Jean-Marc Roulot’s Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir from 1996-2017: An Overview of Pleasure

By | 14 March 2024

Sarah Marsh MW enjoys a night of fine Anglo-French food and eight vintages of this “sleek, intense, feline” wine at London’s Noble Rot.

By Sarah Marsh MW

“It’s not something I do often on a Monday evening in London,” said Jean-Marc Roulot with a serious smile as he presented a vertical of Meursault Tessons to a small group of Burgundy devotees at Noble Rot in Soho, London. Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir is a vineyard close to his heart. “Domaine Roulot was built on village wine, and Tessons is the greatest village climat in Meursault. The premier cru story came later.” 

Six generations of the Roulot family have produced wine in Meursault since the early 19th century, but it was not until the 1950s and ’60s that Guy Roulot began creating the domaine, buying, renting, and planting village parcels. He was among the first producers to make separate bottlings of village lieux-dits, in a departure from the common practice of making a village blend.

The domaine boasts seven village parcels, with Tessons being the most distinguished due to the prominent vignerons’ huts that dot its east-facing slope. The clos belonging to Roulot, situated within the 4ha (10-acre) climat, was planted back in the 1950s. “Tessons adequately represents the village Meursaults as it enjoys full exposure to the east, unlike Luchets which turns slightly northwards and has benefitted from the warmer summers. Tessons always matures earlier than Luchets and has an enhanced ripeness, bestowing it with a striking verticality along with a generous and complex nature.

“Located at 260m [850ft], parallel to the premiers crus, I consider it to be of premier cru quality. Perhaps during the classification process [initiated in 1935], individuals with stronger premiers crus influence were more dominant.” Over time, Tessons have earned a reputed status, even being rated as deuxième cru before the inception of the present AOC classification. Despite this, Roulot has no intention of challenging the established order. “There’s no need for change. Initiating this could result in Bourgogne producers aspiring for a village appellation. The existing classification might have been apt at that time, yet Tessons steadily remains at the heart of village wine for all vintages.”


Agreement wafted through the room, teeming with diners who had braved the dreary April downpour to find warmth in the cozy ambiance of the restaurant’s upstairs room. They were greeted heartily with a glass of Michel Gonet Blancs de Blancs 3 Terroirs 2017; a light, biscuity, signature Champagne belonging to Noble Rot. As I sipped on the bubbly delight, I found some time to chat with my fellow MW, Mark Andrew.

Noble Rot in Soho is the second restaurant by Mark Andrew and Dan Keeling, opened in September 2020 following the huge success of Bloomsbury Noble Rot. The two restaurants have a distinct old London vibe, residing in historically significant buildings. It’s not hard to picture Samuel Pepys jotting down notes for his diary in a dim corner over a pint—granted, the buildings are from the early 18th century.

Andrew shares, “I love old buildings and their atmospheric essence, and how this reflects the food and wine we like, mingling tradition with fresh concepts and innovation.” Located on Soho’s Greek Street, an area of old London that managed to dodge the WWII bombs, this building used to be The Gay Hussar. This was a Hungarian hangout and low-key restaurant furnished with deep red velvet drapes, frequented by politicians and journalists. As Andrew puts it, “We are simply the caretakers of these remarkable buildings.” Now rebranded as Noble Rot, it continues to draw in a creative crowd, including Ian Hislop, who holds a weekly lunch meeting for Private Eye in their private dining room.

Andrew and Keeling are seemingly unstoppable, with a third Noble Rot restaurant unveiled in London’s Mayfair on April 6. Mayfair? “We would not open up an eatery beside Annabel’s. It doesn’t resonate with us. It’s situated in Shepherd’s Market, which has the vibe we’re after,” Andrew remarks.

Once settled at our tables, we were treated to an unexpected pour of 1988 Meursault Premier Cru Les Perrières. “I brought this as a surprise gift for the end of the meal,” remarks Roulot. “However, I thought it would make a better palate cleanser before Tessons,” thereby eliciting a soft round of applause.

The 1988 vintage was actually made by Franck Grux, Jean-Marc Roulot’s cousin. Following the death of Guy Roulot in 1982, at the age of just 53, Californian Ted Lemon (who went on to establish Littorai in his home state), and then Grux, held the fort for Roulot, who was busy pursuing a career in acting. But Grux was pinched by Olivier Leflaive, and Roulot retuned to look after the élevage of the 1988 vintage. In common with most white-Burgundy producers at the time, Domaine Roulot bottled whites after 12 months. It is practical to empty the barrels to receive the next vintage, but extending the élevage was among the first significant changes Roulot made at the winery, together with a move to an organic approach in the vineyards. “I had no choice,” he admits. “In ’93, Perrières had finished the malolactic fermentation but still had sugar.” Happily, he was rather pleased with the result. “I found the longer aging integrated the acidity very differently, and the texture was more silky. If you bottle at 11 months, you close on the fruit and you lose something.” Roulot had an inkling of the benefits of long maturation from tasting Dominique Lafon’s wines, and to begin with, Roulot also used two sets of barrels, but it was not long before he moved to using stainless steel for the second winter.

Over the past 20 years, extended maturation has become a widespread practice at serious domaines, with stainless steel the most popular choice for the final six months. But many are experimenting with other materials for the fermentation and initial élevage. Roulot uses some 500-liter sandstone vessels, together with oak barrels, concrete vessels, and Stockinger foudres. “I like the reductive character of sandstone but also the energy it gives.” Tessons, however, has no lack of inherent tension and doesn’t get the sandstone treatment.

Palates primed, we were ready for a flight of eight Tessons. My favorites were 2017, 2009, 2007, and 1996. The 2017 was the most joyous, captivating for its youthful fruit and energy; and the 2009 was the most surprising—sumptuous but elegant and energetic.

The hot 2009 season produced some rather heavy, rich whites with soft acidity. An extensive tasting of 2009 I arranged four years ago showed that some 2009s have slimmed down, and where there is sufficient acidity, they are now quite nicely in balance. Others, however, were slightly oxidative and tired. Among the lineup were a few gems, including the Tessons from Jean-Philippe Fichet, which outperformed many a premier cru. Roulot’s Tessons is another gorgeous example of 2009. “We harvested early,” he recalls. “Maybe people were less concerned with harvest dates in the late 2000s than we are now.” Burgundians go on holiday in August; holidays that were cut short in 2018 and 2019. By 2020, most had reluctantly adapted their traditional schedule, only for 2021 to offer a reprieve.

The narrow window for harvesting in early September has a significant impact on the maturity of the grapes, reveals Roulot. The long days transition into colder, shorter ones by the end of the month. In 2009, the warm weather from August stretched into September, resulting in a wide variability in wine style.

Contrary to popular belief, Roulot asserts that the aging potential of the 2009 vintage won’t fade in just two to three years. The health of the grapes plays a crucial role, and his 2009 batch was very healthy. Despite having botrytis, he still prefers the profile of his 2009 wine over the 2010 batch.

Meanwhile, I find the 2010’s vigorous intensity appealing. However, parts of Meursault were affected by an electric storm just before the harvest. Consequently, any botrytis-infected grapes deteriorated very quickly. Selective removal of botrytis was crucial not only in 2010 but also in 2008.

The years 2007 and 2017 were indeed remarkable. They epitomized the elegance and refinement of white Burgundy. Despite this, Roulot believes that we lack the patience to age wine. His sentiment resonates with Mark Andrew, who also makes the critical observation about trust. Having started working with Domaine Roulot in 2017, he was confident about the wine’s capacity to age. Yet, the premature oxidation issue with white Burgundy persists. According to Andrew, regaining trust is paramount, especially for those who spend a considerable amount on white Burgundy only to consume them within a few years due to premature oxidation concerns.

The trust shown in 2007 can be repaid wonderfully, as demonstrated by the lingering taste of the delightful 1996 vintage, which is almost 30 years old in the bottle. Roulot compliments the 1996 vintage, calling it his personal favorite following 1989. The 1996 vintage faced the obstacle of premox, likely due to an extended delay until the malolactic, leaving the wines vulnerable. However, when the wines are pure, it is a distinguished vintage, of which the Tessons is a fine example. Roulot has brought a bottle to the table as the magnums were unfortunately spoiled due to an issue with the cork—leaving the specifics of whether the issue was TCA or oxidation unspecified. Luckily for us, cork quality has seen an improvement in the recent years. Even though, esteemed producers including Lafon and Leflaive, have switched to Diam closures.

Innovations in closures might be an interesting area but this does not capture Roulot’s interest. Instead, he was one of the initial advocates for the beneficial qualities of judicious foulage, the process of grape crushing. Traditional crushing was used to pack as many grapes into the press as possible, a practice still employed by less quality-focused growers, often followed by a severe press to maximise the juice extraction. In Burgundy it is typical to sell white grapes in the form of must. Alternatively, Roulot utilises a light crush to enable a softer press, consequently extracting around 75 percent of the juice at a mere 0.2 bar—essentially the free-run juice released by breaking the grape skin at the crush. The subsequent 15 percent juice is extracted by pressing to 0.9 bar and the final 10 percent is obtained at 1.6 bar. “If you don’t crush, that last part would be 40 percent,” he articulates.

Utilising foulage, Roulot has observed that the juice is delicate, fresher, and requires minimal settling. Nevertheless, he prudently fully oxidises the final 10 percent of juice, allowing the unpredictable phenolics to precipitate. It’s worth noting that Roulot is conscious of pushing the end of the press process, recognising the role of “good” phenolics in ageing, and concurs with the consensus that the equipment and techniques used in the 1970s, which extracted more solids along with oxidative handling, likely made those era wines more stable. The balance has since tipped too far towards the use of pneumatic presses and over-protective handling in the pursuit of fruit-taste-centric wines. However, the current generation of informed winemakers is determined to draw from the valuable aspects of more extreme techniques to find the best balance in their wine and ageing potential.

When it comes to discussing his wines, Roulot adopts a rather serious tone—however, mention acting and his face lights up. Surprisingly, he has managed to balance his winemaking role with a side career in acting. His most recent role is a supporting one in The Taste of Things (La Passion de Dodin Bouffant). The film is centred around food and stars Juliet Binoche. In the film, Roulot plays a forester who leads the main characters to his woodland hut to demonstrate the roasting and eating of ortolan, a delicacy famously eaten by François Mitterrand as his last supper. (This songbird has been protected in France since 1999.)

Back to the civilized cuisine at Noble Rot, where Andrew finds it challenging to simplify the restaurant’s culinary approach. The individual styles of the chefs at the three restaurants converge to deliver what can largely be defined as Anglo-French taste. Soho chef, Alex Jackson, brings in elements of Provençal, Catalan and Italian cuisines. Andrew states that the leading chef, Steven Harrison, gives prominence to the ingredients in a dish, allowing the ingredients to voice their origin. This philosophy aligns well with their wine list, which revolves around exact geographical zoning.

During the Roulot dinner, they started with a universally friendly dish that could have partnered beautifully with any of the vintages. The dish comprised meaty eel carrying a subtle hint of smoke, served on a hearty slab of soda bread with a hint of acidity provided by a scoop of crème fraîche and green apple straws. The dish was an excellent companion to the lively immaturity of the 2017 vintage, but it could have showcased its best potential with the 2007 vintage, offering the perfect base for the wine’s ballet-like glissade-jeté on the palate.

The main course of the dinner, featuring roast veal with bacon, morels and slightly overcooked peas, was served with the 2007 and 2008 vintages. The dish, especially the lamb sweetbreads flavored with chervil, tasted delightful, but fell a little short with the 2007 vintage and fared better with the more savory 2008.

Jackson truly aced the pairing for the 2009 vintage- a flawlessly poached piece of brill swimming in a hearty portion of buttery sauce fragrant with wild garlic. The dish paired divinely with the rich, yet refined 2009 vintage. Simple but celebratory. “I wish I could say we sat around tasting the wines and brainstorming the dishes, but that wouldn’t be honest,” confessed Andrew.

As a fantastic slice of Gruyère cheese graced the table, the announcement came from Roulot that he had an extra treat in store. The Roulot lineage has distilled in Burgundy since the 1800s, with a possibility of the spirit-making process being more entertaining than the stern task of wine creation, as the atmosphere seemed to lighten. However, this doesn’t imply that Roulot isn’t painstaking in his approach to both methods, particularly as they are intertwined at the pressing stage. The gentle press cycle not only gives rise to superior juice, but it is equally vital for the superior quality pomace used for spirit creation.

In 2018, Roulot reserved the pomace from five different climats to produce a selection of terroir-inspired marc, possibly as a nod to his father’s legacy. We sampled the Tessons marc naturally. “The brandy mirrors the wine,” Roulot notes; “Tessons has slightly more body than Luchets.”

There was an overload of glassware on the table: “Never knowingly underserved at Noble Rot,” Andrew mused. As I went downstairs, I picked up an umbrella that was later found not to be mine, but it was unneeded as I exited back onto the Soho streets. The April shower was over, and I strolled home extremely contentedly through London’s shimmering avenues.

Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir

Tessons is a refined, powerful, and cat-like wine. It’s comparable to an excellent Narvaux in my opinion, which will exhibit more noticeable minerality and strong grip when young. However, Tessons is more reliable, in terms of both the terroir and the consistent quality and style of the wine. Roulot characterises it as a blend of Tillets and Meix-Chavaux. “If you were to draw a diagonal line between the two, it would go through Tessons.” To elaborate, I’d say that Les Tillets, located at the top of the slope, makes a lean, subtle wine with floral nuances, while lower-placed Les Meix-Chavaux is sumptuous, with more abundant fruit. Tessons combines the elegance of the former with the fullness of the latter. Except for the 1996, we tasted from magnum.

2017 Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir

This wine, which leaps energetically across the palate, is a favourite of mine. It commands attention with its lemon-sorbet fruit and liveliness. It has sharp contours and a smooth, powdery, talc-like texture. Plenty of power, yet with a radiant transparency. The finish is pure, energetic, with a soft saltiness.

2013 Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir

Slim-bodied, with lightly leafy notes. Not a lot of stuffing and a little looser than others in the lineup. Attractive, soft butter-mint notes on the palate and a gentle finish.

2011 Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir

With summer in spring and spring in summer, this season started and finished early, and the wine from this vintage found a point of balance in modest alcohol, acidity, and intensity. Roulot’s 2011 Tessons appears more like a cool vintage than a warm and early one. It has aged better than initially expected. The 2011s are lovely as of now, and this Tessons is satisfying, light-bodied, succinct, and delicately textured. It’s fresh and silky. “In 2011, there was no excess of rain or frost,” notes Roulot. “I don’t understand why 2011 does not carry a higher reputation. In comparison to 2010, which suffered from botrytis, I prefer it. 2011 truly stands to be a great vintage.”

2009 Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir

The smell of this 2009 vintage is rich yet not overwhelming, with its smoothness, slight creaminess, roundedness, and elegance adding to its charm. The end is as remarkable as its inception, remaining firm and distinct. This 2009 is indeed exceptional.

2008 Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir

The year 2008 was predominated by a persistent wind right before the harvest, inducing the evaporation resulting in a concentrated wine. There have always been hesitations about how this high-acid year—with total acidity even more than in 2007—would turn out in its ripened form. Compared to the fruitier, more juvenile and energetic variant of 2007, Tessons has a more savory and drier outline that finishes on a salty, miso note. Its compatibility with further aging is still a question.

2007 Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir

Pure, vivid, and well defined. The edges are precise. It is lively and crisp, with a delightfully stretched and lucid finish. Fresher than 2008 and richer than 2011. I love the tension. Top notch.

2004 Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir

Quite light-bodied and delicate, with a faint shimmer of minerality. It is not as persistent or intense as the surrounding vintages. Quite fragile. I feel the optimum moment has passed. Drink up if you have 2004.

1996 Meursault Tessons Clos de Mon Plaisir

The end-of-season cool nights preserved the high acidity, with an alcohol level generously marked at 13.5%. The firm acidity of ’96 could still feel harsh in the reds, but the whites have benefited. This wine is fresh and evokes the breeze of the sea. Undeniably, it’s a mature wine, perhaps best enjoyed for its scent, yet it possesses vitality and purpose.

1988 Meursault Premier Cru Les Perrières

The aroma presents a blend of butter-mint and dried flowers, subtly hinting savory Marmite. Toasted nuts grace the sleek palate, smoother than silk. It’s a thoroughly mature wine, seeming slightly oxidative at its core, yet it sets its ground on the finish, which is fresh, delicate, and salty.

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