Wine Tasting in Macon
My favourite place to taste wine around Mâcon was Les Vins d’Anges. This is located close to the centre and has a Oenoteca machine that allows the clientele to sample small taster volumes of good and high quality wine at a reasonable price.
The first visit was with Luke. Monsieur Le Patron initially seated us at the bar, but he seemed to warm to us after a few verbal exchanges about wine and viticulture and we were soon relaxing expectantly in the comfy sofas nearest to the Oenoteca. I went back several times after that, and each time I was greeted warmly and seated next to the wine dsipensers.
I have seen these Oenoteca machines in London, at Berry Brothers and Rudd, but I hadn’t expected them to be in service in Mâcon. Les Vins des Anges has three such dispensers, each with six or eight wines. I felt there was a revealing sense of hierarchy in the placement of the wines contained in the Oenoteca machines, with the wines seeming to be neatly arranged from left to right based on their quality. The one on the left had only foreign wines, the machine in the middle had Mâcon wines, and the furthest on the right had a selection of wines from around France, including a superb Corsican wine.
The system is very simple. Le Patron gives you a card with € 50 credit, you select your wine, you select the volume required, and then you put your glass underneath and press the button to dispense the wine.
Most of the wines I tried here are on Vivino, but I will provide a link below to my reviews from this trip. From the region, we had a Macon-Bussieres “Montbrison” from 2019, made by Jacques and Nathalie Saumaize. This was delicious and crisp. We then tried a Pouilly-Fuissé which was soft and elegant. This was a Vieilles Vignes Pouilly-Fuisse from 2019, made by Jacques and Pascal Rollet. My wine notes say: “Soft rounded oak and vanilla flavour and a very slight buttery quality so I would guess a very nuanced MLF in the making. Very nice.”
The Maconnais region is known for good value white wines made from the Chardonnay grape, and driving on the way down, we went past a town called Chardonnay in the far north of the region. Although nearly all the wine made in the Mâconnais is white, some Gamay and Pinot noir are made into red and rosé wines.
Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais to the south, whereas Pinot Noir is the grape of Bourgogne, and Mâcon straddles the two regions, although the wines produced are very different.
After our first visit to Les Vins d’Anges, we went to Restaurant l’Ardoise. We had an excellent meal, washed down with two 500 ml pichets of basic house wine. Although this was not a patch on the wines we drank from the Oenoteca in terms of quality, I was reminded nonetheless how good even the most basic French wines taste.
There is also an excellent shop behind the Church of Saint Pierre, called La Cave St Pierre. This has a wonderful selection of Bourgogne, but also an esoteric collection of wines from around France, but mostly at the expensive end. I didn’t buy from this shop, but I liked the atmosphere and the two oak barrels outside give the place a certain ambiance.
But even the local supermarkets stock good bottles. Tonight, as I write this, I am drinking a 2019 Viré-Clessé from Domaine Michel which I bought for € 14 in the local Casino supermarket. But I have found equally good wines in the nearby Carrefour City
The Viré-Clessé AOC region is in the far north of the Maconnais region, and was finally formed in 1999, more than 60 years after the local vignerons initially refused the privilege because they thought they would have to pay higher taxes. Viré-Clessé is made up of the communes of Viré, Clessé, Montbellet and Laizé, all of which have vineyards facing to the east over the Saone river. I love this wine, which has fresh lightly oaked Chardonnay flavours, maybe just a subtle hint of malolactic fermentation that gives it a very light rounded quality, and powerful apple and stone fruit flavours.