Discover Burgundy. Pouilly-Fuissé tasting at Domaine Thibert

During my stay in France tasting wine at 10 am became my everyday morning routine (except Sundays, of course :) As part of my wine trip to Burgundy I've visited the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation just a year before its' climats got classified as Premier Cru. In there I had a portfolio tasting at Domaine Thibert and discovered the diversity of Chardonnay that can come from the rich and off the radar Mâconnais region. Read more about my overview of Pouilly-Fuissé appellation and their recent Premier Cru upgrade or continue reading below if you're more curious to learn about my Pouilly-Fuissé wine tasting at Domaine Thibert in the village of Fuissé.

Wine tasting at Domaine Thibert in Fuisse town at Pouilly-Fuisse AOC in the Maconnais region
Domaine Thibert is run by siblings - Sandrine (on the photo) and Chritophe

So we start with a Mâcon-Verzé from 2016. This wine is part of the Classique collection which means that wines under this collection are usually a blend made of grapes coming from a specific village, Verzé in our case. As for an entry-level wine, it’s quite ‘aged’, I mean wouldn’t you be surprised that the youngest wine you taste at a Chardonnay focused winery in June 2019 is from 2016?

as winemakers they have to control when does the consumer open the wine, otherwise the impression the wine leaves won't be what the vigneron planned

Sandrine said that they used to work like other wineries before - fermenting, bottling fast and selling, but not anymore. As they invest so much effort to grow exceptional grapes on their vineyards and then produce exceptional wine in the cellar, it doesn’t make sense selling it, before it can really be enjoyed. You know, most of the customers are buying wine to drink now, not in two years. So as a winery they had to ensure the bottle is opened when the wine is ready to express itself.

Verzé is a little village nearby with a fantastic terroir. Mâcon is a 3000 ha appellation, so in order to highlight the differences of terroir, producers started to bottle some selected vineyards under Mâcon + village name appellations. That’s how you get a Mâcon-Verzé wine.

storm in the vineyards of Pouilly-Fuisse in Burgundy in the Maconnais region
Lately umbrella became one of the most common things to pack in my suitcase :)

A lot of limestone and clay there, located right in the middle of the slope, has a very rich expression. But in order to uncover the aromas we need to avoid any residual sugar. Aromas are bound by sugar, so for freedom of expression, you need a bone-dry wine. That’s perfectly achieved in this bottle!

feel free to keep this wine for up to 4 days, no vacuum or coravin, just with the cork in the fridge

As for the ageing, Mâcon-Verze comes from 90% stainless steel and 10% used oak. And this 16’ is still very young, it’s very well balanced, a very good vintage, but we can still wait for a year or two with drinking it. The Verzé was opened the day before, and you can feel free to keep this wine for up to 4 days. No vacuum or coravin, just with the cork in the fridge. Actually, Sandrine recommends opening a bottle of their wine hours or even a day before drinking, the more serious the wine is, the longer you should let it ‘breathe’.

hills with Chardonnay vineyards of Pouilly-Fuisse in the Maconnais region in Burgundy
up to the hills, to the Premier Cru's of Fuisse!

We move on to the next terroir, Saint-Véran Bois de Fée 2015 - this time from the Exceptional wines series of Domaine Thibert. 2015 was a very hot year so they decided to harvest early, in order to keep the natural balance of acidity. Therefore, the wine has very ripe aromas, but it’s not overwhelmed by sugar or alcohol. It is a single vineyard wine from Saint-Véran, that is actually on the border of Chasselas and the Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards. Remember, Véran wines are not from the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation, but due to geographical proximity and similar soil, they do taste more like Pouilly-Fuissé, than Chasselas.

map of Pouilly Fuisse and Saint-Veran vineyards in Maconnais in Burgundy
Saint-Véran Bois de Fée is right in between Chasselas and the Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards

This wine will drive your nose crazy. A very flowery, fruity, ripe wine. But no presence of sugar, just as I love!

Saint-Véran is a very complex combination of geological formations.

As it’s from the Exceptional wine portfolio, Bois de Fée comes from long ageing - so the first 10 months it ages in barrel (5% of new oak and the rest is max. 5 years old), then 10 more months it rests in stainless steel before bottling. Saint-Véran is a very complex combination of geological formations, and we don’t even have a proper map of it yet. There are only two producers that do single-vineyard bottling there, one of them is Domaine Thibert.

Avoiding filtration helps producing richer wines.

Besides long ageing for the Exceptional wines, they also aim for no or very little filtration here. To be able to do it, the wine has to be properly fermented, not to have any risk of an unstable wine, so no yeast activity should occur once the wine is bottled. Avoiding filtration helps to produce richer wines. At Domaine Thibert they work this way since 2007.

Wine tasting at Domaine Thibert tasting their Maconnais wines from Pouilly-Fuisse appellation during my Burgundy wine study trip
Love this industrial setting - these wines are too different to confuse even without labels!

Our next wine is a Pouilly-Loché En Chantone 2015 that comes from a single vineyard from Loché village. The soil is neutral clay here, still with lots of limestone. You can feel the malolactic fermentation a lot in this wine - a very creamy wine. Although most of the producers do MLF for Chardonnay here in Burgundy, depending on the terroir, fruit aromas and vintage you may feel the creamy-buttery notes more or less. One producer even told me that malolactic fermentation is mandatory for all Chardonnay in all Burgundy (couldn’t find written proof yet, but he was very convincing). The vineyards of Loché cover only 30 ha. And for this cuvée Domaine Thibert produces max 3000 bottles. If you are looking for a ‘trilogy’ of Pouilly (maybe as a wine collector, or just an aficionado of these soils), you can find all three at this winery. Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Loché and Pouilly-Vinzelles - remember the last two decided to go each their own way, while Pouilly-Fuissé is part of the 4 village appellation.

And let’s try the third wine of this ‘trilogy’ Pouilly-Vinzelles Les Longeays 2015. Les Longeays is only a 50 ha vineyard. At Domaine Thibert they have 2 ha there and this makes them one of the most important producers of it. This is how things work in Burgundy - 2 ha can make you the largest producer :) It’s one of the most interesting terroirs of Pouilly and, hopefully, a soon-to-be Premier Cru. The vineyard has a south-east exposure with all of the vines being around 50 years old. The wine is very pure, it’s very salty and gastronomic. Sandrine says they really like to look for this taste because it makes the wine fresh, gives a nice contrast with the fruity aromas, and it’s really easy to empty the glass and even finish the bottle. Again a 2016 that is still not ready yet, a bit too young, so we stick to 15’. This is what Sandrine says about a wine's readiness:

It’s not orange juice, we work very hard in the vineyard and cellar to get top quality wines, so you know it’s a lot of work, and then people will open the bottle and drink the wine when it’s not mature, it’s hours and hours and hours of work...

At Domaine Thibert they’re still selling 2014’s of some wines (at 2019 when I was visiting), the goal is to sell wines only when they’re really ready to drink. There are not so many wineries, even in Burgundy, doing this. Some consider their job is done once the wine is bottled, but others, like Domaine Thibert, want to have control over when their wine is drunk. It’s end of June, 2019 and they’re still finishing with bottling their 2017. A philosophy that deserves respect.

Next on the list is Pouilly-Fuissé 2015 Vignes de la Côte - so it’s a single vineyard, on the top of the hill, right after the Roman church in Fuissé. I loved the freshness of this wine. Here their focus is on elegance, not powerful wines. That’s why oak is used for most of the wines of this domaine, but they’re very careful with new oak. In Vignes de la Côte it’s around 10% new oak. Using only one cooper with only French oak, at Domaine Thibert they ensure that oak is there only to facilitate the expression of the fruit and terroir, not to overwhelm them. A 10-15 min walk from the winery will take you to the Vignes de la Côte vineyard to see lots of marl and calcareous formations on top of this very shallow limestone soil. In this wine we are back to the super hot 2015 when the harvest was very early. It was a difficult year, especially for Chardonnay producers, hard to preserve the acidity. But with all the hard work invested in this vintage, now we can enjoy ripe, but not cooked, fruits, with balanced acidity and alcohol in a bone-dry wine.

Medieval Roman church in the village of Fuisse in the Pouilly-Fuisse appellation surrounded by vineyards
The Roman church itself is surrounded by vineyards, but don't be lazy! Climb up the hills above it to reach the best slopes of Fuisse!

The Thibert family has been doing wine for many generations, and Sandrine explains how different it’s now, from what it used to be. Their parents and grandparents used to have difficulties with ripening, weather was colder, the production higher, vines full of bunches, plenty of grapes to harvest. It’s normal that it used to take longer to ripen, and many winegrowers were adding sugar to increase the alcohol level. Now it’s not the case anymore, the problem is to keep the right acidity. Although still many people think of sugar level being the main criteria for harvesting, in fact, it’s a complex combination of acidity, pH, sugar and many other things. For high-class wines balance is crucial.

Pouilly-Fuissé Les Cras 2015 - this is a blend of three tiny vineyards on the top of the plateau on a high altitude. The soil is very shallow, rocky, a pure calcareous soil and their vines are above 65 years old here. Again an outstanding gastronomic wine, but it’s a good practice to drink wine on its’ own, to see what the grapevine and winemaker wanted to express, the purity of fruits, flowers, soil, without any changes by food. I love drinking wines without food :) This you could easily guess from my articles. Sandrine says they aim to use less sulfites. To do it, they use a machine that replaces oxygen in barrels and tanks with nitrogen. Less oxygen means less risk for faulty wine, so sulfite usage can be reduced.

how to make white Burgundy wine - a step by step guide of white Bourgogne winemaking
Steps of making White Burgundy - nothing complicated, you only need perfect berries, the rest is easy!

Another way of sulfite reduction is a specific way of doing bâtonnage. They just use a system that turns tanks, so they don’t have to open the top, therefore oxygen can’t enter at this stage either. The most recent acquisition was a new bottling machine, so that now Christophe and the team has full control over the process and there is no need to invite a company for bottling (very common practice for small domaines). Again, this bottling machine works under nitrogen, so no oxygen can enter the wine during the process.

Pouilly-Fuissé Vignes Blanches 2015 - one of the most famous vineyards in the village, now a Premier Cru. And again, Domaine Thibert is one of the main producers with their 1 ha vineyard of Vignes Blanches ;) It has a south-east exposure, right in the middle of the slope It’s the most mineral wine in their portfolio and a perfect choice to age. Although we were tasting the 15’s vintage, Sandrine said it’s still closed, it needs more time in bottle. Something to retaste and see how it evolved! This wine is fine and elegant, with so much stones, it’s sharp with a complex long finish. Sandrine wanted me to understand the development of this wine in bottle, so she brought a magnum of Vignes Blanches 2010. 2010 was one of the best vintages in the last decades and the wine we tasted still felt young and fresh but compared to the 2015’s, the aromas became more concentrated, the subtle notes became more recognizable, it's very fruity but never overwhelming. A soon to be 10-year-old Pouilly-Fuissé that still has many years ahead.

Vertical tasting of Pouilly-Fuisse Vignes Blanches 2010 and 2015 at Domaine Thibert in Fuisse in the Maconnais region
Vignes Blanches 2010 vs 2015

Some days ago they opened a magnum of 2008, and to their surprise, it was very closed. So they left the wine in a carafe for 4 days on the table in their tasting room. And voila, the wine transformed and opened all the beauty to its’ creators. But this impressive ageing potential is no magic or gift of nature. They work hard to preserve the grapevines healthy and harvest berries of exceptional quality. There is a lot of work in the winery as well. Small things like the length of bottleneck or length of cork matter. Starting from 2016’s vintage they’re going to use improved bottles (with a longer neck) and a new label. The label displays a falcon on a stick with curling grapevines. This means precision of a falcon in what they do here and dedication to their land, as it’s been at least 8 generations that the Thibert family is in Fuissé. By changing the label they wanted to show people their attitude, personality and commitment, even though the old one was also dear for them - it was their family house.

wine tasting Pouilly-Fuisse at Domaine Thibert in Fuisse in the Maconnais
old vs new label of Domaine Thibert

I encountered here a phenomenal ambition to become a top producer and promote Pouilly-Fuissé and Southern Mâcon as home of exceptional terroirs. Now I’m back home with a bottle of Vignes Blanches 2016 - I promised not to drink it yet and I keep waiting for the right time letting it age.

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