Jean Loron – almost Beaujolais!


DSC06473Tasted in Pontanevaux with Philippe Bardet and Jean Pierre Rodet, 31st March 2015.

Maison Jean Loron
1846 RN 6
71570 Pontanevaux
Tel: +33 3 85 36 81 20

Philippe Bardet was always a useful contact when he ran the Louis Max operation in Nuits St.Georges, and I was quite surprised when I heard that he was moving-on to run the operation of Jean Loron – did he really dislike the view of Boisset’s new cuverie from his Nuits St.Georges office window so much? It turns out that this change makes life ‘much less complicated’ for him, as, and I didn’t realise, he has always lived in Mâcon and needed an apartment in the Côte d’Or for the Louis Max job – now his commute to the office is very much easier.

Jean Loron is a family ‘house’ established 1711 – possibly the oldest (still working) merchant in Burgundy. They began as growers in Chenas, and the same family remain major shareholders today – the family Barbet. There are two generations of Barbet at Loron today; father Xavier is almost retired at 68 and his son Grégory has recently joined the company but decided it was too soon to take on full responsibility, so Philippe Bardet has now taken that role. And the biggest change for Philippe? The average price per bottle changing to €6 from €20! And that price, availability, and quality, in that order, are the business approach of many in the Mâconnais.

Due to its size, Jean Loron has 7 in-house wine-makers. The company’s main business is Cru Beaujolais but the overall volume is roughly half white and half red, the whites being mainly from the Mâcon and Pouilly-Fuissé plus ‘others.’ They own 110 hectares but can vinify 3.5 million litres in three locations; Beaujolais, Givry for bourgogne pinot and chardonnay and the third here. They are of-course significant purchasers of grapes and must too; grape purchases for reds and also some must for whites. It’s a highly regulated operation that includes labs and full traceability of all bottles back the barrels they were elevaged in.

France is the main market – Nicolas (Castel) is a major customer, and for over 100 years too, selling Loron’s wine in 600 shops in France with many, many of those in Paris.

Today I’m focusing on Loron’s whites of the Southern Mâconnais. The cuverie houses tanks from 12 to 1000 hectolitres for elevage, using plenty of lees in the whites “For fat and complexity” says Jean Pierre. It’s a mix of tank types – enamel, concrete and stainless-steel, even some foudres of about 40 hl. Since 1980, they have also been using inert atmospheres to protect the wines. “We’re looking to intervene as little as possible; a little fine filtration sometimes but just the minimum so as not to ‘fatigue’ the wine, and nothing systematic.”

Large stainless-steel fermentation tanks were installed in the 1960s – Loron were virtually the first to do this, some others thought them mad – 300-400 hl tanks – but many have followed suit since, indeed it reminds me much more of a modern southern hemisphere set-up. With potentially 3-4 million bottles per year it comes as no surprise that there are three bottling lines here, two for whites with inert atmospheres. The bottling and packing lines are highly impressive but with millions of bottles, it needs to be…

Jean Pierre on 2013:
“2013s had partial malos of about 70% – though it depends on the cuvée. the wines saw 6-12 months elevage, also depending on the cuvee, and also a little on the demand bottling depending on the flow of orders. 2013 is one of the smallest vintages for a long time, we had at least 30% less juice. Fortunately it’s a nicely tasty, commercial vintage.”

The wines…

Good to brilliant wines here. I focused on the whites of southern Burgundy, without stepping over the line into Beaujolais. I also had a Pouilly revelation!

2013 Mâcon Villages
4 hundred hectolitres produced, so a bit more than 50,000 bottles. Sealed with diam3 “not too hermetic, similar to normal cork.”
Deep, pungent, higher toned ripe fruit. Sweetness but good attack and nicely structured. Decent length too. Tasty wine.

2013 Mâcon Villages – Château de Mirande
From vines between Tournus and Mâcon. “Full malo – looking for roundness here not minerality.”
Very perfumed fruit (muscaté) – big in the mouth, round certainly with a little fat to the texture, but I’ve really no problem with balance here. Penetrating in the finish too. Lots and lots of flavour.

2013 Mâcon-Lugny
The coop in Lugny is the biggest coop in France – so there are not lots of bottlers of this.
Floral and fruity with decent freshness. Lovely attack with just a little silk below – fine acidity, with a citrus acidity. Good flavour.

2013 Mâcon-Chardonnay
Note that’s the village name, not the name of the grapes! Much more limestone here.
A fresher, higher toned nose with more green-skinned fruit – lime. More energy and complexity to the acidity and flavours here. Fine lime flavours in the finish too – this is very good!

2013 Macon-Loché
If you want to visit – this is right next to the TGV station! More brown clay for soil.
Wider, deeper, more aromatic but with fine brightness and at the end there’s a hint of Chablis-style salinity… Also in the mouth this is wide, with fine acidity and intensity – even a mineral impression. Excellent!

2013 Mâcon-Péronne – Château de la Tour Penet
From between Viré and Clessé – just a little to the west. 100% malo here and a long malo as it’s a cold cellar.
Also a more saline nose, less floral though. Mineral, and energetic, plenty of acidity here – bright wine but one that shows very good complexity as it fades across the palate…

2013 Mâcon-Solutré
There’s only a small amount of macon villages here – it’s mainly Pouilly and Saint-Véran in this neighborhood. Full malo.
More depth a little more spicy fruit – white pepper to. Hints of ginger if not quite Meursaulté. More fat more round, but really fine balance. Not the most powerful finish but still a good discreet length.

2013 Mâcon-Fuissé
More obvious perfumed white flowers – almost pungent – a nose of sunshine but just faintly edged with iodine. Surprisingly mineral and silky with fine acidity – in the mouth this is a little Chablis-esque – really lovely wine.

2013 Saint-Véran
No wood, 80% malo. From Davayé and Leynes.
A fresh and faintly spicy nose, eventually a little saline too. Round, fatter but with good energy and still a fine acidity. Good intensity and energy in the mid-palate and into the finish too. A tasty and large-scaled wine.

2013 Saint-Véran – Domaine Champ Meunier
In Leynes on steep slopes with a limestone soil – it’s not much further south that it turns to granite and gamay… Full malo.
A fresh, mineral and energetic nose. A hint of fat but that’s forgotten as the acid-led flavour bright intensity and complexity flows through – almost a ripeness of quince fruit in the finish.

2013 Saint-Véran – Chateau de la Balmondière
Big, fresh and a little mineral – this is an inviting nose. Here is a certain class, with very fine balance and complexity expanding over the tongue – really good flavours in the finish and a slowly fading note. Super!

2013 Viré-Clessé
Mainly from Clessé. The main difference compared to Péronne is the different soil and more slope.
Deep, ripe fruit but with a good freshness. I like the structure here; it’s a little stricter and more defined. Slowly fading. Good wine.

2013 Pouilly-Loché
Small production, full malo, with a little oak here.
More aromatic intensity but fine, fresh and intense. Bright fresh, beautifully defined in the mouth – intensely mouth-watering, mineral and very, very tasty – a super finish too – discreet but very long.

2013 Pouilly-Vinzelles
Deeper, weighty, lots of green-skinned fruit – no wood. Here is a fine, penetrating direct line of flavour – maybe a hint more CO2 but barely perceptible. The flavour clings to your gums. This is also rather excellent, just a little bit less focused today versus the last wine I think…

2012 Mâcon-Chardonnay – Eleve en fût vieilles Vignes
As the name, this is raised in barrel.
Very different aromatic – not oaky but a tight and bright yellow citrus, eventually below a few hints of oak. Round, nicely oaky and with a very fine line of acidity. Long finishing too.

And now a little education.
The problem for any writer is being able to appreciate how certain styles age. You may have tasted young wines for years, but could you appreciate how it will mature or discern something older? Here is a great example with Pouilly-Fuissé. Of-course 99% is probably drunk within 2 years of bottling, but it wasn’t always so…

My ‘take-home’ impression are for a wine that age very well – at least this bottling(!) – and all the wines were opened and poured in front of me without requiring additional samples – so no bottle had issues. And bottles with 2-3 years age no-longer show the ever-present, sometimes engulfing creamy oak of the young cuvées. This latter point was my most important note, together with the idea of putting a case of this in my cellar rather than one bottle of Bâtard-Montrachet (same cost) and have no worries about enjoying some bottles in the future – even if not all of them.

Jean Pierre is drinking his 88s and 90s at home now!

2012 Pouilly-Fuissé Les Vieux Murs Vielles Vignes
25% oak elevage, one part new, one part one year-old, one part two. Manual harvested…
Big, round, plenty of oak impression. Fresh, direct and very fine in the mouth, slowly you have some oak impression but it really is subordinate to the fresh flavour – though it comes to surface a little more in the finish. Lots of wine here today and with a fine almost mineral energy – the oak is not shy though.

2011 Pouilly-Fuissé Les Vieux Murs Vielles Vignes
Just a little reduction, very slowly opening to give a fine line of lemon fruit. Good width and energy – a little less concentrated but almost as intense versus the 12. The oak is only really noticeable in the finish here. Good wine.

Wide, fresh and nicely concentrated yellow fruit. A little sucrosity but wonderfully penetrating fruit and with a fine balance – this is excellent and here there’s virtually no oak to see. A buy!

A little deeper colour. Fresh, ripe and complex – deeper like the colour. Big wine, really super intensity – bravo – big and wide here but perfectly balanced. This is excellent – also a buy!

A late harvest and a rather acid wine at the start.
A more considered nose almost hinting to a hint of struck match, fresh. Round, modest, slowly growing acidity – acidity that slowly catches up on you but remains very finely balanced. – long and wide and complex too.

Wide, fresh, riper nose. Big, but well-balanced, ripe fruit here – maybe a little quince again but the flavour into the finish is excellent – this is very lovely.

A sirocco wind saved the acidity here because the maturity was very high.
Golden colour – faint honey, faint reduction, but a clean and clear central core. Big, round, very silky – lots of acidity and minerality fill out the mid-palate and finish, the finish is modestly acidic but shows absolute balance.

1978 – blind…
Same selection as above but not labeled the same at the time…
Wide fresh, relatively deep gold (and was once recorked). More reductive than anything with a faint struck match – super direct, fine acidity, really intense beautiful – Undrinkable for many years says Jean Pierre, 2008 is a bit like that, tight and acid. Growing iodine, opens out with fabulous complexity – just a beautiful wine – and really a treat. A fine silk here too…. Just changes forever in the glass – if you were told blind that you were drinking 78 Montrachet, you would simply say thank-you, and be happy!

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