Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Meeting Gregoire Pissot – the Winemaker at Cave de Lugny in the Maconnais – in Washington DC, USA/France

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Gregoire Pissot, the Winemaker at Cave de Lugny in the Maconnais

Mariam Raz Razavi - wine lover, educator, purveyor and consultant serving individual, corporate and embassy clients in the Washington, DC area - had invited me to a Happy Hour with winemaker Gregoire Pissot from the Cave de Lugny in the Maconnais. Gregoire came right from Dulles Airport. It was a long day for him. He had left his home town Lugny in the Maconnais very early in the morning to take the TGV to Paris; there, he took Air France across the Atlantic Ocean, which arrived in the afternoon at Dulles Airport, Washington DC’s International Airport. The final leg was about an hour’s drive into the city. He was a bit hungry and suffering from jet-lag, but in good spirits, looking forward to a week in the US, covering both the East and the West Coast. We spoke in both French and English. This is his third trip to the US.

We had a lot to talk about as I had just visited the Maconnais, en route from Bordeaux back to Frankfurt am Main in German.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Mariam Raz Razam


The Maconnais is one of the sub regions of the Bourgogne. Most of the wine produced here is Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. Chablis and Beaujolais are formally part of the Bourgogne, but wines from those two sub regions are usually referred to by their own names.

Some way south of Chablis is the Côte d'Or, where Burgundy's most famous wines originate. All Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are here. The Côte d'Or is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits in the north and the Côte de Beaune in the south. The wine-growing area is just 40 kilometers long, and in most places less than 2 kilometers wide; the area is made up of tiny villages. Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where a mix of mostly red and white wines are produced. Below the Côte Chalonnaise is the Mâconnais region, known for producing easy-drinking and more affordable white wine. Further south again is the Beaujolais region. The Bourgogne (including Chablis but excluding Beaujolais) covers a total of 28,000 hectares. Côte d'Or covers 8,000 hectares.

Picture: The Bourgogne

The Roman Catholic Church had an important influence on the history of Burgundy wine. As the power of the Roman Catholic Church decreased, many vineyards which had been in the church's hands over many centuries, were sold to the Bourgeoisie after Napoleon’s secularization drive. The Napoleonic inheritance laws resulted in a continued subdivision of vineyard holdings, so that some growers today hold only a row or two of vines. Clos Vougeot, for example, which was a single 125 acre run by the monks, today is parceled into plots owned by nearly 80 different producers. This led to the emergence of négociants who aggregate the production of smaller growers to make a single wine. Négociants play a vital role in the Bourgogne, ranging from simple labeling and distribution, to carrying out the entire wine-making process. Négociants may supply wines at all quality levels, including Grand Cru.

Bourgogne Classification

Burgundy is the most terroir-oriented region in France. Immense attention is paid to the area of origin, as opposed to Bordeaux, where classifications are producer-driven and awarded to individual chateaux. A specific vineyard or region will bear a given classification, regardless of the wine's producer. The main levels in the Burgundy classifications, in descending order of quality, are:

Grand Cru wines are produced from a small number of vineyards in the Côte d'Or and make up 2% of the production at 35 hectoliters per hectare. The origins of Burgundy's Grand Crus can be found in the work of the Cistercians who, among their vast land holdings, were able to delineate and isolate plots of land that produced wine of distinct character. There are 33 Grand Cru vineyards in the Bourgogne.

Premier Cru wines are produced from specific vineyards that are considered to be of high, but slightly lower quality; they make up 12% of production at 45 hectoliters/hectare.

Village appellation wines are produced from vineyard sites within the boundaries of one of 42 villages. Village wines make up 36% of production at 50 hectoliters/hectare.

Pictures: Gregoire Pissot

Regional appellation wines are wines which are allowed to be produced over the entire region, or over an area significantly larger than that of an individual village. These appellations can be divided into three groups:
AOC Bourgogne, the standard appellation for wines made anywhere throughout the region; these wines may be produced at 55 hectoliters/hectare.

Sub regional appellations cover a part of Burgundy larger than a village. Examples are Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune and Mâcon-Villages.

Wines of specific styles or other grape varieties include white Bourgogne Aligoté (which is primarily made with the Aligoté grape), red Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains (which can contain up to two thirds Gamay) and sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne.


The Mâconnais takes its name from the provincial town of Mâcon. Most of the wine made in the Mâconnais is white wine. Chardonnay is the main grape grown.

Unlike the Cote d'Or to the north, where a densely planted strip of vineyards runs through the countryside, the vineyards of the Maconnais are more sparsely planted and interspersed with land dedicated to other forms of agriculture.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller, Miriam Raz Razam and Gregoire Pissot

Macon has historically been most famous for its red wines. During the 20th century, however, white wine production accelerated dramatically and now represents the large majority of Maconnais wines. These whites are produced exclusively from the quintessential Burgundian variety Chardonnay.


Bourgogne AOC – Interestingly, red wine made from Pinot Noir in Macon is typically sold under the more-prestigious Bourgogne AOC appellation.

Macon  AOC - the generic appellation for red, white and rose wines from the Maconnais. The term Superieur may be added to denote a slightly higher alcohol level.

Macon Lugny AOC - Macon plus name of village AOC: a number of communes within the appellation's catchment area have been recognized as sources of higher-quality wines and may append their names to that of the appellation; for example, Macon Lugny.

Mâcon-Villages AOC - a title reserved for white wines.

Pouilly-Fuissé AOC with junior partners Pouilly-Loché and Pouilly-Vinzelles

Sain-Veran AOC

Vire-Clesse AOC - In 1999, Vire and Clesse  were granted their own appellation, joining the ranks of the  longer-established white wine appellations of Pouilly-Vinzelles, Pouilly-Loche and Pouilly-Fuisse, and the larger Saint-Veran appellation – introduced in 1971 to cover many wines previously labeled as Beaujolais Blanc.

Cave de Lugny

Cave de Lugny is a cooperative of over 250 members and 1,500 hectares, across 21 Mâconnais villages. The Cave de Lugny produces 6 million bottles of AOC wine annually. The Cave de Lugny accounts for about half of the total wine production of the Mâconnais. There are 3 production sites - Lugny, Chardonnay (Chardonnay is also the name of a village) and Saint-Gengoux-de-Scissé. Of the 1500 hectares, 1200 are Chardonnay, 124 Pinot Noir, 80 Gamay and 20 hectares Aligoté.

Gregoire Pissot

It was fun to talk with Gregoire. I like his stylish glasses. He graduated from the Universite de Bourgogne in 1997. He was the winemaker in charge of sparkling wines at Maison Boisset for 7 years until he became the winemaker at Cave de Lugny.

Pictures: Gregoire Pissot


“We make a lot of Cremant de Bourgogne, but do not export it” said Gregoir. Here is what Cave de Lugny makes, when it comes to sparklers: Cremant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Bourgogne Brut, Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs, Crémant de Bourgogne Millésimé, Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé

Cave de Lugny produces white wines under the following labels: Mâcon-Villages, Mâcon-Lugny, Mâcon-Chardonnay (here, Chardonnay is the name of a village), Mâcon-Péronne, Mâcon-Cruzille, Viré-Clessé, Bourgogne Chardonnay, Bourgogne Aligoté.

The red wine AOC’s are: Mâcon, Mâcon-Cruzille, Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Bourgogne Passetoutgrains.

Gregoire Presented 3 Wines

2010 La Cote Blanche Macon-Villages Chardonnay

This Mâcon-Villages is produced from Cave de Lugny vineyards, all around  Lugny. The soil is predominantly made of limestone, with South-South East facing slopes. The average vine age is around 30 years.

The grapes were harvested at the end of September/early October, then pressed in a pneumatic press. The alcoholic fermentation was carried out in temperature controlled stainless steel vats (constant temperature of 16 to 18°C). The malolactic fermentation was completed at 100%. The wine was aged on the lees in stainless steel vats for a minimum 6 months and then bottled.

Picture: The Wines

Gregoire Pissot’s notes: Clear and shiny yellow, with golden tints. The nose is fresh and intense notes of fruit and flowers (citrus, white flowers and honey). The palate is flattering, fresh and gourmand. This wine, which is a blend from different terroirs, is a model of Mâcon-Villages, combining minerality, delicacy and fruit expression

Appellation: Mâcon-Villages
Grape Variety: 100% Chardonnay
Alcohol: 13.0%
Calvert and Woodley Wine Store Discounted Price: $9.99

2010 Les Charmes  Mâcon-Lugny Chardonnay

Les Charmes is 100% Chardonnay and the flagship of Cave de Lugny. All the grapes are sourced from a single vineyard, a 105 ha plateau named “Les Charmes”, in the commune of Lugny. This single vineyard’s soil is characterized by a chalky soil/limestone. The South/South-East orientation provides the best sun exposure for – the on average 40 year old vines.

The grapes were harvested in late August Early September, then pressed in a pneumatic press to obtain the must and then clarified for 12-24 hours. The alcoholic fermentation was carried out in temperature controlled stainless steel vats at a constant temperature of 16 to 18 C. Special Yeasts were added to help the natural yeasts to start the alcoholic fermentation. The wine was then racked on the lees for 12 months and saw no oak.

Gregoire’s notes: Fresh & crisp in the mouth, it has floral and fruity aromas with lemony nuances (imparted by the musk chardonnay clone). Rich, fullbodied, almost unctuous dry white wine features a greenish-gold robe. The structure and slightly spicy flavor of Les Charmes makes it unique among Mâconnais wines. A very good balance, between acidity and sweetness. The wine is still very aromatic and very fresh after the ageing.

Grape Variety: 100% Chardonnay
Alcohol: 13.0%
Calvert and Woodley Wine Store Discounted Price: $12.99

La Carte Macon-Lugny Chardonay 2010

This wine is produced from the single vineyard “La Carte”, in the village of Lugny. Set on a 80 ha plateau made of chalky soil, with West oriented slopes, this vineyard benefits from late sunshine exposure. The average vine age is over 40 years. This appellation is a monopoly of the Cave.

The grapes were pressed in a pneumatic press. The alcoholic fermentation was carried out in temperature controlled stainless steel vats (constant temperature of 16 to 18°C). The malolactic fermentation was completed at 100%. The wine was matured on the lees in stainless steel vats.

Pictures: Miriam Raz Razam and La Carte Macon-Lugny Chardonay 2010

Gregoire’s notes:  Clear and shiny goldish yellow, with green hints when young. The fresh and subtle citrus aromas with notes of exotic fruits and honey. The palate is intense and elegant, this wine is balanced with vibrant minerality and packed with fruits and almond flavors. This medium body wine will develop its aromatic potential with ageing.

Appellation: Mâcon-Lugny
Grape Variety: 100% Chardonnay
Finished Alcohol: 13.0%

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