Château de Vergisson Pouilly-Fuisse ‘Sur la Roche’ 2018
These are vines from Pierre’s end of the valley, on the slopes of the Vergisson outcrop. The vines, almost 100 years old, were planted by Pierre’s great-grandfather. And old vines on a parcel like ‘Sur la Roche’ gives a depth and concentration that is hard to believe. Elegance, tension, freshness, notes of oysters and the sea, iodine. And of course the minerality carries the finish on forever. Outstanding.
After having taken over their family vineyards, Stephanie Saumaize and Pierre Laroche created the Domaine du Chateau de Vergisson in 2012, and were soon turning heads in Pouilly-Fuisse and the Maconnais. The young couple are from two different families of grape farmers, Stephanie from Solutre and Pierre from Vergisson, villages that sit at the base of the dominant limestone outcrops that mark both the terrain and the terroir of Pouilly Fuisse.
Neither family made wine, however. Rather they sold their produce to negociant houses in the area. So when Stephanie and Pierre took over the vineyards, renovated the Chateau de Vergisson as their home and winery and started bottling under their own label, they appeared to come out of nowhere. And for us, it is a match made in Elden wine heaven!
Their first vintage was 2012, so the domain is still relatively unknown. But the quality and finesse of their production thrust them into the limelight here in Burgundy, and we are pleased to be the first to bring their wines to the US.
Le domain lays out over 10 ha (24 acres), mostly in appellation Pouilly-Fuisse, though they also produce appellation Saint Veran and Macon-Solutre.
They have three distinct ‘cuvees’ of Pouilly-Fuisse, notably an old-vine parcel of ‘Sur la Roche’ in Vergisson which was planted by Pierre’s great-grandfather nearly 100 years ago. ‘Sur la Roche’ will soon be elevated to ‘premier cru’ status, so keep this one on your radar. They also have a holding in the tiny ‘Clos en Charmont’ which produces an astoundingly explosive Pouilly-Fuisse.
While their vineyard work is organic, the couple are not ready to jump through the hoops necessary to have the official accreditation. Perhaps in the future, Pierre says. They feel that their installation is still young, so they are taking things as they develop.
Their families used to harvest by machine, but Stephanie and Pierre returned to manual harvesting in 2015. It’s an important change qualitatively. Grapes from quality vineyards in the Maconnais need to be watched closely for maturity. Their’s are wine of great depth, richness and opulence which require attention to detail.
New oak is used judiciously, and only on certain ‘cuvees’. Their Saint-Veran ‘la Cote Rotie’ and the Pouilly-Fuisse ‘Clos en Charmont’ are raised in larger-than-normal (500 liter) barrels, so that oak does not dominate wine.
Up to now, these wines were sold principally in France. But the word is out. With a bevy of gold and silver awards that they started to collect right from their first vintage, the Domaine du Chateau de Vergisson is the new kid on the block and already one of the top producers in the appellation.
BURGUNDY 2018 VINTAGE
There has been talk over the past year of the 2018 vintage in Burgundy being one of the greatest of all time. Comparisons with the mythical 1947, and all that. But let’s be careful and take a closer look.
We’ve tasted some marvelous wines, both white and red, and from all of the appellation levels. Purity and concentration would be the key words across the board.
But lest we forget, 2018 was the hottest vintage in Burgundy since 2003. And frankly, we were expecting wines like we got in 2003: flabby whites and Cote du Rhone-like reds. But that did not happen. And the secret to understanding 2018 Burgundy lies in understanding the difference between these two very hot years.
If you look at 2018 from start to finish, not only was it hot, it was dry: 50% less precipitation than the annual average over the past 30 years. However, if you were here in the early part of the year, you’ll certainly remember the rain.
After a very dry summer in 2017, winter 2017-18 was wet. It rained nearly every day through March and into April. And the vine was slow to bud.
That all changed in the middle of April. Wet soil and higher temperatures brought on explosive growth in the vineyards that the vignerons had a tough time keeping up with. In a week we went from bud burst to unfurled leaves.
The first flowers burst in mid-May. The crop set regularly with very little disruption, and summer settled in. The early wet conditions followed by April’s warmth saw the onset of mildew, but the fungus never stood a chance.
It was a hot and sunny summer. Some would say it was a heat wave and a drought. And we started to see signs of stress in vineyards in certain sectors. Things were better where there was a little rain. But August was bone dry. In fact, there was no rain from June 15th to the end of October.
It was about this time that comparisons to 2015 cropped up. You could see ripeness rapidly approaching, and there was talk of harvest starting at the end of August.
The vines were incredibly healthy; no moisture means no threat from mildew or odium. No rot. Good ripeness.
And, for the first time since 2009….a normal yield! So, let the harvest begin!
And it did, in the last days of August. What was most astonishing right from the start was that the perceived acidity levels seem OK. Granted, there’s no malic acid, but the levels of tartaric acid seem to be compensating, and there is an over-all impression of balance.
Also amazing was the amount of juice the crop produced. Not only was the yield bigger than the past 10 years’ average, but the amount of juice set a record for Burgundy. So there will be a lot of 2018 around.
And all this in a year that felt more like the south of Spain than Burgundy as we know it. The only thing we can attribute the quality of 2018 to is the abundant winter rains, and the vine’s ability to go searching for water when it needs it.
The rocky outcrops of Solutré and Vergisson, emblematic of these vineyards, remind us 20,000 years ago one of the most fully evolved prehistoric cultures flourished here. The region is a magnificent landscape, and the wine villages are charming tourist destinations. Pouilly and Fuisse are two distinct villages in the production zone, but their wines and those from the villages of Vergisson and Chaintre are sold under the Pouilly-Fuisse appellation.
Produced in the communes of Fuissé, Solutré-Pouilly, Vergisson and Chaintré.
Pouilly-Fuisse should be elegant and full of charm, with its distinctive minerality to the fore. It ranges in color from pale to golden, and the nose, often dominated by flinty smoke can be nutty, floral, citric, biscuity, grassy and honeyed, making this one of the most varied of the white Burgundies. Terroir plays heavily in the wines from this appellation, and accounts for the enormous number of named vineyards being bottled separately. An experienced taster can distinguish zones and even individual vineyards. Pouilly-Fuisse, well made, is a noble wine, opulent and structured.
Lying on a foundation of fossiliferous limestone identical to those found further north in the Côte-d'Or, the bajocien escarpments of Solutré and Vergisson owe their dramatic profile to the presence of hard fossil corals which have resisted erosion. The vines are planted on the slopes and at the foot of these two hills on clay-limestone soils of jurassic origin mixed with scree from the upper slopes and, in one spot, schist. The hillsides are cut into by little steep-sided streams which give the slopes an easterly or south-easterly exposure. Altitudes are 200 to 300 meters.
White wines only - Chardonnay
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2,4 acres
Rich and complex, Pouilly-Fuisse has a characteristic hint of minerality which makes it work with some noble ingredients like crustaceans (king prawns, lobster, crayfish) and foie gras. When acidity and minerality are in balance, it goes well with white meats such as veal or poultry in cream sauce, as well with the goat's cheese that the region is famous for. Its aromatic power means it can also match spicy and perfumed dishes such as couscous, tajines, or sweet-and-sour oriental dishes.
On the label, the appellation 'Pouilly-Fuisse' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
A la Chaneau
A la Cotonne
A la Croix Bonne
Au Bois Billon
Au Gros Bois
Aux Grands Champs
Aux Vignes Dessus
Bois de Lacroix
Bois des Fousses
Bois du Molard
Clos de la Maison
Derrière la Maison
En Champ Roux
La Croix Pardon
La Gorge au Loup
La Grange Murger
La Petite Bruyère
La Teppe Charpy
La Terre Jeanduc
La Vigne des Verchères
Le Bois des Taches
Le Champ Rocher
Le Clos de Monsieur Noly
Le Clos Reyssier
Le Grand Pré
Le Haut de Savy
Le Sang Clos
Les Bois Denis
Les Grandes Terres
Les Longues Raies
Les Prés Hauts
Les Terres du Perret
Les Verchères de Savy
Les Vieilles Plantes
Les Vignes Blanches
Les Vignes des Taches
Maison du Villard
Plan de Bourdon
Pré de Vaux
Pré des Aires
Sous le Four
Sur la Roche
Sur la Rochette
Sur les Moulins
Vers la Croix
Vers la Roche
Vers Saint Léger
Vignes de la Fontaine
Vignes de la Hys
Vignes de la l'Eau
Vignes de la Roche
Vignes des Champs
Vignes du Riat
Vignes sur la Fontaine