Mâconnais is a primarily white wine region that is part of the larger Burgundy region in France. The area takes its name from the town of Mâcon, with one the most renowned wines from the region being Pouilly-Fuisse (not to be confused with Pouilly-Fume).
As part of the Burgundy region, Mâconnais wines already enjoy a certain notoriety as wines of quality, which has been refined over the many years of wine production in the area.
Wine production in Mâcon is thought to have begun with the Roman settlement of the region, although it is unknown if the ancient Celts were producing in the area before this. During the Roman Empire, Mâcon was a major crossroads, helping the region to grow and allowing its wine to be distributed throughout the Roman Empire.
Around 530 AD, the bishopric of Mâcon was formed, which ruled the area until around 840. From 843 to 1600, Mâcon lay on the border of France and the Holy Roman Empire, which helped the area to become rich on customs taxes. From the 1200s to the 1500s, Mâcon passed through the hands of many different rulers. In 1395, Philip the Bold set forth an order defining the requirements for the quality Burgundy wines, which can be thought of as the first appellation in the region.
During the wars of religion in the 1500s, Mâcon experienced a particularly bloody era, as the city’s peasants revolted, and passed between Protestant and Catholic rule at least three times in five years. In the 1700 and 1800s, Mâcon went through a fair amount of political restructuring due to both the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and switched between French and Austrian hands during the return of Napoleon.
In years past, Mâcon was most well-known for its red wines, however, that changed in the 1900s, and now the region is primarily known for its white wines. Despite the region’s bloody history, Mâconnais is now mostly known for extraordinary Chardonnays, with even a town in the area named after the grape, the most famous of which being Pouilly-Fuisse.
Located in the south of Burgundy, the Mâconnais has a continental climate, with warm summers and cold, but relatively mild winters. The soil in the area is an alkaline limestone clay, which is rich in iron. The minerals in the soil help to keep the wine fresh, as well as bring out particular flavours from the Chardonnay grape that is grown there.
4,100 hectares in the Mâconnais region is planted under vines and, as a whole, the region produces about 13 million bottles of wine annually. Mâconnais contributes 24% to the total wine production in Burgundy.
A full 98% of the area’s wine output is made up of Chardonnay, a white wine grape, and 1% is Gamay, a red wine grape that is particularly renowned for producing quality Beaujolais.
Chardonnay is the dominant grape grown in the Mâconnais, which originated in the Burgundy region, and is also the second most commonly grown grape in all of France. Chardonnay is considered to be a “neutral” grape, with much of the diversity in flavour dependant on the soil it is grown in, the region where it is grown and, of course, how the wine is produced. This is often dependent on whether the wine is aged in oak or stainless steel.
Gamay, a red wine grape, is also grown in the region, although it is not as widely known or consumed as Chardonnay.
Mâconnais white wines are white or straw-coloured, with aromas of roses, honeysuckle, fern, lemongrass and citrus. They are known to have flavours of pine, quince and fennel.
Pouilly-Fuisse, the most famous white wine from Mâconnais, is dry, light and full-bodied, with a crisp fruit flavour. It has often been described as “creamy” or “buttery.”
Some of the most notable producers of wine in the Mâconnais region are La Roche, Les Vignes Blanches and Chateau de Beauregard. As well as Jean Rijckaert and Domaine Guffens-Heynen.