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Posts Tagged ‘Meursault’

François Mikulski and his wife, Marie-Pierre

When the Poles were vanquished by the German Army in 1939, Lieutenant Mieczyslaw Mikulski, escaped to England and  joined the Free Polish Forces. Seconded to the British army, 1st British Airborne Division, Lt. Mikulski featured in the disastrous attack on the Arnhem road bridge (“A Bridge Too Far”),  in which he commanded the Parachute Brigade responsible for Allied perimeter security. After the counter-attacking German troops drove the Allies back across the Neder River, Lt. Mikulski’s unit provided rear-guard defensive fire against the massed Germans. When, finally, it came time for his own brigade to cross the river in the last boat, Lt. Mikulski singlehandedly manned the artillery gun to

Lieutenant Mieczyslaw Mikulski

protect his men against German fire. Only at the last moment, after all his men had successfully crossed the river, did the much-decorated Lieutenant plunge into the icy river and swim to safety. His son, winemaker François Mikulski, grew up with the same determination and courage and independence. François’ energies have vaulted him into the top eschelon   of Meursault producers.

 It would be difficult to find a winemaker more thoroughly worldly than François Mikulski.  After the Second War, his Polish father married a French woman working on an American base in England. The couple moved to Brussels, where François was born and raised. As a boy, François spent his summers in his mother’s native Burgundy, where he came under the spell of his uncle, the eminent Meursault winemaker Pierre Boillot.  As a young man, determined to become a winemaker himself, François journeyed to the United States 1983 where he was tutored by Joss Jensen in Oregon. After his studies, François bought an old Studebaker and drove across the US via Route 66 in emulation of Jack Kerouac. François returned to Meursault and worked with Pierre Boillot until 1992.

 The  vineyards  comprising  Domaine Mikulski currently total approximately 8.04 hectares. The Meursault Premiers Crus include .5 hectares of Les Genevrières, situated in Genevrières Dessus,  with  parcels planted  in 1948 and 1993 , and annually yielding an average of 10 barrels;  .80 hectares of Les Charmes,  situated in  Charmes Dessous, with  parcels  planted in 1913, 1930, and1998,  and annually yielding an average of 16 barrels ; .6 hectares of  Les Poruzots, situated in Poruzots Dessus,  with  parcels planted  in 1948 and 1985, and annually yielding an average of 12 barrels;  and a .25-hectare parcel of Les Gouttes d’Or , with pieces planted in 1963 and1989, and annually yielding an average of 4 barrels. The Domaine also purchases grapes from the prestigious Perrières Dessous section of  Les Perrières, from which it makes a tiny quantity of very special wine each year.

The Domaine also posseses a miniscule .12-hectare parcel of old vine (over 55 years old) Le Limosin, a villages-level climat situated just below Genevrières Dessous, that many argue is worthy of Premier Cru status. Mikulski produces a mere 50 cases a year of this Meursault.  Holdings of other villages-level Meursault aggregate 1,5 hectaresand include parcels in lieux-dits  Meix Cavaux, Moulin Landin, Les Pelles Dessous, and Chaumes de Narvaux.   Together these vineyards, which were planted between 1955 and 1985,  yield about 650 cases per year. In addition, the Domaine owns .5 hectares within the lieu-dit Les Herbeux, situated near the old Meursault cemetery and adjoining Clos de la Barre, from which is produced about 225 cases of Bourgogne Chardonnay annually. Domaine Mikulski also includes 2 parcels of Aligoté, in lieux-dits Grandes Gouttes and  Les Veloupots both planted in 1929, and yielding about 1000 cases per year.

Domaine Mikulski holds a .9-hectare parcel of Volnay Premier Cru, Santenots-du-Milieu. This parcel, in the early part of the twentieth century, was under common ownership with the parcel currently owned by the Domaine des Comtes Lafon. The grandfathers of François Mikulski and Dominique Lafon each acquired their respective portions of the vineyard at that time. Mikulski annually produces about 400 cases of this superb wine. The Domaine also owns a small .12-hectare plot of unusual red Meursault Premier Cru, Les Caillerets, planted in 1975, bottling about 50 cases a year. Previously, Domaine Mikulski owned a .6-hectare parcel of Pommard but this has now been sold. The Mikulski holdings of Bourgogne Rouge comprise .5 hectares  within the lieu-dit Les Durots, planted in 1929, and presently produce about 260 cases annually.    The Domaine’s Passetoutgrains, a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay,   is produced from .5 hectares of vines in total, including parcels of lieux-dits Les Durots, Les Veloupots, and Les Grandes Gouttes, all planted in 1929.  The Domiane produces about 220 cases annually of its remarkable old-vine  Passetoutgrains.

 The winemaking of François Mikulski reflects his background and heritage. He is, through his mother and uncle, enough of a Burgundian to understand terroir and to take from tradition those things of enduring value. But he is equally, through his personal development and experiences, receptive to innovation and not inclined to a subservience to needless tradition. He frequently travels abroad to exchange ideas with other eminent winemakers. At the same time, he remains his father’s son and determined to follow his convictions, independently and courageously.  

After meticulous triage in the vineyards, François de-stems his Chardonnay completely and presses it very lightly followed by a complete débourbage (process by which the must is clarified prior to fermentation). After a fermentation that typically lasts about 15 days, the wine is racked into French oak barrels in which they undergo malolactic fermentation and élevage (aging) for a total of about 16-18 months. François uses only 20% new oak with his white wines., believing that excessive wood masks full expression of the terroir characteristics.

The Aligoté is similarly sorted carefully, removing all imperfect grapes, then de-stemmed and fermented in open vats.  The wine then remains in the vats, still on  its lees, for an additional period before being racked into seasoned French oak barrels. The wine is bottled in July to preserve and accentuate the freshness of the fruit

The Gamay grapes are also subjected to severe vineyard triage. The whole clusters, with berries intact, are then placed into a sealed vat for carbonic maceration. In this process, the whole grapes begin to ferment in an anaerobic environment, with carbon dioxide (a natural byproduct of fruit sugar converting chemically into alcohol) permeating the grape skins and stimulating fermentation at an intercellular level within each berry. This process triggers certain enzymatic reactions within the grape that result in lower acidity and tannins, higher glycerol, and the dominance of particular phenolic compounds.  Altogether, carbonic maceration tends to produce brightly-colored, aromatic and fruity wines.

The Pinot Noir at Domaine Mikulski is, after careful selection and complete de-stemming, , fermented in open vats for about 15-17 days, then racked into French oak barrels (35% new for the Meursault Les Caillerets and Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu), in which the wines undergo malolactic fermentation and age for 14-18 months.

 It is axiomatic to the Burgundian commitment to terroir that vineyard management is the most crucial element in making wine expressive of the vineyard and vintage. François Mikulski is a practitioner of lutte raisonnée, a system of vine cultivation that is essentially organic and noninterventionist.  Lutte raisonnée entails holistic and balanced viticultural management with primary focus on the microbial health of the soil and the biodiversity of the vineyard. The governing policy is to support and maintain the natural ecosystem of the vineyard so that the vines can prosper without intervention, thereby naturally resisting pests and disease. The system pursues a reasoned and not absolutist approach, however, and practitioners will intervene organically ( and occasionally even chemically) if certain danger thresholds are passed.  Most importantly,  practitioners  of lutte raisonnée  do not intervene routinely (even with organic treatments) as prevention but only as compelled by unusual conditions. As a practical matter, therefore,  lutte raisonnée  can be distinguished  from biodynamie in that the former implies the application of treatments only as a necessary response whereas biodynamie implements treatments systematically as prevention.  Proponents of lutte raisonnée thus assert that their approach typically results in less intervention and is accordingly more in harmony with nature. “La lutte continue.”  The debate goes on.

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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 Gouttes d’Or is a 5.33-hectare Premier Cru  climat of Meursault, situated in the central part of the commune, south of the town and north of Les Bouchères and Les Poruzots. The name, “drops of gold,” was perhaps coined by some proto-marketing guru. In fact, the wine has been renowned at least since the time of Thomas Jefferson, who preferred Gouttes d’Or to all other white Burgundies, save Le Montrachet itself. East facing on a slope, at an altitude varying between 240 and 260 meters, the soil is composed of heavy clay over a limestone base. Gouttes d’Or resembles Les Charmes in weight and texture, but is a little firmer and exhibits fuller structure.

Excellent examples of Meursault, Les Gouttes d’Or is produced by Domaine Franςois Mikulski and by Domaine des Comtes Lafon.

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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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