La Soufrandière

Biodynamic Mâcon Lighting up the Great Terroirs of Burgundy’s Southern Reaches

The La Soufrandière story begins in 1947 when Jules Bret purchased an old property with a single hectare of vines—Pouilly-Vinzelles “Les Quarts” in the hamlet of Vinzelles. By the late 1970s Jules and his son, Jean-Paul Bret, had grown the estate to 4.55 hectares by acquiring plots of vines adjoining their existing holdings. At this time, the farm was still operating under a share-cropping scheme and the grapes were taken to the Co-operative.

Today, third-generation Jean Philippe and Jean-Guillaume run the Domaine. Living in Paris, the young brothers would spend most of their summers at the Vinzelles property ‘fishing, picking mushrooms and discovering wine’. Over the years they developed a strong connection to the region and became increasingly drawn to know more about the relationship between the soils and the vines. By 1991 they made the decision to follow a career in wine and formative experiences in Burgundy and California followed. In particular, their interactions with Jean-Marie Guffens, in Pierreclos, and Dominique Lafon, in Meursault, would profoundly influence their ideas in the early years.

When people ask us who they should visit in France to see what is happening at the cutting edge of quality viticulture, the Bret brothers are always one of the very first names to tumble from our lips. And they do not disappoint in the cellar either! These are wines that are lighting up the great terroirs of Burgundy’s southern reaches.

The cradle of the Domaine is a perfectly situated east-facing slope of Vinzelles called Les Quarts, a four-hectare vineyard on Bajocian limestone with a high silica/quartz content. The topsoil is only 20 to 30cm in depth before the roots plunge directly into the mother rock, and in some sections, can be scraped aside by hand to reveal the bare limestone. They also farm in neighbouring Les Longeays, a continuation of Les Quarts. A more recent acquisition, in 2016, is five hectares of beautifully sited St-Veran and Pouilly-Fuissé from an existing organic estate. Today La Soufrandière covers just under 12 hectares of prime location Mâcon.

Underpinning the vibrancy and mineral intensity of their wines, the precise vineyard management carried out here is second to none. Influenced by Dominique Lafon, from their very first vintage the brothers opted for organic and biodynamic farming and are Demeter certified, highly unusual in a region not noted for its conscientious, natural wine growing. But then neither is employing one vigneron for every 1.5 hectares of vines (the local average is one for ten). To cut a long story short, hand-harvesting, biodynamic treatments, intensive canopy management, hard pruning to limit yields and ploughing (including by horse) are the rudiments to the labour-intensive, earth-to-glass approach.

At the start of his journey, Jean-Philippe would press his grapes in whole bunches, as is the fashion in Burgundy these days. Today, the fruit is delicately crushed to mix the juice and skins (to draw out phenolic content for structure and as a natural preservative) and no sulphites are added at the press. Following natural clarification, the juices are naturally fermented in used large format casks, vats or concrete eggs. Maturation lasts between 11 months and 17 months depending on the cuvée and total sulphites are limited to 20-40 mg/L, split between pressing and bottling.

As we have said from our soapbox many times before, there are countless, more expensive white Burgundies, from far more famous terroirs of the Côte de Beaune, that suffer by comparison with the wines from this Mâconnais progressive. And yet, somehow, the wines of La Soufrandière fly under the radar. Let’s put it another way, if the very same wines were labelled Puligny-Montrachet or the like, we would have to allocate them. The reason for the quality is relatively simple—Jean-Philippe and Jean-Guillaume Bret have superb holdings and are widely considered to be amongst France’s finest and most meticulous growers.

Bret Brothers

We also work with a number of wines from La Soufrandière’s mico-négoce, Bret Brothers. It’s important to note that, as opposed to the more traditional négociants of the region, the brothers work exclusively with old-vine (minimum 40-year-old), single-plot vineyards, all of which are now either certified organic or in conversion. And, they work only with growers with whom they are able to control, or agree on, all aspects of the viticulture process, all the way through to harvest.

Furthermore, the brothers work most of these, non-estate parcels themselves, according to biodynamic principles, and end up with yields that are around 50% below the regional average. The wines are then crafted with the same care and precision as the estate wines. Although there are a wide number of cuvées made here, on average each parcel of vines produces only three demi-muids of wine each, roughly 200 cases.

The Range

Not seeing any wines? The wines from this producer are very limited and only available in small volumes, or they may be offered exclusively through our allocation program. Please contact your account manager or email us to register your interest in the next release.

“Disciplined viticulture and ambitiously precise vinification puts these two young men leagues ahead of the competition and promises to keep them there.” Bettane and Desseauve’sGuide to the Wines of France

“Jean-Philippe and Jean-Guillaume Bret's wines are certainly not on the cheap side for the Mâcon region, then again, they are cheaper than a lot of Côte de Beaune whites and the care and dedication equals any grower you will find there… overall these remain some of the benchmarks of Mâconnais.” Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate

“Domaine La Soufrandière is the family estate of dynamic brothers Jean-Philippe and Jean-Guillaume Bret where they produce beautifully satiny, pure wines…” William Kelley, The Wine Advocate 

Country

France

Primary Region

Mâconnais

People

Winemakers: Jean-Philippe and Jean-Guillaume Bret

Availability

National

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