Pierre-Henri Rougeot at Domaine Rougeot in Meursault.

n 2016 Domaine Rougeot in Meursault decided to make a clean break. After two decades of selling their wine to French supermarkets they chose to stop, a move which cost them 85 per cent of their market in a single stroke.

– We were badly hit by the frost that year, says Pierre-Henri Rougeot. So we decided to turn that, which was a big problem, into something positive. We completely stopped the supermarket sales. In terms of volume 2016 was ridiculously small. Not much space was needed for it, so we decided to keep in the cellar. The prices in that part of the market did not allow us to make wine of the quality we wanted.

View over Meursault, Burgundy.They took their first steps towards organic certification in 2012. After some trials the whole domaine went organic in 2017. The first certified vintage will be 2020.

– We refuse to add artificial yeasts, continues Pierre-Henri Rougeot. We don’t use any sulphur during the vinification or the main part of the ageing. We try to work with as little intervention as possible. For the reds we only do pigeage two or three times during fermentation. For the whites we use no bentonite and no sulphur. We press and put the juice directly in barrels for fermentation, with a maximum of lees. Since 2015 we have increased the ageing. It is now 18-20 months, depending on the cuvée.

The town hall in Meursault, Burgundy.It was during the 1960s and the 1970s that Domaine Rougeot took on its current form. Pierre-Henri Rougeot’s grandfather, Hubert Rougeot, had taken on the domaine after his father. He bought vineyards in Volnay and Pommard, while his brother bought some Meursault premier cru Charmes and Monthelie.

– Already my great-grandfather was bottling his wine. Before that I don’t know. But my great-grandfather, Henri Rougeot, was a pretty good winemaker, which was not really the case with my grandfather. He was more focused on production. He was man who had had many challenges in his life. He was the father of six children. He was mayor of Meursault for 25 years. He created a road construction company, which is now run by an uncle of mine and has 400 employees. He was not a winemaker, but a good grower.

In addition to all that he was also in charge for the vineyards at the Château de Meursault, some 50 hectares in total.

Pierre-Henri Rougeot at Domaine Rougeot in Meursault.– I went to the Lycée Viticole in Beaune for two years, says Pierre-Henri Rougeot. My first job was not at Domaine Rougeot. It was at Domaine de Montille, where I worked for one year. First with vinification, then in the vineyards. I learnt a lot there. After that I worked for wine retailers and wine exporters. For the past ten years I have also worked for a cooper, selling barrels.

– My father has always told me to get experience from other places, see how the world works, and bring back new ideas. My first vinification here was in 2010. My father works in the vineyards and he is managing the domaine. I began helping him with the vinification, because it is not his favourite thing. He saw that I really love it.

Just behind the winery, protected by the garden walls, is the Clos des Six Ouvrées. As the name suggests this is a vineyard covering six ouvrées, which is the Burgundian equivalent of 0.2568 hectare. It used to be seven ouvrées, but Pierre-Henri’s father Marc decided to uproot two rows and plant trees instead. The vines are all chardonnay.

View over Pommard, Burgundy.– A long time ago this house was owned by the Hospices de Beaune, says Pierre-Henri Rougeot. This is where their fruit production was. The clos was planted with fruit trees. 40 years ago the trees were cut down and vines planted instead. Even if it is in the middle of Meursault it is not classified as such. It is just regional appellation, Bourgogne. The reason is that it was not planted with vines before.

Further south, but still within the commune of Meursault, is Les Grandes Gouttes, another regional appellation vineyard of the domaine. This is bordering on Puligny-Montrachet.

– It is 400 metres below Meursault Charmes. It is a wine which has more length and balance than the Clos des Six Ouvrées. It is aged for 20 months and there is no new oak. We generally do not use much new oak for the whites. The maximum is for our Meursault Charmes where we use one new barrel out of six (16%).

The church in Pommard, Burgundy.The vineyards of Domaine Rougeot are located in and around Meursault. In total there are 13 hectares, with 60 per cent in red and 40 per cent in white. The white Monthelie from Les Toisières, a vineyard just across from Meursault was for a long time the problem child of the domaine. It is just 30 metres from village appellation Meursault vineyards and it was originally planted with pinot noir.

– My father was not happy with the red. The soil contains a lot of limestone and looks very much like the Meursault soil. So we replanted it with chardonnay. But the first vintage was not convincing. In fact, it took 15 years before we were happy with it. We had a lot of problems with pre-ox during ageing and the balance in the wine was missing. Going organic helped a lot and today this wine is stable.

The Sous la Velle, village appellation Meursault, used to be the Domaine Rougeot’s largest cuvée. Recently it has been split into two, with one cuvée made without any sulphur. Sous la Velle is a completely flat vineyard just below the village.

– We have six parcels in Sous la Velle, says Pierre-Henri Rougeot. Three in front of the Château de Meursault and three parcels on the Puligny-Montrachet side. The two sides of Sous la Velle do not have the same expression. The former is classic Meursault with exotic fruits. The latter is more refreshing with a bit more acidity.

Place de l'Hôtel de ville, Meursault, Burgundy.The Meursault premier cru Charmes comes from 60-year-old vines. Domaine Rougeot has two small parcels at the bottom of Charmes.

For the reds Domaine Rougeot use 100 per cent whole bunches. There is a short maceration, but no cold maceration. Fermentation lasts for two to two and a half weeks. There are three regional appellation reds – one Bourgogne Passetoutgrain and two Bourgognes – all from vineyards in Meursault. Further up the hierarchy there is a village appellation Pommard, Clos des Roses, and a Volnay premier cru, Santenots.

– Our Santenots comes from the bottom part, says Pierre-Henri Rougeot. It’s pretty much in the middle of Santenots-Dessous. The soil is rich. Lots of clay. There are two parcels. One where the vines are 60 years old and one where they are 40 years old.

In 2017 Pierre-Henri Rougeot set up a small négociant business. Quantities are small, just 3000 bottles. Part of the grapes comes the family domaine, part from other domaines.

– At the domaine we have a lot of white wine, but not that much red, says Pierre-Henri Rougeot. I am really fascinated by red wine, so I wanted to be able to get some grapes from the Côte de Nuits for example. The plan was to stop selling Domaine Rougeot grapes to négociants. We still sell about 20 per cent, but it is becoming less and less. We wanted to keep some so we could exchange grapes with friends, which is the case with the Gevrey-Chambertin, En Reniard. The Pommard and the Santenots come the domaine, but are made with my equipment.

© 2019 Ola Bergman