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In the early 19th century, Meursault was esteemed above all other Burgundy villages for its white wines—a respect rooted in the unparalleled diversity of its soils. But later in the same century, the rise of Puligny Montrachet, Chassagne Montrachet and Corton Charlemagne pushed Meursault from the limelight.
Today, Meursault is back on top, and a new generation of winemakers is capitalizing on its diverse soils to make some of Burgundy’s most exciting white wines. “Expression” is the order of the day, and wines of unprecedented individuality are emerging from such cellars as Comtes Lafon, Guy Roulot and Arnaud Ente. But there is one other important winemaker pointing the way to the future: Jean-Philippe Fichet.
Perhaps more than any of his peers, Fichet is testing the limits of transparency, to find the very soul of Meursault’s terroirs. It was Meursault’s destiny to have its soils revealed in this way: their intense stoniness is magnified by an exceptionally low water table, forcing the vines’ roots deep underground.
Fichet’s work is a direct outgrowth of a breakthrough that happened three decades ago: René Lafon’s decision to bottle his Meursault “Clos de la Barre” on its own. For a century before, such a thing had been unheard of, as only the most famous vineyards—the premier crus—were ever bottled individually; everything else was blended into Meursault villages.
Lafon’s innovation not only proved that a lieu-dit (a non-classified vineyard) could say something profound, it drew attention to Meursault’s incredible soils—paving the way for the later accomplishments of Jean-Françoise Coche, Jean-Marc Roulot and, of course, René Lafon’s son Dominique. But Fichet has carried Lafon’s revolution to another level—studying every square inch of earth and stone in his domaine, to make Meursault’s purest set of single-climat wines.
Even if uneconomical, Fichet would rather produce a very small amount of wine from his best sites than to lose their unique character in a blend. In 1998, his Meursault-Tesson vines yielded little more than four barrels; anyone else would have blended so little wine into their village cuvée. But the Tesson was so magical that Fichet bottled it separately, exclusively in magnum.
Just as Jean-Marc Roulot did until recently, Fichet has flown largely under the world’s radar. He began as a grower in 1981 but was forced to rebuild his domaine from scratch in the 1990s, having lost all his best fruit sources—including a piece of Meursault-Perrières—for lack of long-term contracts. But he learned from this experience. By 2000, he had used carefully negotiated long-term fermage and mètayage agreements to create an extraordinary new domaine, brimming with exceptional sites.
Fichet’s methods reflect his philosophy: he is famously meticulous and abhors taking short cuts. His low yields, the foremost key to quality, are achieved through severe winter pruning rather than by green harvesting. And he believes his wines’ expressiveness is enhanced through a patient 18-month élevage, with little new oak and by avoiding aggressive lees stirring.
The wines that Jean-Philippe Fichet is making today have few rivals for their class in Burgundy, and they could be unmatched in their transparency and expressiveness.
As good as Fichet’s wines have been up to now, the best lies ahead. His winemaking gets better each year, and so do his holdings, with a coveted piece of the iconic Meursault-Genevrières premier cru acquired in time for the 2006 vintage.
Jean-Philippe Fichet is one of Burgundy’s greatest talents—and his wines are every bit as extraordinary as he is.
|2017||2017 Jean-Philippe Fichet Volnay Champans||3||$89.95||add|
|2009||2009 Jean-Philippe Fichet Meursault Le Tesson 1.5 L||1.5 L||
|2013||2013 Jean-Philippe Fichet Meursault Le Tesson 1.5 L||1.5 L||1||$184.95||add|
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