France Wine

Domaine Roulot – a leaner and more tense Meursault

Meursault: January 2024

If there was a time when Meursault was known for its toasty oak, buttery notes, and density, that era is essentially over. Meursault now comes in different forms. This shift has been primarily due to the influence of Jean-Marc Roulot in the region. Roulot prefers leaner profiles with pronounced acidity — a tension that lingers on the palate. Achieving this involves a conscientious, mostly organic viticulture, early harvests, and numerous small decisions in the cellar, resulting in a distinctive, slightly reductive flavour profile that has become characteristic of the domaine.

Following our visit, conversations with Jean-Marc, and a tasting of the 2022 vintage at the domaine, we uncover all of this below.

Table of contents
1. The domaine, and Jean-Marc Roulot2. The terroirs3. The style4. The viticulture
5. The oenology7. The master of reduction6. Roulot’s cuvées8. Tasting the 2022 vintage

The domaine, and the man behind it

It was Jean-Marc Roulot’s father, Guy Roulot, who set the reputation for a domaine which until then had focused more on the distillation of eaux de vie than on wine. Already in the seventies, Guy was trying to showcase the different expressions of Meursault village crus, such as Luchets, Vireuils and Tillets, by bottling them separately rather than producing a generic Meursault village wine as was normally done at the time. With Guy’s success, the domaine would eventually acquire a quarter hectare of each of the Premiers Crus Perrières and Charmes.

Having grown up helping his father, Jean-Marc initially did not see his place in the domaine and pursued his passion for acting in Paris. However, he returned to assist with the 1982 vintage after his father fell ill. Following Guy’s death, Ted Lemon (now owner and winemaker of Littorai in California) managed the domaine in 1983 and 1984, and Frank Grux, Guy’s nephew (and now maître de chai of Olivier Leflaive), took over until Jean-Marc felt ready to return to winemaking in 1989. Indeed, family ties remain strong in Meursault. Jean-Marc’s mother is the cousin of Jean-François Coche-Dury, and Jean-Marc is married to Alix de Montille, daughter of Hubert de Montille and winemaker at Domaine de Montille. In fact, in the 1990s, Jean-Marc vinified some of Montille’s white wines.

Jean-Marc has upheld the reputation of the domaine and achieved a cult status. Under his tenure, the domaine has expanded from around 9 hectares to 16 hectares. Of these, Roulot owns only 9 hectares, while the rest are managed through métayage. Among the latest acquisitions is the Clos des Bouchères in 2011, a monopole of 1.4ha, as well as another 1.5ha used for the Meursault village cuvée, which started being bottled in 2011. 

Over the years, he also developed a small négoce buying grapes in Corton-Charlemagne, Chevalier-Montrachet and Puligny’s Le Cailleret. However, disillusioned with the prices and human relationships within this system, he ceased most of these operations after the 2022 vintage. In 2008, Jean-Marc reintroduced a range of liqueurs and eaux de vie, using the family’s alembic. Here is where buying grapes from the négoce is still handy. Moreover, since 2018 he has been vinifying the Chardonnays of Bodega Chacra in Patagonia, Argentina. Impressed by his friend Piero Incisa della Rocchetta’s Pinot Noirs there, he decided to join him to see how Chardonnay would fare.

More surprisingly, Jean-Marc has managed to continue his acting career in parallel, working in 59 TV shows and films since 1982. The latest, The Taste of Things, also features chef Pierre Gagnaire.

The terroirs

The magic of Burgundy lies in its ability, under a great vigneron’s hands, to showcase with clarity the differences of its climats and soils through the wines. In Meursault, the best terroirs are found on the midslope, between 240m and 260m of altitude. Here, one finds the most interesting Premiers Crus and village crus. In the north, this midslope band ends at Meix Chavaux, and in the south, as it passes into Puligny-Montrachet, it includes Grands Crus like le Montrachet.

Map of plots from Domaine Roulot by Éric Brosseron.

Roulot’s best vineyards, such as Perrières, Le Porusot, and parts of Les Bouchères, are on oolitic limestone. Sections of Les Bouchères also have marl with Pholadomya clams. Their vines at Charmes are on the lower Charmes Dessous, a clay-heavy soil with alluvial and colluvial deposits. The village crus have a north-east exposition, which is slightly cooler. Meix Chavaux, Les Luchets, and Le Tesson are dominated by oolitic limestone, with some dalle nacrée possibly present. In contrast, Les Tillets, with an eastern exposition similar to the Premier Crus, features oolitic limestone as well as hard Oxfordian limestone towards the top of the Côte.

Recently, Jean-Marc has been working with Pedro Parra, to better understand his micro-terroirs. When we visited, Parra had been analysing Les Vireuils using his measurements of electro-conductivity. The soils in this area are predominantly white calcareous marls from the Oxfordian stage, and the slope has a north-east orientation. Parra’s results suggest that the northern section is rockier and more interesting compared to the southern plots of the vineyard, which have a higher clay content in the marl. Roulot vinified the two sections separately and indeed decided to ‘declassify’ the southern plot to the Meursault village cuvée.

The style

Jean-Marc Roulot’s wines are characterised by their purity, precision, and elegance. He aims for a style that emphasises length over power, favouring a tight, tense, clean line rather than the immediate boldness on the palate that once defined Meursault. Indeed, the rockier terroirs of his climats favour these more tense profiles, often resembling the archetypal style of Puligny.

His wines have also become famous for the well-managed reduction that he achieves thanks to a very meticulous élevage. White wine producers worldwide, from John Kongsgaard to Enric Soler, regard him as a reference. Yet, this aspect has changed over the last five years. In our tasting of the 2022s, only a few wines exhibited those characteristic reductive notes.

The viticulture

Harvest at Domaine Roulot. Source: Lotel du Vin

While the industry is trending towards placing more emphasis on viticulture rather than winemaking, our visit along with Chisa Bize from Domaine Simon Bize and Jean-Pierre de Smet from Didier Fornerol logically revolved around oenology. Despite this, Roulot has practised organic viticulture since 1998, achieving certification in 2013, and has also embraced biodynamic methods since the early 2000s, although this is not openly advertised. 

Whether it’s biodynamics or organic, I don’t want to reivindicate it more than that. I don’t want to make it my calling card. Good wine results from many small decisions made throughout the year. Quality depends on many factors, including these practices, but many other things as well.

Jean-Marc Roulot – Lotel du Vin

Either way, he confesses that organic viticulture has led to a tighter structure in his wines, which he enjoys. Seeking tension and freshness, Roulot used to be among the first to harvest in Meursault. What was once rare has now become more common in the region: “What’s interesting is that at Les Tessons we were always the first, and now our neighbours started doing it before us.

Although they run analyses, the decision to pick is mostly based on taste. The first selection during harvest is done in the vineyard, where any diseased grapes are removed on site, followed by a second selection in the cellar. In a good vintage, yields range between 30-45hl per hectare. Bad years with frost and hail can reduce this to 15hl/ha. Nevertheless, in extremely good vintages, Roulot is not afraid of yields as high as 60hl/ha, provided the green harvest was well managed early in the growing season.

Some of the vineyards are as old as 90 years. However, Jean-Marc Roulot does replant when the yields become too low. This is done using a massal selection of a couple of hundred vines from the domaine. The grafting is done à l’anglaise (whip and tongue), and the vines are trellised in Guyot-Poussard.

The oenology

Jean-Marc Roulot, Jean-Pierre de Smet and Chisa Bize.

Jean-Marc Roulot is very particular and incredibly meticulous in his vinification process. His methods are continuously evolving, informed by his numerous experiments to understand how to extract the best from each cuvée.

The domaine was among the few that survived the dreaded premature oxidation (premox) in Burgundy unscathed. Roulot believes the primary cause of premox was a change in pressing methods, which involved pressing less and adding more SO2 to protect the must. This approach led to fewer solid extracts (pulp and skin) in the juice, creating a more unstable wine susceptible to premox. At Roulot’s, however, the old horizontal mechanical press introduced significant air into the process, causing the must to brown substantially. The must was left to settle, allowing oxidised solids to be racked out. Despite the must remaining brown, the alcoholic fermentation produced a clear wine. This early oxidation inadvertently resulted in a more stable wine because the phenols that precipitate during racking are a major pathway for oxidation. Jean-Marc has since advanced this concept through further experimentation. He leaves a portion of the pressed wine to brown more heavily before incorporating it back into the rest after racking.

Pressed juice at Domaine Roulot.

After an initial fermentation in stainless steel, the wines are transferred to barrels while fermentation is still ongoing (with specific gravities of 1020 instead of 1000). This helps tighten the wines. The amount of new oak employed in the élevage depends on the cuvée. Usually, it is 10% for the Bourgogne Blanc1, 20% for the village crus and blend and 25% to 30% for the Premiers and Grands Crus. He is increasingly disappointed with the quality of oak, as dense, fine-grained oak is becoming harder to find due to depleted reserves in France. Nevertheless, he has had positive results experimenting with stoneware amphorae and believes that there will always be alternatives. 

The master of reduction

As we mentioned above, Jean-Marc Roulot has become a cult figure among white wine consumers and producers. His Meursaults are not only lean, deep and tense, but also tend to exhibit complex and sophisticated reduction notes.

Yet, reduction in winemaking can elicit positive and negative connotations. Some associate it with sulphur compounds like H2S, which carry aromas of rubber or rotten eggs that are typically considered faults. Still, reductive winemaking in whites can also produce thiols that, in the right amount, add pleasant and layered notes of struck matchstick and flint.

As Jancis Robinson points out in her 2015 Struck-match wines – reductio ad absurdum?, some premox-affected producers made a dramatic shift from bold, toasty wines to a more reductive style that seemed to be resilient against premature oxidation. The flinty aromas of reduction became associated with quality and naturally some winemakers started to overdo it. Reductive winemaking, like most things, requires balance.

Before the premox-affected vintages of 1996 to 2002, Roulot had developed his extended and reductive élevage, inspired by what he saw at Leflaive in the early 1990s. At Leflaive, wine could spend six months in stainless steel vats after a year in barrels, improving its texture and acidity. In contrast, Jean-Marc Roulot and his father, Guy Roulot, had always adhered to the traditional 11 months in 228l oak barrels. Jon Bonné (The New French Wine) and Sarah Marsh claim that Jean-Marc started prolonging his élevage in 1993, when his Perrières cuvées started the malolactic fermentation while there was still sugar remaining in the must. He adopted this technique from Leflaive to make the wine tighter and more integrated, though it wasn’t particularly reductive at the time. Roulot lacked sufficient stainless steel vats to extend the process, as he needed the existing vats for fermenting new vintages. As a result, he was forced to rack the wine into different oak barrels, which introduces oxygen. If he had not needed to do this to make space in the cellar for new vintages, he could have achieved some reductive notes, but this did not happen. It would not be until 1999, when he installed new steel vats that the now famous reduction notes started to show, just as in some of Leflaive wines in the early 1990s.

Even though this reductive character has become less marked over the years – likely as Roulot adjusts his use of sulphur –, the élevage is still characteristically reductive. Bâtonnages are performed once every three weeks until the malolactic fermentation starts, with the stirring intended only to aid the alcoholic fermentation while incorporating minimal oxygen. On tend l’élastique, on tend l’élastique, et la mise en bouteille, elle doit arriver au moment où l’élastique, il est le plus tendu possible.

Before bottling, the wines are normally fined with casein and filtered. The free sulphur levels at bottling lie around 30 mg/L. Influenced by some of his colleagues in the region, Roulot has been working on reducing the use of sulphur recently. While he had already stopped adding SO2 during pressing, he has recently begun reducing and delaying its addition as much as possible after the malolactic fermentation. Regular tastings during élevage help determine how little they can afford to add. The change is notable: total sulphur used to be around 110 mg/L, but in 2022, it was around 60 mg/L. He even experimented with bottling his 2018 Aligoté with and without sulphur2. Additionally, as an added protective layer, the domaine leaves a relatively high level of dissolved CO2 in its wines, about 1.2g/L.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that while many producers switched to DIAM closures in the aftermath of premox, Jean-Marc Roulot quickly reverted to cork as he finds DIAM stifles the wines.

The cuvées

There are 17 cuvées made out of 16ha exploited. These are:

Regional and village:

  • Bourgogne Aligoté
  • Bourgogne Blanc
  • Auxey-Duresses Blanc
  • Monthélie Rouge
  • Meursault
  • Meursault Narvaux
  • Meursault Tillets
  • Meursault Vireuils
  • Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir
  • Meursault Meix Chavaux

Premiers Crus:

  • Monthélie Champs Fulliots Blanc
  • Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru Rouge
  • Meursault Clos des Bouchères
  • Meursault Porusot
  • Meursault Charmes
  • Meursault Perrières
  • Puligny-Montrachet Le Cailleret (négoce, paused after 2022, labelled under Jean-Marc Roulot instead of Domaine Roulot)

Grands Crus (négoce, paused after 2022, labelled under Jean-Marc Roulot instead of Domaine Roulot):

  • Corton-Charlemagne
  • Chevalier-Montrachet

Tasting the 2022 vintage

We tasted at the cellar, which is currently undergoing significant renovations, expected to be completed in 2025. The project involves constructing a new cellar and storage building, with a new red wine fermentation room to be established above them. Additionally, the older structures, originally developed by the family in the 1950s and 60s, will undergo comprehensive renovations. This marks the first time the flow of grapes, must, and wine within the cellar is being re-engineered. Part of the new facilities will be operational by the 2024 harvest, reducing their temporary reliance on external storage locations such as his wife Alix’s in Beaune.

Jean-Marc Roulot described the 2022 vintage as both fascinating and reflective of the evolving climate conditions in recent years. He noted that 2022 can be considered a typical vintage within the last decade, characterized by significant heat and extremes. Despite these challenges, the year was free from major incidents, aided by a fortuitous June storm that provided essential water for the vines until harvest. The harvest began on August 25 and concluded on September 4, aligning with the trend of earlier harvests seen in 2020 and 2023.

The resulting wines from 2022 are luminous and refined, having developed well in stainless steel tanks. Roulot emphasized that, unlike previous years such as 2019, which suffered from excessive heat, the 2022 wines have maintained balance without becoming overly rich or powerful.

At the time of the tasting in January 2024, all the wines were in stainless steel, waiting for the last two months before being bottled. We started with the Bourgogne Blanc, an assemblage of almost 5ha. About one hectare is in Puligny, whereas the rest stretch from behind the domaine in Meursault towards Volnay.

Domaine Roulot – Bourgogne Blanc 2022
Vines with ages from 10 to 50 years old.
Nose:Medium intensity. A touch of oak and ripe apples. Simple, but good.
Palate:The palate shows pure yellow apples, perhaps with a touch of phenolics from apple skins. Jean-Marc takes this wine seriously as his introduction to the domaine. It is true that the wine’s structure shows his style well.
Structure:Crisp racy acid, dry, very fine astringency from lees contact, medium body, medium alcohol. Medium finish.

Domaine Roulot – Meursault 2022
Blends of younger vines, the heavier clay soils of the southern plots of Les Vireuils, Les Gruyaches and Les Crotots. Three quarters of it come from Clos de la Baronne, south of Les Gouttes d’Or.
Nose:Very aromatic with pure notes of ripe lemon and lemon pith. The oak here is not as apparent.
Palate:Good concentration, clearly more than the Bourgogne Blanc. The attack features green apple and lemon juice with a surprising purity. The midpalate continues this profile, but showing a more textural aspect, with a more present astringency from the lees.
Structure:Crisp racy acidity, dry, fine astringency from lees contact, medium body, medium alcohol. Long finish.

Domaine Roulot – Meursault Vireuils 2022
Northern plots of Les Vireuils identified by consultant Pedro Parra to be rockier. Average age of vines is about 50 years.
Nose:Very aromatic. Lemon pith leading to ripe lemon juice notes. There is a mild note of vanilla from French oak here, well integrated.
Palate:Great concentration, with an attack driven by lemon zest and lemon curd with a beautiful purity. The midpalate shows a nice tension with a confident touch of salt. Very long finish of lemon juice. No reduction smoke.
Structure:High racy acidity, dry, medium body, medium alcohol.

Domaine Roulot – Meursault Meix Chavaux 2022
Placed on the midslope band around 240-260m of altitude as the best crus of Meursault. A quarter of the hectare here was replanted 10 years ago.
Nose:Medium intensity. A bit muted and less expressive, but not reductive. The fruit profile exhibits mainly lemon zest and pith. The oak influence is hard to perceive.
Palate:A very Roulot wine driven by length and tension. Leaner than the Bourgogne Blanc and Meursault, the attack shows with a pure essence of lemon. It continues with persistence through the midpalate and finish, where we also detect a milder touch of salt.
Structure:Very high racy acid, dry, medium body, medium alcohol. Very long finish.

Domaine Roulot – Meursault Luchets 2022
Jean-Marc’s favourite. 40% of the vines were replanted 10 years ago. The rest has about 90 years of age.
Nose:Medium intensity. Here is the first wine where we do feel reductive notes of struck match. They are mild and well integrated over a riper note of candied lemon than so far.
Palate:The concentration feels similar to Meix Chavaux, on the lower side, with less volume, but the power and balance are still there. The attack shows a similar purity of lemon, with a saltier midpalate that swivels around that salinity and struck match notes.
Structure:Very high electric acidity, dry, medium body, medium alcohol. Very long finish.

Domaine Roulot – Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir 2022
Planted from 1959 to 1961 by Guy Roulot.
Nose:Very aromatic. More solar nose with plenty of candied lemon and white flowers. The oak influence is hard to perceive.
Palate:Similar concentration to Les Luchets, but with a riper expression. The flavour profile goes in a very similar line, with pure lemon essence that shows tension through the midpalate. No salinity here, though. Towards the finish one gets a steely note, possibly some reduction.
Structure:High racy acidity, dry, very fine astringency from lees contact, medium body, medium alcohol. Very long finish.

Domaine Roulot – Meursault Porusot 2022
Assemblage of two plots: one at Le Porusot and a smaller in Le Porusot Dessous.
Nose:Very aromatic, clearly riper than any of the village cuvées. Fragrant lemon and flinty notes of reduction. The oak is so integrated, that it’s hardly noticeable.
Palate:Good concentration, more than in the village cuvées. For the first time we feel a more powerful wine that might need more time to show better. In any case, there is this fresh and tight tension pulling it together. The attack is very pure and ripe with candied lemon. The midpalate shows a salinity that reminds us to that of Les Luchets.
Structure:High racy acid, dry, medium body, medium alcohol. Very, very long finish.

Domaine Roulot – Meursault Charmes 2022
From Charmes Dessous, with soils heavier on clay. Charmes Dessus is typically considered better even if both are Premiers Crus.
Nose:Intensely aromatic. Rich and floral nose of chamomiles with similar candied lemon notes as in Le Porusot. More overt vanilla notes from French oak.
Palate:The most concentrated of the wines tasted today thanks to the heavier soils. There is a more apparent textural element too, from the lees. There is more volume in an attack that shows an essence of candied lemon all through the midpalate, where the new oak spice and vanilla unravel towards the finish. The acidity is well judged, delivering the perfect amount of tension to keep the wine elegant.
Structure:High racy acid, dry, fine astringency from lees contact, medium body, medium alcohol. Very long finish.

Domaine Roulot – Meursault Clos des Bouchères 2022
Monopole with two thirds of the vines 65 and 45 years old. The rest were planted 20 years ago.
Nose:Medium intensity. Notes of apple and lemon, less exuberant and solar than Charmes and Le Porusot.
Palate:Good concentration, comparable to Tessons, with an attack that starts around apple and lemon to quickly transition to a slightly saline midpalate with chalky notes and a more astringent texture. The chalk and lemon seem to linger forever under a citric and electric acidity. Again, very much a Roulot wine.
Structure:High electric acidity, dry, powdery astringency from lees contact, medium body, medium alcohol. Very, very long finish.

Domaine Roulot – Meursault Perrières 2022
Small plot at Perrières Dessus, the best of the two Perrières.
Nose:Very aromatic with a mix of reductive struck match notes and wet chalk. The fruit profile is similar to that of other Premiers Crus, with candied lemon. The oak influence is hard to perceive.
Palate:On the palate this wine shows incredibly classy. There is a density more akin to Clos des Bouchères. The balance between concentration and acidity is tense, yet elegant, similar to some of the best Étienne Sauzet wines. The attack of lemon juice and zest lead to chalk and a generous amount of iodine notes in the midpalate. The mix of fruit and minerality is very complex. Delicious.
Structure:High electric (but with poise, how!?) acidity, dry, medium body, medium alcohol. Extremely long finish.

Some older bottles from Roulot’s library

Domaine Roulot – Meursault Luchets 2020
Nose:Very aromatic and solar. Exuberant with white flowers, green apples and apple skin. The oak is imperceptible.
Palate:Similar concentration to the 2022, with a slightly riper fruit character. Here one gets yellow apple, white peach followed by a saline midpalate. The finish ends with bright notes of honeysuckles.
Structure:High electric acidity, dry, fine astringency from lees contact, medium body, medium alcohol. Very long finish.

Domaine Roulot – Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir 2018
Nose:Intensely aromatic. Simply so floral and powerful nose, but powerful and alluring.
Palate:Beautiful concentration with an attack of green and yellow apple that shows very ripe while still remaining fresh. The Roulot leanness is less obvious here, but the tension is there to tie it up. The finish is very, very long, with summer flowers and lemon zest.
Structure:High racy acidity, dry, very fine silky astringency, medium body, medium alcohol.

Domaine Roulot – Meursault Meix Chavaux 2002
Nose:Very aromatic nose, fully on tertiary notes that are honeyed and floral with warm chamomiles and honeysuckles. A luxury only to smell such a wonderfully evolved wine.
Palate:Great concentration, showcasing an attack that still has plenty of fruit, with a beautiful purity. Yellow apples and chamomile notes lead to honey and honeysuckles for an extremely long finish. The freshness is still there, with a wine that is very much alive.
Structure:High racy acidity, dry, medium body, medium alcohol.

We finished with the reds, which Jean-Marc was keen to show to Chisa Bize.

Domaine Roulot – Monthélie Rouge 2022
Nose:Medium intensity, with a nose of pure red cherries and a touch of cedar from oak spice.
Palate:Cool climate red cherries, showing ripe with concentration. The purity of flavours in the nose is mirrored on the palate. Yet, the wine is a bit unidimensional.
Structure:High acidity, powdery grippy tannins, medium body, medium alcohol. Medium finish.

The Domaine Roulot – Auxey-Duresses 1er Cru Rouge 2022 shows very similar, with a riper and darker character.

  1. Stainless steel for the Bourgogne Aligoté.
  2. Funnily enough, he preferred the sulphured sub-cuvée.

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