Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux & Fils, Meursault

Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux label

Country & RegionFrance, Burgundy
Appellation(s)Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Pommard, Volnay
ProducerJean-Michel and Henri Gaunoux
FoundedAn old Côte de Beaune family. Jean-Michel went to work side by side with his father in 1978 and started his own domain in 1990.

Gaunoux is an old Côte de Beaune family whose most famous member was Henri Gaunoux—a celebrated vigneron in the decades on either side of the second war. Upon his death in 1972 his estate was divided among his family, and his two sons consolidated the vineyard parcels into two domains: Domaine François Gaunoux in Meursault, and Domaine Michel Gaunoux in Pommard.

Henri’s grandson, Jean-Michel, went to work side by side with François in 1978. In 1990, Jean-Michel split with his father and started his own domain, Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux, with vineyard parcels from his mother’s family. In 1991, he put in a new, very deep and cold cellar and aging room. In 2012, after completing enology studies and working a harvest at Saint Innocent in Oregon, Jean-Michel’s son Henri joined the domain. These days, the father and son team farm nearly six hectares, or 14.5 acres, in the villages of Meursault, Pommard, Puligny-Montrachet, and Volnay.

Jean Michel and Henri Gaunoux of Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux

Production is just about evenly split between Pinot and Chardonnay, and Jean-Michel is equal to either variety. The distinguishing characteristic of his wines is—and I hope you appreciate this term—their regal nature. These are self-assured wines, without need of flash or pizzazz (you won’t find big extractions, high toast oak, or the like here). They know themselves and are solidly built, pure, long, very mineral, and age-worthy.

He manipulates very little in the cellar, and limits the use of new oak to about 30% for the premier cru red in good years (15-20% for the whites). He racks the wine out of barrel and into vats shortly after the following vintage so that his barrels never go empty and dry out. He quit lees stirring in 2004, fearing that it encouraged premature oxidation, and subsequently found that this permitted him to cut his SO2 additions in half. He does not filter the reds.

Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux vines

In good years, Jean-Michel takes the rare step of putting aside a certain amount of a given year’s wine to age in bottle in his cellar for later release. This allows him to offer beautifully stored bottles of his wine to clients. And the thing is, he does so at near the same prices as the current release.

Domaine Jean-Michel Gaunoux dog

Thanks to Jeff Bramwell for the photo of father & son. Oh, and for the dog too. Jean-Michel has the cutest dog in Burgundy.

The Wines

Bourgogne Blanc
Chardonnay1/2 acre parcel planted in 1981 in rocky soils above the 1er cru Perrières, Meursault’s unofficial grand cru.
MeursaultChardonnayAn assemblage of 4 parcels: Terres Blanches (1.15 acres) and Pelles (0.5 acres) on the south side of town, giving richer fruit and elegance; and Criots (1 acre) and Malpoiriers (2 acres) on the north side, giving leaner, more mineral wine. Average age of the vines is old—45 years.
Meursault 1er Cru Les Genevrières
ChardonnayThe one vineyard source that Jean-Michel doesn’t own, hence the slightly different label. He purchases grapes or must from Domaine Latour-Giraud and said grapes or must always comes from the same parcel and equals 3 to 4 barrels, the year depending.
Meursault 1er Cru Les Gouttes d'Or

Chardonnay3/4 acre planted in the early 1950s on a steep, rocky slope making for a rich but quite elegant wine underpinned by intense minerality.
Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrières
ChardonnayJust under 2 acres immediately north of Clos des Perrières in Perrières Dessus, planted in 1981.
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatières
ChardonnayJust over 1/2 acre planted in 1981 on a gently sloped portion of this upslope vineyard. If the Meursaults have the stone, the focus and strict construction, this, the Puligny, has the floral elements, the softer fruit and ease.
Meursault rouge Les CriotsPinot NoirThis comes from one acre of Pinot Noir planted in 1966. There was a time when Meursault had a lot more Pinot, but then the growers learned that their terroir was perfect for Chardonnay, and Chardonnay sold so much faster. Jean-Michel keeps these old vines going out of respect for tradition.

Pommard Les PerrièresPinot Noir1 1/2 acres planted in 1956.
Volnay 1er cru Clos des ChênesPinot NoirThree-fourths of an acre parcel planted in 1966 in what is the stoniest, most threadbare and limestone-rich of all the Volnay premier cru vineyards. Jean-Michel’s parcel is located down slope near the road and in the north end of the clos.