Buisson-Charles is located in a quiet road that runs the vines south of the village.
Michel Buisson, with his wife in close attendance, was the third generation of vigneron at this domaine and despite theoretically being retired he still seems to find much to do, but today it is their daughter Catherine and son-in-law Patrick who are ‘responsible’. The domaine offers a modest impression when compared to many a grand maison in Meursault, but there is nothing modest about the wines.
Catherine Essa Buisson and Patrick Essa, now the fourth generation to exploit holdings that major on Meursault though with an added dash of Pommard and Volnay – and what holdings; certain parcels of villages Meursault vines that are over one hundred years old – such a rarity for chardonnay – plus four premier crus; Bouches-Chères (the domaine’s choice of spelling), Charmes, Cras and Goutte d’Or.
Patrick Essa is completely immersed in Burgundy wine; tasting widely and writing on his Degustateurs website – if there is a corkscrew to hand there is no such thing as a short chat with Patrick! Descending into their cellar, the barrels of reds and whites are separated; it’s a much lower amount of reds – ~30 barrels of red versus 80-100 barrels of whites – roughly 35,000 bottles is the maximum production, and the team are happy to keep it that way, otherwise they would have to hire full-time help.
Vines and Wines
Regardless of their appellation all the vines of the domaine are treated in the same way; at the vines, yields, during elevage and the amount of wood – Patrick says that terroir that should determine the differences, not how the wine is made. The low-yield of grapes are hand-picked, triaged at the vines and then again at the domaine. For the reds Patrick likes to keep some stems “it’s more classic”, but they have to be ripe, if not they will be discarded.
Discussing the wines with Patrick he emphasises “I’m looking for wines that are expressive though offer a little discretion, with concentration, ‘crunchy’ fruit, purity and just a hint of reduction. Acidity is important too. I’m aiming for the taste of the vineyard rather than the taste of the elevage”. I find this interesting because the whites (not the reds) give me the impression of a distinct signature in the younger wines – fine as it is. It is a faint creamy note that tends (almost) to lactic before becoming savoury and slightly floral with aeration. It’s a signature that reminds me in some ways of Ramonet or even a little of Coche-Dury. I ask Patrick about this and he agrees, saying “I know what you mean and it lasts about 2 years before ‘Meursault’ takes over, in a way I think it’s a shame to lose it because I quite like it”. I have to say that I do too.
Quality here is exemplary, the Aligoté being a real ‘find’ and the Pommard being quite textbook. But this is a Meursault domaine and the style is rather classic – minimal new oak and no batonnage – just pure and concentrated Meursault of richness but sufficient acidity and balance to, as I discovered, allow them to age very well. Patrick believes the domaine has had no oxidation issues. I also have the experience of interchanging the domaine’s 2008 Bouches-Chères with a very good Bienvenues Bâtard-Montrachet, and it was hardly disadvantaged.
The wines are excellent and prices are reasonable, Patrick says they have no aspirations to make ‘trophy pricing’, so they are often sold out. I’m not really surprised…
Tasted with patrick Essa, 30th July:
From three little parcels in the Meursault lieu-dits Les Manières and Les Hautes Coutures, vines between 40 and 60 years old. All the viticulture is the same as for the premier crus. 30% of the stems were retained. A very forward, round and comfy nose. Medium, medium-plus colour. A width of fruity flavour here that’s backed by good structure. This is such a precocious and tasty bourgogne.
From a lieu-dit called Chiveau – north-east exposed so need a later harvest. These at the youngest vines of the domaine – 26 years. Totally de-stemmed. Deeper and darker aromas – abetted by a hint of reduction. This is both silky and concentrated with buried structure. Eventually red fruit aromas are rising from the glass. Excellent.
Sixty year-old vines close to Caillerets with a 50% whole clusters. Here there is more depth but perhaps less width to the aromas. Unfortunately a little gas is spoiling the fun here, but I certainly see more complexity. This will be very nice.
Harvested with only 40 hl/ha – that’s than many producers use for a premier cru – from a vineyard in the commune of Meursault. Lovely width of aromas. Plush, wide, slightly savoury and with super length. A very high achiever.
Aromas burst from the glass, hints of nougat and almost strawberry fruit. Width and despite a hint of gas there is very nice texture.
The aromas are finer. Good width with a flavour of agrumes and more minerality.
Just touching on Santenots. This is white soil and very sunny so ripens very fast – Patrick says it is the Corton-Charlemagne of Meursault! The aromas are a little diffuse today. Very good concentration – a slightly richer Meursault.
From the higher part of the vineyard where the soil is very chalky – very different to the typical Charmes – indeed some similarity to Perrières. The nose is together here, understated and nicely fine. Round, very comforting but with excellent underlying acidity. This is very, very good.
0.35 hectares that bring 8 casks in a good year. Wide but with a little reduction. Likewise the palate is compromised by some gas yet there is concentration and complexity nonetheless.
The nose is very young and even offers a hint of red at it’s core. There is more overt power here, width and balance. This is very long and even delivers a surprise reprise as we ascend the cellar steps – excellent!
18 months of elevage! Patrick thinks this more concentrated than the 2009. Ex-domaine this was only €6 – what a shame it is (long-time) sold-out. This is a hint creamy smelling and very complex! There is minerality and nervosité here, backed by lovely flavour, extension into the mid-palate and finally just the right amount of richness to lift this from compelling to covetable! An aligoté that is worth a special search – shame they are sold out at the domaine.
This sells ex-domaine for €7.50 – the higher cost versus the aligoté is only the cost of the oak. Very good colour. The aromas are more understated than those of the aligoté, but deliver a nice cassis note. Tannic, but velvet tannin. Plenty of acidity pushes the flavours nicely long. A considerable bargain.
Patrick was very happy with his 08 Pommard, it was a lot of work through the growing season but it avoided hail and in the end he used 20% whole clusters. This has depth and a little richness to the aromas. Fine structure and concentration – there is lots of flavour but delivered with balance and a little minerality. Also sold out – what a shame (for me).
No hail here but only 20 hl/ha but vinified ‘without compromise’ with 100% of the stems. The aromas have more complexity than the Pommard, if less richness. Plenty of fine tannin. The flavour insinuates itself and becomes very long finishing. There is no extraneous padding here but no hard edges either. This is a buy.
Almost everything is sold-out here – this is the last bottle! There is good freshness here that has an added richness that is reminiscent of the 2008. There’s a little padding in the texture, abetted by the velvet texture of the tannin. Just a hint of astringency in the finish.
7,500 bottles – a little also sold to négoce. Patrick is looking for a little floral element in this wine. Medium colour. Depth that is topped by some floral and savoury elements. This is quite mineral in stance, concentrated too and delivers a long finish. Excellent.
This is also an aromatic mix of the floral and the savoury. Silky with lovely underlying acidity. Moreishly flavourful. Lovely.
One of the most concentrated wines in 2008 and raised in 50% new oak. Some floral and savoury aspect but with (again) a little agrumes. To start with this is only about extract of flavour but slowly the acidity takes over. Lots of flavour in the finish – this is really super.
Aromatically intense, the family nose is present here though fading to core of pure fruit. Vinous – initially a hint fat the wine opens wide on its acidity. A very different expression to the Charmes but lovely…
Less obvious Buisson-Charles – perhaps more Goutte d’Or with its padded fruit and flowers, framed in a subtle brioche. Perfect texture, the intensity builds and builds – eventually leaving your mouth watering. Really excellent!
Back to the family nose, here there seems an extra level of freshness to the aromas. In the mouth this is less plush (relative) and the flavours have a width that is borne on lovely acidity. Equally lovely length. Beautiful.
Served blind. As we taste Patrick muses – it’s not a wine for an aperitif, it deserves to be enjoyed with food. Golden colour. There is baked bread – raisin bread – and a faintly smoky aroma. Soft with a very pretty texture and a brulée sweet bread flavour in the mid-palate. Not unbelievably long but apparently still quite young, virile and melting across the palate – it is a beautiful glass – bravo! (For the record I guessed something ‘mid-1980s’!)