Potinet-Ampeau Meursault 1er Cru 'Les Perrieres' 2014
If there were to be a Grand Cru in Meursault (and the proposition has been tabled) it would be 'Perrieres'. There are many styles of Meursault, but it's always 'Perrieres' that gets us. And the traditional methods of the Potinet-Ampeau production are exactly what this great vineyard needs to shine. Exceptional complexity, vibrant fruit, with exotic notes and good firm minerality. It's one of those we call a 'grown-up's wine'!
2014 was a year for maxims in Burgundy. One was the ‘don’t count your chickens’ warning. And another, a keystone in Burgundy wine making, was ‘September makes the wine’. Simple truths to heed.
After three very small harvests, Burgundy urgently needed to fill its cellars. And despite some heart-breaking setbacks and a growing season that was jumbled in disorder, a decent amount of wine was produced. Not enough, of course. But ‘correct’, as the French would say.
There was no winter to speak of, followed by a mild and sunny period from February through April that saw some rain, but less than normal. The vine got going early, and talk was of a late August harvest.
But May was cool and rainy, which slowed the development. The vine began to flower in the last week of May in the southern part of the region. So at that point, counting the traditional 100 days from flowering to harvest, picking would start in early September. The weather during the flowering period was sunny and warm with just enough rain for this critical period to unfold and to finish.
And then early June was hot. Summer hot. As June was in 2003, some have said. This speeded things up. The flowering in the northern part of the region, and in those vineyards at higher altitudes, got a kick that would help them to phenolic maturity later.
With these conditions, fruit began to appear soon thereafter, and by the end of June small grapes had formed and clustered. The hot dry conditions however led to both millerandage (unevenly formed bunches made up of normal grapes and thick-skinned seedless berries ) and coulure (buds that never flowered), both of which reduce the overall crop, but which can give concentration to the remaining fruit.
Flowering and fruit set was certainly among the earliest of the past twenty years, with as much as a week head start on what would be considered normal here. And if you compare 2013 to 2014, we were three weeks in advance.
Then disaster struck. At the end of June, a series of violent hail storms ripped through the region. One in the Cote de Nuits, where parts of Nuits and Chambolle-Musigny were hit with 20% crop loss. The other two in the Cote de Beaune: the first, widespread, ranging from Meursault in the south and on up to the Corton Mountain and Savigny les Beaune, caused substantial damage; the other, painfully localized, tore through the premier cru hillsides of Pommard and Volnay. The latter was the newsmaker, with up to 80% crop damage in some sectors, but also because this was the third consecutive year that Pommard and Volnay had been seriously damaged. There have been subsequent financial worries for small producers who were not insured.
Yet, despite these disasters, from Macon to Chablis there was a serious crop on the vines. Weather in July was mixed. Hot and sunny, then cloudy and cool. Constant rumblings of thunder in the distance kept everyone on edge.
Hail damage often leads to mildew, so vigilant vineyard work was crucial as the rains came and August turned cool, wet and gloomy, more like winter than the previous winter had been. Maturity stalled on the vine. And with the ever-present risk of rot cast a pall on the chill August air.
As we reached September, with fingers crossed, Burgundians put their hopes in the maxim that ‘September makes the wine’. Because in 2014, it was make or break. We needed a glorious September, and that’s exactly what we got. Light, warm northerly winds. Warm days, cool nights. Everything needed to salvage the potential mess that August had served up. In the end, we had the best harvest conditions that we have seen in many years.
Picking started on 8 September in the south, around the 15th in the Cote and Chablis, and finished around the 26th in the Hautes Cotes.
The crop came in healthy. There was no rot. And with normal sorting work in the winery (mostly where there had been hail damage) we brought in one of the healthiest harvests in recent years. The whites are balanced and intense. The reds show good ripe fruit. Some say the best vintage since 2009. A miracle!
COTE DE BEAUNE
The hard comblanchian limestone that disappears deep underground around Nuits-Saint-Georges reappears here in the southern part of the Cote de Beaune where red wines give way to whites. Nowhere in the Côte de Beaune does the Chardonnay grape do better than it does in the 'golden triangle' of Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet. A small amount of red wine is produced here, though white definitely dominates.
Produced only in the commune of Meursault, appellation Meursault includes 19 premiers crus.
There are appreciable differences in and among the wines of the different Meursault climats. And even more important differences in the perceived style of Meursault among the producers. This translates into two distinct types of Meursault, and then, because the climats themselves are so distinctive, we see almost a spectrum of variety in wines that are all appellation Meursault.
The first of the two distinct styles, what many would call 'traditional', is greeny-gold in color, almost yellow, and going to bronze as it ages. Limpid and fat, its bouquet in youth is grapey toasted oak. This gives way to less fruity but honeyed notes and big buttery volume. Classic Meursault is toast, butter and honey.
The other style, what might be called 'modern' plays more on minerality and acidity. The robe is greeny-gold, but with silvery hints and, while brilliant is notably leaner. The young wine is nutty, floral, gun-flint smoky and above all lemony. Honey notes develop with age, but are carried by the fruit and minerality. Because less new oak is used in the winemaking process, structure is less obvious, but no less an important part of the finished wine. Meursault is perhaps the greatest white Burgundy for aging, and this can be said of either style.
The best soils are found at heights of 260-270 meters with exposures along an arc between east and south. They consist of jurassic marls and marly limestone. There are some patches of magnesian limestone. Ancient callovien limestone and argovien marls appear in the premier cru climats.
Nearly all whites - Chardonnay
Red wines - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Whites : 383.03 ha (including 103.43 ha premier cru)
Reds : 11.02 ha (including 1.77 ha premier cru)
Power and balance between alcohol and acidity make Meursault potentially noble. A great one has a natural affinity with noble fish or meat where it can match without overpowering. It goes well with roast veal and poultry, and creamy sauces work well here. Still better are grilled lobster, shrimp and famously, crawfish in sauce. Foie gras is often served with the traditional style Meursault, as are rich cheeses like Roquefort. The modern style Meursault is more apt to less rich and extravagant flavors.
On the label, the appellations 'Meursault' and 'Meursault 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos des Perrières
La Pièce sous le Bois
Les Gouttes d'Or
Les Santenots Blancs
Les Santenots du Milieu
Sous le Dos d'Ane
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Au Moulin Judas
Au Moulin Landin
Au Murger de Monthélie
Clos de la Barre
Clos des Mouches
En la Barre
La Barre Dessus
Le Bois de Blagny
Le Buisson Certaut
Le Meix sous le Château
Le Meix Tavaux
Le Pré de Manche
Les Chaumes de Narvaux
Les Clous Dessous
Les Clous Dessus
Les Gorges de Narvaux
Les Grands Charrons
Les Meix Chavaux
Les Narvaux Dessoux
Les Narvaux Dessus
Les Petits Charrons
Les Peutes Vignes
Les Santenots Dessous
Les Terres Blanches
Les Vignes Blanches
Les Vireuils Dessous
Les Vireuils Dessus