Château du Meursault part 1 – 2014

Update 4.7.2017(27.11.2015)billn

DSC08343Tasted in Meursault with winemaker Emmanuel Escutenaire and Stéphane Follin-Arbelet, 22 October 2015.

Domaine de Château du Meursault
Rue du Moulin Foulot
21190 Meursault
Tel: +33 3 80 26 22 75

Of-course everybody knows the Château de Meursault as home of the Meursault Paulée, plus a well visited tourist operation which is essentially a more discreet version of the Château de Pommard – a nice cellar tour (and what cellars!) followed by wine purchasing opportunities. That latter focus, plus bottle labels that always looked at home on supermarket shelves, never left me with an urge to visit to learn more.

This year, the Château was the location for the festivities following the successful UNESCO ‘Climats’ bid, and the apéro was their 2012 Meursault Charmes – and I thought, ‘hmm, that’s not bad!‘ – sitting beside me was no less than Dominique Lafon who also enjoyed the wine, even confiding, ‘You know they are really doing some good work now, and they have brilliant parcels of vines.‘ A comment I noted for (this!) future reference!

A little history

The Château has 11th century origins; the first duke of Burgundy giving the land around the Moulin Foulot (still today’s address) to one of his ‘squires.’ The cellars are quite something, covering all the areas between today’s reception area, onwards, under the château and to the winery, further to the south of the château. They are all connected and apparently were excavated by the monks of Citeaux.

Despite the apparent presence of those monks, the château stayed in the hands of a small number for families for hundreds of years, until the revolution, when it was confiscated by the state. It was eventually sold to a merchant from Beaune. – Pierre Jobard.

In the 1800s, the Serre family redeveloped the château and invested in vines. A restoration came in the 1970s, yet the château itself remained empty – just like today – the last long-staying occupants were apparently the German commanders during the war. In 2012 everything was bought by France’s Halley family, some of the richest people in France, and owners of the company behind Carrefour supermarkets. Fortunately it wasn’t just bought as a plaything, rather they have made significant investments in both people and equipment.

The domaine

Stéphane Follin-Arbelet has been responsible here for the last 3 years. Actually the ‘group’ that the chateau belongs to also includes the Marche au Vins in Beaune and the Château de Marsannay. 52 hectares are owned by the domaine of Château de Meursault, the vines are spread across Meursault, Beaune, Savigny and Aloxe.

DSC08342And ‘tada!’ there is a new label – for sure, it is an evolution of the old one, but this looks much more classy.

Stéphane says that he’s here not just to change the label, but to bring a more interest to the wines. He started with ‘lutte raisonnée’ though it’s a shame that those first three years were all marked by hail. They also moved to using small cases for harvesting, thermo-regulated wooden tanks for top cuvées, thermo-regulated stainless-steel for the others. Before their harvests lasted over 2 weeks, the last took just 7 days.

Stéphane says that they are looking to minimise intervention and certainly minimise pumping. An optical triage machine was brought in for the 2014 vintage where they still used about 20% whole clusters in the reds – actually, and I didn’t realise before this visit that they have more reds (28 hectares) than whites, so a second appointment was set up for a return to taste those 2014 reds.

Before the arrival of Stéphane, 95% of the Château’s production was sold to négoce or in France to visitors to the Château et.cetera, so Stéphane says that his priority is developing the export market, indeed this range of 2014s is to be presented to potential export partners for the first time. Stéphane likes to make the point that “There is zero négoce operation here – we concentrate only on the produce of our domaine, but there’s still an impression that there may be a connection with Patriarche but what we do today is very different.”

Stéphane on 2015:
“We’re very enthusiastic for reds of course, no sugar purchases across both Côtes” smiles Stéphane!

Stéphane on 2014:
“2014 started very early with the flowering and was dry – we were expecting to harvest in august (again!) Actually we started on the 11 September, and it’s among the best vintages I’ve seen in white, a very flamboyant vintage.”

The wines…

2014 Bourgogne Clos du Château
8 hectares from in front of the château, split into two for elevage; north and south. Vinified in barrel, exactly the same as the Meursault villages.
Deep, freshly lemon. Good width and a nice citrus acidity that finishes clean and interesting – lovely wine.

2014 Savigny-lès-Beaune Blanc
Complicated. Two completely different terroirs; Peuillets, sandy warm soil with early harvesting. Elevaged separately, and harvested 2 weeks later was Golardes and Goudolettes these don’t always fully ripen but bring freshness and energy.
A faintly barrel-tinged depth but fresh and almost iodine above, again with a faint citrus. Lovely width here; there’s a modest richness but suffused with very fine acidity, again a late-arriving suggestion of oak flavour but essentially very modestly so. Super!

2014 Meursault Les Limozin
Touching the Poruzots of Michelot, from the high part of limozin. 0.5 hectares, and one of two villages that are separated from the domaine’s large villages Meursault cuvée. Lots of hail, about 30% hail losses.
Here is a lovely, fresh citrus aroma, more weight compared to the Savigny. Silky weight, and real weight too, the impression of a little dry material. – less obviously energetic than the Savigny but here is a more measured delivery of concentrated flavour – finely balanced too. Lovely wine.

2014 Meursault Clos des Grands Charrons Monopole
More than 1 hectare.
Here is a real Meursault aromatic, gingerbread and freshness. More mineral, good energy and acidity – the flavour still flows long after you finish. Less width but a powerhouse finisher – bravo!

2014 Bourgogne Terroir d’Exception
A bourgogne after a great Meursault villages? And one that costs over €30? There’s a plot in Meursault Perrières that was a quarry hole and later refilled. They had the right to plant but INAO said only with a Bourgogne label. The plot sits directly behind the wall of the Clos des Perrières. It was planted in 1977, delivering about 3,000 bottles.
Some density of aroma, slowly growing depth too. Wide with a nicely growing intensity, the texture slightly spoilt by some gas on the palate, but there depth and complexity here, obviously higher class than bourgogne, with agrumes and complexity in the finish. The label says it all – exceptional Bourgogne – super length!

2014 Meursault 1er Charmes
Dessous – lower slopes. They made their first test, separating the Charmes in 12 and then went for it with 13 for the first time.
A big, open aromatic, with a faint herb above, and a faintly agrume depth with lovely fresh complexity. Wide, lovely fresh, slightly salted concentration, again a little salt in the super length. – very fine.

2014 Meursault 1er Perrières
2 parcels that touch but 2-3 days difference in maturity; the old vines are the sooner. The two are always vinified separately, no batonnage today which is quite different to previous vintages.
Also starts fresh but with a fine Meursault gingerbread below. Bigger in the mouth – this wine needs more space, there’s no fat, and there’s plenty of energy – lovely holding of the flavour and also a hint salty though less than Charmes. Perhaps the best Perrières I’ve tasted so far on my travels!
2014 Meursault 1er Les Charmes Dessus
From the top of the vineyard near Perrières. 100 metres separate this and the last Charmes. Not totally clear.
Less open but faintly complex, a pretty floral impression. Like the Perrières this really fills the mouth but there’s a little steel and mineral here, impressively so. The Perrières is more forgiving and easier today – but wait, this might even be better!

2014 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Champs Gains
Bought half a hectare in 2013 so here is the first vintage. Lots of work in the vines to replace fatigued vines et-cetera and to put in new posts. Should be 6 barrels, currently they have 3, but from nicely matured grapes
A pretty, subtle, yellow citrus nose. A very different feeling in the mouth; fresh, open, mouth-watering acidity/flavour, very tasty, a wine that almost sizzles on the tongue. Super enjoyable but quite a bit less complex until the finish then its more interesting again. Easier to understand and appreciate than the last Meursaults but today, slightly behind.

2014 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Champs Canet
Old vines here. From the Meursault side of Puligny.
Wide and a more complex aromas, less direct focus than the Champs Gain, but slowly grows weight and a hint of seashore. Approaching the shape in the mouth of the Meursaults, it’s looking to fill the mouth more. There’s a modest citrus fruit and a fine width of complexity. Less yellow-fruited, fine finishing with a hint of dryness/tannin on the tongue. Excellent!

2014 Corton-Vergennes
Plain east facing, early ripening with lots of stones. An old quarry delivering 4 barrels worth from young vines, just 8 years old.
An open and quite concentrated nose that’s fresh and fine above – it’s very inviting. Big, with a more obvious sweetness, indeed very big but with richness of fruit rather than texture, but fresh fruit. I’m really surprised how good this is, given the young vines. Super wine.

Part 2 next month – the reds…

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