Potinet-Ampeau Meursault 1er Cru 'Les Perrieres' 2016
If there were to be a Grand Cru in Meursault (and the proposition has been tabled) it would be 'Perrieres'. There are many styles of Meursault, but it's always 'Perrieres' that gets us. And the traditional methods of the Potinet-Ampeau production are exactly what this great vineyard needs to shine. Exceptional complexity, vibrant fruit, with exotic notes and good firm minerality. It's one of those we call a 'grown-up's wine'!
The Domaine Potinet-Ampeau is situated in the village of Monthelie in the southern part of the Cote de Beaune, between Meursault and Volnay. The domain is one of very few remaining who have a policy of holding vintages in their own cellars to allow them to age correctly before release. For this reason we can offer you not only older vintages, but older vintages that have been perfectly stored.
BURGUNDY 2016 VINTAGE
If that first taste of the 2016 Burgundy vintage really grabs your attention, count yourself lucky. Lucky in the same way that wine makers in Burgundy consider themselves lucky.
The excellent 2016 vintage was a nightmare for them, running a gamut of emotions from depression to despair, then out the other side towards hope and something resembling jubilation. It’s no exaggeration to say that 2016 took its toll on the collective psyche of the region.
After a very mild winter, April was frigid, with early hail in Macon and (yet again) Chablis. Then, on the night of the 26th, a freak frost descended on much of the Cotes de Nuits and almost all of the Cote de Beaune. I say ‘freak’ because it was a winter frost, not an April frost; meaning that it hit higher up the slopes than a spring frost would, touching vineyards that almost never freeze, notably Musigny and Montrachet.
It got worse. May was cool and depressingly wet, with storms when it wasn’t drizzling. It’s then that the first corridors of mildew appeared. It hailed again in Chablis. The mood was like the weather: chilly and grey. And it continued like this until the solstice, by which time the estimates were for an overall 50% crop loss across the region. It was hard to coax a smile from even the most seasoned winemakers.
Flowering took place in mid-June and was a bit protracted. It forecast a late September harvest, 100 days away. And given what had come before, the small crop looked incredibly vulnerable.
But with the solstice came summer. A magnificent July and August, with heat enough to curb the mildew, brought exceptional conditions for grapes. Talk in the cellars turned from tales of woe to the benefits of low-yield vintages.
As always in Burgundy, September makes the wine. In 2016, the perfect amount of rain fell on September 14th, at the perfect time to counter the heat stress that the vines were starting to show. And the fruit then ripened quickly in impeccable dry and sunny conditions.
What in mid-June seemed like a doomed crop was suddenly being touted as the equivalent of 2015, and maybe even better! Low yield years give intensity and concentration. Cool vintages give good acidity and balance. 2016 was both. Not a lot of fruit; but from serious ‘vignerons’, what there was was beautiful.
The wines, both red and white, are fresh, chiseled, with balanced acidity and concentration. The whites are definitely better than the 2015s, which lacked a touch of acidity. They are cool and energetic. Maybe not to the level of the fabulous 14s, but there are many similarities.
As to the comparisons between 2015 and 2016, many commentators cite 1990 and 1991. Both 1990 and 2015 are considered among the finest red vintages in living memory. And the vintages that followed them were both low-yield vintages that suffered early frost damage. Both 1990 and 2015 were hot years; both 1991 and 2016 were relatively cool. Both 1990 and 2015 were media darlings, and still are. 1991 got lost in the blare; maybe 2016 as well. But both 1991 and 2016 are arguably much more typically Burgundian than their world-stage predecessors. Classy and classic, ‘typical’ (in the best sense of the word), the greatest fault of the 2016 vintage could be its irregularity.
COTE DE BEAUNE
The hard comblanchian limestone that disappears deep underground around Nuits-Saint-Georges reappears here in the southern part of the Cote de Beaune where red wines give way to whites. Nowhere in the Côte de Beaune does the Chardonnay grape do better than it does in the 'golden triangle' of Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet. A small amount of red wine is produced here, though white definitely dominates.
Produced only in the commune of Meursault, appellation Meursault includes 19 premiers crus.
There are appreciable differences in and among the wines of the different Meursault climats. And even more important differences in the perceived style of Meursault among the producers. This translates into two distinct types of Meursault, and then, because the climats themselves are so distinctive, we see almost a spectrum of variety in wines that are all appellation Meursault.
The first of the two distinct styles, what many would call 'traditional', is greeny-gold in color, almost yellow, and going to bronze as it ages. Limpid and fat, its bouquet in youth is grapey toasted oak. This gives way to less fruity but honeyed notes and big buttery volume. Classic Meursault is toast, butter and honey.
The other style, what might be called 'modern' plays more on minerality and acidity. The robe is greeny-gold, but with silvery hints and, while brilliant is notably leaner. The young wine is nutty, floral, gun-flint smoky and above all lemony. Honey notes develop with age, but are carried by the fruit and minerality. Because less new oak is used in the winemaking process, structure is less obvious, but no less an important part of the finished wine. Meursault is perhaps the greatest white Burgundy for aging, and this can be said of either style.
The best soils are found at heights of 260-270 meters with exposures along an arc between east and south. They consist of jurassic marls and marly limestone. There are some patches of magnesian limestone. Ancient callovien limestone and argovien marls appear in the premier cru climats.
Nearly all whites - Chardonnay
Red wines - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Whites : 383.03 ha (including 103.43 ha premier cru)
Reds : 11.02 ha (including 1.77 ha premier cru)
Power and balance between alcohol and acidity make Meursault potentially noble. A great one has a natural affinity with noble fish or meat where it can match without overpowering. It goes well with roast veal and poultry, and creamy sauces work well here. Still better are grilled lobster, shrimp and famously, crawfish in sauce. Foie gras is often served with the traditional style Meursault, as are rich cheeses like Roquefort. The modern style Meursault is more apt to less rich and extravagant flavors.
On the label, the appellations 'Meursault' and 'Meursault 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos des Perrières
La Pièce sous le Bois
Les Gouttes d'Or
Les Santenots Blancs
Les Santenots du Milieu
Sous le Dos d'Ane
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, known as a lieu-dit:
Au Moulin Judas
Au Moulin Landin
Au Murger de Monthélie
Clos de la Barre
Clos des Mouches
En la Barre
La Barre Dessus
Le Bois de Blagny
Le Buisson Certaut
Le Meix sous le Château
Le Meix Tavaux
Le Pré de Manche
Les Chaumes de Narvaux
Les Clous Dessous
Les Clous Dessus
Les Gorges de Narvaux
Les Grands Charrons
Les Meix Chavaux
Les Narvaux Dessoux
Les Narvaux Dessus
Les Petits Charrons
Les Peutes Vignes
Les Santenots Dessous
Les Terres Blanches
Les Vignes Blanches
Les Vireuils Dessous
Les Vireuils Dessus