When our offer of Boyer-Martenot’s 2016 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Le Cailleret” came up in the queue recently, I was prompted to rummage around in my photos from our visit to Burgundy back in March. And, boom, there is was: A picture of Ian Cauble standing on the narrow path that separates the Grand Cru “Le Montrachet” from the Premier Cru “Le Cailleret” in the white wine mecca that is Puligny. We were walking the vineyards that day with Sylvie Boyer, part of the fourth generation to run the Boyer-Martenot domaine, and seeing the proximity to these two vineyards to one another—side-by-side on the same part of this gently rising, east-facing slope—hammered home the game of inches that is Burgundy more than any map ever could. Check out the photo: Crossing that little road costs a lot of money! If you’ve ever wondered why Burgundy geeks memorize this terrain down to the square meter, well, the photo says it all, I think.

To Ian’s right (your left): Grand Cru Le Montrachet. To his left (your right): Premier Cru Le Cailleret. And upslope in the back? The stone arch marking Grand Cru Chevalier-Montrachet.

There are currently 32 Grand Cru vineyards in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, compared to hundreds of Premier Crus, but of course not all Premier Crus (or Grand Crus, for that matter) are created equal. It’s a pretty firmly entrenched hierarchy in that there haven’t been many “promotions”

or “demotions” over the years, although there have been both official and unofficial efforts on behalf of certain sites.Since 2013, growers in the village of Pommard have been petitioning the INAO (the French governing body for wine appellations) to upgrade their “Epenots,” “Rugiens,” and “Clos des Epeneaux” vineyards to Grand Cru status (Pommard currently

contains no Grand Cru sites). Up in the Côte de Nuits, Burg-o-philes have long suggested that Chambolle-Musigny’s “Amoureuses” Premier Cru (which abuts Grand Cru Musigny) and Vosne-Romanée’s “Cros Parentoux” (just above Grand Cru Richebourg and made legend by Henri Jayer) are perennial performers deserving of the top designation.

 

All I can say about it, after my first time actually seeing these vineyards in person, is that the differences are incredibly subtle—not just between Grand and Premier Cru but between the “ranked” vineyards and those designated as “village” sites. That Golden Slope has an incredibly gentle, gradual rise, and what looks to the naked eye like an almost perfectly contiguous aspect.There’s not a whole lot of undulation here and yet, as the afternoon rolls around, you can start to pick out

pockets of shade here and there. Imagine the monkish discipline it took to map these sites out way back when; no GPS, just the powers of observation. To discern these subtleties among wines, meanwhile, represents the ultimate in wine geekery. Even after 20 years in wine, I’m not there yet. Not even close, really.But I’m enjoying the ride. We all are!

Moroccan Wine: Old Country, New Frontier

The latest SommSelect adventure abroad was one we’ll never forget—and we brought the best wines back with us to keep the memories fresh. As a member of the SommSelect wine team, I’ve gotten to visit some of the world’s greatest wine regions and taste with legendary winemakers. But Ian Cauble added a wrinkle to this […]

Where to Drink Wine: Barcelona

Welcome to a new SommSelect blog series we’re calling Where To Drink Wine, in which we ask our intrepid sommelier friends to recommend the best wine-drinking places they’ve encountered during their travels. Today we welcome sommelier and writer Erin Rickenbacker, who runs the all-Spanish wine program at San Francisco’s Bellota—itself an excellent place to drink […]

Napa Valley Past & Present

Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser is a well-known lecturer, author, and wine educator who has mentored many MS candidates, including SommSelect’s Ian Cauble. Recently, he posted this piece on his personal blog and, with his permission, we’ve reproduced it here. Anyone with a love of both history and wine will appreciate Tim’s revisiting of a classic book […]

You Say Indigenous, I Say Autochthonous…The Best Native Grapes to Try Now

It’s a wide world of vitis vinifera out there, but which lesser-known native grapes are most worthy of more attention? We’re not two months into 2019, and already SommSelect has offered wines from grapes such as Pelaverga (Piedmont, Italy), Xinomavro (Macedonia, Greece), and Kékfrankos (Slovakia!). Oh, and Piedirosso (Campania, Italy) and Loureiro (Vinho Verde, Portugal), […]

What We’ve Learned:
Wine & Food Pairing

  Each of our daily wine offers contains a suggestion for a recipe to prepare with the featured wine. It’s not just because all of us at SommSelect share a love of cooking (and eating), but because we want to describe not just the “whats” and “wheres” of a wine but the “whys” and the […]