t's not a revolution, it's just an evolution.
Together with his wife Pascale Thierry Matrot is the third generation at Domaine Matrot in Meursault. He feels that the spirit has remained very much the same here throughout the years. Technology has made things easier, but the winemaking philosophy has changed very little.
– The vinification is about the same, Thierry Matrot explains. I don't use new oak for the village wines and the premiers crus. I try to work with the terroir; I try to keep the character of each vintage. And my father worked in the same way.
You'll find Domaine Matrot just a block or two behind the church in Meursault, where Rue de Martray leads down to Place de l'Europe. The vines of the domaine cover 19 hectares in five villages, from regional appellations up to several premiers crus both in Meursault and in neighbouring Puligny-Montrachet. Three quarters of the production is white and about 60 percent is destined for the export market.
Thierry Matrot's grandfather – Joseph Matrot, born in 1881 – lived at the Château d'Evelle in the Hautes-Côtes. He had some vines in Puligny-Montrachet and in Blagny. In 1904 he married Marguerite Amoignon, who brought vines in Meursault. Ten years later they moved to Meursault, to the house where you'll find Domaine Matrot today. In the early days the domaine was split between wine and other crops.
– It was before World War I, Thierry Matrot says. Monoculture didn't exist here then. From World War I to the mechanisation you had to grow food for the horses at the domaine. The primary activity was the wine. We kept horses until 1959 and until then we had ten hectares of various other crops. It was the way it was for everyone.
Pierre Matrot, the son of Joseph and Marguerite, was born in 1923. He extended the domaine further and was in his turn joined by Thierry in 1976.
– I did my first vinification without my father in 1986, says Thierry Matrot. Oenology is a new science, about 50 years. Before that you just pressed the grapes. The fermentation was natural. Everything was natural. Most of the time it worked. Sometimes it didn't.
– Today there are two kinds of winemakers. You have the oenologists who want to control everything; use chemicals, cool the grapes, cool the must, use yeasts, use bacteria, everything. The other school is observation. You follow the vines. You follow the grapes and you try to make something very natural out of them.
– My father's generation didn't have a choice. Neither did my grandfather. I learnt oenology at school and I worked with my father who taught me to observe.
Thierry Matrot talks passionately about his winemaking philosophy. The idea of trying to make the same wine all the time definitely doesn't appeal to him.
– I don't like that kind of wine, he says. I like each vintage to be different, each appellation to be different.
Domaine Matrot is one of the few to produce a Blagny premier cru La Piece sous le Bois. This is one of Burgundy's little peculiarities. Blagny itself is a hamlet upslope between Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. If the climat in question is planted with pinot noir it makes Blagny premier cru La Piece sous le Bois; if planted with chardonnay it makes Meursault premier cru Blagny.
– There used to be eight of us that made Blagny premier cru La Piece sous le Bois, explains Thierry Matrot. But three replanted with chardonnay, so we are only five left.
– I have two favourite wines here at the domaine, he continues. Among the whites it's the Meursault Perrières because it's the best of Meursault. Among the reds it's the Blagny. I like the Volnay, Santenots, but you can find other elegant Volnay wines with the same character. The Blagny has a very special character.
– For me the Meursault, Charmes, is very rich, but just creamy, round and fat. With the Perrières you have elegance, full body and richness in the same wine. I like wines with a nice minerality. If you compare the Meursault, Blagny, with the Meursault, Perrières, the minerality of the Blagny is very strong. I like it, especially with spicy food or something like oysters. In the Perrières the minerality is very delicate; it supports the elegance of the fruit and the finesse of the terroir. For me Perrières could easily be a grand cru.
The domaine's white Meursault village is a blend of eleven different parcels from around the village; like Le Limozin and Les Pelles downslope of the premiers crus, Les Vireuils and Les Chevalières up behind the village towards Auxey-Duresses and a couple of clos inside the village of Meursault.
– Take a parcel like Le Clos, which is just near the estate. The grapes are always very ripe here, because of the wall and inside the village you have no wind. 20 years ago I tried to vinify it separately, but it became too fat, it was not enough minerality. And if you vinify Les Chevalières separately it becomes too mineral. It's a good wine to keep, but it's not what the clients want from a Meursault village. To get the best result you have to blend.
Along the years he has been doing a lot of experimenting, especially with the white wines. He has been trying many different kinds of oak, different lengths of fermentation etc.
– I don't like new oak, I'm sure about that now, he smiles.
For the reds he points out the single most important thing, something he learnt from his father. In order to make good pinot noir low yields are essential.
– You can make a very good white wine with the chardonnay at 50 hl/ha, like in 1999. But with pinot noir – above 40 hl/ha you can forget the terroir, forget the character of the wine. You can make a decent wine, but there will not be great quality.
When he looks at Burgundy as a whole he is optimistic.
– Compared to 30 years ago there is much more good wine today, he says. If you look at Meursault you have a new generation – 25- to 35-year old – that do a very good job. The styles are very different. Some are very exotic with much new oak. Some are like me without new oak. The quality level is going up.
© 2009 Ola Bergman