A Maconnais Chardonnay

If you are looking for fine French wine and food, consider the Maconnais area of the Burgundy region in eastern France. You may find a bargain, and I hope that you'll have fun on this fact-filled wine education tour in which we review a local white Chardonnay.

Among France's eleven wine-growing regions Burgundy (with its neighbor Beaujolais) is fourth in vineyard acreage. Partisans, and they are many, claim that Burgundy is really the number one or number two wine-producing region in France, if not in the world. The reviewed wine hails from the Maconnais area of southern Burgundy. This area is devoted to white wine, (about 90%), almost exclusively Chardonnay. While this area produces three times as much white wine as the other areas of Burgundy, is not very well known.

If you are visiting the Maconnais area, and you really should, make sure to stop by the village of Cluny and its medieval abbey, once the largest church in all Europe. Today the site lies in ruins, as it has been since the French Revolution, but what ruins. This site includes a horse-breeding center which was founded by Napoleon using stone from the abbey. You'll also want to see the Musee Ochier, a Romanesque lapidary museum. Don't forget to tour the town of Autun once called Augustodonum, city of Augustus. The original name refers to Augustus Caesar who modestly described it as "the sister and rival of Rome itself." Avoid disappointment, don't expect Rome II. But do visit Autun's Portes (Archways) and the Theatre Romain, once the largest arena in Gaul (Roman France) with room for 15,000 spectators. Every August (do you think that's a coincidence?) traditionally costumed locals put on a period piece. Talking about Napoleon, he and his brother studied at the local military academy, where at age nine the future Emperor first learnt French.

Before reviewing the Burgundy wine and imported cheeses that we were lucky enough to purchase at a local wine store and a local Italian food store, here are a few suggestions of what to eat with indigenous wines when touring this beautiful region. Start with Pate en Croute de Grenouilles au Bleu de Bresse (Frog and Bresse Blue-Cheese Pie). For your second course savor Poulet de Bresse à la Creme-Trompettes de la Mort (Free-Range Bresse Chicken in Creamy Sauce with Horns of Plenty Mushrooms). Read more about Bresse chickens in our article I Love French Wine and Food - A Red Beaujolais. And as dessert indulge yourself with Ile Flottante (Floating Island, a Meringue Island in a Custard Sea.)

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review are purchased at the full retail price.

Wine Reviewed Pouilly-Vinzelles AOC 'En Paradis' 2003 Louis Latour 12.6% about $18.50

Let's start by quoting the marketing materials. This pretty wine from the Maconnais is pale yellow in color and has a beautiful nose of lemon, honey, apple, and tropical fruit. It is elegant and pleasing revealing hazelnut and fruit flavors on tasting. This wine is perfect for drinking now.

This Chardonnay was fermented in stainless steel tanks and never saw the inside of an oak barrel. The Pouilly-Vinzelles is a fairly unknown neighbor to the pricey Pouilly-Fuisse. And now for the review.

My first meal was a Poulet Chasseur (Chicken Cacciatore) that I was particularly proud of. The wine was very delicate and yet not weak. Its apple flavor expressed itself well. I enjoyed how the wine's acid dealt with the meat's grease, which was relatively low because I cooked the chicken without its skin.

The next meal was more pedestrian. It consisted of chicken legs in a soy, onion, and garlic sauce. The wine was refreshing and pleasant but fairly short.

Continuing to work my way down the food scale, the next pairing involved a baked noodle dish, a cheese-less lasagna with tomatoes, onions, peas, and chicken hamburger. The wine was appley and floral and went very well with the meal, but seemed a bit wasted.

The final meal was disappointing. It consisted of an omelet with brown mushrooms, local provolone cheese, and the fixings. The wine was pleasant but not the least bit special, in fact you could say that it was barely present.

The wine and cheese tastings were more successful than usual. The first pairing was with a soft, buttery northern Italian Bel Paese cow's milk cheese. This cheese seemed to intensify the wine's flavor. Then I tried the wine with a French Saint-Aubin, also a soft cow's milk cheese. In its presence the wine became softer.

Final verdict. I'm not sure. This wine was sometimes quite good, but I think it was too expensive. What do you expect from a Burgundy? By the way, the label's term En Paradis was not the least bit justified.

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About The Author, Levi Reiss
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine French or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. His major wine website is http://www.theworldwidewine.com . Check out his Italian food webiste at http://www.fooditalyfood.com.