Historically Macon was known primarily as a source of vast quantities of cheap white wines made by village cooperatives - reliable everyday wines, but no match for the great whites of the Cote de Beaune. But that was then and this is now, and today Macon's whites are recognized to be among the very best wine values on the planet.
The Bret family are relative newcomers as winegrowers in Macon - they have only been at it for three generations. The evolution of their family business, from grape growers to producers of top quality estate wines, provides an intriguing parallel to the rapid transformation of the region as a whole.
A.J. Bret, a professor of Medicine, bought 2.47 acres (1 hectare) of land at La Soufrandière in 1947. He slowly enlarged the estate by acquiring adjacent plots of land, always selling the fruit to the Cave Cooperative de Vinzelles. A.P.'s son Jean-Paul assumed control in 1969, and continued to sell to the coop while increasing the size of the domaine to 4.55 hectares. His sons Jean-Guillaume and Jean-Philippe took over in 2000. They have quickly become leaders in the region, deeply committed to expressing the special characteristics of the best parcels of old vines through natural farming and meticulous winemaking.
La Soufrandière has been biodynamically farmed since 2001, and has had Ecocert status since 2003. It does not hurt that the vines are between 28-80 years old, growing on superb South East facing clay/limestone terroirs, or that the vineyards have been ploughed since 1999, with no heavy machinery in the vineyards and all pruning and picking done by hand. Yields are kept low, the vines are unirrigated, and the Brets are very passionate about promoting biodiversity and 'the life of the soil'. Only naturally occurring ambient yeasts are allowed.
In 2001 Jean-Guillaume and Jean-Philippe ("J-gui" and "J-fi" to each other) established Bret Brothers, a small-scale, Maconnais only, 'haute couture' merchant business. The philosophy of the negociant business (Bret Brothers) is identical to that of the domaine (La Soufrandière): "Exceptional Grapes for Exceptional Wines: ripe, healthy, balanced, grapes grown on living soil and subsoil." Bret Brothers wines come only from very small plots of old vines (typically at least 50 years old),farmed by vignerons as dedicated as the Brets themselves, so the grapes are given the same care and passion as grapes coming from La Soufrandière. The Brets' definition of a Bret Brothers wine is as follows: '1 wine = 1 plot = 1 vigneron'.