Top Meursault producer, Dominique Lafon of Domaine des Comtes Lafon has ventured out from the ethereal heights of his family domaine in the Cote d'Or to the more humble Burgundian wine region of Macon. In late August, his new family company -- Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon, which was created for new acquisitions -- purchased Domaine Janine Emanuel, spending just over $1.1 million for the 19 acres under vine.
"I have known the Macon region for a very long time, and I believe there is a great potential here that needs to be exploited. In the Cote d'Or, there is very little left to develop," said Lafon, winemaker and co-owner of Domaine des Comtes Lafon.
Between 1981 and 1986, before Lafon started to work at the family domaine in Meursault, he worked in Macon with Becky Hone-Wasserman, who owns the Le Serbet negociant firm based in Beaune. He also learned a lot about the region from a longtime winemaker friend, Olivier Merlin of Domaine du Vieux St.-Sorlin.
Domaine Janine Emanuel is in Milly-Lamartine, a small village to the northwest of Macon that was home to the famous 18th-century French poet Lamartine. The estate is planted entirely to Chardonnay, the prime white grape variety in Burgundy, and annually produces 4,165 cases of wine from the district-level appellation of Macon-Villages. Another 5 acres are to be planted in the near future.
Lafon harvested the 1999 vintage at Janine Emanuel as well as at his Meursault property. "Many people in Burgundy have purchased vineyards abroad -- such as Chile, the United States -- but I like to know the land intimately," he said. "Meursault is only a 45-minute drive from Macon, and it was possible to harvest the two domaines at the same time. The harvest went really well: We have lovely, healthy grapes, and the yields are large this year."
The Janine Emanuel wines will be vinified under a new label, the name of which had not yet been decided at press time. Although Lafon had not yet set prices either, he estimated that the eventual U.S. retail prices for his Macon-Villages would range from $10 to $20 per bottle -- a dramatic difference from his world-famous Montrachet, which retails for anywhere from $300 to $500 a bottle. His most recent Meursaults sold for about $50 to $90 on release.
"I don't know what the quality will be yet, but if we make some really beautiful wines, then they will be more expensive than the average Macon wines," Lafon commented. "We don't thrive only on snobbism and the very expensive wines. I want to make wines that we can drink with friends whenever we want to, and that is what attracted me to Macon."
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To learn more about Burgundy and Dominique Lafon, read senior editor Per-Henrik Mansson's recent reports: