Our ‘Wandering Sommelier’ Shalom Chin encounters some Wine Feng Shui in Burgundy, indeed it would appear that Burgundian’s take Chi as a life-force very serioulsy…
Part 6 of the series – Some impressions of Meursault, Wine Feng Shui in Burgundy?
I spent a day with Authentica tours and another day with Elohim from Alter&Go in Meursault. Meursault has always been an AOC that has captured my attention, and is being known for its Chardonnay.
Although there are no Grand Cru vineyards in Meursault, I have always found that their wines transcend what one would expect from Premier Cru vineyards. Lovely consistent acid, beautiful minerality, white pears and roundness on the palate are some of the characteristics of a Meursault wine. Yet, the styles can be so diversified if the winemaker decides to have full malolactic fermentation or play with the amount of new oak.
My first stop was at Domaine Beyer-Gontard, which is a biodynamic vineyard. Here, no sulphites are added according to the guide and the whites are fermented in oak barrels. Frankly, I think the reason why Meursault does not need a lot of sulphur is because during fermentation, there is a natural protective layer of CO2 to protect the wines from oxidation. People here like their wines reductive. It is believed that reduction is a good sign that a wine can be aged longer.
Below are some of my impressions of this domaine:
Aligoté 2009 12.5%
Pale green. A nose of light lees, straw, chestnut, med(+) intensity. On the palate, med(+) acid, lees, med length, a light nutty finish. Stainless steel made and matured.
Auxey-Duress “Les Ruchottes” 2009 €14
Pale green. Light cedar and vinous aromas, medium intensity, a little young. On the palate, medium alcohol, long length, a nice cashew nut in the back. Four months in 5 year old barrels.
Meursault 2009 13% €19
Pale green. Reduced aromas. Med(+) acid, mineral, steel, med length, steely finish. 8-10 months in oak, 10% new barrels
Mersault-Perrières 1er Cru 2009 13%
Pale green. Cedary, vanilla, med intensity, slight honey and flowers. The palate is cedar, steely, mineral, light honey, very round, med acid, 12-18 months in barrels, long length, slightly charred in the back. Oak is quite integrated with the flavor in here.
French Feng Shui at Ropiteau
On another trip to Meursault, Elohim and I stumbled into Ropiteau. This is one of the best finds. The people at the winery were very kind and we got to know Nicolas Burnez, who is closely related to the Drouhin family.
Personally, I found the wines to be very classy and full of finesse, which is in my opinion one of the best Meursaults I have tasted throughout my time here in Burgundy. Nicolas has had experience making wines in the Jura and also spent time in the States to do vintages there.
We came at a time when he was bottling his 2010 Meursault. Unlike some producers who conduct full MLF on their wines, Nicolas is very particular about flabby wines and halts the malo with SO2 if required. He does his ferments in tanks to control the temperature.
The aging of the wines (élevage) play a huge role here. The wines are maintained between 17 to 20 degree Celsius. Nicolas tastes the wines everyday to follow its development. I was impressed by his barrel regime in which they would put the same wine into new, 1 year old and 2 year old barrels and then finally, assemble them together.
He is not a big fan of racking and prefers reduction in his wines by leaving the lees in his barrels. To him, a closed wine before bottling is a good sign. Barrels are a mixture of mostly Allier oak and then Vosges.
What puzzles me is how clear his wines are after bottling. This is one of the amazing things about burgundy. They do not use filtration, but yet they are able to achieve so clear wines. Nicolas may not do a lot of racking but he waits 3 to 4 months for the wines to settle before racking them off the lees. A racking is also done after the alcoholic ferment. The wines are left alone during élevage as this is the time when the wines are developing and are in a delicate stage.
Most importantly, there are underground rivers running below the cellar. Those areas are considered to have positive energy. He would put the best wines in the barrels located in those spots for aging.
I know this may sound like some form of new-age mumbo jumbo but this is not an uncommon practice here in Burgundy. Underground water is considered as an important feature in some cellars and winemakers would even go to the extent to hire an “energy expert” to find for these good spots when it came to designing the winery.
In areas of positive energy, tanks would be placed there so as to guarantee the best ferments. I discovered that even the tanks were constructed with special dimensions which followed the golden ratio and a specific magic number. This is also linked to the reason as to why Burgundy barrels (pièce) are 228 liters instead of the Bordeaux barriques which are 225 liters.
Even the vineyards are arranged in a specific order to facilitate this energy. To many, they would think the French as superstitious. As an Asian, I am used to these ideas of energy. The understanding of how important the role of energy plays in French wines is akin to that of the Chinese Feng Shui and the understanding of Chi as a life-force.
Regardless of all that, one thing is for sure. The wines at Ropiteau are consistently fantastic in all barrels tasted. We tasted a Corton-Charlemagne barrel which was absolutely stunning. I say this because I am not a fan of tasting from the barrel, which is why I never participate in Bordeaux En Primeur or Hospice de Beaune. The wines in barrels are never complete.
Nicolas’s wines are a completely different level (I can sort of imagine what Coche-Dury would be like in the barrel). You would expect the wine to smell either very reductive or full of fining agents causing the wines to not have much character but not his. They were fresh, flowery, and full of life and with a slight reduction to protect the wine. Even if you don’t buy superstition, you would definitely consider buying these wines.