Jean Thévenet - Domaine de la Bongran Viré-Clessé
"The master of Mâcon." Robert Parker
Jean Thévenet’s family roots in the town of Viré in Mâconnais go back some five hundred years. His grandfather was among the first to suggest a special appellation for these two villages, Viré and Clessé that produce superior wines. The appellation of Viré-Clessé was finally approved and ironically Jean Thévenet was not included in the new superior appellation. The reason was that his ripe, rich and concentrated wines did not fit the mould of the prototypical Mâcon wine, and some suspect they were too highly praised by wine critics!
Unlike many of his neighbours, Thévenet severely limits his yields to concentrate the juice of the grapes, and he picks the grapes very late and harvests by hand. This concentrated juice is fermented in low temperatures which take as long as one or two years developing tremendous complexity in his two hundred-year-old foudres (old, large oak barrels that can hold more than a thousand litre wine which imparts no flavour unlike new oak). Resulting rich, powerful Chardonnay wines are atypical of a region of Mâcon better known for light plonk wines.
Although authorities claim that Jean Thévenet’s wines are atypical of this region, after extensive research he suggests that the old Mâcon Virés were made in almost exactly the same way as his own, similar levels of alcohol and sugar. “We are the ones upholding tradition” he claims. His wines indeed classics that can age for decades and comparable with the best Cote d’Or whites.
These are some of the few praises by prominent wine critics and writers;
"... these are the wines of a genius ... Jean Thevenet makes the finest wine of the Maconnais region"
"I think, for my part, that these are the finest wines of Mâconnais. The Mâcon-Clessé of vintages 86, 89 and 90 have reached the level of a great vintage of the Côte-d’Or."
"These wines are complex and fascinating, as age-worthy as many white Burgundy wines, perhaps even more so. Their high residual sugar levels are part of Thévenet's DNA, something that he believes is intrinsically related to terroir expression; on more than one visit he reminded me that historically wines from this region contained similar levels of sweetness. Prices remain a fraction of what you would have to pay for a top Côte de Beaune, and I cannot recommend these highly enough."
“He's obsessed with quality and makes terrific, highly distinctive white Burgundy.”
Bettane & Desseauve
“Jean Thévenet is the undisputed leader in quality in Mâconnais. Admittedly, it benefits Clessé
a privileged microclimate, which allows him to harvest grapes enriched by noble rot and therefore
produce sweet wines or liquoreux absolutely amazing. But its simplest vintages already have the richness of constitution of a beautiful Pouilly-Fuissé and attest to the class of hillside lands. The new Viré-Clessé appellation is ridiculous by banning the production of wines with residual sugar and outlawing the most beautiful vintages produced on its territory. We are ashamed of the prestige of France.
Sources: Domaine de la Bongran, Bacchus and Me- Jay McInerney, Wine Advocate, Wine Searcher