A Canadian in Chablis

piuze

The clock had barely struck nine when Patrick Piuze opened the doors to his garagiste lair. The level of activity inside indicated that Piuze had already been at it for hours. The Quebec (Montreal’s South Shore) native wasted no time and led the way down into the subterranean structure housing eight years of his labour.

Twenty-five years earlier, at the age of 18, Patrick had a chance encounter with the famous Rhône vigneron Marc Chapoutier. His life changed forever. With Chapoutier’s direction Piuze traveled to find work in Australia at Mount Langhi and Leconfield, then South Africa and Israel. He opened a wine bar in Montreal called “Le Pinot Noir.” He went to Burgundy and joined the team at Olivier Leflaive, then studied at the Beaune CFPPA (Centre de Formation Professionnelle et de Promotion Agricole). Then came his big break in 2000 as the head of winemaking for a Leflaive-Verget joint venture in Chablis. He worked four vintages at Leflaive, one at La Maison Verget with Jean-Marie Guffens and then held a cellar master job with Jean-Marc Brocard.

It was in July of 2008 that Patrick Piuze made the decision to go solo and start his own winery. While Piuze may not be a wine grower, he is an accomplished and respected winemaker. He may not own his vineyards but it took him little time to forge cultivated and solicitous relationships with farmers in Chablis.

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We get right down to tasting his Chablis for breakfast but first Piuze offers a quick verbal vintage chart, for reference and for truth. First there is 2014, “a best ever year, razor-sharp and not too much skin maturity.” Then quickly, “well, 2013 is shit. 50-50 per cent rotten grapes.” 2010 is OK, ’11 soft but definitely speaks of place, ’12 is typical, with high skin maturity, though too big. And ’15 is like ’09, the “resto vintage.”

Where you find your grapes is key to making great Chablis, a place where it’s not just about vintage variation but also dissimilitude in climat and exposure. The last wine tasted (of 25) with Patrick Piuze is the most telling. It is a lieu-dit 2008 from his first solo vintage. “We have a glacial valley five km’s wide,” he explains, “where you have these exposures that are so important. But in a vintage like 2008, it’s good everywhere.”

The 2008 Terroirs de Chablis is not just an eight year-old curiosity. It is a testament to a vintage and to a winemaker who connected with and understood right away what had to be done. The wine shows now what Patrick Piuze knew then, armed with the ability to make his own decisions, what he needed to do with great fruit, even before he was able to intuit what might happen over the following eight years. These twenty-five tasting notes should open a window into the portal of Patrick Piuze in Chablis.

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Patrick Piuze Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11463182, $26.40, WineAlign)

From the “restaurant vintage,” like 2009 notes Patrick Piuze and a Petit Chablis more specific and focused than most, if perhaps all. A single-vineyard, lieu-dit PC, “Le Petit Preuses,” right banked and rubbing shoulders with the Grand Cru. Always on the plateau of Portlandia soil. Fine spark of Petit Chablis, like a lime cordial spiked by salinity and welling in concentration. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir De Chichée 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Terroir De Chichée is tasted first in a line-up of seven lieu-dit produced by Patrick Piuze, a Right Bank limestone plateau Chablis that “always takes the wind of the vintage.” The smoothest of entries transitions seamlessly to Chablis in which acidity runs up, down, across and in diagonal streaks across the palate. Done up in natural yeasts, like all the Piuze wines because “there’s no (other) point. It’s on the grape.” Clean, dry, clear and concise. Straight to the Chichée point. Acidity, even in the context of Chablis, must be your thing for Chichée to be your friend. I’d recommend seeking out Burgundian cuisine in the hands of a Japanese chef. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir Découverte 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

This second in Puize’s series of seven lieu-dits tastes at first draws more linear and then branches its lines for a broader approach to Chablis. From the cooler “des Couverts” parcel abutting the Vaulorent Premier Cru on the north-facing section of the Grand Cru hill, it is from here in a northerly locale beyond the borders of Grand Cru climats Preuses and Bougros where flint, richness and ancient shells intercede. If only because this was made in 2015, the near-Vaulorent cumulative effect is almost too easy to access. Bloody delicious and drink now Chablis. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016

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Back to his #chablis roots with #patrickpiuze What a way to begin a new career #fresh

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir de Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11180334, $33.25, WineAlign)

In the pantheon of the seven lieu-dits Piuze Chablis this is likely the great terroir despite its moniker that suggests a broader, cumulative expression. Terroirs is plucked and indeed speaks a Forêts language, its fruit native to the north facing hill occupied by the steely patron of the larger Left Bank Montmains Premier Cru. The reserve and quietude of Patrick’s ’15 is quite surprising but the circumvention of palate acidity is exhilarating and nearly frightening. Lemon meets much lime, texture wraps and ramps, precision leads to density. Striking but with the knowledge that ’14 was and will be more so. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir de Chablis 2008, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11180334, $33.25, WineAlign)

The twenty-fifth wine we taste and Patrick’s choice to remember 2008 is this Terroirs de Chablis, a micro-specific lieu-dit spoken of Forêts vernacular formed on the northern exposition of the Montmains Premier Cru hill. Piuze loves this vintage, noting that “any appellation passes (the ’08 test).” The freshness here astounds. Were this served blind I would certainly guess 2014. Lime is everywhere, limestone everywhere else. Acidity rings in and out of every crevice and pore. If this T de C does not look back and show what Patrick Piuze will be capable of in Chablis then you won’t find a wine that will. And you won’t need to. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted at the domain with Patrick Piuze, July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Courgis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Courgis was touched by some hail in 2015 on the first of September, a day Patrick Piuze says “I will always remember.” That was the day Piuze had to gather up seven years of go it alone fortitude to make the best of a difficult situation. He had to make a wine with some reduction, more upfront acidity and a different sort of citrus. Resist the temptation to make what he wanted and listen instead to the weather and the vintage. There is major fruit in this Courgis, a Chablis “wherever he laid his hat was his home.” Sly, in the lieu-dit family, Courgis “was a rollin’ stone.” Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir De Fyé 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Fyé comes fourth in a horizontal set of seven lieu-dits, a terroir across the tractor road from the “cape” Chapelot at the base of the fan-like shaped Montée de Tonnerre climat. The herbology and savour in Fyé is almost certainly magnified because of ’15 but so is the texture. The mouthfeel is fuller and wonderfully critical to balance and redemption. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted at the domain with Patrick Piuze, July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis La Grand Vallée 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

La Grand Vallée is the Piuze rendering of the lieu-dit Les Pargues, a Left Bank single-vineyard flanked by the Premier crus Butteaux and Forêts. The exposure is the same just one hill over. Affinities are shared with Terroirs de Chablis though the lemon-lime, layering and persistence run deeper. This also steps up in length, with really old barrels stretching the fruit to an elastic density in a smoky Chablis forged from precision. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis La Grand Vallée 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tasted side-by-side with La Grand Vallée 2015, the Piuze ’14 from the lieu-dit Les Pargues “shows off the good acidity of the vintage.” With Premier crus Butteaux and Forêts acting as bookends, the Pargues enjoys a one-off hill same exposure and the citrus intensity here is palpable. It’s that lemon-lime, Terroirs de Chablis thing run deeper and in ’14, to the depths of possibility. This plays multi-fret grapefruit notes without capo, bends and holds them forever. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons “Les Minots” 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Patrick Piuze likes this single-parcel of 75 year-old vines in the warmest spot on Vaillons. He likes it a lot. The way he picks and vinifies turns over, inside and out the highest acidity and alcohol but it’s really a matter of place. This Vaillons is a striking wine, “Le Petit,” as he likes to call it and of the most wondrous mouthfeel. This from what Piuze likens as “the resto vintage,” so imagine the possibilities, the flinty, smoky, steely and cracking results that will come from true-blue, platinum, gemstone and ancient sea creature portended vintages. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted at the domain with Patrick Piuze, July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Forêts 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It would be impossible to discuss Patrick Piuze and Forêts without bringing Vincent Dauvissat into the fray. To Piuze, Vincent is mentor, friend and benefactor. The fruit for Patrick’s ferment comes from Dauvissat’s domain and similarly in new blood’s hands it breathes the way only Forêts can, “with the confidential creak of oak, in the Dauvissat way.” Vincent’s quite politesse in Patrick’s care puts on confident airs, beneath the moon and with parallel lines drawn in a classically sharp but creamy Chablis. The balance struck between grace and tension is a performance only few from this special corner of Montmains learn to craft. Success in 2015 once again, with the best yet to come. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Forêts 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Patrick Piuze gains a whiff of his ’13 Forêts. “Hmm, like a riesling.” No other winemaker in Chablis is as honest as Piuze when it comes to extolling or denouncing the virtues of the vintage. “Like a virgin,” is what I begin to hum, “touched for the very first time.” And for the first time in 20 Piuze wines I consider chardonnay because this does not resemble it, but in a way that the rest do not. Forêts here is gassy, aerified, unusual, full of strange atmosphere and just plain atypical. Oh, Madonna this ’13 “made it through the wilderness” in spite of the weirdness, with enough citrus and mineral impression because, well, it’s still Chablis. “Cause only love can last.”  Drink 2016-2017. Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Les Roncières 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Piuze’s first attempt at tendering Les Roncières is here in this first edition ’15 from the single-plot, sub-climat inside Vaillons. You can’t help but sense the Dauvissat approach in Patrick’s take on Roncières with the conscious (or unconscious) allowance for the block within the block specific perfume. The stoic and quiet confidence of fruit submissive to mineral presentation points not to obviousness but to the basic tenets of smoke, flint and shell, Together they hover in the proverbial air. But Piuze’s Roncières walks a more direct line and of all his lieu-dit or Premier Cru ’15’s, it seems more akin to a vintage like ’14. This is because in mouthfeel it comes across as lean, but only in comparison to the rest of ’15. This is the one to really wait on and seek more time-rendered flesh. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Les Butteaux 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12936615, $67.50, WineAlign)

Butteaux with Patrick Piuze stands apart not just from other readings but also independent and aside from his own separate Premier Cru dealings. This Butteaux feels a bit more boozy which is not a vintage surprise, nor is it when you consider the cru and its ability to deliver both texture and gastronomy. The chunks of limestone and chalky topsoil get in here like mineral syrup emulsified into grape extract with a Piuze variegation that subdues both aromatics and linear acidity. This Montmains sub-divided Chablis instead plays with length and focuses on presence, delivering successes on both ends. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016

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#amusebouche #lasperule #auxerre

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Les Butteaux 2010, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12936615, $67.50, WineAlign)

After tasting through 18 2015s Patrick Piuze travels back in time and pulls this Butteaux as his choice for 2010, despite no label but identified by its cork. The sub-climat of Montmains is notable for its variegated character, tang upon tang, density folded into density, tart on tart. It is a fascinating look into the rear-view Piuze mirror from a terrific vintage and a time when he couldn’t yet have fully known what this terroir could do. The citrus is pure, intense and still in demand of attention. Though the window is clearly open it would not surprise to see this drink with similar personality for yet another few eye and palate-popping years. Yet another example of Premier Cru Chablis with ambitious aspirations and a seeker of Japanese inspired Bourgogne cuisine. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Patrick Piuze does not offer up any sort of dissertation on the larger Fourchaume in presenting his Vaulorent. He has moved on. “This climat is so focused,” he confirms. “The real Chablis.” In my estimation Vaulorent is the opposite of Fourchaume, of anti-blanketing fruit-mineral amenability, sharp, fixated, honed-in. Though Piuze readily admits this about Fourchaume. “Me, I don’t understand it.” So he traded in his larger Fourchaume fruit for the more parochial Vaulorent. What he’s really saying (or I am thinking) is that he’s relying on instinct and holistic navigation to grace Vaulorent with respect. In 2015 mission accomplished. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Serein River’s Right Bank Grand Cru faces south with vines that average 40 years-old. Neutral barrels are employed for the Piuze Blanchot so that density is derived slowly, effortlessly and with GC corradiation. In the cathedral of Blanchot there is always a compression intro. of mille-feuille flint and citrus but few act with as much immediate amenability as this ’15. Seemingly warm and downy, things begin to increase with intricate complexity and the point of convergence is met where persistence begins, two years down the tractor road, to carry on into the middle of the next decade. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Bougros vines grown on the plateau and while the aromatics are a bit reserved (like those on the Piuze Terroir Découverte) this inward and recondite Grand Cru is an intense, raging from within Chablis. It is this collected and surrounded power that keeps Patrick’s Bougros so in control and while it is labeled at 12.5 per cent alcohol, Piuze admits that is maxes out at 12.2. This is significant when you consider what sort of sapidity plays out in the context of enigmatic behaviour. “You can’t have a duality between acidity and alcohol,” says Piuze. “I don’t want high alcohol.” What he wants is chaste tension and while 2015 is not the perfect vestal vintage to realize his plans, it stays the course nonetheless. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016

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Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte De Bouqueyreaux 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Côte de Bouqueyraux terroir is a (45°) steep-sloping solid bedrock section of Bougros. It’s also a name referring to “how the monks are calling it” back in the pressoir day. “Bougueriot,” from the Latin “bucca” which gave the Old French “bouque” (shrunken). Or, Boquereau, which took its name from “bouque-eau,” (narrow passage by the water). Piuze made only 600 bottles in 2015 from this highly specified, laser-focused, riverine-simulated and disciplined Grand Cru vineyard. This is tasted 14th in the great caves breakfast Piuze rendezvous with Patrick and is unequivocally the most intense. And yet there is this creamy, nutty and tart stone tree-fruit character that adds a level of toothsome delight. Will chalk that up to 2015, from “a really sharp place,” coupled with the warm vintage. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte De Bouqueyreaux 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

At 45° in angle the steep (perhaps the steepest) Côte de Bouqueyraux dangles Bougros like bait on a line and is the farthest thing from a shrunken (from the French “bouque”) or shrinking violet. This 2011 is what Patrick Piuze refers to as “in between ’09 and ’15 in style; my style.” He puckers, shrugs and adds, “pretty good for a vintage that isn’t supposed to age.” Once again it is Piuze that looks at Chablis, at Grand Cru Chablis from the very recent past as a wine of THE past. Most vignerons would see a 2011 Grand Cru as an infant, barely evolved and far too young to even think about passing any real judgement. Pious is the most pragmatic, honest and transparent of them all. It is both refreshing and confounding. Either for Bougros or in sub-climat terms this Côte De Bouqueyreaux is in the sweet spot. Citrus fruit, saline-mineral innervation and a vintage-affected softening combine for this lime-sherbet palate. Will drink with perfect reason for three to four more years. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The south-facing, Right Bank Grand Cru “Valley of Ripeness” parcel known as Valmur is from “val” which refers to “valley” and the French “mur,” which means “ripe.” Valmur and its great, late afternoon sun ensures phenolic ripeness unlike anywhere else, to accentuate the richness and the éclat. Yes there is this strong personality and guarantee of Grand Cru acidity but the creamy richesse is unparalleled for Chablis. Piuze recognizes both the place and the vintage and just lets this Valmur run free. What else should it be? Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Before launching into the Valmur 2012 first an exhortatory preface, or at least a contextual, cautionary tale from Patrick Piuze. “It will look a bit older, on the nose, because we tasted so many 2015s.” True, we have just sailed through 18 (plus one 2014) so this Valmur does seem “dressed-up” and boozy with alcohol but it’s OK because the acidity is divine. Evolution has done some rendering and I get the feeling Patrick was picking later then than he is now. The liqueur leads a remarkable cocktail of pure Valmur geology distilled, subservience to ends, almost now, but now quite. If this Piuze Valmur is a Chablis meme to an aramaic Belshazzar’s feast, the Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin is clearly understood writing on the wall. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12034929, $106.00, WineAlign)

Piuze gathers equal and opposing Les Clos fruit from two parcels, first (and in dominance) in communality with Blanchots and then by Valmur. While not a perfect vintage for the grand Grand Cru by any stretch of the Chablis imagination, precision and clarity is a guarantee under the tutelage of Patrick Piuze. Hail was certainly a factor so quantity is sacrificed to quality, with herbs, bitters and spicy salinity the collective foil to early picked fruit. It’s a toss-up whether or not Les Clos is more successful than Blanchots and it remains to be seen if phenolics will drive the ageability machine, but Patrick’s caution and judgement should see this through to live another day. It is Grand Cru after all and deserves at least two years respect. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016

preuses

Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12034902, $106.00, WineAlign)

Les Preuses faces west, the Grand Cru Patrick Piuze notes “is always last. You cannot beat Les Preuses in Chablis.” The crux of what Piuze is aiming to accomplish with Grand Cru fruit is motivated by this climat and explained like this. “We are early pickers, early bottlers and (patient observers of) late transformations.” Semi-getting on towards vieilles vignes of 35 years are grown in Kimmeridgian limestone and clay soil. La Voie Pierreuse (The Stony Path) is the Piuze GC muse and his tightly wound elucidation will take longer to unravel, flesh up and drink heartily than most. Even in 2015 there will be no immediate Les Preuses gratification but there will be valiance and stony reward. Eventually. Drink 2018-2028.  Tasted July 2016

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Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2009, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Grenouilles is a Grand Cru that Piuze used to work with but does not anymore. This 2009 is close to achieving its full resolve, now waxy, oleaginous, briny and filled with the kind of glück usually reserved for older riesling, especially out of Alsace. Piuze discusses Grenouilles as “the most uni-dimensional” of all the Grands Cru, but he likes the way it has come to this point. If it has to be a one-trick perfect pony than so be it. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016

piuze

Good to go!

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