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2011 Meursault, Les Charmes, 1er Cru, Olivier Bernstein
In a very short space of time Olivier Bernstein has established himself as a new star in Burgundy, receiving superb press notices from his very first vintage, 2007 from both Jancis Robinson and Allen Meadows among others.
The range focuses on six grands crus from the Côte de Nuits: a trio from Gevrey-Chambertin, specifically Charmes-Chambertin, Mazis-Chambertin and Chambertin Clos de Bèze; along with Clos de Vougeot, Bonnes Mares and Clos de la Roche. These are supported by three 1ers crus, three white wines and a single village cuvee from Gevrey-Chambertin. Naturally, production of each wine is tiny, considering the low yields coming from old vines.
Bernstein comes from a family of music publishers, but left a promising corporate career to study oenology in Beaune. After working harvest at Domaine Rouget, which enabled him to meet the late Henri Jayer, during the 2002 vintage, he moved to Roussillon to found his own Domaine, Mas de la Deveze. He returned in Burgundy in 2007 to establish a négociant business.
Since then, Olivier has managed to get close to his vineyard sources. He now manages the vineyard work for all but one of his sources and – a wonderful opportunity – has managed to buy two of the vineyards he has worked with since the start: Gevrey-Chambertin Les Champeaux and Mazis Chambertin. It is rare for grand cru vineyards to change hands so this is a major coup.
These vineyards follow the common thread of old vines – more than 80 years old in the case of the Mazis – which enables Olivier to work with excellent raw material. During vinification the wines are very lightly handled, with a good proportion of stems included to maintain a lively thread throughout, while the barrels are made to order by master cooper Stéphane Chassin, who comes to taste the new vintage before deciding what type of toasting will suit each individual wine. The 1er and grand cru wines are matured in new wood from the start. This takes place in the new Bernstein headquarters, some marvellous reconditioned old cellars in the heart of Beaune.
Jasper Morris MW, Burgundy Wine Director and author of the award-winning Inside Burgundy comprehensive handbook
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
There are more top producers in Meursault than in any other commune of the Côte d’Or. Certainly it is the most famous and popular of the great white appellations. Its wines are typically rich and savoury with nutty, honeyed hints and buttery, vanilla spice from the oak.Even though it is considerably larger than its southerly neighbours Chassagne and Puligny, Meursault contains no Grands Crus. Its three best Premiers Crus, however – Les Perrières, Les Genevrières and Les Charmes – produce some of the region’s greatest whites: they are full, round and powerful, and age very well. Les Perrières in particular can produce wines of Grand Cru quality, a fact that is often reflected in its price. Meursault has also been one of the driving forces of biodynamic viticulture in the region, as pioneered by Lafon and Leflaive.
Many of the vineyards below Premier Cru, known as ‘village’ wines, are also well worth looking at. The growers vinify their different vineyard holdings separately, which rarely happens in Puligny or Chassagne. Such wines can be labelled with the ‘lieu-dit’ vineyard alongside (although in smaller type to) the Meursault name.
Premier Cru Meursault should be enjoyed from five to 15 years of age, although top examples can last even longer. Village wines, meanwhile, are normally at their best from three to 10 years.
Very occasionally, red Meursault is produced with some fine, firm results. The best red Pinot Noir terroir, Les Santenots, is afforded the courtesy title of Volnay Santenots, even though it is actually in Meursault.
- 305 hectares of village Meursault. The best vineyards include Clos de la Barre, Tesson, Chevalières, Rougeot, Narvaux
- 132 hectares of Premier Cru vineyards (17 in all). The finest vineyards include Les Perrières, Les Genevrières and Les Charmes
- Recommended producers: Comte Lafon, Arnaud Ente, Coche Dury, Guy Roulot, Jean-Philippe Fichet, Patrick Javillier, François Jobard, Michel Bouzereau
- Recommended restaurant: Le Chevreuil