A face-to-face encounter with the Great Whites


Olivier Merlin's cellars in the Mâconnais, photographed by Jason Lowe

Olivier Merlin’s cellars in the Mâconnais, photographed by Jason Lowe

With the UK wine market in the grip of Burgundy-fever, we caught up with Olivier Merlin and Dominique Lafon – the preeminent producers behind one of this year’s most exciting white wine stories: a rarely seen collaboration to create the stunning 2012 Pouilly-Fuissé Clos des Quarts

While Olivier Merlin has been buying grapes from the highly prized Clos des Quarts parcel for a decade, in 2012 he and Dominique Lafon went into partnership to purchase the site and release their debut vintage. It’s an historic vineyard, with vines that, in part (around 40 percent) are almost 100 years old.

As to the success of the wine, Dominique attributes the credit to Merlin: “Olivier is a great winemaker and I trust and respect him,” says Lafon. “Of course, we talked and discussed during the harvest and the winemaking, but he is responsible for most of the work.” And the results? “The wine is really good,” he says simply. “And the vineyard is just incredible, so the potential is great.”

Merlin, meanwhile, is happy to expound on the collaboration. “It is very exciting – especially because I’m in partnership with Dominique: previously I have only worked together with my wife, so it’s a new challenge, and it is exciting to see new approaches to winemaking,” he says.

It seems that, so far, the partnership has been a smooth one, with few stylistic differences to navigate: “Dominique and me, philosophically, we don’t have a lot of different ideas; we know each other very well and we speak to each other very directly, based on honesty,” Merlin says.

Merlin had been searching for a top-quality Pouilly-Fuissé vineyard for some time before managing to obtain Clos des Quarts. “I know the parcel very well,” he says. “I’ve bought the grapes there since 2003. But now we are growing the grapes ourselves, and we plough everything and have total control: if quality was very good before, now it will be even better. The soil is perfect, the exposure is perfect: we will make fantastic wines with this property.”

According to Merlin, this exceptional parcel is one to watch: “We are extremely pleased to have a monopole of this calibre. With the project to upgrade vineyards to Premiers Crus in the Mâconnais, I am pretty sure that this parcel will go through easily,” he says. Exciting times, indeed, for the great whites of Burgundy.

Read more about the Clos des Quarts wines.