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Meursault


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Although it has no Grands Crus, Meursault has become one of the most famous white wine villages in the Côte de Beaune. There are a little under 1000 acres of vineyards in the village of 6.26 square miles where the wine is produced. About 1,500 people live in the small commune, and since Meursault's rise to popularity it has been almost entirely dedicated to the production of white wine. It lies well north of Montrachet, near Auxey-Duresses and Monthelie.

Meursault has been fortunate enough to become something of a status symbol for its wine, which is famous for a richness of flavor and a creamy texture that sometimes leads the wines to be called "buttery". While not exactly the pinnacle place for white Burgundy (most people would estimate that Montrachet and its surrounding communes would have that honor), the vineyards of Meursault have attained a reputation as a status symbol that invites boutique pricing.

In a market in which interest is shifting away from Chardonnays, especially very expensive ones, Meursault's wines are often thought to be overrated and overpriced. But Meursault is still one of the best villages for white Burgundy, and the wine from here is often less expensive than the objectively better Grands Crus.

History

Meursault was made an AOC in 1970, but even before then it was quite a famous village for white wine. Over its long history, Meursault has been largely overlooked by regulators; none of its vineyards were ever granted Grand Cru, and it missed the first wave of AOC creations. As a result, it established its reputation for great white Burgundy almost entirely on its own.

The 1976 Judgement of Paris ruled that Chateau Montelena of California had superior Chardonnay to a number of white Burgundies, including one of the best Meursaults. The market for California peaked, but then fell. Even after the fall, Meursault producers were threatened. Nowadays, people are no longer as interested in highly oaked, creamy-rich Chardonnay, whether from France or California. Even despite this rebalancing, Meursault's top cuvées remain excellent sellers.

Climate and Viticulture

The village of Meursault has excellent weather conditions, a high elevation, and very well-concentrated soils. It is right at the base of the sloped Côte d'Or, and as a result is blocked from the winds that make the inferior whites lean and poorly rounded. Perhaps Meursault's sheltered location is what makes the wines so richly well-developed.

There is no doubt, however, that Meursault's vineyards are inferior to the stellar climats of the Montrachet areas. The soil just isn't as good. But Meursault makes up for the difference with innovative oaking procedures that turn out a buttery, nutty, textured Chardonnay much more luscious than anything Montrachet produces. While not necessarily more complex, the wine nonetheless is smoother and easier to drink.

Grape Varieties

Major Producers

Meursault is by no means one of those regions where every producer is forced to have high standards. Indeed, there are some producers that have high yields and overoak the wine, making for characterless, overly fat and round wine. But the number of these producers has dropped enough so that average quality is rather high; on the downside, this consistency leads to high, often Grand Cru-level prices.

Here is a list of a dozen good Meursault producers; their individual wines are discussed below under subregions.

Subregions

Since there are--perhaps incorrectly--no Grands Crus in Meursault, the Premiers Crus occupy the highest status there. But a number of them are just plain overrated and lieu-dit or even village wines from good producers will surpass them in style and refinement by far. The list is below, with the interesting Premiers Crus noted.

These 10 Premiers Crus are, in practice, 99% of Premier Cru-labeled Meursault wine. However, certain Meursault vineyards claimed by Volnay-Santenots and Blagny are allowed to label their wine under Meursault anyway. Most of this wine is red, so labeling it Meursault would be extraordinarily illogical and is therefore very rare. In Volnay-Santenots there are four: Les Santenots Blancs, Les Santenots du Dessous, Les Santenots du Milieu, and Les Vignes Blanches. Blagny also has four: La Jeunelotte, La Pièce sous le Bois, Sous Blagny, and Sous le Dos d'Ane. This makes for an official 19 Meursault Premier Cru designations.