When Richard and Stephane Martin purchased Domaine du Mont-Epin in 2015, they had a simple goal: Make wines that are fresh and pure at a good price.
Situated in the commune of Clesse in the Maconnais region of southern Burgundy, Domaine du Mont-Epin specializes in chardonnay, the grape of Macon. Far from the glitz and glamour of the premier cru and grand cru vineyards of the Cote d'Or, producing wines at a good price is hardly the problem.
Producing wines that can compete with more illustrious white Burgundies on the world market is quite another. I recently sat down with Richard Martin, the winemaker, at the French Trade Commission in San Francisco and tasted four samples from the 2016 vintage: Macon Peronne (the domaine borders the villages of Clesse and Peronne), Macon Peronne Etoile, Vire-Clesse and the Vire-Clesse Breillonde.
They will range in price from $18 to $30. For the most part these are unoaked wines, with only the Vire-Clesse Breillonde given any aging in oak (about 50 percent is aged in neutral barrels).
"We try to achieve purity of fruit and good minerality," Martin said. He farms organically, though the winery is not certified organic, and the land is worked with tools rather than machines.
All four wines were splendid. My personal favorite was the Macon Peronne Etoile, which was crisp with underlying richness and a distinct thread of minerality. It will retail for about $22. The Vire-Clesse Breillonde was the most sophisticated and elegant, and likely the most expensive at around $30.
For white Burgundy on a budget, you can't miss the Domaine du Mont-Epin.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
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J Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley ($30) — Winemaker Nicole Hitchcock demonstrates clearly here that she also has a deft hand with white table wines. Though J is primarily a sparkling wine house, its pinot noir, pinot gris and chardonnay receive every bit as much TLC as the bubblies. This vintage of the Russian River Valley chardonnay (there are other chards that are more site specific) is beautifully crafted, showing layered complexity with aromas of lemon creme, white peach and pear. The balance between fruit, acid and oak is exquisite, with a lingering note of wood spice that exhibits just the right touch without intruding upon the luscious fruits flavors. Rating: 94 points.
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