When I first tasted the wines of Ballot-Millot from the 2004 vintage, I was very impressed. This week, I visited the domaine for the first time. Located in Meursault, the 30-acre estate is run by Charles Ballot, 30, who made his first wines from the 2001 vintage, and his father, Philippe.
I was initially impressed by the purity and focus of the whites from Ballot-Millot, but I also discovered that they make very fine, elegant reds.
After a slow, gentle pressing to get the best juice, the fermentation takes place in the cold cellar with natural yeast. "We try to do a long, slow alcoholic fermentation, because we don't do bâtonnage (lees stirring) and the long fermentation keeps the lees working," Charles explained.
The whites are in barrel for 12 months with a maximum of 25 percent new oak, then racked into tank for six months before bottling. This keeps them fresh and reductive and, for Ballot, gives "a better balance between fruit and structure." There is a fining only when necessary for protein and a light kieselguhr (diatomaceous earth) filtration before bottling.
We tasted the range of seven whites from 2008, all of which were in tank. They will be bottled in a month.
I was impressed by the Meursault Narvaux from two parcels of vines in Narvaux Dessous, one 35 years old and the other 60 years old. Despite a slight reduction in aroma, it revealed a fresh, tight, linear profile with plenty of mineral and a long finish (88-91 points, non-blind). It had a lot in common with the firm, upright Meursault Perrières, another mineral-driven white with fine density and length (90-93, non-blind). The vines there are 40 years old.
The Meursault Charmes, from 45-year-old vines in Charmes Dessus, was still tight, but showed notes of honey and flowers. Though rich and vibrant, it had a fresh underpinning of acidity (89-92, non-blind). The Genevrières smelled like grapefruit, quince and juniper, offering a tight, racy structure. It comes from the oldest Chardonnay vines, chez Ballot-Millot, at 65 years old (90-93, non-blind).
The reds are 100 percent destemmed, then undergo about three days of cold maceration at 13° to 14° C (55° to 57° F). The mass is punched down at the beginning, followed by pumping over once the fermentation gets going. After 12 to 15 days, the wine is pressed and put into barrels for 18 months. It is then assembled in tank for an additional two months. They are typically racked in June or July after the malolactic conversion which removes the large lees that have precipitated.
Charles Ballot is the new generation at Domaine R. Ballot-Millot in Meursault.
New oak is used sparingly, about 15 to 50 percent of the barrels, depending on the appellation. Generally, there is no fining or filtration unless necessary to further clarify the wines.
The reds were also in tank, so we tasted the final blends. They will be bottled in two months.
There is a red Meursault from Les Corbins lieu-dit and a Volnay Santenots from younger vines (two parcels, five and 15 years old), but things start to get exciting with the Volnay Taillepieds, made from 45-year-old vines. It delivered a beam of pure cherry and strawberry flavors on a delicate frame with an underlying mineral streak that finished long and vibrant (88-91, non-blind).
The Beaune Epenottes, from 40-year-old vines, also showed purity to its cherry and spice notes, but was a richer, fruitier, more solid wine, long and dense with tannins (88-91, non-blind).
Ballot-Millot has four Pommards in the cellar. I was impressed with its Pezerolles, full of pencil lead, graphite, cherry and raspberry aromas. It was elegant for a Pommard, with pure fruit and ripe, well-integrated tannins (89-92, non-blind). The Rugiens comes from two parcels with vines that are 30 and 55 years old, respectively, from the lower Rugiens Bas lieu-dit. The oak was more noticeable, but it showed density and concentration with cherry, earth, spice and mineral flavors and a sturdier, more sauvage expression (89-92, non-blind).
Geoffrey Sandquist — Beaune, France — January 26, 2010 8:26am ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — January 27, 2010 9:47am ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions