“Really, It’s just a joy to drink,” wrote The Wine Front’s Campbell Mattinson. “It sits at the wonderful place where freshness shakes hands with charisma.” Why not come with us to that place? It’s called Viré-Clessé in the Mâconnais, and your personal guide is André Bonhomme. You may recall our excitement at this gem CellarHand’s Patrick discovered on his expedition to seek out great-value, great Burgundy in early 2016. We shipped the first wines from Bonhomme a few months back. As we’d hoped, they’ve been a hit. Superbly expressive of their origin, they marry great Chardonnay flavour with terrific energy and personality.
No fewer than five iterations of Viré-Clessé and surrounds are here to join the three already being gleefully slurped here in Australia (though please note that the ’14 Viré-Clessé Vieilles Vignes is only available in half bottles and magnums).
Don’t turn your back on Mâcon; this is your passport to deliciously affordable white Burgundy.
2015 André Bonhomme Mâcon-Villages Vieilles Vignes RRP $38
Seamless and energetic. There’s a combination for you. It’s frisky but svelte with lemongrass, citrus and white peach flavours gently melting into wet slate. There’s a hint of honeysuckle here, almost into lactose but not quite. Really, it’s just a joy to drink; it sits at the wonderful place where freshness shakes hands with charisma. 92+ points Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front November 2016
2015 André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé Pierres Blanches RRP $45
(13.8% alcohol; done entirely in stainless steel and bottled at the end of July; from 40-year-old vines located near Bonhomme’s Mâcon-Villages, but with more calcaire and little white stones in the soil): Pale yellow-gold. Strongly mineral-dominated aroma of flinty silex. Concentrated and complex on the palate; richer and deeper than the Mâcon-Villages Vieilles Vignes, communicating a tactile saline quality. Incidentally, the yield here was a generous 55 hectoliters per hectare but this borderline-austere wine will need time to soften in bottle and blossom. These vines are planted on a south/southeast-facing slope at an altitude of 384 meters; lower-altitude vines on both sides of this parcel are classified as Mâcon-Villages. 90 points. Stephen Tanzer, Vinous Media October 2016
2015 André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé Cuvée Spéciale RRP $50
375ml RRP $31
(began in 70% oak, none new, and 30% stainless steel, and was then moved entirely into stainless steel for the second year; from 45-to-75-year-old vines): Bright light yellow. Quince and citrus peel aromas convey an impression of tangy acidity. Quite concentrated, tactile and full but also linear and backward, conveying a distinctly dry impression to its flavors of citrus and fresh stone fruits and saline minerality. This is the estate’s second wine, priced between the Brenillons and Vieilles Vignes bottlings. This juicy, youthfully edgy wine has the spine to age. 89-91 points. Stephen Tanzer, Vinous Media October 2016
2014 André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé Vieilles Vignes 375ml RRP $31
MAGNUM RRP $115
(bottled in June; the vines here are 75 to 95 years old; made entirely in barriques, 20% new, then moved into stainless steel for its second year of aging): Pale straw-yellow. Riper, yellower and more exotic on the nose than the cuvée Spéciale, with aromas of apricot, honey and fresh porcini. Rich and firm on the palate, with enticing fruit flavors of peach, apricot and quince complemented by lightly saline minerality. Not a sweet or fleshy style, and nicely dry at 1.8 grams per liter of residual sugar. Finishes firm and persistent, with a strong impression of extract and brisk citrussy grip. “This wine is our ID card,” noted Palthey, adding that his grandfather was best known for this cuvée. 91 points. Stephen Tanzer, Vinous Media October 2016
2015 André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé Les Brenillons RRP $57
(from a 45-year-old planting on the north side of Viré; done in foudres “like in Alsace,” according to Palthey, who added that these vines on shallow, chalky white soil with marl look even older than they are): Bright yellow. Wet-stone minerality with hints of peach and orange zest on the nose. Penetrating, linear wine with flavors of orange and crushed stone complemented by a discreet touch of oak and sexy hints of botanical herbs. Finishes youthfully austere and persistent, with noteworthy lift to its firm lemon, orange and wild mint flavors, plus a suggestion of smoke that will doubtless become more pronounced as the wine ages. There’s something Alsace-like about this bottling, which is a big success in 2015. This fruit went into an Hors Classe Cuvée Spéciale bottling until 1999, when Palthey’s grandfather André Bonhomme started bottling it separately. But the wine was still called Viré-Clessé Hors Classe until Palthey took over in 2008. Palthey noted that the estate’s Viré-Clessé Cuvée Spéciale bottling is rounder and also more complex owing to its greater vine age. 91 points. Stephen Tanzer, Vinous Media October 2016
2014 André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé Les Prêtres de Quintaine RRP $78
MAGNUM RRP $176
(Palthey estimated that about 40% of these 103-year-old vines on marly soil with red clay still remain, with the rest having been replanted over the years; production here is still 25 to 30 hectoliters per hectare; done entirely in pièces, 25% new, the rest one, two and three years old; bottled two days before my visit): Bright, light yellow. Sexy aromas of yellow fruits, smoky minerality, marzipan and white truffle. Large-scaled and ripe but dry, filling the mouth without leaving any impression of weight. More large than long in the typical style of Quintaine, whose wines are known for their residual sugar. Finishes lively and gripping, with a light touch and lingering notes of fresh apricot and lemon. Needs time. Today I prefer this wine to the 2013 version, which was extremely tight when I first tasted it but is now revealing its botrytis influence. 91 points. Stephen Tanzer, Vinous Media October 2016
2014 André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé Le Côteau de l’Epinet RRP $88
MAGNUM RRP $200
(just 800 bottles made from 95-year-old vines; the same élevage and oak as the Prêtres de Quintaine): Pale yellow-gold color. Very ripe aromas of peach, apricot and smoky minerality are a bit more dynamic than those of the Prêtres de Quintaine. Unctuous on entry, then tighter in the middle palate, with very ripe stone fruit flavors accented by spicy oak. This thick but energetic wine shows a distinctly creamy quality for the vintage. Finishes with slowly mounting length and considerable power. This mid-slope climat on red clay soil with small stones in the extreme north of the appellation is one of its best sites, says Palthey, who added that the calcaire here is far under the surface. He added that his 2014s are actually lower in acidity than his 2015s. 92 points. Stephen Tanzer, Vinous Media October 2016
2014 André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé Les Hauts des Ménards RRP $88
MAGNUM RRP $200
Bright yellow with a gold tinge. Sexy, expressive, very ripe scents of dried apricot, ripe peach, white pepper and hazelnut. Very rich, smooth, ripe and silky but youthfully unforthcoming in the middle palate. This plush wine finishes powerful and very long, with a touch of citrus peel firmness and a tannic quality I did not pick up in the other 2014s at this address. Less harmonious than the other 2014 Viré-Clessé examples but a complete wine nevertheless (like the Prêtres de Quintaine and Côteau de l’Epinet, this was bottled two days prior to my visit). 91+ points. Stephen Tanzer, Vinous Media October 2016