Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Meursault? Or less so?

The Meursault commune, 5-km long and located just 7 km from Beaune, is the northern entry point to, arguably, the world's greatest concentration of stellar Chardonnay vines. While it cannot rival its Côte de Beaune compatriots Puligny-Montrâchet and Chassagne-Montrâchet in number of Grand Cru vineyards (it has none), the wines of Meursault are world-renowned and, as will be discussed later, may be undergoing a refinement in style even as we speak. I will be writing a post on our visit to the Guy Roulot cellars in the near future and so wanted to provide some context herein for that upcoming post.

Source: musé

In his book on the vineyards of France (Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate and Culture in the Making of French Wines), James E. Wilson identifies what he refers to as Nuits and Beaune soil packages. The Beaune package is comprised of strata from the Callovian (Mid Jurassic) and Oxfordian (Upper Jurassic) periods, capped by Nantoux limestone. The Nuits package is comprised of Bajocian and Bathonian deposits (both Mid Jurassic) topped by Comblanchian limestone. The Nuits package dominates on the Côte d'Or before diving deep underground in the vicinity of Nuits-Saint-Georges. It reappears at Meursault but, to the north of the village, is overlain in the belly of the slope by a Beaune strata package. It is in this part of Meursault that red grapes are grown. To the south of the town, the Beaune package predominates and continues through Puligny-Montrâchet and Chassagne-Montrâchet. This area is home to some of the finest white wines in the world.

The plot architecture of the Meursault vineyard has the leading-edge of the Premier Cru vineyards abutting the Volnay commune and separated from the southern Premier Crus by a thick band of Village-level lieu dits.

The allowed grapes in the Meursault commune are Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc for whites and Pinot Noir and accessory grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris) for reds. Accessory grapes are limited to 15% of the vines on a given plot and must be vinified as part of a field blend. Planting density is 9000 vines/ha with max loadings of 10,500kg/ha for whites and 9000 kg/ha for reds. No irrigation is permitted.

At approximately 400 ha, Meursault is larger than Puligny-Montrâchet (202.98 ha) or Chassagne-Montrâchet (301.43 ha) but has fewer Premier Crus (19) than does Chassagne (56) and only two more than Puligny. Of the 400 ha, approximately 130 ha is designated Premier Cru with the most well-regarded climats being Les Perrieres, Les Genevirières, and Les Charmes. The best of the Village lieu dits are Clos de la Barre, Tesson, Chevalierès, Rougeot, and Narvaux.

In 2010, the region produced 18,400 hl of wine, 400 hl of which was white. The red wines produced in the north of the commune are labeled Volnay-Santenot in order to take advantage of the higher standing of Volnay reds. White wines produced in Blagny to the south are allowed to be labeled as Meursault-Blagny to take advantage of the market strength of Meursault in white wines. The best producers in the region are Comtes Lafon, Coche Dury, Guy Roulot, Jean-Philippe Fichet, Francois Jobart, Patrick Javillier, Michelle Bouzereau, and Arnold Ente.

The Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) is the "voice of the Bourgogne wind trade" and, on its website, describes the wines of Meursault thusly:
The young wine is redolent of toasted almonds and hazelnuts in a floral (mayflower, elder, bracken, lime, verbena) and mineral (flint) setting. Butter, honey, and citrus fruits are also present. On the palate it is rich and fat, with a cheerful and appealing taste of hazelnut.
BBR, on its website, describes the wines as "... typically rich and savory with nutty, honeyed hints and buttery, vanilla spice from the oak." But these descriptors may no longer be applicable across the board. In a 2010 article profiling Domaines des Comtes Lafon, Burgundy-Report gave a halting, non-specific observation of a shift in this particular producer's offerings: "I have the impression that there has been a style shift in both red and white wines in recent years ... the whites of the 1990s were ... forceful, and very well oaked." The whites he tasted on this particular trip "mesmerized" him.

In a recent post (Burgundy Diary part 6: Sea Change in Meursault -- Visits to Comtes Lafon, Guy Roulot, Michel Bouzereau, and Pierre Morey), Benjamin Lewin MW observes that this visit "... showed a real change in style from the old view that Meursault is soft, nutty, and buttery ..." He summarized the key elements of the change as follows: "Previously I have always been a devotée of Puligny for expressing terroir in that ineffably steely, mineral style, but Meursault is now running a close second."

Does this mean that Meursault has not been properly expressing its terroir all along? Or does it mean that terroir is fungible in that region? Stay tuned.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme


  1. My comments on Meursault can be found at

    1. The rhetorical question regarding fungibility of terroir was asked somewhat tongue-in-cheek as it is the long-adhered-to wine style that is undergoing change. But, in my opinion, a wine style as deeply ingrained, and widely implemented, as was the Meursault style becomes a part of a region's terroir.