From Tournus to La Chapelle de Guinchay
By Michael Edwards
This Guide was last updated on 25 April 2011
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The ‘Montrachet’ of the Mâconnais, Fuissé is arguably the pre-eminent village of the five communes entitled to make the world famous Pouilly Fuissé. © Mick Rock/Cephas
Driving south from Beaune, after 40 minutes the A6 motorway climbs sharply to a crest that is the natural dividing line between the north and south of France. You are now in the warmer Saône valley, the Mâconnais of Southern Burgundy. To acclimatize yourself to this land of plenty and good living, stop off at historic Tournus and have lunch with great Charolais beef at Le Terminus, close to the lovely Abbey of St- Philibert.
Running for 50 kilometres south to La Chapelle de Guinchay, the hillside vineyards of the Mâconnais are becoming ever-better sources of fine white Burgundy. And now that great names from the Côte d'Or like Leflaive and Lafon have joined the locals and bought land in the Mâcon Villages appellation, the standard of wine from the best growers in this intermediate appellation beats almost any dry whites from the New World for quality and value. The Mâconnais is also home to the world-famous wines of Pouilly Fuissé wines from privileged southern sites, especially those beneath the rock outcrops of Solutré and Vergisson. Great wine for sure from a fine grower like Château des Rontets, but always expensive and because of intense demand, general quality can be variable.
Where the Saône et Loire and Rhône departments meet, the Mâconnais merges into the northern part of the Beaujolais, home to some of its best vineyards. So when you crave some red wine, it's logical to combine a visit to the Mâconnais with some time in the northern crus of St-Amour, Moulin-à-Vent, Chénas, Juliénas, Fleurie and Chiroubles, hence including them in this micro-region guide.
This micro-region is mid-way between Beaune and Lyon, and the Mâconnais vineyards join those of the Côte Chalonnaise to the north, continuing through to Beaujolais in the south. Around St-Amour, there is a definite overlap between the white wines of the Mâconnais and the red wines of Beaujolais.
The climate is continental though with some warm influence from the Mediterranean, and frosts are rare. The soils in the Mâconnais are scree or clay-sand over a base of limestone, providing good conditions for Chardonnay. In the northern Beaujolais the soils are schistous, producing lighter wines, or decomposed granite, particularly favouring the Gamay variety, with structure and body. The soft rolling hills at the north of this micro-region give way to steeper slopes as you travel south, with vineyards facing in all directions.
This micro-region is centred on the city of Mâcon close to the A6 Motorway, exit 28, and the drive from Paris takes just over 3½ hours. The TGV train from Paris stops five times a day at Mâcon Loché, taking just over 1½ hours. There is a train service from Lyon, taking one hour and the closest international airport is Lyon Saint Exupéry, about one hour’s drive, and closer still to the northern Beaujolais area. Paris or Geneva airports are also reasonably accessible.
Mâcon Tourist Office, 1 Place Saint-Pierre, Mâcon
Southern Burgundy Tourism Site
Official Burgundy wine website
Official Beaujolais wine website
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