The relatively understated roads that leave the centre of Meursault are dotted with a mix of small and rather grander buildings. The Domaine des Comtes Lafon is far from one of the largest, but is still reeks of different time; it’s outbuilding previously being kennels for hunting dogs and stables for horses – it almost seems like wine was an add-on.
The origin of the domaine’s name is far from Burgundian, and can be traced back to the Lafons of south-west France. It was actually a family named Boch that in 1894 Jules Joseph Barthélémy Lafon married into, and with his new wife, Marie, came a wine merchants business and small estate in Meursault which is still home to the domaine today.
Jules was eventually to become the Mayor of Meursault, at that time reviving an old tradition; the celebration with a meal of the end of the harvest – this gained a momentum of its own, finally becoming the banquet we know today, named the ‘Paulée de Meursault’.
The next generation of Lafon were not involved with the domaine, and the vines were put out to share-croppers. Indeed it is said that if the grandson of Jules, René Lafon, had not been against it, his father Henri might have sold the whole estate. René took over the estate in 1956 and with the share-croppers help set about improving and replanting the vines, and began estate bottling – for the first time in 1961 they bottled everything.
Dominique Lafon is the current face of the domaine, He took-over from René in 1984, together with his brother Bruno, who has since faded into the background. Dominique was one of the fêted ‘new generation’ of young owner managers; he set about recovering all the domaine’s vines as metayage contracts came to an end, and was one of the more ‘visible’ producers that were shying away from ‘chemical’ treatments in the vines – for instance turning away from herbicides in 1992.
The vines from the family Boch were mainly from the village of Volnay, but there was also Monthélie and the nucleus of today’s ‘Meursault domaine’ The Clos de la Barre and further vines in En la Barre. Jules who augmented his vine income with a position as magistrate set about growing the domaine, adding the domaine’s other important Meursault vineyards and of-course its Montrachet.
As mentioned previously, it was René Lafon who set about replanting their estate, and whilst there are much older parcels within Volnay, the vines in Meursault are closer to 40 years old. Replanting is a mix of clones or massale selection from favoured old vines.
Dominique Lafon went one step further; first turning to ploughing instead of herbicides, then moving to organic farming in the mid-1990s, finally to biodynamic operations in the late 1990s for the whole 13.8 hectare domaine.
A departure from the norm came in 1999 when a domaine in Milly-Lamartine, the Mâconnais was purchased, a further 6 hectares being added in 2003. The label for these wines is now that of the Héritiers du Comte Lafon. New vines from the Château de Viré were added to the label in 2009. Distribution of the wines is the same as the domaine’s main label, but interestingly via ‘caisse panaché’ – or mixed cases.