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The first great wine of 2021 goes to this class act from Domaine du Chalet.
Or poo-yee fwee-say as it was known to wine-loving North Americans in the 1970’s who embraced this elegant chardonnay from Burgundy’s Maconais region with a truly bizarre fervour. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it was far too good to reach widespread acclaim at a time when the average American thought Mateus was fancy. And when I say it reached an insane level of name recognition, I mean it was featured in an episode of the The Facts of Life, where the spoiled Blair chides the gruff Jo for not being sufficiently cultured enough for the wine (the clip is at 5:05, but I implore you to watch the entire thing, including where the creep on the bar hits on the two 14-year-old girls at 3:44). Yikes.
It’s also in this episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (at 10:52).
And I’m not even going to go into it appearing in Hogan’s Heroes (but it did). Seriously—can you imagine any wine having that name recognition today? You can imagine what happened. The wine reached such a crescendo that the real wine geeks moved on to something else, and when the public’s fascination with the wine ebbed it entered into a multi-decade hinterland where it appealed to neither demographic. When I first started working at Edmonton’s The Wine Cellar, it was already a wine whose very name invoked snickering—the code word for a buyer who was way out of touch about what was exciting in wine.
But the irony is that since around 2000, the quality really began to improve, and the wine’s price—which was high for the Macon back in the day—actually increased significantly less than the rest of Burgundy, such that it’s become sort of a secret deal among somms looking for well-priced Chardonnay with a Burgundian pedigree.
Which brings us to this little champion of a bottle that charmed the pants off me this week. With a sub-$40 bottle of white Burgundy I’m immediately on the lookout for compromises (hell, you could say the same for a sub-$80 of white Burgundy) but here, they never materialize: the body is round and rich, but kept so elegantly in check by the acidity that there’s little doubt what part of the world you’re in. Lovely, restrained waves of crisp nectarine, maybe lightly toasted almonds, some sea air and a pure, clean finish. I literally didn’t stop smiling while “tasting” and “re-tasting” this last night. Mostly because of the wine but partly because I kept saying poo-yee fwee-say.