2011 Ballot Millot Meursault “les Narvaux”

downloadToday the nose is showing a bit Loire-like with its parsley, Kafir lime, and tarragon notes, enriched by  cream, lemon zest, touch of gravel and toasty notes, but it may very well just be a bit disjointed and out of sorts after its voyage across the Atlantic and through the Panama Canal.

This is much more elegant and much less concentrated than the 2010 Meursault Village I reviewed last July which was dense and a little tough-edged. This on the other hand, is very clean, with a light lively palate that sings, with parsley, basil-lime, grapefruit, Meyer lemon, minerals, light cream notes. I really like this, although it isn’t what I would call impressive, but it begs another sip, and then another glass. Its palate impression is light to mid-weight in terms of Meursault, with a weightless but firm palate impression.  It show only the vaguest of oak on the nose (and the palate). It’s application of oak is perfect: deft and balanced.  This will gain some weight and fill out with another year or two, and the cream will take on a larger role, and I suspect the green notes will integrate completely.  Score: 90 points.

imgresCharles Ballot is a young winemaker who some, like wine writer John Tilson of the Underground Wine Letter, are calling a rising star.  In his thirty’s, Charles Ballot took over from his father Philippe a few years ago, and is driving the domaine toward a more elegance style, and that has been particularly evident in the domaine’s reds which includes two well situated Premier Crus, Pommard Pezerolles and Volnay Taillepiedes.  He farms his vineyards lutte-raisonnee, which generally means he farms organically,  unless  the situation requires something more drastic, or perhaps if it doesn’t suit him – there are no laws or oversight surrounding the use of this term. At a minimum it usually means no weed-killers and no chemical fertilizers, and a reduction of other treatments.

Meursault Narveax, lieu dit

Meursault Narvaux is a go-to for the budget conscious Burgundy drinker. Narvaux-Dessous is a fairly large, village appellated vineyard that is situated just above the Premier Crus of Les Genevieres and Poruzots, a bit higher up on the slope. This is one of the more well-known lieu dits (named vineyards) and while using the name Narvaux is optional, many winemakers choose to bottle this as a single vineyard, and put the name of the vineyard on the label. Bottling this as a single vineyard, and naming it, can be attributed in part to marketing, and in part to the superior position of this climate (another French word for vineyard-microclimate).

Narvaux’s up-slope vineyard position means thinner soils, as well as shallow top soil due to erosion, so it is typically lighter-bodied than Premier Crus that sit below it.  But the vineyard is well protected by the hill and its excellent exposure, it gets plenty of ripeness to make a satisfying drink. According to The Wine Spectator’s Bruce Sanderson, Ballot has two parcels in Narvaux-Dessous, one has 35-year-old vines, and the other plot ‘s vines are 60 years old.

Narveaux arial map

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Wine Note: 2010 Domaine Ballot-Millot, Meursault

Domaine Ballot-Millot sources it’s Meursault village bottling from a Chardonnay vineyard above the Les Boucheres 1er cru, in what appears to be the Chaumes des Narveaux vineyard,

Français : vendanges à Meursault (Bourgogne)

Français : vendanges à Meursault (Bourgogne) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

although the winery is not specific. Winemaker Charles Ballot (30) sorts his fruit on tables in the vineyard, then presses the grapes lightly using a pneumatic press.  The wine is then racked from its gross lees into oak barrels where it finishes primary fermentation and malolactic (secondary fermentation). After twelve months in barrel, the wine is transferred to stainless tanks for six months, and before being fined with diatomaceous earth before bottling.

The nose is typical for a cool long growing season, and certainly shows what a tight, classic, vintage 2010 had been. While there is Meursault’s typical honey, white flowers, lemon curd, toast from oak, and a touch of sulfur, it doesn’t yet show the gras (fat) and nuttiness you get with a Meursault that is ready to drink. It does smell like a more expensive White Burgundy, like ones I’ve had from Domaine Leflaive’s former winemaker, Pierre Morey, and that is a good thing. In the mouth, it’s got some concentration, but it’s a bit tight and the oak is definitely showing, giving the wine a bit of dryness. Give this another year: the fruit and fat should be more evident, and the oak will have retreated, sweetening the whole package up. A wonderful wine that’s not quite optimal yet – give it enough time and it should come together beautifully.  87 points today.  Potential 90-91 points.

After an hour, the wine shows significant integration, with lime rind, chalk, and minerals showing up on the palate as it opens. This wine is still anything but fat, with a wonderful liveliness – it’s concentration now showing on mid-palate, onto the long, warm, nectarine and lime tinged finish.