CHATEAU DES RONTETS
Home is where the vines are, as it turned out, for Claire Gazeau. After pursuing a life outside of wine, working in architecture in Milan and meeting her now husband doing so, the vines of Gazeau’s family vineyard in Pouilly-Fuissés eventually called her home. Thirty years later, Chateau des Rontets is producing its best wines yet.
The estate was founded in the 1700s, taken over by Claire’s great-great-grandfather, François Varambon in the mid 1800s. The estate holds many treasured family memories, and upon moving there in 1995 Claire and her husband Fabio saw it as a wonderful place to raise a family of their own.
It’s safe to say the 7.5 hectares of vines were not thriving when Claire and Fabio took the reins of the estate. From day one, the pair set upon farming organically to repair the health and biodiversity of the vines, and in 2005 attained their Ecocert organic certification.
Organic farming, according to Claire and Fabio, is the best way for their vines to express the vocation of their place. Ploughing and the avoidance of chemical weeding allows the root system to absorb the mineral elements of the soil, exploring the unique layers of limestone and granite that come with straddling the Burgundy/Beaujolais divide.
Above all, abolishing all synthetic chemical products allows Chateau des Rontets to respect the environment and the natural expressions of the living ecosystem, but also to preserve the health of their family, workers, neighbours and that of those who drink their wines.
The main estate is situated on the top of the hill which closes the valley of Fuissé towards the south. Sitting at an altitude of 350 metres above sea level, the daily temperature range here is key to gradual ripening and the preservation of good acidity even in the warmest and earliest vintages. This is where the grapes producing the Pouilly-Fuissé cuvées Clos Varambon and Les Birbettes are grown.
The bedrock is composed of hard limestone from the Jurassic period, with layers of silt and silty clay, and a high presence of stones and silica. These characteristics guarantee very good drainage and the development of the roots, which can burrow down between the stones, following their cracks. There are 5.5 hectares of vines within the Clos, planted on a light slope increasing gradually as it approaches the woods separating them from the village of Fuissé.
Just 500m south of the Clos sits the revered Pierrefolle (or crazy stone) vineyard, producing the Pouilly-Fuissé cuvée of the same name. Although situated so closely, and at the same altitude, wines from Pierrefolle are completely different from their brethren. Being further south, the bedrock here is granitic, the soil is much deeper and composed only of quite thick silts. Its eastern exposure provides shelter from the north wind and tends to be slightly warmer, leading to a more rapid ripening process and less acid in the grapes.
When it comes to vintage, all grapes are hand harvested, then, in the winery, Claire and Fabio continue to let their wines take a relatively uninterrupted course. Alcoholic fermentations are made only with natural yeasts, without any addition of sugar or acid and without enzymes, and the malolactic fermentations are never inhibited or artificially stopped. This practice can lead to long fermentations, often lasting several months, increasing the aromatic complexity of the wines and amplifying their expression of place.
One part of the winemaking journey that is especially important at Chateau des Rontets is the extended lees ageing. Lees have a fundamental role in the specificity and texture of these wines, as the team chooses to let the wines sit on lees, without stirring, to take maximum advantage of the autolysis while limiting the tendency of reduction and ensuring the extraction of glycerol.
Lastly, there is no fining or filtering of the wines. Instead, to help the wines settle before bottling, ageing in barrels takes place across two winters - a rare, yet effective approach.