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Chateau des Rontets

You gotta love an Italian in Burgundy. Especially an Italian architect from Milan, married to a French woman and living on a hilltop in the Mâconnais in the middle of an ancient vineyard. You especially gotta love him when you discover he’s making some of the best wine in all of the Mâconnais – essentially beating the French at their own game!

Fabio Montrasi is one of my favorite people in Burgundy. Handsome, smart, humble, hardworking, talented, kind, and able to whip up a nice pasta carbonara at a moment’s notice. Fabio and his wife Claire inherited the amazing Chateau des Rontets from her mother in the early 1990s, and abandoned their careers as architects in Italy to move to the neglected estate, bring it back to life, and learn how to farm grapes and make wine.

Fabio and Claire now farm the property organically, and have garnered international recognition for the delicious and complex wines they’re producing. I first became aware of them through my readings of various French wine magazines. Then I saw a piece in the news about a photo shoot in their vineyard, with some 800 people in the nude among the vines, staged by US photographer Spencer Tunick in conjunction with Greenpeace.

Perched high atop the Mâconnais village of Fuissé, Chateau des Rontets is a rarity among Burgundian domaines in that virtually all of their 15 acres are one walled-in vineyard, the magnificent Clos Varambon (Varambon being the family name on Claire’s side.). The vineyard and modest chateau have been in the family of Claire Gazeau since 1850.

Aerial view of Chateau des Rontets and the Clos Varambon

Aerial view of Chateau des Rontets and the Clos Varambon

They are blessed with several parcels of very old vines, with several sections of the clos planted between 1910-1920. They produce three different cuvées of Pouilly-Fuissé each vintage – one from just the oldest vines, another from several different parcels planted from 1945-1975, and the third from a single parcel just outside the walls. These are truly GREAT white Burgundies – they compete with the best of the Côte de Beaune, at a fraction of the price. You can buy average Puligny-Montrachet for $75-$100 these days, or really excellent Pouilly-Fuissé in the $30-$45 range. I know what choice I’m making…