On my final day in Burgundy, I attended one of the great events surrounding the Hospices de Beaune weekend: La Paulée de Meursault. The inaugural Paulée was in 1923, founded by Dominique Lafon's grandfather Jules Lafon as a harvest celebration. Ten years later, it became a fixture on the Monday after the Hospices auction.
I have been to several of the offshoots in New York, but this was an opportunity to experience the real deal. There were about 700 attendees packed into the former vat room of the Château de Meursault, for a long lunch that began at noon and ended around 7:00 p.m.
Though winemakers attend the Paulées here in New York and San Francisco, the Meursault event was really more community-oriented. There were at least 40 people at our table, hosted by grower François Jobard and his son Antoine. Other growers seated with us were Frédéric Lafarge, François Bitouzet, Sylvain Loichet, a young grower from Ladoix and négociant Alex Gambal.
Although many Meursault vintners attended, such as Dominique Lafon, Jean-Marc Roulot, Pierre and Ann Morey, Vincent Girardin, I also saw Vincent Dauvissat from Chablis and Vincent Avril of Clos des Papes in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Almost from the moment we sat down, the bottles started coming from both directions. The wines I have sampled at the Paulées in New York may have been grander, coming from the cellars of private collectors, yet there was real sense of sharing in Meursault, as the growers themselves went up and down tables proudly pouring some special bottles, many on larger formats.
Over the course of the afternoon, we enjoyed several courses, beginning with a shrimp salad, followed by scallops and langoustines in pastry, supreme de volaille, braised medallions of lamb shoulder, cheese and a charlotte of pear and gingerbread.
I enjoyed catching up with some of the growers and getting to know my neighbors at the table. I tried to keep up with the wines and made very brief notes on almost 60 tasted during the festivities. Here are a few notable bottles.
Among the whites, there was an elegant, pastry-flavored Meursault Clos de la Barre 2006 from Domaine Comtes Lafon and a powerful young Drouhin Bâtard-Montrachet 2006. François Jobard's Meursault Poruzots 1996 from magnum was racy and full of mineral, but the 1994 (also from magnum) was at its peak, showing smoke, butterscotch and a touch of licorice notes.
A Chablis Chapelot 2002 from Raveneau revealed lemon, mineral and driving energy, its mineral character echoed by Roulot's Meursault Les Tillets 1999. Jobard's Meursault Genevrières 1985 was full of toast, nut and butterscotch flavors, with an integrated and harmonious profile.
Vincent Dauvissat came by with his Les Preuses 1995 from magnum and Gambal's Chassagne-Montrachet Clos St.-Jean 1999 boasted freshness, mineral and toast notes. The Corton-Charlemagne 1996 from Vincent Girardin offered ripeness and concentration on a lean frame.
Dauvissat's Chablis Forest 1990 was brilliant, with viscosity offset by a vibrant structure and fine mineral aftertaste, while the Roulot Meursault Les Meix Chavaux 1979 had an ethereal quality, with smoke, orchard fruit, citronella and mineral flavors.
There seemed to be fewer reds, however Lafarge's Volnay Clos des Chênes 1993 and Beaune Grèves 1990 stood out, the former for its truffle and floral tones and vibrant structure, the latter for its richness and sweet fruit. Henri Germain's Beaune Bressandes 2005 was full of spice and berry notes and DRC's Echézeaux 2003 from magnum was ripe with good freshness too.
The Paulée was a wonderful experience and an excellent finish to my week in Burgundy. The memory of hundreds of wine lovers singing and waving their napkins is one I won't soon forget.