2017 Lafouge Meursault Les Casse Tetes
There was a time when you couldn’t mention Meursault without immediate chimes of “brown butter”, “hazelnut”, “marizipan” or “cream” being muttered immediately afterwards.
And maybe a couple decades ago, that was the flavor profile of Meursault. But I don’t believe it is any longer, and I think Lafouge’s Les Casse Tetes showcases the delicious and exciting changes going on in Meursault today.
The new “young” generation of winemakers today are looking more for finesse, detail and minerality while at the same time backing off on new oak and lees-stirring. The result is as Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate notes about our wine today: “Old vines, cultivated soils and classical winemaking are the rudiments of Gilles Lafouge’s recipe for success. The clean and organized cuverie and cellar immediately communicate a sense of dedication and attention to detail that comes across just as strongly in the glass.”
Meursault used to be the “cheapest” of white Burgundy’s communes. And producers often chose to farm in the cheaper areas – i.e., the flatland extending out from Meursault. And since Meursault is the biggest in Burgundy, there was a goodly amount to farm as well. All this, I believe, created a cycle – one of large but poor-quality production, followed by intensive winemaking techniques. The result – wines that smelled and tasted of new oak, lees, and malolactic fermentation, but showed little definition beyond the winemaking.
But that all is changing. First, as we all know, Meursault isn’t “cheap” by any stretch of the budget. Second, and more importantly, producers have started moving up the slope, searching for poorer soils and site specific terroirs. Our example today fits this trend:
Les Casse Tetes sits above premier cru Les Gouttes d’Or and next to Le Tesson. It is an area which has not traditionally seen commercial production because it is too hard to farm. The name itself apparently implies “broken head” is what I have learned from the locals. So named because of the intense amount of rock in the soil – when you plow it the rocks break your machine. (The other story I heard is that it’s so hard to farm it breaks your head because it’s so annoying). This soil produces a wine with very high natural acidity and mineral depth. And usually, it’s never released – the Lafouges produce only five or six barrels in good years, one or two in tough years. But the results are well worth it:
Here there are beautiful aromas of wet stone, yellow pear, a delicate touch of garden herbs and vivid freshness. The palate is crystalline, and chalky with wonderful textural depth. Yes, there is a touch of nuttiness on the palate – Marcona almonds – but it’s the stony acidity and saline lift and energy that make this wine so dynamic. It is highly drinkable now, but just a baby, and is guaranteed to age a decade or more in your cellar.
This precious gem of a wine came to us nearly direct, making it an exceptional bargain as well. We didn’t get much, so snap it up while you can!
“The 2017 Meursault “Casse Têtes” from Domaine Lafouge is also excellent on both the nose and palate. The bouquet delivers a classic blend of pear, apple, passion fruit, hazelnut, chalky soil tones, spring flowers and vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and a bit more reserved today than the Meix Chavaux, with a fine core, lovely focus and cut and impressive lift on the long and nascently complex finish. This too is excellent. 2021-2040+” – John Gilman, View from the Cellar
“The 2017 Meursault Les Casses-Têtes opens in the glass with a lovely bouquet of green pear, hazelnuts, Meyer lemon and citrus blossom, followed by a medium to full-bodied, satiny-textured palate that displays excellent concentration, cut and tension but also boasts a fleshy core of expressive fruit. Its combination of charm with underlying structure mean that it will offer a broad drinking window. As I wrote late last year, Domaine Jean et Gilles Lafouge produces a range of impressively consistent and compelling wines from some ten hectares spread across the appellations of Auxey-Duresses, Meursault and Pommard, and it numbers among my favorite insider domaines in Burgundy. Old vines, cultivated soils and classical winemaking are the rudiments of Gilles Lafouge’s recipe for success. The clean and organized cuverie and cellar immediately communicate a sense of dedication and attention to detail that comes across just as strongly in the glass. Their range of Auxey-Duresses red and white wines demonstrate what these terroirs can deliver when given the same treatment as more glamorous appellations, and they develop beautifully in bottle.” – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate