If Bordeaux has captured the imagination of the rich and the aspirational, Champagne of those seeking luxury and status, then Burgundy is for the hopeless romantics. There is, quite simply, nothing more exciting in the world of wine than a perfect Pinot from the Côte du Nuits, or a crisp Chardonnay from the slopes of Montrachet.
The first Chardonnays I ever fell in love with were Burgundian. Admittedly the one that started it all was a Grand Cru Montrachet, but when your only prior exposure to Chardonnay was overoaked Australian versions from the mid-1990s, only to swear off the stuff for the next decade and then some, that Montrachet in 2009 could only light a fire.
One that rages still today. I was convinced that I would be able to find Australian producers doing similar things with Chardonnay, and I wasn’t wrong – I just needed to look to cooler climates.
Little did I know then just how far down the rabbit hole I’d fall (and no, I still haven’t reached the bottom).
Burgundy is a place where the concept of terroir really comes into its own. Nowhere else on the planet are the wines from the same grape variety so pronounced in their uniqueness. From Chablis in the north-west to Macôn in the south, the Chardonnays produced in Burgundy are amazingly varied, it’s no surprise several wine experts have devoted their entire careers to just studying the region and its wines.
Meursault is located smack bang in the middle of the Côte de Beaune, in the southern part of the Côte d’Or, between the Pinot heartland of Volnay to the north and the famed Chardonnay village of Puligny-Montrachet to the direct south. Whilst both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are grown, Chardonnay production comprises 98% of the total vineyard area.
Michel Lafarge is very well known for his Pinot Noirs produced in Volnay (tasting note to come in the future), but his Chardonnays from Meursault are of equal repute. In ‘normal’ years, two wines from Meursault will be produced. 2013 was not a normal year.
If growing grapes in the Hunter Valley is hard thanks to humidity and heat, then I’d hate to grow grapes in Burgundy with the threat of hail constant every vintage. At least we can spray against disease and irrigate to mitigate high temperatures.
Hail decimated much of Burgundy and Meursault yielded only 35% of a normal vintage. It meant that instead of producing two wines from Meursault, Michel Lafarge produced just the one.
Pale gold colour, maybe leaning towards lemon. The nose was quite closed initially, but came alive after about an hours time. Aromas are a mixed bag of primary fruit: some tropical, some citrus, some pomme fruit. Guava into nectarine and underripe peach then into golden delicious apples. A slight creamy vanilla from a presumed fraction of oak, probably new barrels.
Great acidity, completely in balance with the rest of the palate. Only just medium bodied, and then the hit of citrus. Lemon in all its forms, lime marmelade and more white nectarine.
This is bloody delicious.
Some cream with vanilla, and those citrus flavours lingering through the finish. Alcohol is right on the money.
It shows that even in tough vintages, good wine can be made. I can’t wait to taste a ‘good’ vintage.