Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Winery visit with Jean-Marc Roulot of Domaine Guy Roulot

To taste a Domaine Roulot wine is to taste a sense of deep rootedness, fine and crystalline, and yet somehow open. Although subtly powerful, the wine never imposes itself before the taster has time to form his own reactions... For me, the subtlety and finesse of Jean-Marc's very feline wines fulfill the criteria for a legitimate work of art: conventions coexisting with freedom of access and interpretation.
Thus had Jonathan Nossiter (Liquid Memory) described the wines of Domaine Guy Roulot. And, after stellar visits at DRC and Domaine Armand Rousseau, we were on our way to taste the wines so eloquently described by Nossiter.

Domaine Guy Roulot is headed by Jean-Marc Roulot, scion of the namesake founder, who took the reins of the Domaine in 1989 from a succession of caretaker winemakers who had overseen production since the death of his father in 1982. The Domaine is known primarily for its plot-specific whites from Village and Premier Cru sites in Meursault but it also produces red wines with grapes sourced from Auxey-Duresses and Monthélie as well as a Bourgogne red sourced from Volnay and Puligny-Montrachet parcels.

                          Domaine Guy Roulot Meursault Climats and Lieux-Dits
Soil Characteristic
Wine Descriptors

Slope south of valley

Highest on the slope and facing south

Floral and mineral.
Vineyards on the upper slope make bititng, precise wines*

North of Tillets at slightly lower elevation; east-facing

Rich yet racy

Further north and lower

Round with great length

Adjacent to Tillets

Generous, lush character

Meix Chavaux
North of Premier Crus but at same elevation

Opulent and ripe


Powerful, long, complex
Premier Cru
Shallow, stony soil
Silky texture; medium-bodied; elegant.
Bigger, rounder, easier*

South of Bouchères
Fuller body

On Puligny border; 70-year-old vines

Round, fleshy, ripe, mineral, complex; great depth of flavor
Source: rarewineco.com; *Dominique Lafon in Nossiter’s Liquid Memory.

Jean-Marc's commitment to these terroirs, and their wines, is illustrated by his comments to Nossiter: "... I am as attached to my village vineyard designation as the premier cru. The day I can't bottle my Tillets, Meix Chavaux, and Tessons separately is the day I'll leave any system of official designation. ... We need to continue to work to understand the individual identities of each parcel of vines, whether it is at the village, premier cru, or grand cru level." In a more recent conversation with Benjamin Lewin MW, Jean-Marc ranked the differences between lieux-dits as: (i) exposition, (ii) elevation, then (iii) the clay-limestone proportions with a resultant 1-week differential in harvest-initiation between Luchets and Narvaux.

One of the early decisions that Jean-Marc made upon taking the reins at Domaine Roulot was to pursue organic farming. In explaining his decision to Nossiter, Jean-Marc spoke admiringly of biodynamicism but going organic was a huge step for the winery. It was a step, however, which allowed the individual identity of each plot to be "more strongly expressed." Even though practicing organic principles since 1989, the estate was not formally certified until 2013.

The estate produces both white and red wines with the whites made from Chardonnay or Aligoté and the red from Pinot Noir. The winemaking processes are illustrated in the graphic below.

A winemaking couple from Santa Barbara was joining us for the tatsingt so, after hurried introductions, we headed to the cellars. It was clear that Raj and Jean-Marc were good friends and were happy to see each other because they immediately fell into an animated winemaking conversation which threaded its way through our entire visit. It was fascinating and a wonderful learning opportunity for us.

The wines to be tasted were placed on an upright barrel in the center of the room and Jean-Marc began to open them. The tasting would unfold in two parts: a tasting of the 2012 whites followed by a tasting, some of it blind, of some older vintages.

As he opened the first bottle, Jean-Marc looked around the cellar ruefully noting that, under normal circumstances, barrels would be stacked three rows high. The 2012 vintage had not been normal though with hail damage, mildew, odium, and heat combining for a 60% reduction in stock.

Jean-Marc Roulot opening bottles for our tasting
Jean-Marc Roulot and Ron
Rajat Parr and Jean-Marc
The results of the tastings will be covered in a subsequent post.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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