I had the pleasure of meeting Jean-Marc Roulot yesterday. Roulot has established himself as one of the superstars of white Burgundy – the new Coche, if you will. The wines are beautiful, and now quite hard to get hold of as their fame has spread. I first became aware of them from Raj Parr, who told me about the Roulot method, so I quizzed Jean-Marc about how he makes wine.
His vineyards – 15 hectares, which produce 17 different wines – have been farmed organically since 2000, and have been certified since 2013. He does a bit of biodynamics, but he’s not a huge fan.
The Chardonnay grapes are hand harvested and whole-bunch pressed, but they are lightly crushed first, which is an unusual move. ‘We get most of the juice out at low pressure,’ he says, first of all pressing at 0.2 bar, then rising to 0.6. This gives 90% of the juice. He then goes up to 1.6 bar, but it’s just for a small proportion of the juice.
This allows him to have good pH and purity. ‘It contributes a lot to the style,’ says Jean-Marc. He then decants overnight, but likes to keep a lot of the lees. After the decanting vat there is another vat, so that he can mix up the lees and have the same turbidity in each barrel. This takes place right above the cellar. ‘So if a plot is harvested on Monday, by Tuesday morning it is in barrel,’ says Jean-Marc. If the must is higher than 20 C, then he’ll cool it down, otherwise he’ll do nothing. The barrel room is very cool, and that’s where fermentation takes place.
Most of his barrels are regular size, but he has three 1200 litre Stockinger foudres, which he likes a lot. His favoured cooper is Damy (based in Meursault). The proportion of new oak varies from 5-10% for the Bourgogne Blanc, to 15% for village, and maximum one-third for premier cru.
The wines spend a full year in barrel with light battonage once every two to three weeks until the end of malolactic. The first racking is postponed as long as possible until the new vintage is near, so that the barrels are only empty a short time.
Then the wine is racked to stainless steel, taking the lees with it, for an extra six months. This is a vital step. ‘We get microoxygenation in the wood, then reduction in stainless steel,’ says Jean-Marc. ‘It gives the wine vertical tension. It is a shame so many people come to Burgundy in November to taste the vintage. The difference between then and January to March, is huge.’
Eight out of 10 times he’ll do a light fining with casein and bentonite at the end of this six months. This is done after blind tasting with and without fining. And then before bottling there’s a light filtration with a 5 micron pore filter. ‘Sometimes people are very reactive about filtering but there are hundreds of ways to filter,’ says Jean-Marc.
[An aside: Jean-Marc is also an actor. The Internets tell me that he’s a youthful-looking 61 years old, and provides a list of his acting gigs.]
We tasted three wines.
Roulot Bourgogne Blanc 2015 Burgundy, France
Beautifully aromatic, fresh and detailed with lemons, pears and a bit of spicy mineral character. Juicy, linear and fresh with lovely citrus brightness and stylish focus. Has a lingering, mineral finish. Not heavy but delicate and pure. 93/100
Roulot Meursault Vireuils 2015 Burgundy, France
Taut, mineral and fine with lovely texture and delicacy. Fine and expressive with a touch of matchstick integrated into the fine citrus fruit. So beautifully pure with real finesse. 95/100
Roulot Meursault Porousot 1er Cru 2015 Burgundy, France
Tight and complex with lovely mineral, matchstick notes. So fine grained and detailed. Fine citrus fruit with a complex, linear personality. The reductive notes are perfectly integrated into the pure fruit. Very fine. 96/100
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