Historically Macon was known primarily as a source of vast quantities of cheap white wines made by village cooperatives – reliable everyday wines, but no match for the great whites of the Cote de Beaune. But that was then and this is now, and today Macon’s whites are recognized to be among the very best wine values on the planet. Jancis Robinson has been saying so for years, and in a recent Wall Street Journal article renowned novelist and wine columnist Jay McInerney declared Domaine de la Soufrandiere Pouilly-Vinzelles 'les Quarts' 2010 "had what seemed to me grand cru depth and complexity": an exciting concept given its far from grand cru price.
The Bret family are relative newcomers as winegrowers in Macon – they have only been at it for three generations. The evolution of their family business, from grape growers to producers of top quality estate wines, provides an intriguing parallel to the rapid transformation of the region as a whole.
A.J. Bret, a professor of Medicine, bought 2.47 acres (1 hectare) of land at La Soufrandiere in 1947. He slowly enlarged the estate by acquiring adjacent plots of land, always selling the fruit to the Cave Cooperative de Vinzelles. A.P.’s son Jean-Paul assumed control in 1969, and continued to sell to the coop while increasing the size of the domaine to 4.55 hectares. His sons Jean-Guillaume and Jean-Philippe took over in 2000. They have quickly become leaders in the region, deeply committed to expressing the special characteristics of the best parcels of old vines through natural farming and meticulous winemaking.
La Soufrandiere has been biodynamically farmed since 2001, and has had Ecocert status since 2003. It does not hurt that the vines are between 28 -100 years old, growing on superb South East facing clay/limestone terroirs, or that the vineyards have been ploughed since 1999, with no heavy machinery in the vineyards and all pruning and picking done by hand. Yields are kept low, the vines are unirrigated, and the Brets are very passionate about promoting biodiversity and 'the life of the soil'. Only naturally occurring ambient yeasts are allowed.