Mother Nature has a way of creating natural wine and food pairings. When I think of Coq au vin I think of Burgundy. When looking for an ideal pairing it’s good to start in the same region.
The 2014 Michel Calliot “Les Herbeux” Bourgogne Blanc is an exemplary white Burgundy that (1) is sourced from an organically farmed vineyard in Meursault, (2) hails from a personal-favorite vintage, (3) is produced without manipulation in frighteningly small quantities, (4) has little-to-no exposure in America, and (5) comes in at a truly incomprehensible price.
When we tasted it next to a bonafide $65 Meursault, we swore there was an extra dimension or some hidden secret to this pedestrian label—and after consulting my tried-and-true Burgundy tome from Clive Coates, our hunch was confirmed.
The tiny “Les Herbeux” vineyard sits smack dab in the middle of Meursault, literally touching “Clos de la Barre,” made famous by legendary Comte Lafon ($200+). In other words, this is the epitome of insider Burgundy! We’ll always call a spade a spade around here: We know today’s label is forgettable, but the wine inside is sensational.
This is a pitch-perfect “Meursault” (more on the ‘Bourgogne’ labeling below) from a vintage that brought some of the most classic tasting Burgundies of the 21st century. For just $35, you’d be certifiably mad to miss this opportunity.
Michel Caillot began working the vines in the late ‘80s when the domaine was run by his father Roger. After several backbreaking years of work, he was “upgraded” to the cellar and began perfecting his winemaking craft until completing his first unassisted élevage in the mid 1990s. Michel was able to do this so quickly by learning from the best: He’s the nephew of Pierre Morey, who was previously the cellar master of world-famous Domaine Leflaive for 20 years!
So why isn’t this sensational Bourgogne Blanc labeled as a “Meursault?” Simple wine politics! When the Meursault appellation was created a half-century ago, “Les Herbeux” wasn’t planted to vines at the time, so it wasn’t legally allowed to be classified.
Soon after, the various crops were replanted to Chardonnay and, thus, a secret, unclassified Meursault vineyard was born. In the vineyard, Michel farms with organic practices and keepy yields low—well below the average for Grand Crus! In the winery, he exceeds all expectations of a $35 wine by employing a six-month-long, barrel-fermented, natural fermentation and ensuring that all juice is transferred by gravity in his three-story cellar.
The resulting wine continues maturing in French barrels, 10% new, before tightening up in stainless steel. In all, over two years pass before an unfiltered bottling—a truly rare feat, and dying breed, in Burgundy!
Make no mistake: Just because this is labeled “Bourgogne Blanc” doesn’t mean it must be resigned to that broad-sweeping region—“Les Herbeux” lies in the heart of Meursault and it tastes like it in the glass. It pours a deep yellow with silver hues and instantly starts emitting powerfully seductive, evolving Côte de Beaune perfumes like apricot, ripe yellow apple, pineapple core, honeysuckle, white peach, lemon curd, raw hazelnut, crushed rock, vanilla bean, baking spice, and a concentrated mineral core.
This has all the hallmarks of classic white Burgundy, really, of classic Meursault, and I wouldn’t hesitate to put it in a blind tasting. Plus, the fact that it hails from the structured and classic 2014 vintage only adds to the allure: The palate is full of supple citrus/orchard fruit and pulverized mineral tension, and each sip stretches for 30+ seconds.
– Ian Cauble, Master Sommelier & Founder of SommSelect