Roland Masse – the last vintage of a living legend

Roland Masse is only 61, but the 154th edition of the famous Hospices de Beaune wine auction this Sunday 16th November will be his last as the chief winemaker.
After supervising the making of the illustrious Hospices wine for the last15 years as the “régisseur général”, Roland will retire and as he says “make more wine but from my vines in my back garden”. He has some Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Muscat grape varietals which he intends to look after.
A pure Burgundian originally from the village of Barizey in the Chalonnaise hillside, Roland is at first glance a very jovial character but runs this estate with seriousness and passion. The estate covers 150 acres and involves 23 “vignerons” working for the Hospices from as south as Pouilly Fuissé to Gevrey Chambertin so there is a big team and a vast expanse of vineyards stretching through Burgundy to manage….and an international reputation to maintain.
Roland first started his wine making career making sparkling “cremant” before moving to Prosper & Maufoux in Santenay and then the Bertagna estate in Vougeot.
Working for the Hospices is almost an international role and Roland is a well travelled man, often asked about his passion for Burgundy wines. “Compared to Bordeaux, Burgundy is much smaller with fewer estates and less stone, but our wines are more sophisticated, elegant and refined”.
So what are his views on this his last 2014 vintage?
“The grand crus of Montrachet, Corton and the Cote de Nuits were spared the hailstorm between Meursault and Beaune on the 28th June. Overall production is of course affected by these losses in certain villages of the Cote de Beaune but, for the wines from these prestigious terroirs, both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay varieties are models of fine Burgundy wines.
The white wines harvested mid-September in ideal weather conditions are high class, with precision and great freshness. The beginning of their ageing seems promising for the future.
The red grand crus are of a very good level, with lovely bright colour, fine tannins, creamy harmony and balance, length and complexity in their elegance.
The premiers crus, less revealing in terms of their keeping potential, are just as elegant and noble. This 2014 vintage, despite its chaotic weather, is going to show itself to be of a very good quality level.”
So for one last time, I’ll have the privilege of greeting this passionate man and tasting his extraordinary wines. Roll on Sunday, and thank you Roland.

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