Domaine Fabrice Larochette
Little by little, with the competence of excellent growers such as Cornin, Valette, Thibert and Fabrice Larochette, several plots in the Pouilly-Fuissé terroir could be shortly awarded with the first-growth category classification.
To highlight the value of this land, Pouilly-Fuissé is the only Burgundy appellation outside of the Côte d’Or to be represented in the Hospices de Beaune yearly auction. Françoise Poisard gave her vines of Pouilly-Fuissé to the hospital of Beaune in 1994, and of course, the Cuvée bears her name. Forty percent of that Cuvée comes from the terroir of Les Robées where Fabrice Larochette has most of his Pouilly-Fuissé vines.
The Larochette family house here was designed by his wife Christine (an architect), and stands at the top of the Robées slope with a breathtaking view on a marvelous landscape. The vineyard is indeed among the most beautiful in France, located where southern Burgundy meets northern Beaujolais (Fleurie, Saint-Amour, and Moulin-à-Vent).
The vineyard sits at the heart of the Cistercian monks sphere of influence, 10 miles away from what was once the center of European Christianity, the Abbaye of Cluny. The vineyard is also at a touching distance from “La roche de Solutré,” which is a limestone escarpment overlooking the town of Pouilly-Solutré and is of both mystical and historical resonance. The rock has given its name to the “Solutrean man,” a milestone on mankind evolution approximately 35,000 years ago.
Fabrice Larochette exploits about 25 acres of land here and produces exclusively white Burgundies: Mâcon-Chaintré bears the appellation Mâcon-Village; Saint-Véran was awarded its own appellation of origin in 1971; and Pouilly-Fuissé, which represents 70% of the domaine production.
The Larochettes have been in wine for at least four generations. There is no site available yet for this estate. As most of his colleagues, Fabrice uses 500 or 600 liter barrels of “one or two wines” which means that the barrels have been used for one or two vintages. New barrels or smaller barrels would probably overpower the wine. Note that there is a strong tendency in Meursault, Chassagne, and Puligny to develop maturation in bigger formats as the once very fashionable oaky wines have lost their appeal.
To describe the land, the terroir of “Les Robées” is almost sitting on the limestone mother stone with a large amount of gravel on the surface. As it is fully exposed to the south, it is generally the first plot to be harvested. Wines are straight forward and sharp, obviously strong in mineral with such a soil.
The Clos de Monsieur Noly exposed to the west has more clay intermingled with the limestone with a strong presence of iron ore, tainting its soil almost in red. Harvested later because of its colder exposure, the presence of clay brings in more flesh and weight.
The vines here need to be at least 50 years of age to be part of the Cuvée vieilles vignes. More concentrated and powerful, the wine will be at its best after a few years in the bottle, three to five, depending on the style of the vintage.
Cold shellfish or crab, smoked salmon, tarama and fish terrine are excellent choices when the wines are young. Grilled or roasted fish with fine herbs are suitable when the wines are aged three to seven years.
The three Pouilly-Fuissé can handle goat cheese, bland cow cheese (Livarot or Epoisses), and even a young Gorgonzola. Please, do not eat the crust with the cheese even if the French think it is right. It is NOT right. It kills the wine and, in my opinion, it kills the cheese too. Pierre Androuet, king of cheese in the ‘50s and ‘60s asks himself the question in his referential book: “When can you eat the crust of a cheese ?” His answer is: “Never!”
Pouilly-Fuissé is in the Saône-et-Loire “département,” one of the four that compose the region of Burgundy. They are generally named after a river, sometimes a mountain or mountain chain. The Saône and the Loire are two rivers. The Yonne to the north, the area of Chablis, and the Niévre to the west are also rivers. The Côte d’Or is an exception as it describes the golden color of the vines when fall arrives.
The Pouilly-Fuissé appellation covers an area of 1,750 acres, exclusively devoted to the production of white wines made with the Chardonnay grape.
Many people are confused between Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé. Pouilly-Fumé is in the Nièvre and its wines are made only with Sauvignon Blanc. Things become complicated when you know that the Nièvre is a historical part of Burgundy, but its wines are not considered to be Burgundies. Are you sure you are following, or do I have to repeat?