Meursault: the fat of the land

A quick intro to the wines of Meursault…

Meursault has a curious effect on me. I only need to hear the word and I start to feel hungry. It is as rounded and ample as the wines it refers to. It is somehow fitting that you simply can’t say it quickly.

Meursault is one of the best known and most popular of all white Burgundies. It’s a big appellation, and doesn’t concern itself with doing anything new or different – it doesn’t need to. So selecting a Meursault on a wine list can feel a bit obvious; it’s certainly not very trendy. But due to its faintly outrageous style, it always feels a teensy bit naughty – like plumping for the sticky toffee pudding after a big meal. It is similarly classic and just as wonderfully unnecessary.

The village itself is almost excessively pretty. Look past the tall tower of the Mairie in the main square with its traditionally patterned roof tiles and you’ll see the vines reclining over the low hills that surround the village. It’s situated in the Côte de Beaune, the best area for whites, but there are no Grand Crus here, just Premier Crus. Nonetheless, this is quintessential Chardonnay and copied the world over. But try as they might, no-one can quite get the fruit, acidity, oak and delicious fatness of texture all as perfectly balanced as Meursault.

Though you can find leaner, floral styles, what these wines are famous for is their richness. The plump yellow fruit flavours marry perfectly with lashings of oak. The result, especially after five to ten years in the bottle, is a dry wine with layer upon layer of apple compote, buttered toast, hazelnut, vanilla and caramel. Like expert chefs, the winemakers gather all these different flavours, fuse them together and make a unified whole that is more than the sum of its parts. The best retain a streak of freshness and minerality that cuts through the opulence.

If you want the best, look to Comtes Lafon, Coche Dury and Roulot, but the best value is to be found amongst less famous names. Look out for Jean-Yves Devevey, Romaric Chavy-Chouet, Vincent Dancer, Yves Boyer-Martenot, Patrick Javillier and Remoissenet. These wines are always at their best with food – lots of food – and are particularly versatile. Think shellfish, chicken and pork in cream sauces. Perhaps all three, one after the other. Meursaults taste best of all when you’re feeling greedy.

First published in Living France magazine.