December 22nd 2009
My first encounter with Meursault was not a happy one. More than ten years ago during a weekend at The Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter (which was incidentally completely wonderful in every other way and a real treat) we had one of those frustrating wine list experiences – everything we tried to order was unavailable.
I am only too aware of the complexities of maintaining a vast wine list, but in the end that is the sommelier’s job. I know of places with a single A4 page of delicious wines that are invariably available and are cunningly chosen to cover a full spread of styles and price points. Clearly that is not appropriate for grander establishments, but if a many hundred or indeed thousand bin list is chosen it must be run properly. Otherwise the very people who should be impressed are infuriated. It really is as simple as somehow (maybe with a small cross?) indicating when a wine is out of stock and, when the number of crosses is higher than the remaining wines please please print a new list.
Back to the Cotswolds in 1998. We tried to order a Chassagne Montrachet, probably not a very grand one, but that was finished. As was the next Chassagne we requested and the next. Eventually we asked for a recommendation assuming this would elicit a wine that was actually available. The sommelier suggested a Meursault and we readily agreed.
I do not know who made the wine nor the vineyard nor the vintage. I do remember to this day how deeply disappointing it was. It was not faulty just not very exciting – lacking in precision but also in any real depth. We couldn’t help but feel that they had seen us coming.
The one thing that proper white Burgundy should be is exciting. The thing that makes white Burgundy so magical is the balance between taut, racy acidity and rich, expressive flavours. Meursault does have a reputation of being fatter and fuller than its more refined neighbours, Puligny and Chassagne, but it should still delight and thrill.
Since joining Goedhuis I am the most zealous convert to the cause of Meursault, almost wholly thanks to the marvelous Jean-Philippe Fichet. His wines are invariably delicious, sumptuous and rich yet precise and beautifully balanced. His 2007 Meursault Chevalieres and Villages were both highly recommended in a recent Decanter tasting:
Meursault Chevalieres Jean-Philippe Fichet 2007 (17.5, ****)
Nose open, pleasant and quite complex. Spices, a little oak, white fruits and flowers. Mouth pleasant and balanced. Very nice texture. Good richness balanced by a good minerality. From 2012.
Meursault Jean-Philippe Fichet 2007 (16.5, ****)
Floral and fleshy white fruits. Attractive Meursault character. Rich, broad fruit, good depth, nice minerality and balancing acidity. From 2010.
The only problem with his wines is that they are so delicious young it is hard to hold off until they have had a chance to grow up a little. On Christmas Day we will be kicking off with a bottle of his 2004 Chevalieres which was utterly wonderful when we first attacked the case a couple of years ago and will be even better now. So Happy Christmas to everybody and particularly to Jean-Philippe Fichet.