During this uncertain and somewhat scary time in the world, wine sometimes seems a bit of an afterthought. I would be lying if I said I haven’t wondered why I spend so much time and money on a trivial subject. Certainly in my overall world view, wine is trivial; it is after all a beverage designed to intoxicate us. It doesn’t cure the ill, help the poor, stop the climate from changing, etc. However, wine does offer more than just intoxication in certain situations; it can bring joy, stimulate the intellect, and can give a glimpse into another culture of the world. In times like these, sometimes a little joy and intellectual stimulation that is not concerned with a virus can be a very good thing for mental health. At least for me anyways. So at the end of the day, wine has provided a much needed distraction for me during this crazy time in the world, and that is much appreciated. With that said, I will try offer you a bit of a distraction as well.
If you’ve read much of this blog, you will know that my true passion in wine is Burgundy. As I get older, I find more and more of my purchases/consumption are Burgundy. It is not that I don’t enjoy other wines and other regions. I certainly do; but none of them provide the thrills for my intellectual sense, my pure pleasure sense, and my “je ne sais quois” sense like Burgundy. I must say I also enjoy the quest of finding Burgundy. The thrill of the chase if you will. Burgundy is a small region and the production is therefore small. So finding certain bottles from specific producers takes time and effort. I enjoy that hunt very much and finding a special bottle and then drinking it with my wife or with great friends just adds another level of enjoyment for me. With all this in mind, I wanted to discuss a particular vineyard today that I have become quite fond of (it has required some hunting for sure). That vineyard is the Puligny Montrachet 1er cru Le Cailleret.
White Burgundy has been somewhat of an enigma to me over the years. I’ve wanted to love it, but have struggled to find wines that I really enjoyed. It seemed odd to me that as much as I love the pinot noir from Burgundy, the chardonnay just seemed to fall flat. I enjoy chardonnay that is crisp, mineral driven, racy, and vibrant. I do not particularly enjoy oak on chardonnay as I often find that it overwhelms the terroir and dominates the wine. Given this penchant for crisp and mineral driven wines, you would of course direct me to try Chablis as this would fit the bill perfectly. I have and I love it, but I kept wanting to love chardonnay from the Cote d’Or. Well I have finally made progress! Part of the reason I think is a result of broad stylistic change in the region as many producers now make more vibrant, mineral driven wines. Fichet and Arnaud Ente opened my eyes to to with their lovely Meursault wines that are filled with tension. The Meursault that used to be described as fat and unctuous is a rarer thing these days. Still, the most famous whites of the region come from Puligny (ok technically from both Puligny and Chassagne as Le Montrachet crosses bounds) and I struggled to find wines from there that really spoke to me. I think I have finally found my Puligny terroir. The 1er cru vineyard of Le Cailleret, a direct northward extension of the fabled Le Montrachet has provided several recent stellar experiences. The bottle that initially opened my eyes to this terroir was a 2013 made by Jean Chartron for the Domaine and Selection label of JABCo. I bought this in Burgundy on my first trip in 2016 and drank it prior to my return in 2018. It was simply incredible. The nose was so pure; lime zest, candied lemon, orchard blossom, and the smell after rain in a dry clime. The energy and depth were incredible and the balance was simply superb. That bottle prompted me to do 2 things: 1) further explore the wines of Jean Chartron (a work in progress at this point) and 2) further explore the terroir of Puligny Le Cailleret.
As I mentioned, Le Cailleret is directly next to Le Montrachet (see the map above). Technically I believe there is a very small vineyard called Les Demoiselles, that is directly abutting Le Montrachet, though it is not consistent on maps. Though I have never had it, I do believe there are a few bottlings of Les Demoiselles out there. The soil Le Cailleret is shallow and stony (cailleret means small stones) and results in wines of great tension and yet stellar depth. (As a side note, there are multiple other vineyards with the name Cailleret, a very good 1er cru red in Volnay and a 1er cru in Chassagne that I’ve yet to sample for example so be aware you must match both the village name (Puligny- Montrachet) and the vineyard name (Le Cailleret) to be in the right spot) Obviously being directly next to the most famous white wine vineyard in the world should mean the dirt and the exposure are pretty spot on and many people consider this vineyard to be one of the top 1er crus for white wines in the Cote de Beaune.
The other aspect of this vineyard which I believe helps it to excel is the quality of producers working in it. I’ve already mentioned Jean Chartron whose domaine produces excellent quality wines and still flies slightly under the radar. In addition, I’ve sampled an excellent 2013 from Domaine de la Pousse d’Or and recently acquired some 2014 that I look forward to sampling. While they are more known for their reds, this white was absolutely killer. Another excellent, slightly under the radar producer of Le Cailleret is Michel Bouzereau. Quality here has been high and the prices are still reasonable. The final personal example I’ve had is from Domaine de Montille. The 2011 Le Cailleret was a beautiful wine from a difficult vintage. Lemon peel, red apple, acacia, and a lovely saline note on the nose lead in to a mineral driven palate that has loads of succulent orchard fruit underlying. A long finish with beautiful tension.
Other high quality producers that produce a Le Cailleret include Roulot, Henri Boillot, Domaine de Lambrays, and Buisson Charles. I have not personally been able to sample these, but given the reputation of the producers I wouldn’t hesitate to buy them if I ran across them at a somewhat reasonable price. In fact I did just purchase some Buisson Charles that I am waiting to receive.
It feels like somewhat of a milestone for me as a Burgundy lover; I’ve finally found a Cote d’Or white Burg terroir that I feel like I’m connecting with! Of course, as with most of the Burgundy, it requires some searching to find a bottle. However it is worth it and I will always be on the lookout for this great 1er cru from Puligny and definitely look forward to exploring it further and tasting different producers. If you enjoy whites with absolutely classic white Burgundy noses, great depth, but still with fabulous tension and energy, it is well worth checking out! Enjoy and stay safe out there!
J. Newman, CSW