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Viré-Clessé


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Viré-Clessé is an appellation of the Mâconnais in the south of Burgundy. Producing only Chardonnay, the appellation includes vineyards from the villages of Laizé (4.03 square miles), Montbellet (7.64 square miles), and the titular Viré and Clessé communes (4.36 and 3.88 square miles respectively). This makes up about 9.65 square miles, quite a bit but less than the other two major Mâconnais appellations. Approximately 250,000 cases are produced each year, around half that of Pouilly-Fuissé.

There are no Grands Crus or Premiers Crus, as the original makers of the appellation did not apply for these. Thus, everything is determined via the quality of the producer, and secondarily, the lieux-dits. Overall quality is high. As for the actual character of the wine, it is fairly Pouilly-like in style, but ranges from rich and honeyed to fresh but lean. There is no "general style".

History

Viré and Clessé were originally just villages that could be attached to the Mâcon-Villages label. Quality began to escalate in the latter part of the 20th century, and when growers realized the best of their wines could rival Pouilly-Fuissé, they applied for separate appellation status. This was finally granted in 1999, but the village has quickly caught up and is now more popular than older appellations such as Pouilly-Vinzelles.

Climate and Viticulture

The limestone hills of the Mâconnais are quite common in the villages that make up the Viré-Clessé AOC. The soil is that typical mix of chalky clay that makes Chardonnay great, but unlike in Pouilly-Fuissé there is much less iron influence in the soil. The best vineyards are situated on hillsides and thus get great sun exposure and have a good base of limestone.

Grape Varieties

Major Producers

Reasonably priced and almost always good, Viré-Clessé wines hardly need a guide. When you're talking about the great wines, though, the list quickly can be cut down. In the end, after eliminating inferior wines and hard-to-find or expensive cuvées, 8 producers are left on our shortlist.

Subregions

Unfortunately, with the lack of Grands Crus and Premiers Crus in Viré-Clessé, it's solely up to the lieux-dits to be the arbiters of higher quality. Even they rarely signify much of a difference from the simple village wines or "Tradition" cuvées. The one good shared lieu-dit to remember is Verchère, as from both Bret Brothers and Rijckaert some amazingly good wines are made here.