A noble terroir has at last reclaimed its birthright. Once esteemed above all other villages for its white wines, Meursault fell from grace in the late 19th century—despite having a greater diversity of superb Chardonnay soils than any other place in Burgundy, and possibly any other spot on earth. Today, Meursault is back on top, and a new generation of winemakers is capitalizing on its diverse soils to make Burgundy’s most expressive—and some would say best—white wines. Wines of unprecedented individuality are emerging from such cellars as Guy Roulot, Coche-Dury and Comtes Lafon, but if there is one winemaker who points the way to the future, it may be Jean-Philippe Fichet.
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 that forces 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.
In the vineyards, Fichet works tirelessly and fastidiously. So much so, that it is often impossible to get an appointment to visit unless it is at the end of the day, since Jean-Philippe is usually on his tractor from daybreak until sunset each day! He believes in severe winter pruning rather than green harvesting. In the cellar, he believes his wines’ expressiveness is enhanced through a patient 18-month élevage - 12 months in mostly used wood followed by 6 months in tank - and by avoiding aggressive lees stirring.
Jean-Philippe Fichet's "below the radar" status is likely to soon change, as terroir-driven Meursaults are now reaching a broader audience of top collectors and restaurants. Fichet’s style most closely resembles Roulot’s, with riveting focus, purity and delineation, and incredible transparency. Although Fichet owns almost no vines, he has utilized long-term férmage and metayage agreements to assemble an enviable vineyard line-up - most in relatively old vines in the Meursault’s top lieux-dits (and a little Puligny 1er Cru). He fastidiously oversees all aspects of the viticulture and harvesting. This meticulous attention to detail carries over to his cellar practices as well, where adapts his work to not just each wine, but often to each individual barrel!