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12.11.2010

Domaine Buisson-Battault, Meursault, France: Current Releases and Library Wines

buisson-battault_label.jpgPart of the charm of Burgundy has to do with the context of many of the wineries and their cellars. Rather than the grand Chateaux with long driveways between rows of trees and vines (though Burgundy has a few of these) more often than not, you simply round the corner of a narrow street in a small village, walk through a wrought iron gate into a gravel driveway, into a garage with a few steel tanks, and then down a set of stairs attached to a normal looking stone house, into a 16th century vaulted brick cellar (most recently used as a mustard factory in the 19th century) with a few dozen barrels of wine.

I love the tightness of the integration (or even lack of any distinction) between home life and wine life that is evidenced by the small vignerons of Burgundy.

When I visited the amiable François Buisson and his wife Frédérique at their home in Meursault, I smiled as I found myself weaving between a mix of household storage boxes and pallets of wine bottles on my way into the garage and stepping around children's bicycles on my way down into the cellar of their small domaine, named Buisson-Battault.

François Buisson's mother was born in Pommard, but on his father's side, he has deep roots in Meursault, where his father, and grandfather have made wine from their roughly 18 acres of grapes for a long time. As is typical for the region, those 19.2 acres are spread across 20 different parcels in 13 different "climats" or sub regions within Meursault, Pommard, and Puligny-Montrachet. The majority of the family's holdings are small lots of Premier Cru vineyards in and around the village of Meursault. Their most notable holding is their 3.9 acres of the Premier Cru Gouttes d'Or vineyard, in which they are the largest landowner and produce roughly thirty percent of the wine from that vineyard.

Buisson is quite proud of the fact that, according to him, his vineyard holdings have only ever had chemical herbicides or pesticides applied three times since the end of World War II, and never since he has been solely responsible for the vineyards starting in 1991. He claims to work the vineyards organically, with the pointed exception that he uses much less copper sulfate than is allowed under the strictures of Agriculture Biologique, the French certifying body. Because of his belief that copper, as a metal, lingers in the soil for a long time, he would prefer to use a little bit of synthetic chemical on occasion (forbidden under AB certification) in order to reduce his overall copper usage by 30-40% from what he would have to use if it were his sole remedy.

The other point of pride for Buisson is the investment he has made in equipment in the last 10 years. Not unlike some other sons taking over from their fathers in Burgundy that I met, Buisson used his long awaited autonomy to "modernize" certain aspects of his production, most notably through the addition of a modern sorting table, destemmer, and crusher. Interestingly, despite these modernizations (which are really the only things that look modern in his cellar) Buisson's goal for his winemaking is simple: he wants to make the kind of wine that his father made in 1960. In addition to the work in the vineyards, this includes eschewing new oak in the wine. Even in his best parcels of Premier Cru Meursault, Buisson uses no more than 20% new oak.

Buisson, as best I can tell, is an incredibly earnest guy, who takes winemaking much more seriously than he takes himself. After about twenty-five years of making wine, he humbly feels like he's improving, and while I did not get a comprehensive insight into his wines, I tasted enough to think that he may be right, though the wines from Buisson-Battault have clearly been good for a long time.

Buisson-Battault makes a total of about 2500 cases of wine each year. Just a few barrels of this, and a few barrels of that. More than 60% of the wine never leaves France, and only a minuscule amount of it has gotten to the States in the past (though at fairly reasonable prices). The last vintage brought in was the 2005 vintage, and Buisson is currently searching for a new importer to access the U.S. market again. I certainly hope he finds one, as his wines are worth any attention.

In addition to being quite an affable chap, Buisson was incredibly generous to open up his cellar to share quite a deep history of his wines with me, including one of his grandfather's 1930 Pommards, which he brought with him to La Paulee, and which was one of the highlights of my luncheon there.

TASTING NOTES:

2009 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Limouzin," Burgundy, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of honey and apples with hints of candle wax. In the mouth the wine offers lean lemon and bright mineral flavors, crackling acidity and a finish laced with tangerine rind. Tasted out of tank, just prior to bottling. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

2009 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Charmes 1er Cru" Burgundy, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of paraffin, wet wood, and wet slate. In the mouth the wine explodes with lemon zest and a somewhat austere mineral quality. Great zingy acidity and a long slightly floral finish. Tasted out of tank, just prior to bottling. Score: around 9

2009 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Genevrières 1er Cru" Burgundy, France
Pale green gold in the glass, this wine has a wonderful nose of nose of chamomile, lemon zest, and wet stones. In the mouth it is crystalline with mineral and bright lemon flavors that linger through a long finish. Tasted out of tank, just prior to bottling. Score: around 9.

2009 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Les Gouttes d'Or 1er Cru" Burgundy, France
Pale gold in color, this wine has a strong nose of bright lemon and candied lemon peel aromas. In the mouth it explodes with electric lemon and shimmering acidity and a wonderful rainwater clarity that turns floral through a very long finish. Excellent. Tasted out of tank, just prior to bottling. Score: between 9 and 9.5

2009 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Le Porusot 1er Cru" Burgundy, France
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine has a wonderfully chamomile and piney set of aromas on the nose. In the mouth the wine offers lemon zest and almost metallic wet stone flavors with a hint of wet wool. The finish is long and tart and flavored with lemon rind. Tasted out of tank, just prior to bottling. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2008 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Limouzin," Burgundy, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a slightly piney smell that is almost savory amidst the bright lemon aromas. In the mouth the wine explodes with a pure lemon brightness and mouthwatering juiciness. A crystalline minerality pervades the wine and lingers with lemon zest on the finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2008 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Charmes 1er Cru" Burgundy, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of bright lemon zest and hints of pine sap. In the mouth the wine offers juicy, crackling flavors of lemon and pineapple that linger with other tropical notes in the finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2008 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Genevrières 1er Cru" Burgundy, France
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of lemon and pineapple juice. In the mouth it offers a fantastic melange of lemon essence, lemongrass, and wet stone minerality that is quite compelling. Extremely fine and delicate while at the same time making the mouth water, the wine seems finely etched by its acidity. Long finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2008 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Les Gouttes d'Or 1er Cru" Burgundy, France
Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a somewhat creamy nose of apple and lemon aromas. In the mouth the wine offers fantastically bright lemon and lemon zest flavors with a pine-sap edge to them that starts the mouth watering for more after the first swallow. With a strong mineral backbone, this wine has an incredible length. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2008 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Le Porusot 1er Cru" Burgundy, France
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of wet stones and lemon candy. In the mouth the wine has a wonderfully saline savory quality along with lemon and wet stones. This saltiness makes for a mouthwatering, long finish. Score: around 9.

2007 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Genevrières 1er Cru" Burgundy, France
Pale green gold in the glass, this wine has nose of lemon and grassy aromas. On the tongue the wine is strikingly mineral, with wet granite and wet slate flavors mixed with high notes of lemon and lemon zest, but the lingering flavor in the finish is stony. Score: around 9.

2007 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Limouzin," Burgundy, France
Light greenish gold in color, this wine has a nose of bright lime and wet stone aromas. In the mouth taut, tart lime and wet stone flavors course across the palate with nice lift and liveliness due to great acidity. Long finish. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

2007 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Le Porusot 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Pale green gold in the glass, this wine has a wonderfully floral nose of wet slate and white flower aromas. In the mouth the breeze of white flowers continues coupled with flavors of lime and deep wet stones. The long, bright finish is characterized by strong lime zest flavors. Delicate and delicious. Score: between 9 and 9.5

2007 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Les Gouttes d'Or 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of lime juice and white flowers. In the mouth the wine is bright and zingy with acidity that buoys flavors of steel, lime zest, and white flowers through a long finish. Score: around 9.

2006 Buisson-Battault Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France
Light yellow-gold in color, this wine has a stony nose of white flowers and granite. In the mouth it is exceedingly lemony, with mouth puckering lemon juice and rainwater flavors. Beautifully balanced the wine lingers in a very long finish that has a wonderful faint sweetness to it after some time. Score: around 9.

2006 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Les Gouttes d'Or 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Light gold in color, this wine smells of lemon rind and wet stone. In the mouth the wine offers flavors of toasted nuts, candied lemon and a hint of yeastiness that lingers through the finish. Score: around 8.5.

2003 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Les Gouttes d'Or 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of ripe sweet apples and white flowers. In the mouth it offers flavors of honey, apples, wet stone, and ripe lemon fruit. Slightly lower in acidity the wine gives an overall impression of ripeness, which is expected for one of the hottest summers in decades. Score: around 8.5.

2000 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Les Gouttes d'Or 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Pale gold in color, this wine has a wonderfully bright nose of lemon and grapefruit aromas. In the mouth the wine has a strong crystalline and mineral character with lime zest and pink grapefruit flavors that linger through a long finish. Excellent, mouthwatering acidity. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

1997 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Genevriers 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of clover honey, toasted nuts, and lemon rind. In the mouth the wine has a beautiful complexion of lemon rind, wet stones, a tiny hint of vanilla, and the pinyness that aged Meursault tends to get. Wonderfully balanced with nice acidity, this wine lingers long in the finish. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

1996 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Le Porusot 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Light greenish gold in color (looking remarkably youthful for its age), this wine smells of white flowers and wet stones. In the mouth it is brightly mineral and dry, with flavors of lemon, white flowers, wet stones and pine sap. Moderate finish. Score: around 9.

1990 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Charmes 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Light yellow in the glass, this wine has a wonderfully honeyed nose of lemon curd and pine sap. In the mouth the wine is bright and crystalline, with excellent acidity that makes flavors of wet stone, unripe pear, and candied lemon peel quite lively. The finish is long and quite mineral. Score: between 9 and 9.5

1986 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Le Porusot 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Pale gold in color, this wine has a nose of nutty, honeyed, old parchment aromas. In the mouth flavors of parchment, lemon zest, and wet stones linger for a long time through a lightly vanilla scented finish. Quite delicious for being 24 years old and from what was at the time one of the worst vintages in decades. Score: around 9.

1976 Buisson-Battault Meursault "Genevrières 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Medium gold in color, this wine has a heady nose of pine sap and lemon rind aromas. In the mouth the wine fills the mouth with fantastic texture and beautifully swirling flavors of roasted nuts, marzipan, wet stone and lemon curd. Great acidity makes the finish linger long with lemon and wet stone flavors. Outstanding, and the perfect embodiment of the promise that great white burgundies make to those with the patience to cellar them to (or the guts to buy them at) this kind of age. Score: around 9.5.

1973 Buisson-Battault Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy, France
Light gold in the glass, this wine has an electrifying nose of roasted salty nuts, vanilla, and the pine sap quality that I love in old white Burgundy. In the mouth the wine offers the emotional equivalent of the first rays of sun in a mountain forest. Flavors of marzipan, vanilla, sweet white flowers, and candied lemon peel swirl with a fantastic faint undertone of rainwater. Vanilla and honey roasted nut flavors linger in a finish that lasts for minutes. Outrageously good, and impossible to spit out. Score: between 9.5 and 10.

1943 Buisson-Battault Pommard "Les Rugiens 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Pale orange-red in color, this wine has a remarkably sweet aroma, with hints of leather and spruce. In the mouth faint raspberry fruit is clearly fading, to be replaced with flavors of leather and rainwater. This is not a great bottle, according to winemaker Francois Buisson, who has opened a couple of these wines in the past few years. It should be showing more vibrant and alive -- as it was, it tasted over the hill and quite declined. Score: around 7.5.

1930 Buisson-Battault Pommard "Les Rugiens 1er Cru," Burgundy, France
Pale ruby in the glass with orange highlights this wine has an incredible nose of pine sap, what I can only describe as an animal musk, and orange oil aromas. In the mouth the texture is incredible, at once both silky and lacy, as if the whole wine was made up of a fine skein of flavors whose microscopic threads you could feel brushing across the tongue. If you could somehow vaporize pure raspberry and raspberry leaf essence and then suspend it in a tiny cloud in your mouth while kicking your way through the dark wet pine duff in a forest, you could approximate one of the core flavor sensations of this wine. The wine has a crystalline, resonant quality that somehow manages to coexist with a creamy, coffee-with-milk aspect that lingers through a minutes-long finish. Utterly compelling and a wine that I was incredibly lucky to taste as there are only a couple in existence from this tiny family producer. Score: between 9.5 and 10.

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