Friday, December 27, 2013

Tasting the Wines of Domaine Méo-Camuzet, Bourgogne, with Owner Jean-Nicolas Méo, France

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and  Jean-Nicolas Méo from Domaine Méo-Camuzet at Johann Lafer’s Stromburg

When Caroline and Armin Diel presented their new releases at Johann Lafer’s Stromburg, they had also invited a Bourgogne producer - Jean-Nicolas Méo from Domaine Méo-Camuzet – to complement their Nahe wines. I have already reported about the Diel wines: This posting focuses on the second part of the tasting: the Bourgogne wines of Domaine Méo-Camuzet.

Caroline and Armin Diel, Schlossgut Diel (Nahe Valley), Presented their New Wines (Vintage 2012), Germany

Domaine Méo-Camuzet

Domaine Méo-Camuzet is one of the most celebrated domaines of the Côte d’Or, located in the heart of prestigious Vosne-Romanée.

It was founded at the beginning of the last century by Étienne Camuzet, a member of the French Parliament for the Côte d'Or from 1902 to 1932, who selected vineyards whose location and reputation were of particular interest to him; many of his vineyard holdings remain in the estate today, and many of them are among the most exceptional in the region. Etienne’s daughter Maria Noirot inherited his vineyards but she herself had no children so, at her death in 1959, she bequeathed the domain to Jean Méo, a distant relative.

Pictures: Pre-tasting Reception, with Armin Diel and Dirk Wuertz

The estate did not begin selling wines under its own label until 1985 and after 1988, it progressively took charge of the vineyards as the ‘metayage’ (sharecropping) contracts with the vintners expired.

Today, the estate manages 15 acres itself with another 13.5 under contract (although all is harvested and vinified by the estate). The estate is now run by Jean-Nicolas Méo, son of Jean Méo, who is in charge of technical and administrative matters.

Domaine Méo-Camuzet bottles four Grands Crus (Richebourg, Clos de Vougeot, Corton Clos Rognet, and Échezeaux), ten Premiers Crus (from the communes of Vosne-Romanée, Nuits-St-Georges, Chambolle-Musigny, and Fixin), several village wines, one Bourgogne Rouge, and one white.

Pictures: Tasting

Jean-Nicolas also spent most of his life in Paris. When he took over in 1985, in lieu of continuing to rent out their highly-pedigreed vineyards, he made the bold decision to slowly start reclaiming the land for the domaine’s own bottlings. He called upon the resident expert, one of Burgundy’s greatest winemakers of all time, Henri Jayer, for guidance. Henri had spent over forty years farming parcels from Méo-Camuzet under his own label. For three years, he mentored Jean-Nicolas during the transition and finally decided to retire in 1988. Though Henri Jayer passed away in 2006, his legacy endures to this day.

Jean-Nicolas has since directed the cellar and sales. The estate's technical team is currently led and managed by Christian Faurois, who went to viticultural school in Beaune.

Jean-Nicolas Méo’s Philosophy of Winemaking

The Vineyard

“For many years, our wine estate has rejected the use of chemicals alone and attempts to encourage a natural balance by using authorized organic agricultural products and specific practices, including ploughing, by paying particular attention to our vine-growing techniques which attempt to prevent diseases and keep yields in check. These practices are not just for show: their objective is to achieve a harmony between the vine and its environment and to allow the terroir and climate, specific to each vintage, to express themselves.

Pictures: Jean-Nicolas Méo

The Harvest

For several years now, we've been hearing about green harvesting (which should be done from late July onwards, automatically, even in older vineyards), but this is more a way of keeping yields in check.

The harvest itself takes place in late September, at a date which is very carefully chosen, and everything must be done to ensure that the grapes which arrive in the vat are as intact, as ripe and as healthy as possible.

Pictures: Jean-Nicolas Méo


Temperature control is the essential contribution which modern techniques have made to our work, which, apart from that, remains very traditional. It enables us to make a marketable wine, even if excessive standardization of vinification would quickly lead to trivialisation.

The grapes are put into the vats where they stay for 3 to 5 days, macerating in their juice while the temperature is still low (15°C/60°F), before fermentation begins naturally. During fermentation, temperature control is maintained just to protect the wines from exceeding a critical threshold (34-35°C/93-95°F).

Pictures: Jean-Nicolas Méo, Caroline and Armin Diel

It is better for this fermentation cycle, which lasts between two and three weeks, to come to an end slowly, and our concrete vats help us to maintain mild temperatures which fall slowly.

There is not much extraction, the harvest does not undergo too much treatment or manipulation: little sulphur, little capitalization or acidification, only pigeages at the end of the fermentation.

That is how the individual character of each wine can express itself... but the grapes must be of excellent quality from the beginning!

Wine Maturing

It's not all over at the end of the wine-making process. The conditions under which the wine is matured can have a great influence on its appearance and stability, and thus on its ageing.

Pictures: Jean-Nicolas Méo, Caroline Diel and Annette Schiller

Whether it should be put into new casks or not is an important decision: using casks allows a controlled oxidation of the wine, which stabilises it but also brings aromas, which marry with those of the wine... or become dominant.

Other circumstances also count a lot: at what moment and how quickly the malolactic fermentation takes place, the interaction with the lees, particularly for white wines of course, the management of the racking and the degree of aeration you wish to give to the wines... Each step must be carefully thought out.


The wines are racked and blended in vats three or four weeks before, and bottling comes after about 17 months in barrels (the harvest of year 'N' is bottled between January and July of year 'N+2').

Pictures: Post-tasting luncheon

The wines are bottled by gravity, which prevents them from being shaken up too much, and without filtration, which could spoil them. But for a few exceptions, the wines are not fined (e.g. clarified) with egg whites, as they don't need this to stabilize them. By doing so, they do not suffer any trauma that could alter their true nature. This is the general principle that always prevails at the estate: respect the fruit, treat the wine for what it is - a living substance that deserves respect.

A modern bottling line enables us to take the precautions that are necessary to ensure good-quality corking and thus good ageing of the wines. The corks are carefully selected and specifications are imposed on the suppliers. Ah, those corks! They are a big source of worry for the vinegrower and the wine-lover... The capacity they have to spoil the work of several years is particularly frustrating...
After the bottling, the work of the winegrower is finished, so to speak: it is now up to the wine-lover to make sure that the storage conditions (15°C / 60°F maximum) and drinking conditions are optimum, but that's another story...”

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Jean-Nicolas Méo

The Wines we Tasted

2011 Hautes-Cotes de Nuits Clos St. Philibert

Winemaker notes: Thanks to its originality, this very generous wine avoids the generic characteristics of its appellation. Its rich and often tropical aromas, its freshness and mineral character are remarkable.

When this wine is young, its nose is captivating and well developed, whereas the palate is less pronounced, still marked by the acidity. We would advise a few years of ageing for this wine to achieve a perfect balance.

2011 Bourggogne Rouge

2011 Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru “Aux Boudots”

Winemaker notes: A wine which is very typical of the appellation Vosne-Romanée: its roundness, its fleshy plumpness, its discreet but effective structure. Its great maturity and its balance belie the reputation for austerity which goes with Nuits.

This wine ages well, but shows the best it has to offer at the beginning of its development: the fruit is there in generous quantities without its counterpart, the aggressiveness which can be felt in certain other appellations.

2011 Vosne-Romanee

Winemaker notes: A wine with fine intensity, supported by a lot of freshness and a pronounced mineral character. The silkiness and balance of the appellation are also present and generally speaking, the wine is well developed aromatically.

Despite its acidity, the wine is very accessible, even full of charm to start with. But it ages very well, gaining in depth and balance.

2011 Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru “Les Chaumes”

Winemaker notes: There is much finesse and elegance in this wine, very typical of the Vosne-Romanée appellation. Fullness and charm coexist here in a wine which is not as awe-inspiring as the superb 'crus', 'les Brûlées' and 'Cros Parantoux', but which is easy to drink and will quickly seduce you.

The good vintages age well, but this wine has a distinct advantage in its youth: indeed, its finesse makes it ideal for early tasting.

2011 Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru

Winemaker notes: Is this a wine which expresses the Cistercian rigor which gave birth to it? No, its image is rather that of a refined gentleman: the grapes mature early here, but still give wines of great finesse, with a lace-like texture, which lines the palate, with superb length.

Pictures: Annette Schiller and Jean-Nicolas Méo

The inherent complexity of a 'grand cru' can be felt fairly quickly, it is an easy wine to approach. A wine which can be drunk young, but which sometimes surprises us with its longevity.

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