By Robert Parker
The most famous white burgundies come from the Côte d'Or, but the best values in these wines hail from the Mâconnais, the region just to the south. There, young winemakers have begun bottling their own wines instead of selling to cooperatives. They are also breaking with tradition by fermenting and aging their wine in stainless steel rather than oak, thus giving the wine a fresher taste. The vintage of choice is 2005, but 2004 offers many pleasant surprises and well-stored 2002s are drinking beautifully. Prices run from $15 to $30 per bottle, with a few old vine offerings pushing into the $40-to-$50 zone. Look for wines from the following estates:
Domaine de la Bongran
One of the great producers of pure, oak-free chardonnay, la Bongran's Jean Thevenet has been a mentor to many younger winemakers. His wines have uncommon aging ability, even though most are aged and fermented in stainless steel tanks, not oak barrels. Imported by Martine's Wines (415 883-0400).
Domaine Cordier Père et Fils
Located in the village of Fuissé, from which the famous wine Pouilly-Fuissé takes its name, this vintner is a superb source for that wine as well as Mâcon-Fuissé and St.-Véran. Christophe Cordier, the young, highly talented winemaker, seeks serious richness and intensity in his wines. Various American importers include Weygandt-Metzler (610 486-0800).
This domaine produces only one wine, a straightforward Mâcon-Villages offering loads of honeyed lemongrass, white peaches, and a broad texture. It is a delicious white to drink during its first few years of life. Imported by Kysela Père et Fils (540 722-9228).
Domaine Comtes Lafon
Famous for its red Burgundy, this domaine also makes a half-dozen or so offerings of 100% chardonnay wines. They are crisp, delicious, and loaded with minerals, poached pears, and buttered citrus. They offer lovely drinking during their first four to five years of life. Importers include Jeroboam Wines (212 625-2505).
Domaine Roger Lassarat
Lassarat produces wonderful wines under the St.-Véran and Pouilly-Fuissé monikers. The American importer has special cuvées marked "Cuvée Unique"; these are significantly better than the standard cuvée offerings sold elsewhere. Imported by North Berkeley Imports (800 266-6585).
Those looking for explosively rich, intense, full-bodied chardonnays should check out the Mâcon-Villages and Pouilly-Fuissés made by the Valette family in the quaint village of Chaintré. These are full-throttle efforts made from ripe fruit that are almost New World-ish in their explosion of tropical fruit, honeysuckle, and intensity. In most vintages, they require consumption in their first three to five years of life. Imported by Kysela Père et Fils (540 722-9228).
Robert Parker is the world's most influential wine critic. Visit www.eRobertParker.com to see tens of thousands of tasting notes, buy his books, or subscribe to his newsletter, The Wine Advocate.