Region: Burgundy, Bourgogne
Winemaking: Hand-picked from 20-30 year old vines in Meursault and Puligny; fermented in barrel; 12 months ageing in neutral barrels followed by 4 months in tank before bottling
The story at this fine domaine is one you encounter more often now in Burgundy. In 2001, a young and motivated vigneron named Charles Ballot took over for his father. Like many talented young winemakers, he wanted to raise the bar and leave his mark. The domaine already had a good reputation from his father’s day, and had been around quite a long time as the family had started to amass vineyards in Meursault starting at the end of the 17th century. They were also privileged to possess holdings in five Premier Crus in Meursault, including the famed Perrières and Charmes, plus Genevrières, Bouchères and Poruzots, not to mention small 1er Cru holdings in the villages of Chassagne, Volnay, Pommard and Beaune. His first tasks were to reduce yields and move away from chemical/systemic treatments to more natural ones. He soon added a sorting table in the vineyards, upgraded the press, and in general found ways to work more precisely in the cellar.
The resulting wines tend toward the so-called “Roulot-school” of Meursault, more tensile and racy, as opposed to the fatter, honeyed and nutty style of wines that dominated the landscape 20-30 years ago. There is excellent terroir-delineation, which is exciting given the exceptional range of 1er Crus and lieux-dits that Ballot has in his arsenal. On the red side, it is nice to discover slightly more graceful expressions of these often more “four square” appellations, without compromising the expression of the underlying sites.
Given the now exalted price tags that accompany top Côte de Beaune whites (and reds too), Ballot-Millot provides an exceptional opportunity to access top level quality and pedigree for a relative value compared to the price one finds at the most coveted estates. Alas, the “herd mentality” that greatly skews the supply-demand ratio in Burgundy toward stratospheric prices, can sometimes lead to fruitful opportunities if one goes just off the beaten track.