Domaine Valette!

So much ink has been spilled on the merits of Domaine Valette and its reputation as one of Burgundy’s – and by proxy France’s – all-time great estates. But too much of a good thing is never enough, we say, so here’s a bit more. Gerard Valette began farming in the Mâcon in the 1950s, stopped selling grapes to the region’s co-op in the 1970s and became the first vigneron to set up his own domaine in that neck of the woods. Now in the hands of the third generation, the label is a paean to decades of family tradition, rigorous organic viticulture and pinpoint precision in the cellar, often characterised by extended lees contact and maturation. These are those rare “special occasion” wines in the truest sense, set apart by explosive concentration of flavour and unrivalled extravagance.

We’re fortunate enough to have (very) scant quantities of three cuvées this year, kicking off with the Mâcon-Chaintré Vieilles Vignes. A composite of grapes harvested from 65-year-old vines across the 2018, 2019 and 2021 vintages, it’s chardonnay in that ideal medium-plus body zone, which leads with ripe citrus and orchard fruit scents and gives way to a powerful mineral presence that amplifies tenfold once decanted. More intensity awaits in the Et Pourtant…Viré Classé, a blend of 2020 and 2021 fruit from 60-year-old vines in limestone-dense soil that meshes peach and apple scents with whiffs of hazelnut. Power is the byword, but it’s met with mouth-watering acidity and a freshness that allows it to age effortlessly. Finally, there’s the 2018 Pouilly-Fuissé Tradition – perhaps the estate’s high-water mark – which looks as poised as ever for a long life in the cellar. Think grilled nuts, fleshy white grapefruit and stony depth, all driven by a taut acid line to a long and briny finish. Squirrel these away, decant upon opening and see for yourself how patience pays dividends.
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