Meursault is one of the famous names of Burgundy, traditionally producing opulent wines from Chardonnay. The wines are expensive, and I don't get to try them too often, so it was a pleasure to taste six wines from the village, ranging from $50 to $120 in price. The wines used to be round, ample, and heavily oaked, with bâtonnage widely used to give an even creamier, weightier texture. Producers are cutting back now to make the wines more expressive of where they come from. The tasting demonstrated that change to more refined, restrained wines. In a sense, that's a shame because it makes Meursault less distinctive - but it also makes the wines more individually expressive of the village’s diversity.
There are 396ha of plantings, of which only 13.5 are to Pinot Noir, with 215,000 cases made each year, of which only 5,000 are Pinot Noir. 70% of all that wine is exported, and there is more Chardonnay made here than in any other village in Côte de Beaune.
There are 19 Premiers Crus, but no Grands Crus - local producers decided to avoid the Grand Cru designtation because of the higher tax imposed on the wines. Those Premiers Crus account for 105ha of plantings of Chardonnay, 27% of the total.
Meursault lies 8km south of Beaune, in the midst of that clutch of famous villages with Volnay directly bordering it to the north and Puligny-Montrachet to the south. There is a great deal of diversity to Meursault which producers are trying to express by cutting back on the oak.
Bordering Volnay to the north-east of the village are a handful of Premier Cru vineyards, with some planted to Pinot Noir - Les Santenots vineyard can be classed as either Meursault (usually when white) or Volnay (usually when red). Moving to the north are gentle slopes with just 70ha of plantings, with Pinot Noir at the bottom of the slope. The 13ha of Pinot Noir planted in Meursault are all here - Meursault's red wines are not considered the finest in Côte de Beaune, and all the wines tasted were white.
North-west of the village, slopes rise up with the vineyards planted 220-380m. This is where much of the Meursault village wine comes from, with 100ha of plantings cooled by air rising from the valley.
It's south and south-west of the village that Meursault comes alive. The Premier Cru vineyards lie halfway up the slopes, with village wines above them. At the bottom, the soils are deeper moving up to compact limestone. South-west of the village is the separate commune of Blagny, which straddles the villages of Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet, with plantings between 300 and 380m. The Blagny vineyards that lie within Meursault are labelled Meursault-Blagny if white and Blagny if red.
All the wines we tried came from south of the village, were all fermented and aged in oak, and all received malolactic fermentation - emphasising that the differences between the wines were of place rather than winemaking.
Domaine Jean Chartron Les Pierres 2015 ($60)
From two vineyards located next to each other south-west of the village. This is a good introduction to the "new" Meursault, if one can use such a term. It's creamy and buttery with ripe peach and pear aromas, but that richness is finely balanced with floral aromas of acacia and jasmine and high acidity. That acidity gives the wine a mineral, stone structure which again balances the white pepper spice that comes from the oak (30% new oak for 12 months). A very balanced wine. ✪✪✪✪✪
Domaine Philippe Bouzereau/Château de Citeaux Poruzots Premier Cru 2015 (n/a)
Unfortunately this is from a very small producer who does not export to the US - although they have been making wine for nine generations. The vineyard is called poruzots, which refers to the rocky soils, and is located just south of the village. From forty-year-old vines, this wine had quite a different nose from the previous, much more citric in its aromas (lemon, lime, and grapefruit), with elderflowers too. But the palate had a similarly rich but balanced palate, with lees aromas of nuts, almonds, and biscuits and spicy oak aromas (again 30% new oak, but for 18 months), balanced by high acidity. ✪✪✪✪✪
Domaine Faiveley Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru 2015 ($80)
This was the most “Meursault” of the wines, really big, rich, creamy, and powerful - a wine to appeal to lovers of classic California Chardonnay. Aged in more new oak (50% for 15 months) and from vines grown in Blagny which gets hot during the day, there were ripe aromas of peaches and apricots, and a very spicy, oaky palate, as well as plenty of MLF aromas. Still balanced, but big. ✪✪✪✪
Domaine Latour Giraud Les Genevrières Premier Cru 2014 ($120)
All of the wines were from 2015, except this one from 2014. The difference between the two vintages was immediately apparent. 2015 was a warm year, and all the whites had a full fruitiness to them. 2014, in contrast, is much more about the acidity and a leaner structure. This wine had a sharpness to it, almost tingly, with salty, thorny, acorn aromas, with more restrained fruit aromas of green apples and lemons. Although a year older than all the other wines, this one needs more time to open up. ✪✪✪✪✪