Terroirs of Meursault and Domaine Jean-Marie Bouzereau
Updated: Apr 14
In the heart of Côte d'Or, some 10 km south of Beaune, lies Meursault - a village surrounded by 400 km of vineyards, 98% of which is Chardonnay. Meursault is part of the Chardonnay 'trio' - that includes Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault. But the variety is the only thing that unites them! Chardonnay is just a fine tool for expressing the terroir. And terroirs we have here plenty!
limestone is very rare and represents around 10% of all rock types around the world, but not in Burgundy...
Terroirs of Meursault
Complex topography, lots of sedimentation and intense fracturing. While the neighbours mostly lie on gentle slopes, the topography of Meursault reminds a staircase. You'll see a layer that is topped by marl and compact limestone. Going further - more solid limestone that was even used in construction (there are many limestone quarries under the vineyards).
If you climb up the hill it's all marl from Jurassic period, very rocky, shallow soil. And then there are vineyards in the valley - juts around the village of Meursault, wines coming from these climats always have some extra freshness, crispness as the air is cooler here.
How does Chardonnay from Meursault taste?
If you generalize it - it's all a clay and limestone blend after all. But you can't generalize Burgundy because here every 20 m makes a huge difference in terms of those soil blends. So what is a typical Meursault? A good example is Charmes - a very rich, aromatic, round wine. But if you go up the hills you'll find wines that are more tense and lean. It's colder, there is less soil, and there is more fight for nutrition. With every step down the hill, there is more soil and more rounder wines.
Meursault is exactly what Bourgogne is - its' richness, but also complexity, freshness in the end, that makes it a pleasure to have it in your mouth.
Here in Burgundy we always talk about limestone, and it seems very like a very common thing after a while. In fact, limestone is very rare and represents around 10% of all rock types. But its' significant presence here is the one of the main reasons why Burgundy has been known for its' wines for a thousand years. Limestone absorbs excess humidity and provides proper drainage.
If you ask a winemaker from Meursault what wine he makes he'll never answer 'I make Chardonnay'. He'll say - 'I make Meursault Charmes, Perrières, Genevrières...' So they don't produce the grape variety, they produce the climat. And Chardonnay is just a great tool to let the climat express itself.
Making Meursault in barrels is a tradition here. Chardonnay aged in oak is a model created in Burgundy and spread around the world. But what not all the winemakers globally took over is fermenting in oak.
After 24 hours of débourbage (juice settling prior to fermentation), the must 'travels' to the barrels, goes through alcoholic and malolactic fermentation and after - ages for at least 10-12 months. Depending on the winemaker it can be anything from 10% to 100% of new oak.
Why Meursault is not a Grand Cru?
Funnily the reasons are not in 'monks' :) Climats of Meursault were identified and carefully drawn in the 11th century. The reason of Grand Cru absence is in taxation. When the appellations were created in the beginning of 20th century, Pommard, Volnay and Meursault decided not to apply for Grand Cru. As if you are a Grand Cru you'll have to pay more taxes.
Domaine Jean-Marie Bouzereau - for 10 generations in Meursault
Walking around Meursault you'll see many indicators to Bouzereau estates :) Not all of them belong to Jean-Marie, of course, but all are interconnected. You can imagine how many heirs were 'produced' in 10 generations and how many times vineyards were split :))) Lots of relatives around!
Jean-Marie has 9 ha in Meursault, Volnay, Puligny-Montrachet, Pommard and Beaune. And besides harvest times, it's only him and other two full time employees.
No added yeast or bacteria, little to zero filtration, and, most importantly, no rush. Jean-Marie has a lot on his shoulders but sorts it out in a classy French way with a beret on his head.
For example, he still has some barrels from the last year that are slowly-slowly going through malolactic fermentation. All from the same vineyard, while others were done with it in March. No problem! Let them take their time.
One year the must from another vineyard just didn't go to malolactic. Do you think Jean-Marie added bacteria? No way! Even better. That year was hot, there is not much acidity to soften. I felt like he has no problems at all, whatever Mother Nature brings him - everything is welcome!
Then we talked about his favourite style of Meursault, as I was very surprised to taste extremely fresh, although oaked Chardonnay. Jean-Marie said that there was a trend some 10-20 years ago that led to overwhelmed by oak Meursault. Some producers were using 100% of new oak, ageing for even 18 months. But when he took over the winery some 20 years ago he didn't want to be led by any trend (as trends always come and go).
As a result, for his Meursault he uses 10-30 % new oak depending on vintage and appellation. Lots of crisp acidity that makes it difficult to detect not only oak, but even malolactic. Now, as world turned more towards light bodied wines, his Meursault is more trendy.
Meursault wine tasting at Domaine Jean-Marie Bouzereau
Meursault 2017 - a blend of several small vineyards, still very young wine. Its' freshness results in very early harvest in August, as 2017 was really hot. A perfect wine to drink soon after bottling, bone dry with high acidity, not too fat or rich, thus great for summer refreshments!
Meursault les Narvaux 2017 - single vineyard from the village appellation, situated on the top of the hill, a very rocky place with shallow soil and freshness that comes from the forest. Very different from the previous wine, more mineral and stony, has more tension. You can feel how hard working those vine roots are to get nutrients.
Meursault 1er Cru Charmes 2017 - a classical Meursault, if what you look for is opulence of aromas and a rich texture. Ripe and very sweet on the nose, lots of melon, mango, peach, but (and that is the beauty of Burgundy) once you taste it it's bone-dry, no residual sugar whatsoever.
Meursault 1er Cru Goutte D'Or 2017 - a much more 'straight' wine with less intensity on the nose. Now you have to push your sensors harder to feel that pineapple, white flowers, vanilla and a hint of butter. Once you take a sip - it turns out to be a less acidic, more comfortable in mouth wine.
Meursault 1er Cru Poruzot 2015 - Jean-Marie said it's more of a winter wine. In fact, all freshness and acidity is still very high for a less accustomed to Meursault person :)) But the texture already developed with the years to a more nutty, creamy, rich wine. It's now a serious wine, that is not just for summer heat waves.
Such a beautiful part of Burgundy, such a beautiful part of the world, where people understood that what Nature gives is not a misfortune that you have to modify using technology. It's just takes some wisdom to accept it with gratitude and let it express itself into something beautiful.
Years differ, there are generous and difficult vintages. But if hail storm didn't kill 100% of your harvest, it means that there is still a high chance that those remaining grapes will produce a very special wine. Take it and be grateful.