J and I had one last appointment at the end of day two in Burgundy, at the tasting rooms of Meursault star François Mikulski, where we were also to meet J's old high school friend C, who now works for Kermit Lynch in Beaune. Night had already fallen. I remember not knowing whose silhouette was greeting us, when J and I parked in Mikulski's lot beside the RN74, and it not becoming clear until some minutes later when we bumbled into the brightly lit shipping area and encountered a few smiling couples.
There was a German couple, longtime customers of Mikulski's, and a French couple, who were neighbors in Meursault. Then there was C and his wife L, and a young American student of hers. It was shaping up to be a crowded visit. My expectations weren't stratospheric.
But soon the French couple unveiled some delicious home-baked cheese loaf they had brought (what the hell was it called?), and it turned out C and L had just returned from Corsica bearing numerous dark reptilian-looking charcuterie crusted with herbs, which they installed on a central barrel-top. I could ascribe it to some magic inherent in Mikulski's wines, which can be magical enough, but the buoyant atmosphere that prevailed throughout the hour-plus tasting seemed rather the result of just a dice-roll of nice guests. (Then again, good hosts always make one feel that way.)
Preliminary web research shows there's no need for a long introduction of François Mikulksi on this blog. He's a comprehensively publicised vigneron, something that's surely due in the main to charm and winemaking skill, but also probably to do with the discreet joy we all feel when seeing a relative outsider succeed in Burgundy. (See Walker, Ray for a very recent example.) Mikulski is half-Polish half-French, the son of a WWII hero, raised in Brussels with summers in Burgundy, studied winemaking at Grands Champs, worked in wine in California and Washington before returning to Meursault to make wine with his maternal uncle (a Boillot, but not one of the famous ones), and eventually, in 1992, establishing his own winery.
Mikulski's vineyards now totals 9ha, all rented, some from the uncle of his wife, Marie-Pierre. (One key to successfully making wine in Burgundy appears to be uncles, having good ones.) The Mikulskis produce a fairly wide range of wines, including six 1er cru Meursaults, all emblazoned with Mikulski's distinctive new-worldy labels.
We tasted extensively from the 2010's in barrel, and later compared them with a smattering of previous vintages in bottle. Given that it was the end of the day and we all had our mouths intermittently stuffed with Corsican sausage and cheese-loaf, it was a surprisingly educational tasting, offering numerous opportunites to cross-reference features of vintage and vineyard site. Some predictable highlights:
Meursault 1er cru "Goutes d'Or" 2010
Mikulski's smallest-production wine, of which even less than usual was produced in 2010. (Three barrels, instead of the usual five.) It struck me, among the rest of the crus we tasted, as being somewhat softer-focus, more mysterious, like something occurring behind matte-glass, or a song with the reverb they tend use on Christine McVie's voice.
Meursault 1er Cru "Genevrières" 2010 & 2008
In Mikulski's hands this cru shows what I can only describe as a marked aerial lift - a kinetic upward lilt to the flavors of pineapple, cucumber, and lime. The 2008 performed the same trick, only in a more calm, controlled manner. Both were acrobatically great.
I remain a little underwhelmed by Mikulski's reds, with which we started and ended the tasting. J is a great fan of the Bourgogne Rouge, and numerous other friends have enthused to me about the old-vine Passetoutgrains, but both wines occupy an innocous market segment, bland baby Burgundy, that almost never appeals to me because more characterful reds of similar weight can always be found for less cost in Beaujolais and the Jura. The Bourgogne rouges that do move me tend to be a bit wilder and less predictable, such as the one Julien Altaber's been producing in St. Romain for a few years.
Mikulski's Volnay and his unsual Meursault rouge are more successful, and not just because they're more expensive wines. These are red wines in which Mikulski's characteristic precision-driven style - on fine display in all the whites - pays off, because the details of terroir are there to be revealed. With his entry range, it's like someone has painstakingly restored a blank canvas, revealing more blankness.* With these sorts of wines, a little bretty chaos would not be so unwelcome, since it reads as complexity. (I'm sure someone can extrapolate a send-up of the entire natural wine world from this reasoning. Not me.)
Still. It's a singularly gratifying experience for a wine afficionado, at the end of a tasting, to feel as though he or she has begun to grasp the essential character of a cru or lieu-dit, the tiny cluster of adjectives that suddenly takes on greater weight as it begins to cohere with a formerly gnomic word likes "Genevrières" or "Goutte d'Or." To get that the one is high-toned and lightly tropical, and the other has buffed edges and a faint waxiness amid the silky chardonnay fruit, and to understand that descriptions like these have meaning chiefly in relation to each other. It's the clarity and professionalism of Mikulski's wines that makes them terrific educational aids in this respect, an honest index to the terroir of Meursault.
* My tasting note for one of these wines reads simply, "beige."
Tel: 03 80 21 25 11
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Comte Senard, Aloxe-Corton
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Alain Burguet, Gevrey-Chambertin
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Le Bar à Vins, Gevrey-Chambertin
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Gros Frère et Soeur, Vosne-Romanée
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Denis Bachelet, Gevrey-Chambertin
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Bar du Square, Beaune
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Ma Cuisine, Beaune
N.D.P. in Burgundy: Domaine Bertrand Machard de Gramont, Curtil-Vergy
Some 2011 harvest footage featuring François Mikulski @ L'ActuduVin
Some brief 2010 thoughts on François Mikulski @ KimmeridianThoughts
A 2007 interview with François Mikulski @ Bergman'sBourgogne
A profile of François Mikulski @ L'Imperatrice
An exhaustive profile of François Mikulski @ SarahMarshMW
A profile of François Mikulski @ MichaelSkurnik
A profile of François Mikulski @ LeSerbet
A profile of François Mikulski @ AndrewGuard