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Macon, short for the Maconnais AOC, in eastern France, makes up the largest white wine producing area of Burgundy. While red wine is produced from either Pinot Noir or, more commonly, Gamay, and sparkling wine is produced–called Crémant de Bourgogne here–from a combination primarily of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the white wine is what the Macon is all about.

All good white Burgundy is made up of the Chardonnay grape varietal, and that is the case here in this southern outpost. The same limestone soil found in the heart of Burgundy–the Cote d’Or–is found here. And Chardonnay vines just thrive on this. The climate here, though, is drastically different than that of the Cote d’Or. Here, the skies are as blue as the Mediterranean Sea, and the sun warms vines and residents alike.

Chardonnays from Macon may never reach the heights of those from the Cote d’Or, but they are beautifully pure, direct expressions of the varietal without a lot of cosmetic oak treatment. And, for the most part, they are an excellent value. For as little as $10 per bottle, try the easy-to-find Macon-Lugny Les Charmes of Cave de Lugny. This Chardonnay is light, fresh, and minerally. For something a bit fuller-bodied, try the Pouilly-Fuisse from Vincent et Fils, called Chateau de Fuissé. Pouilly-Fuisse, pronounced “Pwi Fweesay,” is a sub-region of Macon that became very popular in the U.S. over the last few decades.

Naturally, prices have come up, and overall quality has come down. However, a few producers take the raw material here and turn it into a beautiful, creamy expression of Chardonnay, with a bit more body than the average Macon. St. Veran is another sub-region. If you see this on the label, you should now recognize that this is an inexpensive white Burgundy made of Chardonnay. Like most Macons, it is light, fresh, and minerally. Try the St. Veran of Georges Duboeuf, which should set you back no more than $12. (Wine/Appellations)