An Interview with Jean Nicolas Méo, Domaine Méo Camuzet
Domaine Méo Camuzet is among the most renowned estates of the Côte d’Or in Burgundy. From the beginning of the 19th Century, its founder Étienne Camuzet began to acquire vineyards in Vosne Romanée. As an active politician and an advocate of Côte d’Or who spent most of his time in Paris, he had little time to cultivate his vineyards and the domaine passed to his daughter, Maria Noirot, who then passed down the estate to her nephew, Jean Méo, in 1959. The domaine became officially known as Domaine Méo Camuzet. In the mid-1980s Jean’s son, Jean-Nicholas Méo, took over the reins of the estate.
A Courageous Step Brings Another Shining Star to Burgundy
Mr. Méo made his bold decision to take over the estate at just 20 years old. He was a business student with no little experience in wine industry. But today, his prestigious name is notable throughout Burgundy.
“I quickly realized how gratifying this job was…I had a hands-on approach, working in the vineyards, cellar and the domaine to make wine… I also sell wine and travel around. I could invite the whole world to come to my cellar”. This unique and interesting business let Mr. Méo find his interests and passions, and he has stayed at the domaine until now even though he originally gave himself only three years to try his hand at winemaking.
“My main philosophy on winemaking was shaped by Henri Jayer”, Mr. Méo told us. Henri Jayer was a celebrated winemaker widely recognised as an innovator in the winemaking industry, who had spent over forty years farming parcels from Méo Camuzet under his own label. He passed down his knowledge of vineyard management and the art of winemaking to Jean-Nicolas, including minimal use of chemicals, active ploughing to control weeds, low yield, and cold soaking prior to maceration.
“His wines are very mellow, dense and accessible. They are very charming. I did not really try to look further in terms of style because I really like his wines. In fact, I like wines with a lot of texture and fresh fruit with fresher aroma. And I like a bit more tannin and structured wine than Henri did. Thus, my wine was refined”. Whilst the domaine’s wines bear the unmistakable imprint of Henri Jayer, they have evolved into a distinctive Méo style highly desired by Burgundy wine enthusiasts.
We are very dependent on nature. And we have to do our best with what nature gives us. This is the Burgundian spirit.
Global warming now affects the whole world. Under Burgundy’s principle of making the best wine with what nature gives winemakers, how does Domaine Méo Camuzet see this phenomenon? “The Pinot Noirs express their sense of place and specific character of each era”, Mr. Méo simply explained with a clear Burgundian philosophy.
“Global warming is an increasing problem for the region. It is affecting Burgundy and the climats”, Mr. Méo explained, and said he has experienced very ripe grapes in the past five years. When the weather is too hot, it can result in grapes that are too ripe. This leads to wines that are excessively sweet or high in alcohol, which is not the typical profile of Burgundy wine.
On the other hand, global warming to some extent has been beneficial to Burgundy. Among lots of vintages of the 1970s and 1980s, the wine is under-ripe. But for the last 25 years, global warming benefits Burgundy because the grapes can ripen much better than before.
Taking this year as an example, 2020 was extremely early harvest. Domaines in the village (Vosne Romanée) started their harvest in late August which is highly unusual. “Because of the climate, spring comes exceedingly early, and the summer has enough sunshine. So, I expect the wine of 2020 to be characterised by strong structure and a lot of acidity. And it is going to be an impressive vintage”, Mr. Méo told us.
“Pinot Noirs have changed quite a lot due to climate change and requests from the consumer. Around 30 years ago, Pinot Noirs were light but now are more concentrated and more ripe. I think that especially in the 90s there were number of people that pushed Pinot Noirs to their limits, which is why they are much more concentrated than they used to be. And now we have gone through this and we are going back to wines which have the essence of Pinot Noir. It is a great variety that it is light and not heavy. There is a great variety of Pinot Noirs in terms of the style of the domaines too. Winemakers can do whatever they want with Pinot Noirs, producing a great variety of styles with great quality.”