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Country of Origin: France
Location: Chaintré, Pouilly-Fuissé
People: Philippe Valette, Owner & Winemaker
Viticulture: Practicing Organic
Three generations of winemakers have worked this 10 ha estate in Chaintré, a small village in the south of Burgundy between the Mâcon and Beaujolais. Philippe’s father was the first farmer in the region to stop selling grapes to the co-op and create his own domaine wine (1977). After finishing wine school in 1990, Philippe made the decision to convert the vineyards to organics.
The next two years were full of trial and error considering his wine education never included anything about organic viticulture. With time, Philippe managed to train his Chardonnay plots to maximize terroir expression without any chemical treatments. Philippe depended on the diverse micro-biological life in his vineyards to make dynamic wines. In every second row of vines he planted dense ground vegetation that protects microorganisms living in the upper soil-layers. Today, Philippe is known as one of the godfathers of natural winemaking, especially in the Mâcon. He is widely respected for his knowledge of vine biology, and his wines are featured on many of the great wine lists of France, Northern Europe, and now, the United States.
Valette's wines are noted for their concentration. They are tactile wines expressing generous minerality and saltiness. They induce fascination, and thus another sip... Depending on the cuvée and the vintage, Philippe will age his wines in old oak from 6 months to as long as 5 years.
Wine Advocate 8/2018
"Organic viticulture, laissez faire vinification and extended sur lie élevage—for as many as 84 months in the case of the domaine's emblematic Pouilly-Fuissé Le Clos de Monsieur Noly—are the rudiments of the approach that produces wines that many revere as leaders of the natural wine movement but which arguably belong in a category entirely of their own. Textural and sapid, Valette's wines sometimes display oxidative characteristics, yet they're also full of life and are frequently transformed by extended aeration; their gastronomic potential is amazing. Anyone interested in experiencing a different vision of what white Burgundy can be should seek out of a few bottles."
"Gérard Valette and his son Philippe produce some of the most compelling wines in all of the Mâcon. 'Great wine is made in the vineyards, period' is the way Valette modestly but firmly explains the quality behind his wines. 'We have old vines with naturally low yields, we don't use herbicides, we don't use commercial yeasts and we pick late so we never, ever chaptalize or acidify and we use only the absolute bare minimum of SO2.' The fruit is manually harvested, pressed very slowly, given a relatively long débourbage (settling) and racked straight into barrels that have had long, slow, medium toast applied to them. The élevage lasts anywhere from 12 to 49 months, almost unheard of in the Mâcon, after which there is normally no fining and only a light filtration. The results are simply spectacular and the wines speak for themselves."