by Fred McMillin
for September 25, 1997

The Giant of Macon

Prologue: Three centuries ago the largest winegrower in Macon was one Pierre Brosse, so large that when kneeling in his vineyard he still was as tall as the workers standing beside him. However, Pierre was worried since demand for Macon wines was very weak. Hence, this enormous man loaded two barrels of his best onto an ox-cart for the difficult, dangerous trip to Paris. Weeks later he reached Versailles, parked close to the Palace, and went to mass at the royal chapel.

The King was curious about the visitor who appeared to be standing when all others were kneeling. Hence, he was brought before the Ruler, served a sample from one of the casks, and the Paris market for Maconnais Chardonnay was established.

The Rest of the Story—A Maconnais Primer:
Macon White Burgundy has been popular ever since. Today's wine is "Macon-Lugny Les Charmes White Burgundy Chardonnay." Let's see what the words mean. MACON (mah-cawn) is an important town in southern Burgundy. It has given its name to the wine district north and east of the town, the Maconnais (mah-caw-nay). The district includes the town of Chardonnay (the source of that grape's name). Another important town is Lugny (loo-nyee). It is allowed to append its name to "Macon."

Les Charmes (sharm) is a 98-acre vineyard near Lugny, exceptional for two reasons. It has a grape-friendly southern exposure, and some of the vines are reaching their one hundredth birthday. Consequently, the fruit has an intensity about as huge as Pierre's physique.

The Wine
1995 Les Charmes Chardonnay, Macon-Lugny
White Burgundy Wine, France
Food Affinity—Veal, fish, fowl, light pasta dishes
Importer—Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines
Contact—Angela Freire, (707)255-7667

Postscript: Two centuries ago an American was impressed as he rode through the Maconnais and wrote, "This is the richest country I ever beheld...they have a method of mixing beautifully the culture of vines, trees and corn." His name was Thomas Jefferson.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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