Domaine Guy Roulot is an old family estate based in Meursault. Managed by Jean-Marc Roulot, it is considered as yielding white Burgundies with exceptionnal purity. Jean-Marc Roulot is also a comedian and he happens to be married to Alix de Montille.
The estate was really developped by Jean-Marc's father Guy Roulot even though the family had begun to purchase vineyards in the early 20th century. Guy Roulot bought more vineyards and he was a pioneer in the region for bottling his wines at the estate, and not only the high-end ones like some estates did at the time. He dies in 1982 in his early fifties and Jean-Marc's mother Geneviève looked for someone to take on the winemaking. With the help of Jacques Seysses, she found a young American who had studied enology in Burgundy and had been an apprentice at Dujac : Ted Lemon (article from 1984). He was only 25 years old then but did a good job at keeping Guy Roulot's work style that he learned through the other employees. Ted Lemon was followed by Franck Grux. Jean-Marc Roulot, who had been pursuing his acting career in Paris, decided to return to Meursault in 1988 and from then on manages the estate with his sister Michelle. He progressively turned the estate organic and slightly increased its vineyard surface from about 11 hectares to 13,5 hectares this year.
The 13,5-hectare estate makes now wines from 17 Appellations [see this excellent Pdf Meursault map from Burgundy Report to locate the climats] :
The 3 reds, a Bourgogne Aligoté, a large cuvée of generic white Burgundy (Bourgogne Blanc), then 6 different villages which are Meix Chavaux, Luchets, Vireuils, Tillets, Narvaux and Tesson. In 2010, they will also have a Gruyaches and a Crotot, but he's not sure he'll add two more Meursault Village cuvées so he may make a generic Meursault from these two vineyards. Then they have four 1er-Cru vineyards, Bouchères, Porusot, Charmes, Perrières. Then the Monthélie 1er Cru Champs Fulliot, and also a half-hectare of Auxey white. The vineyard surface was augmented from 11 to 13,5 hectares with fermage vineyards (contracted vineyards).
Jean-Marc Roulot had not much time so he invited us to go taste a few wines right away in the cellar all the while speaking about his work. The cellar looks very old while the buildings on the surface look recent, or at least recently renovated, maybe in the 70s or 80s'. Black mold on the vaulted ceilings and a great cellar atmosphere.
We walk into the cellar where the élevage of the 2009 wines takes place. Many casks (mostly Damy) fill the room, lined up on both sides as well as in the middle of the cellar gallery where the tasting takes place. There are other cellar rooms that can be reached through a passage. The wines stay a year in these casks and will get another 6 month in stainless-steel vats after that. The vats are in another room of this cellar, so the wines don't see the natural light during their 18 months or so of élevage. The wines are racked from the casks before the harvest in late august or early september and bottled the following february or march.
__ Roulot Monthélie 1er Cru les Champs Fulliot 2008. A small (18 ares) vineyard that they bought in 1989. It lies just outside Meursault near the Autun road. When they got it, it was not in very good shape and it was a red/white complantation. It's now a young vineyard as they replanted it with Chardonnay only. Very bright wine, nice color. Nice structure, classy. Almond notes. Light bitterness with neat mouth.
Speaking of the evolution of the wines in the casks, he says that the malolactic fermentation takes place usually in spring. For the 2009 it happened a bit earlier than usual. They add SO2 on the wines while they're on their lees and they time the racking as close as possible to the harvest, so that the casks are empty only during 8 or 10 days. He says that's it's very important and allows them to do only a minimum of sulphur-wicking compared to what would be needed if the casks had to stay empty a couple of months. They're 8 to work at Domaine Guy Roulot including himself and the secretary.
Looking at me, he adds that if I'm into natural wines, this isn't the right estate to visit. He says that he uses some SO2 for his wines, to which I answer that a wine is deemed natural when the other common additives are barred in the chai, not the SO2 which is often used in natural wines, albeit in small dosage. He recognizes that he doesn't use additives to make his wines, adding that the great wines are made without corrections. But his stand is flexible and he has no antagonism to using sugar for example in some exceptional circumstances, like in 2007 or 2004. He just decided that he will never get over 0,2 or 0,5 as a result, and it's not a common practice in his cellar. Same for acidification, that's an additive he doesn't use routinely but he did use some in 2003 although in a dosage 6 times lower than what his enologist suggested. All his work in the vineyard tends to bring the grapes in a condition that will forgo the use of any additive, and in 9 on 10 cases, he doesn't correct the wines.
__ Roulot Meursault Meix Chavaux 2008, on the same axis but at the beginning of the slope. Very aromatic nose, floral. Citrus, beautiful flower notes. Vividness. Meix means house, like Mas in Provencal, and Chavaux means "chef val" in old French, or uphill from the valley. Asked about the stirring of the lees during the élevage, he says that he does it on a minor mode compared with the general practice around here. But he has much lees in his wines, partly because he likes to crush the grapes in the press when they're in good condition, which allows him to get 70% of his juice by draining or by low-pressure pressing. When the wine is racked into the stainless-steel vats at the end of the cask élevage, it is pumped with its lees, so the lees kep working on the wine in the steel vats, while slowly settling at the bottom, so at the end, he fines with Bentonite and makes a light filtration on the wine with. He prefers a filtered wine to an unfiltered wine, same for the fining, and that's not a question of security, it's a question of the result in a blind tasting. He says that there's a simplistic message in the belief that unfiltered wines are better, in the same way than in the past when filtration was compulsory and too strict. There are hundreds ways to filter, if you do it the wrong way, with the wrong type of filtering and a high-pressure pump, you can harm your wines and even destroy them, he says. For his wines, he filters first at 10 microns, the second, thinnest filtration being with 5-micron filters for example, which is very soft and respectful of the wines. He checked the result with tasting the wines and is really confident about the pertinence of a smart filtration.
__ Roulot Meursault Tillets 2008. On the side near Clous Dessus & Dessous. Some wood on the nose here. Hazelnt, Nervous mouth, says B.
Asked about which changes he brought compared to his father, he says that having always tasted the wines in his youth he feels himself in a continuum course with the estate style, but of course the organic farming is an important move, he father used conventional chemicals even though he also plowed between the rows. The second change was that he increased the élevage time from 11 months to the present 18 months from 1996. He was thinking to doing that for a long time and a particular wine (which made his sugar after his malo-ferm) helped him make the step and have longer cellar time for all the wines. His longer élevages help him no resort on the stirring stage : the lees have really a longer time to interact with the wine in a more natural way. He adds that very good wines can also be made with 11-month élevages, but what decisively chages with 18 months is the texture of the wines, there is definitely something more silky in the wines then. And the fact that the second élevage takes place in steel helps make the wine tighter (tendu), it works like a flexible on the wines. His cuvées can make 3 casks for the smallest to about 60/70 casks for the generic Burgundy, so he needs many different stainless-steel volumes.
__ Roulot Meursault Les Tessons Clos Mon Plaisir 2008. This is part of Les Tessons, they own 80% of Les Tessons, Pierre Morey also owns some of it. Ripe fruits, rather chewy mouth.
Asked if he tries blends in a bottle or in a glass with a wine thief to see what it gives, he says no, it's really not part of his culture to eve try such blends. The specificity of the different climats are so great that he doesn't feel the need to look for what would yield blends in a glass.
__ Roulot Meursault Bouchères 2008. Very small vineyard : 16,44 ares. This is the vineyard that they always harvest first : steep slope, very thin earth, lots of reverberation, they check it like milk on there stove when harvest nears (see second picture above). Only 3 casks made each year. Nose with some hints of dry raisins, Apple too. Quite rich mouth.
__ Roulot Meursault Porusots 2008. Delicate, floral notes. Refined and full in the mouth
__ Roulot Meursault Charmes Dessous 2008. Very different wine here. He says that the harvest was more beautiful in that plot, the grapes were less touched by botrytis. Citrus, neat and vivid attack. Balance between acidity, alcohol and minerality.
__ Roulot, Meursault Les Perrières Dessous. Dessous is better located than Dessus, they have a better plot situation for their Perrières than for their Charmes, he says (Charmes Dessus is better than Charmes Dessous). Riper mouth with minerality Richness. Hints of sugared almond says B. Very long mouth here. To conclude, Jean-Marc Roulot says that he makes the wines accordingly to what he likes to drink. This is an ideal that he strives to reach, which doesn't mean that he succeeds all the time, he adds.
Domaine Roulot wines are sold 1/3 in France, 1/3 in Europe and 1/3 in other countries, which makes a smaller exports share than elsewhee in Burgundy (usually 80%). US : Parliament, Kermit Lynch and Michael Skurnick. Japan : Enoteca and Jeroboan (Carl Robinson).
He says that he began selling more to cavistes in France since he joined the Union des Gens de Métier group, a 30-estate strong group of artisan-minded wineries. the UGM organizes regular tastings for professionals.
He has alas no wines for sale at the estate, everything is reserved, either for the professional buyers or for longtime loyal customers. And they're now beginning to sell the 2008 wines which saw a 30% decline of volume because of the vintage and it is even more difficult to satisfy all the potential buyers. They didn't raise their prices by the way. He adds that he likes the fact that for exemple that his generic white Burgundy goes for less than 10 € a bottle. It's the biggest cuvée of the estate (22 000 in 2007, 12 000 in 2008), and it is made with the same attention than the other high-end cuvée.
In Paris, his cavistes are Caves Augé, Lavinia, Taillevent, La Grande Epicerie (le Bon Marché), Caves Legrand, Francis Bessette, among others.