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.
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.
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.