Burgundy winemaker Thierry Matrot talks to Clive Platman about a vital ingredient in the process – the soil itself.
Meursault winemaker Thierry Matrot is a man of the soil.
Immersed in the concept of terroir, he is vehemently opposed to the technical wines of the New World, where grapes can be sourced from any location, given the appropriate oak treatment and then labelled “Chardonnay.”
His wines must display their origins. Meursault should taste different to its near-neighbour, Puligny-Montrachet. “Meursault is more honeyed and creamy, whereas Puligny is more minerally.”
Winemaking has been in Matrot’s family for a number of generations and he farms two estates comprising 19 hectares which, by Burgundian standards, is large. Located in the Côte de Beaune, about 75 per cent of his output is white, the balance being red.
The easy part to understand is that all his whites are from chardonnay grapes and reds from pinot noir. The complex part is that Thierry has the capacity to produce wines under 16 AOC labels. His best “village” wines are sourced from the slopes, whereas the basic AOC wines are located in the plain below.
Fundamental to the quality of the wine is the orientation of the vineyard, with the best slopes facing south-east. Care in the vineyard is essential and the winemaker favours a natural organic approach.
In 1997, Matrot abandoned the common practice of chapitalisation (adding sugar to the must to boost alcohol levels). In part, this may be explained by strict yield management, but also by the onset of climate-change, where warmer temperatures increase the ripeness level of the fruit.
Within his winery, Matrot’s practice is non-interventionist, to preserve the character of each individual vintage. Natural yeasts initiate the fermentation and there is minimal use of sulphur.
Apart from his entry-level AOC chardonnay, only used barrels are permitted as these have a less pronounced effect on the wine’s character.
Matrot himself recently paid a flying visit to Connollys in Livery Street, Birmingham, to show off a selection of his current range and he began with his entry-level Bourgogne Chardonnay 2008 (£13.28). This, for him, is not a wine with “village” character, so he has no qualms about using new barrels to age part of the blend. The result is peachy ripe fruit, retaining a solid spine of acidity, a wine that is essentially made to be drunk young.
His Meursault Villages 2008 (£33.49) is from 11 different parcels and blended to achieve character. There was minerality and structure, overlaid with cream and a hint of butterscotch, finishing superbly.
At a higher level still was his Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes 2008 (£65) from one of his finest vineyard parcels. Here, Matrot ferments the wine in used oak barrels to achieve more oxidation and prolong the life of the wine. His advice was that “you cannot make a great wine at the time of bottling, as it should be allowed to age before it becomes great.”
Matrot says: “Too many winemakers attempt to make a wine ready to drink too young, but this involves the introduction of bad winemaking practices.”
His Les Combettes was certainly amazing, with notes of honey, peach and cream, with great complexity. It’s still a mere infant.
We then compared two 2006 Meursaults. The first, a Blagny 1er Cru (£42.50), was ripe, creamy and round, and the second, a Charmes 1er Cru (£46.49), had a bigger expression. In contrast, his Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru, Chalumeaux 2006 was more delicate and charming, with aromas of white flowers, acacia and honey.
There are some winemakers who excel with their whites and some with their reds, but seldom both. Matrot is the exception and he makes a superb Blagny “La Piece sous le Bois” 2004 (£29.99). It is from select parcels of pinot noir which thrive between Puligny and Meursault, two white AOCs. With flavours of violets, black cherry and blackberry, the wine was utterly delicious.
Make no mistake, Thierry Matrot is an exceptional talent and full credit should go to Chris Connolly and his team for hosting such an event.
* For further information on Matrot wines or future tastings, telephone 0121 236 9269, or email: email@example.com