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Posts Tagged ‘Comtes Lafon’

Meursault, Clos de la Barre is a village-level 2.12-hectare monopole  of the Domaine des Comtes Lafon in Meursault.  The lieu-dit Clos de la Barre is comprised of a vineyard entirely enclosed within the walls of the Domaine, where the family home is situated,   at the northern edge of the town of Meursault. The gently-sloping and east-facing vineyard is planted in three parcels, the first (.8 hectare) planted in 1950, the second (.8 hectare) in 1975, and the third (.5 hectare) replanted in 2004. The soil is an admixture of clay and marl over a hard limestone base. The Chardonnay-based wines of Clos de la Barre rich with pronounced minerality and a crisp finish.

 

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Meursault, Désirée  is a village-level .45-hectare monopole  of the Domaine des Comtes Lafon in MeursaultDesirée is actually situated in Les Plures, a Premier Cru climat situated at the northern part of Meursault, and could, accordingly, be bottled as  Meursault, Les Plures, Premier Cru. Nevertheless, Dominique Lafon has chosen to label the wine simply as “Desirée” (an old cadastral name) both out of a sense of tradition and because he does not think that the wines warrant Premier Cru designation. East facing, Les Plures is rich in red clay, not very deep, and well-suited to the Pinot Noir which produces the Volnay Santenots which predominates in the vineyard. Lafon plants Desirée entirely with Chardonnay, however, and crafts an atypical Meursault that is seductive, slightly spicy, and rather exotic.

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Meursault, Les Perriéres  is a 13.71 hectare Premier Cru vineyard in Meursault,  comprised of four climats, which is commonly believed to produce the most outstanding wine of Meursault’s Premiers Crus. In fact, two of  the climats, Les Perrières-Dessous and Clos-des-Perrières are often touted for promotion to Grand Cru status. Les Perrières lies near the southwestern corner of the commune of Meursault, just down slope from Blagny, and abuts Puligny-Montrachet on the  south. The soils are thin and stony and are sometimes said to share more in common with Puligny than Meursault. The vineyard takes its name from a word meaning quarry, but only figuratively:  the vineyard contains an abundance of limestone outcroppings and scree, but stone was never actually quarried there. The wines from Les Perrières are quite powerful with an exuberant minerality and steeliness.

 Among the finest in parcels in Les Perrières are those belonging to the Domaine des Comtes Lafon.  Lafon owns two parcels in Les Perrières, both in Les Perrières-Dessous,  one of about .67 hectares planted in 1955 and the other of almost .10 hectares planted in 1983. The Lafon vines are planted on a very steep slopes (10%-16%) and face east/southeast. The underlying soil is limestone and white marl over limestone schiste.

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            When Jules Lafon first arrived in Beaune in 1865, Napoleon III occupied the thrown of France, “Mad Ludwig” ruled Bavaria, and Alexander II was Czar of all the Russias.   While these countries are no longer ruled by hereditary dynasties, Jules’ great-grandson, Dominique Lafon, is   

Dominique Lafon

widely hailed around the world as the King of Chardonnay. Wine Writer Clive Coates, has written: “The Domaine des Comtes Lafon is in my view the world’s greatest white wine domaine.” Remarkably, he Domaine also produces Volnay that is every bit as distinguished.    

            As any three-starred Michelin chef will readily admit, the first principal of fine food is the best ingredients. It is just so with fine wine, and it is axiomatic that the finest wines will originate in great vineyards. In this respect, Domaine Lafon is ideally endowed, for their vineyards include only the best parts of the best vineyards. Lafon’s Meursault holdings include plots of Premiers Crus Les Perrières (.77 ha),  Les Genevrières (.55 ha), Les Charmes   (1.71 ha), and Les Gouttes d’Or (.39 ha), plus the lieux-dits Clos de la Barre   (2.12 ha) and  Desirée (.45 ha); Meursault villages (1.36 ha); and  Volnay Premier Cru  Santenots-du-Milieu (3.78 ha). The Domaine also has superb Volnay holdings in the Premiers Crus climats En Champans (.52 ha), Clos des Chênes (.38 ha).  In Monthélie, the Domaine produces Monthélie rouge from  1.06 hectares and Monthélie blanc from .15 hectares, both from the Premier Cru climat Les Duresses. The Domaine also produces a small amount of Puligny-Montrachet, Premier Cru, En Champgain (.25 ha). Its iconic Grand Cru Montrachet comes from a .32 hectare parcel within Le Montrachet in Chassagne-Montrachet.  

            When Dominique took over the family vineyards in 1984, at the age of 25, he was already convinced that the technological innovations to winemaking adopted by his father’s generation were a dead end. In fact, Lafon believed that the quality of grapes, in terms of taste especially, was rapidly deteriorating. He formed part of the vanguard of young winemakers that turned to biodynamics and to organic viticulture out of a conviction that naturally balanced soil would ensure healthy vineyards, better tasting fruit, and, most importantly, a truer expression of terroir.                   

           Lafon believes strongly in the virtues of restricted yields, and ploughs his soil to encourage the old vine roots to reach further down into the soil. He contends that ploughing combines with an organic regimen to add natural acidity to the fruit. This acidity, he believes, allows picking at greater ripeness while still in balance.                       

          The handpicked Chardonnay grapes are carefully sorted and destemmed, then pressed slowly and gently (less than 2 bars for less than 2 hours) with a Bucher pneumatic press. The must is then lightly dosed (less than 5 gm/HL) with sulphur, and allowed to settle for 12-24 hours, depending on the vintage. After cooling to 12-14°C., the must is fermented in oak barrels (100% new for the Premiers Crus), where the new wine undergoes malolactic fermentation and rests on its lees for the next 6 months in Lafon’s famously cool cellars. Batonnage  (stirring of   

Lafon's cool, deep cellars are among the best in Burgundy

the lees) is employed during the first part of this period, although the frequency of batonnage has decreased over the years. During the spring, the wines are racked into tank and assembled; importantly, the fine lees are retained. The assembled wine is then gravity-fed into mature casks where the wine ages for an additional 12 months, after which it is racked off the lees. The wines are finally bottled 20-24 months after harvest.

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           Meursault is a wine appellation that includes some of the finest white French Burgundy. Wine so labeled must come from vines planted in the commune of Meursault situated in the Côte de Beaune region of the Côte d’Or department of Burgundy in eastern France.       

           The commune of Meursault, which extends south from Volnay, and immediately north of Puligny-Montrachet,  is the largest white wine producing area of the Côte-de- Beaune. To the northwest and north-northwest of Meursault are found Auxey-Duresses and Monthélie; toward the northeast is Volnay.      

          Meursault is the social and financial center of that portion of the Côte-de- Beaune referred to as the “Côte des Blancs” on account of the preeminent quality and reputation of its white wines. Meursault, Chassagne and Puligny comprise this part of the Côte-de-Beaune that is almost universally acknowledged as producing the finest Chardonnay-based wines in the world.      

            The suggestion, not infrequently made, that the name Meursault derives from the Latin for “mouse jump” (muris saltus) is risible at best, most likely the idle conjecture or schoolboy humor of a bored Latin student from a rival village.  Though etymological conjectures are always problematic, Meursault far likelier derives from the Celtic mare + saulis, or swamp willow (modern Fr. saule de marais). The lower part of the village is quite flat although today, fortunately, is quite dry.      

          The vineyards of Meursault occupy 436.82 hectares, of which 304.94 produce village-level Meursault. Many of these village-level wines boast well-known lieux-dits, and produce wines that rival many premiers crus. Best known perhaps are Lafon’s Clos de la Barre and Desirée, but other worthies include Les Tessons, Les Narvaux, Les Casse-Têtes and Les Clous.      

          While there is no grand cru, there are 131.88 hectares  of Premier Cru Meursault divided among different climats, the best known of which are Les Perrières (13.72 hectares ), Les Genevrières (16.48 hectares ), Les Charmes (31.12 hectares ), Les Poruzots (11.43 hectares ) and Les Gouttes d’Or (5.33 hectares ).      

          The commune of Meursault is roughly fish-shaped, with the head pointing northeast toward Volnay and the tail abutting Puligny-Montrachet. The town of Meursault bifurcates the fish just behind the head. The “fishhead” section, northeast of the village, is geologically and viticulturally a continuation of Volnay and Monthelie. The soil is comprised of a mixture of clay, pebbles and iron-rich scree over a base of Bathonian limestone. Most of the best wine produced from this sector is red. Since Meursault has long been renowned for its white wines, and since neighboring Volnay once produced the most  sought-after of reds, the vignerons of the fishhead sector won the right to sell their red wine as Volnay even though their vines are situate in Meursault. The best known vineyard here is Santenots.      

Meursault: fish-shaped      

          South of the village the geology changes markedly. Here the vineyards are spread out over gentle slopes whose easterly exposure, along with an abundance of Bathonian and Callovian limestone and white marl create an ideal environment for Chardonnay. Up slope toward Auxey-Duresses, the soil becomes increasingly thin, covered with scree and underlain with friable schiste. The finest terroirs in this sector, and the location of the Premiers Crus, are found in a band running parallel to the RN 74, in the middle third of the “fish”, extending from the tail to approximately the center.      

"I would not wish my Creator to see me grimace at the moment of Communion."

           Simultaneously opulent, subtle and delicate, Meursault matures slowly over a long period of time. Cardinal de Bernis, Louis XIV’s ambassador at the Holy See, always took care to celebrate mass with a Meursault, lest his Creator witness him wince during Holy Communion.  “I would not wish my Creator to see me grimace at the moment of Communion.”            The best-regarded sources of Meursault include Patrick Javillier, Dominique Lafon, François Mikulski, and Jean-Marc Roulot.

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