other grapes are Aligote, Pinot Noir, and Gamay. Roses and velvety reds are also produced. Pouilly-Fuissé is the flagship wine and Mâcon is the namesake village with abundant sunshine! Generally warmer weather = riper grapes

There are three regional AOCs (Mâcon, Mâcon-Villages, and Mâcon+given village name), and three communal AOCs (Pouilly-Fuissé [including Pouilly-Vinzelles and Pouilly-Loché], Saint-Véran, and Viré-Clessé).

On a beautiful morning of beginning of June 2019 we left Macon directed to Pouilly Fuisse, the most representative wine producing area in the Maconnaise.

We drove through beautiful winding roads surrounded by vineyards looking for the rock of Solutre , representative of the area.

This is one of the most ancient sites in the world.

Students ofprehistory gave the name «Solutrean» to the culture which developped in Stone Age Europe between 20.000 and 15.000 years before our time. Its identification mark is a perfectly worked oval point, which has been defined as a «laurel leaf». Our Solutrean ancestors were great hunters, and the cunning needed in order to hunt game led them to gather together in an organized community. Of course, Solutre was only one of their settlements, but it is one of the most fascinating ones. Their prey was the mid horse, which emigrated in huge herds when the mountains of the east began to freeze in the winter. Man waited for the hordes to come up the west bank of the Saone. The seemingly insane stallions hurled themselves against the reindeer horns with silica handles. On the great stone slabs especially prepared for the slaughter, the fires burned all night... The great hunt lasted for millenniums

It is a limestone based rock , it is the destination of many hikers, on the bottom

of the rock there are parking lots for people that want to adventure the long hiking walk to the peak of the Rock. It is also the destination of many cyclist, but in a very hot day like that we had no desire to make the climb. After all our destination was Beaune and couldn’t spend all day doing that.

While Pouilly-Fuissé is the best-known part of Mâconnais, there are no Premier Cru vineyards within the AOC, as the local growers at the time the regulations were being drawn up never applied for this. The AOC was created on 11 September 1936.

Soils here are very similar to those found in the Côte d‘Or.

Neighboring AOCs of Pouilly-Vinzelles and Puuilly Loche’ are now capitalizing on the terroir and the Pouilly name and putting their products to market. These three village wines possess delicate fruit and floral aromas all wrapped around a solid core of minerality.

Domain de courtesess

As we luckily found a Domain open to allow us to taste their wines , we literally knocked on the door of this very small producer, an old woman welcomed us and we walked through a path bloomed to violets and roses to reach the cellar.

Owner of over 20 hectares the cellar was small and welcoming, we tasted their main wines made of Chardonnay of course as first experience to one of the two major grapes of Bourgogne. I will write a proper tasting notes as soon as I will be able to taste the wines that I purchased and now are aging in my personal cellar.

As we left Pouilly- Fuisse the sun was still very strong and the desire to get to the Abbey in Cluny and then to Beaune was high, so we left the country side driving on route D17 to E62. In 25 minutes we arrived to Cluny the famous Abbey.


Here stood God's biggest dwelling on earth.

At the beginning of the Xth century, the Duke William the Pious donated his hunting pavilion to the «apostles Peter and Paul», «on condition that a regular monastery be built in that place in their honour, and that monks living according to the rule of Saint Benedict should gather there». Two centuries later, Cluny reigned over the Christian world. The «second Rome» controlled one thousand five hundred monasteries in the West. When consecrating the main altar of the basilica, in 1095, Pope Urban II was able to apply the following words from the Scriptures to his Cluniac brothers: « You are the light of the world». The great abbots - a race of saints expressed God's will. From Odon to Peter the Venerable, they never stopped creating a wonderful building of stone, science and prayer.

At the height of its glory, in the XIIth century, the great abbatial church, the mother house of the Order, with its seven towers, two transepts and five naves, was the biggest in all Christendom, second only, by a small margin, to Bramante and Michelangelo's church of Saint Peter. The superiority granted to a combative liturgy gave the offices an imperious splendour. Perfection of the forms, the, rites, the assured voice but above all

a violent expression of faith. The monks, who together eight times by day_and by night, did not sing with tremulous voices a «Gregorian chant» made insipid by the suspected sweetness of romanticism. did not mumble syrupy songs, nor did they dream about approximative translations of the war songs of Israel! they fought, untiringly, against the Devil. When the «Lord of the Flies» managed to convince everyone that the Devil did not exist, Cluny lost all of its significance.

And so it was pulled down. The Holy Water Bell-tower which now seems so huge, was just one side tower in the midst of others, and not even the highest one... The Revolution drove out the monks. Later, others destroyed their house of prayer. Why? «There is no point in looking for a noble motive for an action when you have already found a base one», wrote Edouard Gibbon, who lived more or less around the time of this tragedy. The sculptured capitals depicting the lessons of Sibyl, the architraves with David dancing in front of the Arc, the tympanums illuminating the Prophets with their faces turne ~ after such a long wait -towards the Messiah, made excellent stones for'gravelling the roads.

After an in depth visit to this historical site we finally moved direction Beaune. Through D981 to the autoroute du Soleil A6 we arrived in Beaune in one hour and 10 minutes. But this is a great topic for the next blog .... Beaune and Côte d’Or... Follow us

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