16 April 2012

n.d.p. in burgundy: domaine guy roulot, meursault

Years ago, at a fine-dining Italian restaurant where we both worked, I happened to ask a sommelier friend how he'd typify Meursault. At this restaurant on the wine team we spent a fair amount of time daydreaming about all the French wine we didn't interact with. My friend replied that among white Burgundies Meursault was known for being pretty generous, buttery, appley, sometimes lightly mealy...

The description has held up fairly well. But it's funny how loosely it applies some of the most acclaimed stuff. Case in point was a visit my friend J and I made recently to legendary Meursault estate Domaine Guy Roulot, whose wines are perhaps so celebrated for how they tend to transcend the hallmarks of the appellation.

In their youth - all that we tasted that day was young or very young - the Roulot wines possess a tautness and a high-def minerality that seems almost Chablisien. There's zero fat on their bones. Sometimes they risk tasting a bit worked-over. It might be a consequence of drinking too much spritzy semi-oxidative natural vins de soif, but the Roulot house style struck me as a little fastidious.

I claim no authority on the subject, however, having neither tasted older vintages nor met current wine-maker Jean-Marc Roulot, who is roundly acclaimed for having upheld the high standards of his father Guy Roulot, who died in 1982,  and of the American winemaker Ted Lemon, who ran the estate in the interim before Jean-Marc took over in 1989. The wines of Domaine Roulot are decidedly made with aesthetic pleasure at a first priority, above and beyond any ecological or ethical concerns about wine production; a disarmingly frank statement about this by Jean-Marc Roulot can be found in an account of a 2010 visit over at Bertrand Celce's inestimable WineTerroirs blog.

J and I tasted with a cellar hand who'd been with the estate since 2009. Also in our group was a restaurateur couple from the Loire with the husband's extremely amusing father, who before any wines were tasted produced some homemade rillettes from their trunk and proceeded to largely hijack the conversation, turning all talk to homemade rillettes for quite a while.

It was transparently some kind of psychological power play in which the old man, by proving he knew a great deal more than the rest of us about homemade rillette production, was attempting to quell the insecurity he felt discussing wine with a bunch of younger men. Some form of this seems to happen in most non-professional tasting groups. This was one of the more agreeable forms, since it came with free rillettes.

It's hard to get excited about cellar visits where you don't meet the vigneron him-or-herself. I was still happy to get a chance to taste the wines, since they're otherwise very tightly allocated. (Nothing is for sale at the estate. Nada.) Most eye-opening was the opportunity to compare the unfinished 2010 Meursault "Luchets" with the 2008 of same wine.

The vintages are loosely comparable - both cool, both low-yielding - so it was fascinating to see how the 2010's tense, mineral, elderflower-soda flavours had been replaced, in a wine just two years' older, by something more oily, pleasantly thick around the middle, with a persistent, perfumey apple-butter accord. It was the sort of beguiling transformation that makes one struggle to avoid using a cliché about puberty.

Suffice it to say that if the wines I've tasted from Domaine Guy Roulot don't yet totally captivate me, I remain optimistic they will in the future. Another visit is probably in order.

A hotel in Meursaut featuring an enormous painted chambermaid in the window.

Domaine Guy Roulot
1, rue Charles Giraud
Tel:  03 80 21 21 65

1 comment:

  1. There's a lovely interview with Jean-Marc in Jonathan Nossiter's Le goût et le pouvoir, lend you it sometime if you don't have it