Starting at the age of three, both of my sons attended a French immersion school in Philadelphia (École Française Internationale de Philadelphie for those keeping score), and they are continuing with their French at an international school here in Houston. As such, we have tried to visit France at least every other summer to further instill the language and provide some cultural context (no, it has nothing to do with the fact that their mother and I love traveling to Europe in general and France in particular).
This past year, we spent a few days in Champagne, and then made the drive south to Dijon, in the heart of Burgundy. Since we were going to be there anyway, you know, for the kids, I decided to set up a few tasting appointments. The first was at Château de Meursault in, well Meursault.
While the Château is in Meursault, perhaps the world epicenter of Chardonnay (OK, one could argue that the true epicenter is Montrachet a vineyard that is shared by the neighboring hamlets of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet, but both communes lie just a couple of kilometers to the south of Meursault in the Côte de Beaune, so it would really just be splitting hairs), is much more than a producer of the golden, slightly honeyed Chardonnays that made the town synonymous with world-class white wine.
The Château owns 60 hectares (150 acres) of vineyards in the Côte de Beaune and 40 more hectares (100 acres) in the Côte de Nuits. In only using its own vines and by not selling any fruit, Château de Meursault is able to produce 30 different wines in each of the Côtes.
Despite its already impressive holdings, the owners of the Château (who bought both the Château de Meursault and the Château de Marsannay in the Côte de Nuits in 2012) continue to look for properties for sale in Burgundy. Not many are. Thus, one needs to be fairly well connected to know when something comes up for sale as most don’t know about the available property until after the deal is made.
The new owners, who are associated with the large French supermarket chain, Carrefour, also brought in a new mentality with an emphasis on quality. They are gradually moving more toward an all-organic production, but they will never completely get there since they need to reserve the right to battle mildew chemically since it is a near constant pressure in Burgundy.
The fruit is now 100% hand-picked and manually sorted, and most of the red berries also go through an optical sorter, which requires destemming, but, depending on the vintage, a good portion of the red harvest is still whole cluster fermented. The top-level wines (Premier Cru and Grand Cru) are fermented in wood tanks, in which the owners had been investing until the recent reduction in crop size the last couple of years due to violent hail storms in the region.
Both red and whites spend 12-18 months in 30-40% new oak barrels (French, of course) for both red and white wines, with minimal filtration or fining and 100% of the white wines go through malolactic fermentation.
Currently, only 20% of the production is exported, but the owners anticipate exports being as high as 50% in as little as three years since the French market is stagnating. The French are no longer very interested in the increasingly higher-priced Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines since there are many more lower priced options now available to them.
2015 Château de Meursault Savigny-lès-Beaune: Perfumed and lovely. Red fruit. Light but well balanced with great fruit and plenty of earth. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Château de Meursault Beaune-Grèves Les 3 Journaux Premier Cru: 1.99 hectares in Grèves. Half in the lower portion of the vineyard and half in the middle. Near the famed l’Enfant de Jesus section of Bouchard. “Un journal” is the amount of land one man and one horse can plow in a day: .33 hectares. Thus, this is .99 hectares. Even more expressive with richer red berry and acacia flower. A bit of tannin on the back end so would benefit from a bit of time but lovely. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Château de Meursault Volnay Clos des Chênes Premier Cru: Deeper red fruit. From the southern part of Volnay. High concentration of marl and limestone in the soil. Most say Volnay is more feminine, but this has some muscle to it. Darker, a bit brooding, there is some heft. Needs time, but fantastic. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2015 Château de Meursault Pommard Clos des Epenots 1er Cru: Rich and dense. At the bottom of the hill, Rich in clay. Darker fruit, spicier. Rich and full, tannins already well integrated. No need to wait here. Whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2015 Château de Meursault Corton Grand Cru: A bit closed but rich cherry and even raspberry. Corton is normally more earthy than fruity, but this comes from the Ladoix part of the vineyard which usually has more fruity expression. Really fruity and forward this is not your usual Corton. But it is lovely. Outstanding Plus. 94-96 Points.
2015 Château de Meursault Clos du Château: “Baby Meursault.” 2/3 outside the village so technically not a Meursault. Creamy and rich but not overblown. Some pineapple and lemon meringue. For 21€? Solid and a half. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Château de Meursault Meursault-Charmes 1er Cru: At the bottom with more clay and thus rounder. Classic Meursault nose: lemon, vanilla, just a touch of oak. Wow. How I have missed thee, white Burgundy. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Château de Meursault Meursault Les Charmes-Dessus: From the upper part of the vineyard where there is more limestone. Richer and more mineral due to the limestone. Holy cow. Rich and a bit buttery but fantastic. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2015 Château de Meursault Meursault-Perrières 1er Cru: From the very top of the vineyard. Just a touch of clay and then 5-10 meters of limestone. More closed with just a bit of fruit peeking out. No Grand Cru in Meursault but if there were, this would be it. Needs more time. Quite angular and mineral but when this kicks in watch out. Now. Outstanding. 91-93 Points. In a few years? 94-96 Points easy.
2015 Château de Meursault Puligny-Montrachet Champ Gain 1er Cru: Holy cow. That nose. Whoa. Pineapple and exotic fruit pared with lemon zest. On the palate, another that needs time perhaps, but a complete joy now. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
The Château is open to visitors and is rather popular: from Friday through Sunday during summer it can get 100-150 visitors a day. Tours are every 30 minutes in French and English.