Roulot in Meursault - a Star of the Silver Screen as well...
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
It was 2017 when Jean-Marc Rolout returned to the silver screen in 'Ce que nous lie', a charming movie of family retrievals set, of course, in Meursault where he is already a star. Around that time I was in Burgundy with wine mad Norwegian friend Andre and we had managed to access two coveted spots at four o'clock on a friday. In Meursault. For that is when the weekly tasting happened for a lucky group.
Andre has parked his large Volvo and was a bit put out when some late arrival turned up and plonked his car right behind - somewhat blocking his exit. Andre was tempted to remonstrate when the driver got out of the car. I suggested it might be better not to comment on where he had parked his car, and rather to bow down in reverence. When the same person walked in, everyone turned round and he said, of course, 'Bonjour, je suis Jean-Marc.'
You really should recognize stars of screen and cellar before you accost them!
Years ago, when I first came to Paris in 1991, I happened upon a restaurant called Vin sur Vin (you can guess why it caught my attention). It was run by Patrice Vidal, the food was simple but excellent and the wine list epic. But the best thing was him, his almost theatrical love of wine, his attention to detail and his marvelous service and explanations. I knew little of Burgundy, so he put me onto the simple bourgogne of Roulot, his bottom end wine. It cost nothing and was delicious, my staple there for years. Sadly it is still delicious but now costs a lot more than nothing. In those good old days, Les Caves Taillevent (the wine merchant of the 3 Michelin star temple of gastronomy in Paris) also invited customers to (remarkable) free tastings. I went to one and was blown away by a white - the 86 Meursault Charmes of Roulot. The next time I was in Burgundy I stupidly turned up chez Roulot, but what was I expecting? A red carpet and free tasting..? The doors remained firmly closed.
And so, twenty plus years later, here I was...
What a glorious sight, the cellar of Roulot, and even better when I saw his maitre du chai standing by a barrel covered in half bottles, all opened and waiting for business. You can argue about the realities and extent of terroir, but a tasting of a range of the same grape variety from a spread of neighbouring vineyards all grown and made by the same team shows just what it is all about. It is also always fascinating to taste the crescendo as the orchestra builds up, a basic bourgogne chardonnay to open up as overture, all there but as if sotto voce, delicate and light. Then a range of villages, showing how soil and sun exposition can tighten or ripen a wine, whilst you seem to put on tonal weight and hit Les Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir, the top village cuvee and then ascend to the premier crus, and finally, trumpets blazing, the Meursault Perrieres, a wine of power and yet finesse, of fields of flowery fruit held taught by a wall of minerality and tight citrus acidity.
The wines are lovely examples of Meursault and just a million miles from so many sweet, fat, oaked chardonnays that you taste. Here everything is tight and they need time to unwind and blossom - we usually give even the village wines a decade. In their youth they can be austere and ungiving, the accent more on stones and lemons than fruit, but as they age...
After the tasting I went and begged and for some reason they took pity on me, and I left with a couple of bottles of bourgogne and one premier cru. For a short while David Croix (who had left Camille Giroud where we had followed him for a decade) was at Roulot and he kindly asked Jean-Marc if I could buy three bottles, but then he left and so did any chance of buying his wines again. When I wrote to the domaine I no longer received any reply and wines that cost me 50 euros were now retailing at a ridiculous two hundred in the shops. Even that simple bourgogne was a silly price. Gone, like so much else in Burgundy (& elsewhere).
But I still have a few precious village wines in the cellar. In theory they are worth four times what I paid a decade or so ago, and I guess I could sell them, but they were bought to enjoy and if we wont get another chance to taste them..?
Narvaux 2011, still a lovely bright light greeny-yellow in 2020. I am always relieved (especially with these sort of now irreplaceable or unaffordable bottles) to see a youthful colour. One of the reasons we loved Roulot was that we'd never had an oxidised botltle, but then we had four in a row from 2005,2007,2008, wines that you didn't even need to taste the colour was so dark and sherried. I hope it was bad luck, and we drink Roulot rarely, but we haven't cooked with one for over a year so maybe the worst years of premature oxidation are past? They do make a great risotto... It was ironic as I sold the few Comte Lafon meursaults I had as they were so unreliable and bought Roulot, out of the frying pan into the fire!
Anyway the 2011 Narvaux, a vineyard sitting above the premier cru Genevrieres and below the forest, was in great shape, gently reductive (that struck match taste that seems to be the modern hallmark of top burgundy winemakers these days), minty, lots of tooth coating ripe fruit and almost chewy extract and a long citrus farewell. Nice!!
And just to show it wasn't a fluke, the 2010:
the old label colour, but the same vineyard and very similar. I don't chew chalk, but this must be what it would be like, though the 2010 was a little less austere and a bit more yellow fruited and will last for a good while yet, though alas this is I think the only one I have...
Lovely wines, just wish I had more!