Pretty Pretty Pouilly | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

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Pretty Pretty Pouilly

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Normally, I have some say regarding what I’m going to drink with dinner'but not this time. I was under strict instructions: “I don’t care what we’re eating for dinner, but we’re drinking white Burgundy!” my wife said. She’d generously bought me a nice bottle of wine for my birthday and didn’t want to hear my standard line for wines over $7: “Let’s put it away for a special occasion.â€

I’m glad that she stood firm about not letting me cellar this bottle of wine; it was wonderful. The wine was French white Burgundy. Specifically, it was 2004 Pouilly-Fuissé from Château Fuissé ($48.95). Happy birthday to me!



In some circles, Pouilly-Fuissé is considered the poor stepchild of the fancier white Burgundies, particularly those from the Côte de Beaune like Montrachet, Meursault and Corton Charlemagne. But when Pouilly-Fuissé is done right, it can be fantastic'not to mention a relative bargain. Remember we’re talking about French Burgundy here, so “bargain” means you’ll have to mortgage the house but not also dip into the kids’ college fund. Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé sells locally for $29.95, and Louis Latour Pouilly-Fuissé goes for $24.95. Both are solid examples of Pouilly-Fuissé, but the Château-Fuissé I had on my birthday really kicked ass.



The French, of course, go to great lengths to obfuscate the wine you’re drinking. Needless to say, Pouilly-Fuissé is not a grape'that would make too much sense'but a place. Pouilly-Fuissé is an appellation in the Mâconnais, a white-wine-producing region of southern Burgundy, just south of the Côte Chalonnaise. Pouilly-Fuissé itself is made up of the villages of Fuissé, Solutré, Vergisson and Chaintré. The wine, like all great white Burgundy, is Chardonnay. But as I said, you’ll never know that by reading the label, since the word Chardonnay is nowhere to be found. The French just assume that you know Pouilly-Fuissé is Chardonnay.



Remember the poor stepchild thing? There are no Grand Crus or Premier Crus produced in the Mâconnais. The Château-Fuissé Pouilly-Fuissé I had last week was a Cru de Bourgogne. And by the way, just to confuse things a bit more than normal, Château-Fuissé is the wine producer. Pouilly-Fuissé is the wine. It would be akin to a California winemaker calling their wine Cabernet Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Jean-Jacques Vincent is the fourth-generation manager and winemaker at Château-Fuissé; his family has been making wine in the Mâconnais since 1852. It’s good stuff.



The heavy clay and limestone soil of the Mâconnais create a distinctive terroir for growing Chardonnay grapes. The result is that the chalk and clay in the soil work to give Château-Fuissé both structure and finesse; this is a very elegant wine. According to Jean-Jacques Vincent, the wine is fermented in oak barrels (20 percent new) for nine months, and he doesn’t automatically seek malolactic fermentation. This gives him the flexibility to “fine tune” the acid-alcohol balance of each batch of wine. And that’s what his Pouilly-Fuissé tastes like: a finely tuned wine.



Although it is full-bodied and concentrated, the 2004 vintage is more elegant and less powerful than its Côte de Beaune cousins from the north. It’s a gorgeous gold color with hints of green and scents of toasty, roasted almonds on the nose. Ripe peach and apricot flavors are beautifully balanced by the wine’s crisp acidity, and it would be a fine match for a summertime supper of crab and lobster. Don’t wait around for someone to buy you a bottle for your birthday. I’d hustle over to the wine store now to get your hands on this luscious liquid. It tastes like summer in a bottle.

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