Seven climats in 54 Chablis Grand Cru

kimmeridgian

Le kimmeridgien en fossiles d’Exogyra virgula

Related – Chablis Premier Cru by Cru

I have spent the better part of these past eight months tasting, assessing, contemplating, excogitating, dreaming about and purchasing Chablis. I may have once believed that the rooted obsession incited by my visit to the kimmeridgian zone last July would cease and desist by the time the clock struck 2017. I was dead wrong. If ever there was a Chablis lifer transformed, you are looking at him.

Related – Chablis from Dauvissat to Vocoret

chablis-grand-cru

Related – Chablis got soil

Chablis Grand Cru can be found in the commune of Chablis on the right bank of the Serein River and the appellation comprises seven climats; Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, and Vaudésir. “The terroirs, formed in the Upper Jurassic era, 150 million years ago, are composed of limestone and marl with Exogyra virgula, tiny oyster fossils. Chablis Grand Cru is one of the rare French AOC wines to make reference to its geology, notably the Kimmeridgean age.”

Related – Looking for Chablis in Ontario?

chablis-grand-cru-2

Related – Raveneau’s Grand Cru Blanchot 2009

If at first you have not written enough about a particular subject, keep on writing. My first grand assessment took my olfactory and gustatory senses, emotions and tangent extrapolating explorations into 76 examples of Chablis and Petit Chablis. I followed that exercise with 92 reviews to cover all the Premier Cru tasted in Chablis and Auxerre back in July of 2016 and also those I have assessed in the months since. Finally I have come to the Grand Cru, a group of top echelon Chablis that caused more personal reflection and inner exorcism than I’d like to admit. The count is 54 wines reviewed. At last, again and again I must pay retrospective and forward thanks to @purechablis  @vinsdechablis  @BourgogneWines and @vinsdebourgogne.

Related – Paradox in Chablis

au-fil

Au fil du Zinc Chablis, thon, concombre, crème d’anchois

Related – A Canadian in Chablis

Valmur

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

collet-grand-cru

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Valmur under the spell and with classic Collet acumen is a tale of two parts told with seamless transitions. Two to three year-old Allier “Moyenne chauffe” barrels hold the central Grand Cru hill’s proud climat fruit for 12 months followed by five extra fortifying and corralling months. The Valmur clocks in at a minor but important and impressing half per cent extra of alcohol and you can nose the slow-release, micro-oxygenated wood. In part two there is this rich and expansive vacuum with definite taxing spice and of course that Collet-specific lemon acidity. The back end is dripping with citrus, taking the reins and leaving the wood behind. In another year or two the transition will complete for perfect symmetry. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Valmur is a négoce Grand Cru from Sébastien Dampt, so very rich with razor-thin mineral pastry, fruit and cream layered upon that mineral many times over. It is raised in some wood and some inox, resulting in a tiered tart wrought with some weight. This is really like sucking on a mouthful of rocks, at first, all saline and tangy. Then the custard and the (on the edge of) brûléed orchard fruit creams in. The tension hangs in that caramelized balance in a Grand Cru set from a very clean and vintage driven take on Valmur. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Valmur leaves an indelible mark because in 2014 this one is just so confident and impresses with purpose. The Grand Cru vineyard is located on the top of the hill, both east and southwest facing, with some clay and marl (as a vein into the kimmeridgian sub-soil). There is more richness in Valmur and here surely a by-product of stupidly low (25 hL/L) yields. This carries in its DNA the complex and multi-faceted variegation of Chablis soils intertwined, reticulated and defined. Will make itself readily available ahead of the other Fèvre Grand Cru because of its richness as an extension of soil and exposition. Drink 2017-2023. Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, ON $74.00, BCLDB 116517, $60.99, WineAlign)

From winemaker Fabien Moreau and his tiny parcel of 50 year-old vines sandwiched between Vaudésir to the north and Les Clos to the south. A pittance (for Grand Cru) percentage of new oak is used for half of the fruit, eventuating in beautifully delineated bitter density and fresh dressed pith. Quite open for business at this early stage but so very complex and variegated. Upon a second go ’round you might think reductive when what you are really getting is cool fresh mineral, away from bitter and into the yet unresolved. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @ChristianMoreau  @rogcowines

Domaine Jean Paul Et Benoît Droin Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2013, Burgundy, France (SAQ 12280775, $71.50, WineAlign)

Benoît Droin has crafted an esteemed, highly amenable and juicy Valmur in effete for break of dawn business openness. The acidity is really quite round, more so than the Moreau and quite in contrast to the Premier Cru (Montmains and Vaillons) Droins. There is more pitch and assertiveness in Valmur to be sure, qualities to qualify its Grand Cru positioning though still surprising to note how well it drinks while young. It’s a funny vintage to be sure, with more weight, aromatic liquor and pooling viscosity than most. Droin’s Valmur will develop a bilateral petrol-honey secondary note before the decade strikes end. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  

lasperule-barbue-brulee-legumes-verts-croquants-jus-daretes-a-lugli

L’asperule Barbue, brûlée, légumes verts croquants, jus d’arêtes à l’ugli

Related – Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru

Bougros

(Côte De Bouqueyreaux)

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Brocard’s Grand Cru Bougros ’14 is the most reductive Chablis tasted so far this week, striking, chiseled and young beyond youth. Saline and briny to the hyperbole of its younger siblings, the implosion of full extract is at once arid and then rich. This is a full-on pure and simply beautiful Bougros, precisely tart and very long. Will age gracefully into the middle next decade, with ease. In the hands of Brocard Bougros to the west is neither entry or exit point but more like the epicentre of the action. This 2014 is certainly a top example for the vintage and the Grand Cru. Wait three years for it to unwind. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted with Julien Brocard at the domaine, July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Côte Bouguerots is the two point two hectare Domaine plot close to the river at the base of the Bougros Grand Cru hill. The extreme anti-steppe where only calcaire and kimmeridgian soils exist is the moonscape of Burgundy, bald, austere and machinery retarding. The ’14’s stark karst reality bleeds sea salinity, intense citrus and as much inferential mineral as this place can and ever will. Such a masculine assertion of Chablis predicated on this sort of fluidic geology and assortative power comes across in only so few. While the complexity is increased in Côte Bouguerots it is also like a vacuum within the greater clime, concentrating richness without fatness. This is, simply stated, a great white bottle of wine. The length goes on forever. Drink 2019-2030.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $97.00, WineAlign)

If Bougros in 2013 is the outlier and the exit west away from the Grand Cru, the follow up 2014 turns that right around. In this terrific mineral meets acidity vintage Bougros strikes as the entry point into Grand Cru Chablis. The southwest facing climat launches the introductory impression of the Fèvre Domaine GCs, with idiosyncratic layers of citrus, namely lemon and lime. Fifty per cent of the Bougros (six of 12 hectares) lies calm and poised on the flat portion of the already mild slope, offering easier access and amenability. A launch point from where control is transferred from the operating system to the process and ultimately, the programmer. That would be winemaker Didier Séguier, he who takes a calm ferment and squeezes out its vital juices to render Chablis with all the attributes it has come to define. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @BouchardPere  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $97.00, WineAlign)

The southwest facing Bougros is the furthest strip west of the Grand Cru climats at modest altitudes ranging from 130 to 170m. Bougros strikes me as the hardest to read and the outlier of the Grand Cru because it is less expressive of that necessary and contemplative Chablis mineral idiom but don’t be fooled into thinking it bourgeois or insignificant. That type off thinking will only look for trouble and lead to dire straits. “Sitting on a fence that’s a dangerous course.” Bougros of marl and clay is a clam before a storm Grand Cru. It is sneaky dangerous and long. The limestone permeate is integrated with deep intent. It fills all nooks but with nary an act of argumentation or attrition. The vintage is an expanding one, not so much one that leaves a direct impression as much as one of wide expression. The palate circulates with citrus and zest, more lime and grapefruit than others and in warmer tenses, native and prominent. One upon a time in the west. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Côte De Bouqueyreaux

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

bordet-vaudesir

Vos désirs, in a word, #vaudesir @purechablis #jeanfrancoisbordet @bivbchablis #domaineseguinotbordet

Vaudésir

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis Gran Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Jean-François Bordet’s Vaudésir tells a climat tale with the sort of precision and clarity that really explains the Cru comparative to Les Preuses and Les Clos. Bordet took over in 1988 so 25-plus years of experience later and with the exceptional vintage in pocket he has really locked into Vaudésir. The finesse that calmly breathes from SB’s fruit farmed on this double semi-circled, steep-sloping hill is certainly mellow, golden and mature. It’s also alive. Bordet makes use of 10 hL wood tanks for aging (12 months) plus six more in stainless steel. This has been in bottle six months, just long enough to reveal the intoxicating perfume, the power, rich texture and the elegance. In the present (or futur proche) Bordet’s ’14 Vaudésir will incite your desires, as it will say “je vais congelé vos désirs.” J-F shrugs and holds out his hands as he tells you this so after a glass (and an exceptional meal prepared by Eric Gallet at Le Bourgogne in Auxerre) some of your fantasies may come true. The effect may come with less jouissance than Les Preuses and not quite as much puissance of Les Clos but true power nonetheless. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11482703, $77.00, WineAlign)

For some producers Vaudésir is the pinnacle of their Chablis expression and yet here it seems the entry point as it leads in a tasting of four Grand Crus. From three parcels in the amphitheatre, one right at the top by the wood and two at the mid-way point on the hill. A direct, in your sight lines Vaudésir, so very lemon-lime push-pulled and densely tart. It’s taut but not sour, tight but not cringing from the tightening of the winch. The most masculine of Vaudésir perhaps with few equals though unwavering and unquestionable in its achievement of balance. The Inox secret is discarded (or complicated, depending on your vantage point) in favour of 100 per cent (15-16 years) old oak. This is Grand Cru after all. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Here from Vincent Tremblay a nicely stinky (dare it be said) and reductive Vaudésir of major mineral compression and the combative exaggerated energies of weight, body and density. This is a powerful expression of the climat that sits atop the Grand Cru hill, unique in round shape and steep slope as if created as a natural and ancient amphitheatre. Tremblay cuts a white stony line right through his chemin des vaudésirs, as any self-respecting Grand Cru Chablis should. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (226373, $110.00, WineAlign)

Vaudésir from Fèvre’s Didier Séguier is the consummate erudite expression from the amphitheatre-chiseled and curled Grand Cru. It is here where there simply is no clay, only the calcaire for the kimmeridgian, so its all about high mineral commission. All Vaudésir is meant for aging but this, this is something other. Séguier the winemaker is a generous fellow, a giver of Chablis, gift-wrapped in 50 per cent oak and tank equality (as he does for all GC). The vernacular spoken is very direct primarily because of the veritable bath of mineral which translates to salinity off the charts. It can be imagined without any real difficulty that the alleged ancient sea bed is in this one. It will be some years before any change is noted and many more until mindfulness reigns in a secondary geological observation. Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Burgundy, France (124354, $79.00, WineAlign)

Vaudésir in Moreau’s Chablis cellar spent a mere handful of months in one, two and three year-old oak barrels, destined to an end game of gentle spice, then followed up with 24 months in stainless steel. Concentration, resolute vitality and depth render the barrel nearly obsolete, allowing the desires of the Cru’s mineral to really shine through. All that said it is a decidedly feminine expression, delicate and with richesse, but ultimately calm. Will age with charm and grace. Drink 2018-2025  @MoreauLouis1

lasperule-labbaye-de-citeaux-pommes-sautees-raisins-opaline

L’asperule L’abbaye de Citeaux, pommes sautées, raisins, opaline

Blanchot

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (401984, $115.00, WineAlign)

From the top right (eastern) aspect of the white stones Grand Cru, just across the valley from Montée de Tonnerre. This is a fuller, slightly richer Blanchot but still so direct, piercing and impressed stone-dominant. Great lemon zest shaved into juice and an amplitude rendering dollop of curd. The lemon-curated and curative house continues to flex its citrus style. Once again, the enigma of Inox barrel and old barrels used. Why pour this last of the four Grand Crus? I suppose it’s because the rich fruit versus exigent stone is the epitome of Chablis paradox, in retrospect and with further addendum to what seemed obvious at the time. Blanchot is the gate-keeper of Grand Cru middle ground. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Four of Domaine Laroche’s total of six-plus Grand Cru hectares are in Blanchot and comprise one third of all holdings in this ancient kimmeridgian climat and its southeast exposure. “We are the ambassador of this Grand Cru,” informs Elodie Saudemont, noting the low and slow ripening processes on the eastern portion of the Cru. The white clay defines Les Blanchots, infusing a fine minerality that delivers a purported sense of fitness and fineness to this wine. In 2014 there is a delicate arabesque lacework and a certain salinity, explicit and inherent to Blanchot. Floral like no other Grand Cru, of stereotypical but percipient aromas that call to the air what can only be white flowers. Not that it’s any shock but the length is exceptional too. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

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Une dégustation chez @DomaineLaroche originale, exceptionnelle et tellement informative. Merci beaucoup Elodie #vaudevey #lesmontmains #lesvaillons #montedetonnerre #chablispremiercru #chablisgrandcru #leclos #lesblanchots #reservedelobedience

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots Réserve De L’obédience 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Réserve De L’obédience is a cuvée coalesced from the best of Les Blanchots barrels, those that show the greatest balance between fruit and acidity. The entire technical team takes part in the process, to the end for a wine with the most finesse. There is no true reference point for such a wine, that is unless you can close your eyes, travel back in time and conjure up some 9th century L’Obédiencerie or 13th century Saint-Martin monks working a pressoir. Grand Cru Chablis separates itself from the rest for good reason but because L’obédience is a cuvée consolidated from the best of Les Blanchots’ barrels this is something other, or rather it is a cuvée spotted in a light separate from the rest of the Chablis Grand Cru. An unusual amalgamation, beyond the idea of selecting the best plots, into the concept of selecting the best wines. Here the practice of lutte raisonnée ensures balance is profligate and etched in stone. The acidity is pitch-perfect, the fruit a metronomic peregrination from streaming to richness and back again. Multiple exposures and various levels of ripeness be damned, this Grand Cru skips over the tribulations of plots and vintage variation. The best is stolen and used for great purpose. And 2014 was a friend. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Long-Depaquit treatment for Blanchots is with 25 per cent barrel. A real preserved lemon and just a hint of paraffin is replete with such elegance and finesse on the nose. Les Blanchots is at once soft but also of a sexy smoulder, like flint that has been sparked, extinguished and left with a lingering wisp. So beautifully wound and full of demurred grace. But don’t be fooled, there is a punch of acidity and underlying spirit. The house accounts for a meaningful if ponderous part of the Blanchot riddle, its centrism wrapped in a mystery, in a fruit versus stone enigma. Recondite, interwoven Chablis. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2009, Burgundy, France

It would be misleading to address Raveneau’s Blanchot as chardonnay even as we know it as such because Raveneau produces wines as unique as door keys. They are so inimitable and each will only open the gate to its own unique perception. Blanchot is the southernmost of the seven Chablis Grand Cru climats and blankets the southeastern side of Les Clos. The Raveneau narration does not convey the notion of manifest feeling but instead splits the axiomatic atom of the climat. A sip and you are inside the Blanchot, gliding and passing through rock as if you are the ethereal and the wine is the solid foundation of thought, pathos and avowal. There are aromas that combine citrus and umami with a sweetness that can’t be denied or defined. The wine is just a child, complex, shy and yet unable to express both its meaning and power. But you try to get inside its head, stumbling over kimmeridgian rock replete with the smithereen-crushed shells of ancient fossils. This is a calm young Blanchot and you melt away while under its spell. Three more years should render its hidden meaning. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted July 2016

La Folie d'Auxerre

Restaurant La Folie, Auxerre

Les 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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (360834, $99.00, WineAlign)

What separates Chablis from chardonnay begins with these 65 year-old vines, with healthy yields (50 hL/H) that are perfect for the vintage from this stoic and iconic Cru. Here is the essentiality of Les Preuses, “the juice of the stone,” saline, crustaceous, briny and simply, utterly trenchant. This is the vraiment Preuses impression, a fossil entrenched in the chardonnay and subsequently on the brain and the senses. A straight jacket Chablis with length up Les Preuses, back to the river and then straight back up and away into the woods. Inox barrel (sic) and old barrels used. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $123.00, WineAlign)

Les Preuses is comprised of two point five hectares in two plots held in the Fèvre Domaine, one east facing and steep, the second southwest, flat and deep. The memory of an old Roman stone road “Perreuse” lays beneath, as marker and sentinel to the ancient rocks and stones below. Les Preuses is a blend of the two plots, both equal in delivery of rich and mineral elegant fruit. No other Grand Cru offers such near-identical balance from blocks meant to compliment one another. It is this symmetry, mille-feuille layering and gainful repetition that dishes LP such a a different sort of singular variegation, not so much a vein but a 12-string strum over top one another. There is more length to speak clearly of and ultimate elongation in Les Preuses. It is simply citrus beautiful. A near-perfect record, from side A to side B. Play either one first because it always comes around full circle. Drink 2018-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $123.00, WineAlign)

There is a certain sense of romanticism that surrounds Les Preuses, a cinematic beauty in thinking about a two thousand year-old Roman road which ran below the current vineyard. “Perreuse,” meaning stone and tasted directly after Bougros offers a stark inherent and stylistic contrast and unfairly puts the western frontier Grand Cru to shame. In Les Preuses the fruit speaks with beautiful infancy and fanciful clarity. It’s fleshy, creamy soft and delivers Fèvre’s most markedly chèvre-like aroma. The palate replay indicates this climat is expressly possessive of true goût de terroir. The lines led by stone and friable marl deliver crisp and cool streaks, climbing to higher climes, over hills and collines. Even in the climate-confused 2013 vintage Les Preuses is top quality Chablis, above and beyond. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2013, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

This particular concentrated salinity of Les Preuses is briny but not oyster briny, verdant but not savoury, tart but not piercing. The personality forged here is a calm before storm that will soon rage for three to five years and then settle into its predetermined gentile nature. A little bit of hay and popcorn feel is noted from more oak obviousness that couples with the vintage towards developing a richer style. In Ontario the equivalent ideal is like that of Tawse’s Paul Pender and when his wines age they remind me of Les Preuses. Here a great example of a Grand Cru in different hands and what impact the producer has on the specific expression for the terroir. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

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Grenouilles

Domaine Testut Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineryWineAlign)

In 2014 Grenouille in Cyril Testut’s domain returns to the typical and the expected. Though he employs 17 per cent new oak this persists stylistically so very much in the same range as his Premier Crus. You get oak in the guise of a minor crème anglaise and even more spice, but a delicate one. Round acidity is pronounced and in surround of the fruit richness as per the Grenouilles climat and this is observed as a very dedicated wine to the oeuvre. Lower yields (than the PCs) at 45 hL/H and 50 year-old vines combine for full-on variegated effect. This shows off great length, in oscillation and circular return. Grenouilles is different and the appreciation here is for loyalty and adherence to what is necessary. It’s so simple. Application of “cuivres et boites et assemblage” was completed before bottling. Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Testut Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Winery, WineAlign)

Some wines can be understood and disseminated just fine, but others are better vetted with the winemaker. Like this Grenouilles ’13, tasted at the domaine with Cyril Testut. The triad of vintage, climat and handling is made clear under Cyril’s supervision and explained with tacit and axiomatic clarity. “I like this vintage very much, difficult but very interesting.” Indeed it is vintage with good botrytis, not typical but so very interesting. In comparative literary and mythological ways it and Alsace Pinot Gris Grand Cru (and Hengst in particular) are construed to be running in parallel lines, with ripeness, metallurgy, orange blossom and tropical notes. But again there is a reigning in and a balance struck to stay away from the lychee, nectarine and mango spectrum. Minerality is still the king so you may allow yourself to be stationed in Beaune as well. I find great preoccupation in Testut’s Grenouilles ’13. It reads like few other Grand Cru. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted July 2016  

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grandcru for breakfast, jambon persillé for lunch. C’est Chablis. Oh

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The smallest of the greats Château Grenouilles is Chablisienne’s Grand Cru (seven of 9.5 farmed hectares), situated below Vaudésir and sandwiched between (right) Les Clos, Valmur and (left), Bougros and Preuses. Grenouilles is the only estate in Chablis where grapes are picked, crushed, vinified and aged directly within the vineyard itself. Only in this Grand Cru and heightened by this increasingly understood ’12 vintage is a wonderful note of green fraises du bois and floor of the bois above Les Grenouilles. Then comes a palate pricked with darts of green apple and such tart density. Really inward, taut and determined Chablis. Poured at the domaine by Oenologist Vincent Bartement. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016     @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

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La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (82974, $99.00, WineAlign)

Tasted with Oenologist Vincent Bartement at the domaine. The Grand Cru Grenouilles sits just above the D965 and the Serein River, with Les Clos and Valmur to its left, Bougros and Preuses to its right and Vaudésir above. It may be the least understood, least discussed and oft forgotten Grand Cru, in part because La Chablisienne farms and bottles a near exclusive (seven of the 9.5 hectares) quantity on the smallest of the Chablis Grand Cru. In a small vertical (that included ’12, ’10 and ’05) when you travel back a year ahead of that cracking 2012 there emerges a clear olfactive difference. The self-effaced “neologism with cloudy contours” whiffs into more herbology and perhaps some crustaceous notes. Certainly a raised funky beat. The gustative sensation salvos to more glycerin and although not as much texture, the age is offering a minor oxidative, liquid maize drip into perceived honey. As a consequence length is not as pronounced and if this ’11 is (at this stage) the most awkward of the three (consecutive vintages), it is also the most tactile and the most astute. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted July 2016     @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2010, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12449930, $98.75, WineAlign)

In a retrospective examined through a line-up with ’12, ’11 and ’05 in the vertical mix the development of Château Grenouilles emerges with some new-found clarity. This ’10 offer insights in ways the follow up vintages are not yet able to, now a year into secondary notes. The 2010 funk du fromage is musky strong, at first, and then beautifully developed from and into metal-mineral. Wonderful texture from 2010 and very little of the corn liquor. None even. A terrific vintage and what seems to me a near-perfect expression of Les Grenouilles. The most distinction is unearthed and appreciated, a calming pause, poise and such perfect temperament. A wonderful wine. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

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La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Château Grenouilles 2005, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Château Grenouilles Chablis Grand Cru 2005 at 11 years-old is beautifully and slow-micro oxidatively evolved though in many ways suspended in animation and almost not at all. Closer to 2010 than the others (tasted along with ’11 and ’12) for sure, with compressed minerality and excellent glycerin woven into wonderful texture. There will be two to three more years of optimal drinking before a next level oxidation begins to break down the fruit and turn the mineral into mandarin orange mixed with coppery metal. Take advantage of this current open window. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Les Clos

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent)

Here Les Clos is a magnified adaptive narrative of the Grand Cru, rich and full of ripe excess. Riper than most of the others, which is saying something. Magnetic, platinum mineral with very expressive fruit from Billaud-Simon’s take out of the grandaddy of all Chablis climats. The biggest bad boy of the flight and in the eyes of the world, textbook Grand Cru. Salinity, floral blossom airy and briny, though not quite expressive of the fossilized, ancient river trenchancy of Les Preuses. But again, Chablis at it old school, from very little shrouded or spice-driven wood, classic, cool-climate, mineral-driven Chablis. The summation confirms why it is poured after Vaudésir and Les Preuses but ahead of Blanchots. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

At first seemingly a different expression of Les Clos, both in aromatics and personality. There is this exoticism about Collet’s ’14, a perfume that imagines far east markets, of incense and peppermint. Then the terroir takes charge, of precious metals, platinum, gemstones and the Exogyra Virgula of the ancient soil’s shells. This combination of sweet fragrance and mineral contusion is intoxicating for a Les Clos. The Collet take is also neutral with respect to wood and unlike Valmur, lemon preserve appears nowhere on the forecasted radar. And yet there is more spirit here than many, if not quite as laser-focused as others. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Laroche’s (45 year-old) vines sit at the bottom of the slope where the ground ripples with an excess of limestone. Laroche build its Les Clos architecture through this super-structured mineral foundation, the use of enclosing shrubs for micro-biological bio-diversity and wood posts as opposed to iron. This Les Clos does not mess around. It’s a straightforward expression in mimic of a craftsman’s personality, i.e. technical director Gregory Viennois. As a portrait it makes a direct connection and an impression with extract, but also tannin and fruit of true Les Clos intensity. This is a truly engaging and laser Les Clos, of mouth watering acidity and repeatedly encouraging return sip-ability. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

 

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Moreau’s take on the grand-père Grand Cru is more obvious, showy and in exhibition of wood apparent musculature on the masculine side of the Grand Cru spectrum, not so much as spice but with volume and a broadening in mouthfeel. The mineral is tangy strong and will surely need a few years to settle into the rich fruit and savvy wood. This is really a baby as far as Les Clos is concerned and should not even be considered to be opened any time soon. The long road ahead will twist, turn and loop back into itself before Les Clos settles into the karst of its limestone landscape. Take the time to navigate the sinkholes and cavernous spaces and rewards in the name of miasma, massepain and miel will one day fill your glass. Drink 2020-2028.  Tasted at the domaine with Frédérique Chamoy, July 2016  @MoreauLouis1

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Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

The Fèvre holdings are not so much a cornering of the market but more so, let’s say, are representative as existing out of the creator and chair of the exchange. The four hectares owned, farmed and produced of the largest of the (25 hectare) Grand Crus confirms Fèvre as the largest producer of Les Clos. Fifty per cent of the noble and lofty locale was planted by William’s father in the 1940’s, at the top of the hill. This 2014 is prodigious, ponderous and cracking, because it is a Fèvre, due to the house approach for this stand alone vintage and simply by virtue of that vintage. Here you have the richest Les Clos of them all, perhaps, but the puissance is dramatic. There is more pith and density here than any other. It is simply a wow Grand Cru expression, searing, intense, layered, compact, compressed and very, very long. This is the most gregarious, strutting peacock of Chablis. Tasted at the domaine with Director Didier Séguier. Drink 2020-2035.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (641381, $130.00, WineAlign)

Whereas Les Preuses persists as a player as part of its own height scaling process, Les Clos is already perched, permanently entrenched at the precipice. The permeate is integrated with a commotion of purity and clarity like no other. The stone is juiced like real lime in metronome time, with nothing but time on side to see this through 20 years of evolution. The richest fruit, laciest of organza overlay and highest degree of variegation has been gently coaxed from this storied Grand Cru by Director Didier Séguier. Top Les Clos from the challenging vintage. Drink 2017-2033.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

I find in this a different sort of Les Clos from Sébastien Dampt, a négoce Grand Cru that is more linear, taut and even a bit austere. I’d go so far as to say this is the most piercing Dampt and the most piercing Les Clos I’ve comes across. For Dampt the first Les Clos was 2010 and here is his fifth vintage the Sébastien stride has been compassed and effectuated. This Les Clos will live very long as the length is exceptional. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

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Sébastien Dampt Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Together with Sébastien Dampt I tasted two bottles of the 2013 Les Clos because he was not satisfied with the first. It was the side by side comparison of the two négoce Grand Cru that taught me things about the Cru, the vintage and Dampt. Initially speaking this can retrospectively be looked at as quite anti-2013 and as such more in line with the follow-up ’14. It alighted linear, taut and nearly as piercing. But unlike 2014 it was broad, soft and filled with French crème. Perhaps this first bottle was a bit frenzied and inculpably enzymatic. The second bottle tasted, reminded and reacted more like a ’13, ripe and near boozy, rich and expressive, with the spice so very pronounced. What is learned is Dampt’s unique ability to perpetuate a house style, despite the vintage and the Cru. Some things can’t be fought or changed so his is quite a big Les Clos but in 2013 not without his signature line. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, $73.00, WineAlign)

The Chablisienne piece of Les Clos takes a fine and even a middle path with copacetic, inert cooperation interfaced between bled citrus and mined mineral. This is a very linear, direct, purely and precisely informative Les Clos. It speaks to the idea of consistency and to the expected despite coming out of a strange vintage. With a line clearly drawn into the dry, stone-flint, “mineral touch” Chablis directive it will take some time to develop its comfort level of flesh though fruit will always be the understudy. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Lamblin et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France

Smoky, wannabe flinty Grand Cru with a creamy, malo feel. Like a scoop of Grand Cru gelato, with a real almond paste smoothed into marzipan finish. Clearly speaks with more wood finishing than most and rounds out the stones of Les Clos with polish and crown moulding. As a result I would expect this needs a year to integrate but not as long as the more mineral examples. The fleshing has already begun and oxidative notes will rear before too long. Will drink beautifully beginning in the summer of 2017 and for two plus years beyond. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru Clos des Hospices dans Les Clos 2013, Burgundy, France (Agent, $94.95, WineAlign)

The very specific flint from top to bottom slope off of three hectares of terroir brings a climat’s certain acidity from the soil and in the guise of a multi/micro-parcel tang. From macro-mineral to stone fruity not this specific anywhere so fine. Does not show and will not show fatigue any time sooner or later, after all, it never has to climb to the top of Les Clos. The length here is legendary. It will be tough to find a better example for the vintage, from Les Clos and into an examination more specific and so precise. Drink 2019-2033.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Just because the richest of Grand Cru fruit can handle the added value, Les Clos receives a generous 35 per cent barrel fermentation. As per Les Clos the corpulence and amenability adds up to one grand and inviting Grand Cru Chablis. Always critically evident and full of joie de vivre, there is roundness on les Clos like no other Grand Cru and Long-Depaquit is front and centre to the end of that ideal. What separates this house’s style is the long and slowly evolving finish because and with thanks to the wood adding texture and cream to all aspects of its relationship with the largest Grand Cru. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Les Clos in 2014 to be honest is surprisingly a much more approachable Grand Cru, especially tasted side by side with Bougros, with nary a reductive moment. Here is the broad approach, a rich style, consumer-friendly chardonnay with a willingness to please to no end. Everything about this wine is liquid gold, like a still Champagne, haute of couture and stylish beyond words. That sense of affluence in style, and poise drift away dreamily into a slow, languid drizzle of warm caramel. Les Clos is anything but austere in the hands of many but particularly here, with this Brocard. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2007, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Julien Brocard pours the Grand Cru Les Clos 2007 blind from magnum and the first impression is this seems to have at least 10 years on it, but it’s probably older than I think. My initial guess is 2002. From what most mainstream critics considered to be a classic stone-mineral vintage with average acidity, I am surprised by the density of mineral so culpable to its oxidative tendency but the acidity keeps it very much alive. The cork was not in the best shape so this clearly had an bomb effect on speeding up aging by five years. A 2007 that acts like a 2002 is not such a terrible thing. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

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Grand Cru Moutonne Monopole

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Moutonne Monopole 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (46706, $89.95, WineAlign)

The greatest of paradoxical moments is shared in confessional confidence with Moutonne because not just anyone can make a wine with the name and of such a singular distillation from within a venn diagram of places. While some lieu-dit in Chablis share affinities, territorial geography and climats with larger Premier Cru, it is only Moutonne that stands alone in the schematic drawn up for the Grand Crus. Though the Moutonne can’t help but take on the atypical characteristics of the 2013 vintage it also can’t escape from itself. Les deux visages are always relegated into the dichotomous and interconnected realm, of Les Preuses (five per cent) controlled with manifest destiny by Les Blanchots. Les Preuses’ fruit is feisty and must be heard and this is so necessary in the tropical and spicy vintage. There is no lychee here but there breathes some very ripe stone fruit and the great white geology of the Grand Cru. In spite of the vintage this is a beautifully managed Moutonne (fermented in 25 per cent barrel) with trenchant piquancy on the finish. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  

Good to go!

Godello

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Chablis got soil

Les Terroirs de Chablis, Domain Jean-Marc Brocard

Les Terroirs de Chablis, Domain Jean-Marc Brocard

When you look at it in the most base and simple way Chablis is one thing. Like having a surname taken from the family’s ancestral village. The name connotes the surrounding wine-growing area and the town at its epicentre. It speaks to a community as a sub-regional district of Burgundy and it lends nomenclature to the all-in, mono-varietal entity. Though divided into four sub-appellations; Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis is chardonnay and it is a place of one terroir.

Is it really? Chablis is chardonnay for varietal purposes but only that links it to other chardonnay. Chablis is more than chardonnay, not existential as chardonnay and if you ask wiser men than me, is not chardonnay. So what ties it together? What commonality beyond grape variety is shared by the quaternate appellations of Chablis? Soil.

Soil in Chablis is defined by a widely accepted generalization. “The Kimmeridgian is a geological age in the Upper Jurassic epoch, around 150 million years ago. In Chablis, one finds subsoils of gray marl which alternate with bands of limestone, sometimes very rich in fossils of Exogyra virgula, a small, comma-shaped oyster that is characteristic of the marl from the Middle and Upper Kimmeridgian.” The eminence and éclat of terroir rises through the increasingly beneficial levels of Oxfordian, Portlandian and into Kimmeridgian. Petite Chablis, Chablis, Cru/Climat.

Related – Looking for Chablis in Ontario?

There is little about Chablis that is not drawn up in contrasts. It begins with Left Bank versus Right Bank, the Serein River and the village of Chablis acting as the interface between. Petit Chablis giving way to the more important Chablis and then Premier Cru the varied and always impressive interloper separating the villages wines from the Grand Cru. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay.

Related – Paradox in Chablis

My first piece centred on the history and future of greatness in Chablis. I made this bold statement about (seventh generation Chablis winemaker) Edouard Vocoret and (Greek-German) Eleni Theodoropoulos. “I have met and tasted the future of Chablis and its name is Edouard Vocoret and Eleni Theodoropoulos.” They carry a torch lit by producers like Vincent Dauvissat. The musicality of his wines are self-conscious without being self-regarding. Their aromas, flavours and textures tend to themselves, to Chablis and to the world at large. Please welcome Edouard and Eleni to this stage.

Related – Chablis from Dauvissat to Vocoret

While in Chablis I came face to grace with the monopole ideal from one grower who glides ethereal in her freedom from appellative constraints. The rows outside the 11th-12th century monk’s wall demarcate Le Clos de Béru Vineyard. All of Athénaïs de Béru’s wines are single-vineyard Chablis save for the Terroir de Beru, a wine that gathers all the vineyards to express the all-encompassing Béru terroir. Béru. The Left Bank domaine farmed by Athénaïs de Béru, organically, biodynamically and spiritually. Chablis from the tree of life.

Related – Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru

Last week I wrote a Chablis piece that focused on the wines of Quebec native Patrick Piuze. It was in July of 2008 that Piuze made the decision to go solo and start his own winery. While he 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. The twenty-five tasting notes were posted to open a window into the portal of Patrick Piuze in Chablis.

Related – A Canadian in Chablis

Map of Chablis

My reviews for Premier Cru and Grand Cru will follow this post. Including the week I spent tasting in Chablis and in the six months since I have written 73 tasting notes for wines that do not fall under the auspices of the (47 Premier and Grand Cru) climats; 20 for Petit Chablis, 47 on Chablis and nine dug into more depth in Chablis Vieilles Vignes. It should be noted that many of these wines are in fact a product of specific lieu-dits, “an area of land whose name recalls a particularity that is usually topographical or historical.” While these wines are not considered to be first or second tier Chablis, they are great and specific expressions of Chablis terroir. And so it took 6,000-plus words to get these reviews finished. Please enjoy the brevity of the overall account.

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Petit #chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru, Grand Cru. Right at it with 26 @BIVBChablis #ericszablowski #aucoeurduvin

Petit Chablis

Domaine Alexandre Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 13135781, $21.30, WineAlign)

In warmer draw and major tones the plot of La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne provides balm and herbiage and a minor more towards weight and oxidation. In spite of this unction and embrocation there remains and persists the necessary citrus and smoky flint. What this Petit Chablis from Guy et Olivier surrenders to creamy, micro-oxygenated texture it proffers and scraps in the name of complexity. Petit Chablis in a singular class. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @lesvinsdupre

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Tasting cave at Domaine Barat

Domaine Barat Petit Chablis ‘Le Padabu’ 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Angèle Barat says this about making Petit Chablis. “You don’t abuse.” From calcareous soil on the Beine plateau, the Barat Padabu is what you might call a perfect gougeres white. It is Petit Chablis as it is meant to be; pure, basic, unctuous, unadulterated juice with the slightest mineral hint. Nothing more. nothing less. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016   

Domaine Billaud-Simon Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Well of course the difference is felt immediately, in simpler terms, affordably easy, accountable, preferential to commercial success. Acidity is prepared with necessary balance in advance of letting fruit run wild. This is waxy and pleasantly sour. A bit chewy as well. Nicely done. Classic unbaked chardonnay in every correct way. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Les Plantes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

He waits until we have traveled through a full tasting of Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru, but then Julien Brocard is more than pleased to introduce his biodynamic range. It begins with Petit Chablis Les Plantes 2014, the stepping stone into how and why we are to understand why Julien brought this approach to the estate. “His witchcraft,” as he puts it, for healthy vines, wines and lifestyle. What it brings to Petit Chablis is a true purpose, in aridity, from mineral salinity and for affinity to wine sustaining infinity. It is too early to know how biodynamics will lead to commercial successes and here the best is not yet avowed, even in the great vintage because the maker knows not yet what it is he’s got. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

La Chablisienne Petit Chablis Pas si Petit 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Pas si Petit translates to “not so small,” as much a request to not take things so literally as it is a service of notice as to the style of Chablisienne’s Petit Chablis. It is in fact quite a rounded PC, an all-encompassing, tie in multi-soil aspects in one big cuveé. It’s not so petite, something easily attributed to five to six months aging on the lees, all in tank. The simple and highly effective entry point teaches and receives with the Pas si Petit. Petit Chablis for all and for everyone to enter the omniscient domain of Chablis. Curiosity, legwork, hooked. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted at the domaine with Vincent Bartement, July 2016.   @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From estate vineyards and the entry point into the time-honoured Collet style, the Petit Chablis is seamless, steely, 100 per cent stainless steel raised bottled vigour. The sprite and tart are appetite whetting with balm and backbite, without strings. A chill $15 white, simple, crushable.  Drink 2016-2017  

sebastien-dampt

Sébastien Dampt

Sébastien Dampt Petit Chablis ‘Terrois de Milly’ 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $27.56, WineAlign)

Sébastien Dampt’s is in fact comunicado to the Milly terroir, a Petit Chablis of a singular matter that clearly speaks of its home connection. Comparisons escape me what with such physically held by force, dire straits, desperate compression of tang, mineral and variegation, virtually unheard of for the genre. From plots between four and five hectares in breadth, T de M holds the kind of citrus that is like a slice of dense cake yet somehow airy and filled with delight. “Communication, Communiqué, Communiqué.” A huge success for the vintage. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted at the domain with Sébastien Dampt, July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Domaine Jean Dauvissat Père Et Fils Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

From a single portlandian (0.16 hectare) plot of Petit Chablis at Milly, on the plateau of the Chappelle Vaupelteigne. Chablis of the sort of portandia to enhearten and portend extreme unction, brighten and embolden as flinty as any calcaire can. In a five PC flight strike me down if he isn’t the most intense and straight up citrus example. Young Chablis of la concentration extraordinaire. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @JeanDauvissat

William Fèvre Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Fèvre’s Petit Chablis is fashioned from very old grower’s contracts, established once upon a time by William, still concurrent and contiguous into the present tense accumulation of 200,000 bottles. Classic PC, fresh, elegant, inwardly tart and specifically mineral. Be still its crunchy texture with a soft organza underlay in the guise of a bed of herbs. The farmer’s commitments have been kept specificaly for this purpose, to build the bridge and create a gateway to Chablis. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016 @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Alain Geoffroy Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (470393, $19.95,  WineAlign)

Somewhat rich and unexpectedly expressive for Petit Chablis with a juniper and tonic note at the finish. Getable as per the vintage and no surprise at that while at the same time offering up quite a bit of texture and richness for the category. Nettles at the end are hard to forget. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted January 2017  

Domaine Hamelin Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Hamelin’s Petit Chablis hails from the clay soil plateau on the domain’s situation at Lignorelles, co-mingling in soil with distinct out-country lying kimmeridgian. Hamelin’s is quite a fuller expression with more mineral and that green glade sort of brightness. It climbs into a lime and metal feel though there is not as much acidity or at least a very different kind than some others in a large flight. Very representative of the modern oeuvre. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016    @oenophilia1

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Benjamin Laroche L’Atelier Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

At the age of 40 Benjamin Laroche decided to got it alone. The native of Chablis and his family have farmed vineyards here since 1663 and Laroche now produces solely as a négoce, working with eight growers. 2013 for Petit Chablis and Chablis and 2012 for Premier Cru and Grand Cru were his first vintages. L’Atelier Petit Chablis is drawn from near the village of Beine, a place “tres solaire.” His rendition of the portal opening chardonnay is an aperitif of a Petit Chablis, crisp but rich and broad, able to serve one and all. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

La Manufacture Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

La Manufacture’s Petit Chablis is an entirely separate entity from L’atelier, as the two lines each only come from one estate. There is no blending. Here the vintage speaks in the way 2015 is simply unable to, with a salinity in and out of mineral, with and without weight and strings. Very precise, straight to the point and for Petit Chablis, quite laser dramatic. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine Louis Moreau Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11035479, $22.95, WineAlign)

You can put your money down on a Moreau Petit Chablis, never taken for granted and from some of the best PC-designate spots around Chablis. Moreau’s vineyards are located in the village of Beine on the Left Bank. The fruit and acidity from fresh, juicy and rich 2015 are nicely delineated, all moving parts forwardly aromatic led with white flower essence and the texture is free and easy on the palate. Very clean and pure Petite Chablis from the most consumer-friendly vintage. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domaine with Frédérique Chamoy, July 2016  @MoreauLouis1

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Chablis as it was, should be and where it will go. Lucie Thieblemont and Charly Nicolle #vigneron & #negociant #fleys #chablis Attention @nicholaspearcewines just sayin’

Domaine Charly Nicolle Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Charly Nicolle from Fleys is the sister property to the Nicolle-Laroche family’s Domaine de la Mandelière. In a good year Charly produces 75,000 bottles per year. His ’15 Petit Chablis is crisp and bound of full compages, tightly wound and textured. There is certainly some lees felt swimming in the vintage-generated saporous acidity. A ripe example of sun expressive Petit Chablis. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine De Pisse Loup Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From the area of Beine comes this clean, fresh and lemon striking Petit Chablis. So very lemon specific within a broader citrus spectrum but no flint. Its freshness is of white flowers in the hawthorne to acacia field, a saline note of iodine and plenty of round acidity. So very lemon squeezed. Less multi-dimensional on account of that specific replay. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze

Patrick Piuze

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

L & C Poitout Petit Chablis Sycomore 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

La Cuvée Sycomore comes from “Sur les Clos,” a warm and windy 1.4 hectare plot on a well exposed plateau of pebble infested, lean and infertile soil. The 2014 challenges the most typical of vintages with pure driven citrus and acidity through the roof. A direct, defined, determined expression of chardonnay.  Drink 2016-2018  

le-bourgogne

Eric Gallet’s Le Bourgogne, Auxerre

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Four hundred and twenty five years later the family produces their 2015 Petite Chablis, as with the rest of the region, as an archway into the domain and for all else to follow. It isn’t the most riveting vintage but this is made in the pure, elegant style that carries easy alcohol and essential extract in the vein of any or all mineral-driven whites. A worldwide list that includes chenin blanc, assyrtiko and trebbiano, among others. Here the fat of ’15 is staved off, with freshness and Portlandian salinity, like a syrup mixed into clay that dissolves and resolves.  Drink 2016-2018. Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

From trenchant vines on Portlandian soil, Tremblay’s is really rich and textured Petit Chablis reading a parable of aromatic mineral density. The providence of the salinity means that it aspires and then resides in a rare card-carrying category of weight and structure. Way more structure for PC than most others. Chablis here directs the idea of the commercial vintage, again, rich, broad and even a bit spicy. At the end of the day it will always correctly offer up broad appeal. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Tremblay, July 2016  

chablis

Chablis

Domaine Barat Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

The first Chablis of hundreds tasted in the first week of July with a perfume of acacia flowers and the honey they might invade, the generosity and gregariousness in Barat’s Chablis is really something other. Extreme ripeness from the commercially viable vintage sits with quite the spice on the phenolic ripe end of the wide-ranging spectrum. Chablis at the meridian of texture and jolie. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Beaufumé Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From the area of Lignorelles, Beaufumé’s Chablis is creamier on the nose than many counterparts and then thins with direct tart, ripe and ripping acidity. Wow acidity, tight and bracing. Though the spectrum of orchard, stone and even tropical white and yellow fleshed fruits are hinted at they collectively succumb to the nicely smoked stick, flint, kernel and nut. A broader if at times confusing expression of Chablis that is more than fun to taste. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Albert Bichot Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (391805, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with winemaker Matthieu Mangenot at the Long-Depaquit domain, this is Chablis raised 100 per cent in stainless steel. Gifts the immediacy of mineral and acidity, from Chichée to the south of Chablis and also the eastern areas of Beru and Viviers. Higher altitudes where snow and then frost at the end of April 2016 will mean a tiny harvest but for 2015 the acidity is top-notch, despite the fat and easy vintage, with more mineral driven into the palate (with some perceived though feigning sweetness) and a real gelid glide down the backside. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  @DionysusWines  

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Nicely crisp Chablis for the vintage, a bit lean and direct but with ripe acidity and balance struck. Straight to the Chablis point, with more lime than lemon and a minor bitter middle, ending with easy leaning angles. Commendable from dependable for 2015. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

abbaye-de-sainte-claire-prehy-chablisbrocard

Abbaye de Sainte Claire #prehy @chablisbrocard

Jean Marc Brocard Domaine Sainte Claire Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (356634, $23.95, WineAlign)

The nearing on 1000 year-old abbey of Saint Claire rests a stone’s throw from Brocard’s front doors and blends into the vast plane of the landscape with a whisper. The Chablis in its (or his) honour also rests, but in large foudres, lending a rich edging to fruit from a knowingly fat year, but the welcome salinity is the balancer. Really high salty-mineral content perpetuates the importance of this cuveé from vintage to vintage, from organic vineyards, in the typical Brocard style, fleshy and generous. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

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Jean Marc Brocard Domaine Sainte Claire Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (356634, $23.95, WineAlign)

In a year for acidity and total, utter freshness the Saint Claire rushes and wells with excitement. Beautifully green apple tart and crunchy. The saline temperature is measured in an ooze running through and with the lees. Cracker vintage keeps the deep salinity intense, vital, searing and so naked to the world. Pure Chablis with length that stretches away from richness and into a lean lingering. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted twice, July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard 7eme Nature Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Due to its ulterior and antithetical Chablis nature it just seems right to refer to this non-sulphured wine as chardonnay. From Julien Brocard’s recently formulated biodynamic range it is full of poise as are all of his biodynamic wines that seem to have found such confidence in their distinct natural niche. This is raised in ovoid Austrian foudres and what gains is a density of supple, sour tang, noted mostly in texture. The hyperbole is of saline meets brine for Chablis. There is certainly a Fino, green olive liqueur sensation about it, which is just dry and admittedly, quite beautiful. As a result this oxidative take on Chablis should age for an extra year or two. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Domaine De La Boissonneuse Chablis 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

This is from what Julien Brocard considers an atypical vintage, ripe, but “not a Chablis style year and so you must take what the vintage gives.” Brocard does feel the biodynamic approach has presented a more balanced year for the vineyard and I note a certainly affinity with the 13’s tasted with Patrick Piuze, from which aromatics airy and atmospheric in their confused moments recall riesling and here, chenin blanc. Quite a tropical, atypical Chablis nose, with mango and apricot, but also a deep soil tang. The most mineral-tropical fruit dichotomy of all, from 2013, unique and deferential to the last decade plus of Chablis. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

La Chablisienne

La Chablisienne

La Chablisienne Chablis La Pierrelee 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (BCLDB 359844, $27.99, WineAlign)

La Pierrelee is one of three Chablisienne Chablis cuveés, subjected to 14 months élevage and carries more than a strong sense of perceived leesy sweetness in surround of a good mineral core. It may be the house’s fullest, roundest and most well-rounded expression. The fruit is gathered from all over Chablis, off of 20 communes and so is a true assemblage. The length is preeminently good. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted at the domaine with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Chablisienne Chablis La Sereine 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 565598, $22.80, WineAlign)

La Sereine is a cuvée that follows the river, finds a river, mimics the ebb and flow of the river. A cuvée “of river poet search naïveté,” as important as Les Vénérables and the one that sparks a twinkle in Vincent Bartement’s eye. Same élevage as Vénérables and Pierrelee so the aromatic sweetness repeats albeit with leaner structure. Here more classically Chablis mineral, a direct deposit tip of liquid platinum calcaire into the glass. La Sereine snaps crisp with some bite and of savoury piquancy as well. It’s the lean and mean, rapid eye movement fighting machine of local and exotic perfume, “of ginger, lemon, indigo, coriander stem and rows of hay.” In La Sereine we find a river, constant, in which “strength and courage overrides.” Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Chablisienne Chablis Dame Nature 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Dame Nature is drawn off organic vineyards, mostly from southerly Courgis with some fruit near Fleys. Same faux sugary aromatic vein, lees affected and yet here, so flirtatious, pretty, feminine. Soft, downy, French cream Chablis. A bit of a Brie fromage note but then lemon piercing on the palate. The palate is all Chablis mineral tart and direct. Interesting mix of style in the Dame Nature, “like I wouldn’t know it’s you. At your most beautiful. Chablis of “a way to make you smile.” Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Villages 2015, Burgundy, France (Agent, $29.85, WineAlign)

Dampt’s Chablis Villages is consistently formulated as the same blend, but this is a second bottling post 12 leesy months. Young vines 10 years of age planted by Sébastien are encouraged and mentored by some old vines (40-45 years) blended in. All the fruit hails from the commune of Milly. Here again, rich and with some wood influence, in the vein of other like-minded progressive Chablis producers (Charly Nicolle comes to mind), but still very Chablis, expressive without bâtonnage. Still the acidity and minerality but the dry extract leads to unction. This is the young, new generation changing Chablis without forgetting where it comes from. With thanks to a golden terroir. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted at the domain with Sébastien Dampt, July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The Collet Chablis is a 15 hectare blend from Villy (coming from Romain Collet’s mother’s side of the family) located between Vaillons and Montmains, plus fruit from near Courgis and Préhy. Classically 100 per cent stainless steel styled for sharp, pointed, piquant and straight ahead Chablis. A purchase at 10 euros right off the shelves at the winery shop in Chablis is a perfect bit of thievery. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  

Agnès Et Didier Dauvissat Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It was 30 years ago that Agnès et Didier Dauvissat planted their vines in Beine and today they make but three cuvées; this Petit Chablis, Chablis and Premier Cru Beauroy. This telescoped sense of purpose has obviously served the two well. Here in the cracker 2014 vintage they have arguably produced one of the finest (basic) Chablis. The concentrated lemon preserve, firm structure and rapt calcaire tart collation is eye-popping and mind-opening. Prescient from exceptional length, agreeably and markedly purposed. Top, top Chablis. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @DauvissatBeine

William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (46164, $23.95, WineAlign)

The Champs Royaux is Chablis drawn from a selection of Fèvre’s better grower contracts and five to 10 per cent is aged in old oak, the rest in stainless steel. It is a generalized but oh too important expression from kimmeridgian soil, hedged and qualified from all over Chablis. Takes all the hills, valleys, les clos and slope/aspect dimensions into account. It is textbook Chablis, a guarantee of quality, especially out of the cracker 2014 vintage. The fruit is ripe and the acidity a study in Chablis exactitude. The balance may be the best this cuvée has ever shown. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

William Fèvre Chablis Estate 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11094701, $29.60, WineAlign)

The Domaine (estate) Chablis are vineyards located next to the Premier and Grand Cru, organically-farmed since 2006 (though not certified) and hand-harvested. Some vines date back 50-60 years and perhaps it is this wisdom and tree-rings concentration that gives this Chablis its hidden quality, dormant gem of mineral, quietness, stoicism, and reserve. Seemingly lean but ready to burst. An elegance that is a step up from the Champs Royaux though not as fully blanketed in obvious expression as the Premier Cru. And yet the bridge is built, ready to cross over, from one bank to another. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Céline & Frédéric Gueguen Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Domaine Céline & Frédéric Gueguen is located in Prehy between les Vallées des Joeges et Plantes. The terroir is one of the furthest south in Chablis (and not far from Jean-Marc Brocard). This bottle is the first to be marked by some dusty and musty notes with little citrus on the nose. Acts as the leanest, most direct expression thus far. Really lean though with acidity not as pronounced. Seems to come off of an austere, aggressive terroir. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016  @ChablisGueguen

Louis Jadot Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (468751, $28.95, WineAlign)

Straight ahead and 2014 focused Chablis from Jadot, tight and stony at first but then shimmies up to reveal richer fruit than some and equanimity in acidity-mineral undertones. A wide and all-encompassing no doubter of a wine that succeeds no matter the breadth of its fruit sourcing. Classy all the way. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  @ljadot  @HalpernWine

laroche-pressoir

Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $23.20, WineAlign)

The vintage is a ripe, accessible and easy to love one so this marks a 90 degree turn for the Saint Martin. This is Laroche’s most important cuvée, sold in 80 countries and collected from select plots across 60 hectares of vines. Structure will always direct this cuvée and so long as Gregory Viennois is winemaker you can be sure that a taut entry will be joined by some subtle oak richness (in 2015, eight per cent in large, 25 year-old, 55 hL foudres). It’s just an aromatic hint but look forward with eyes closed and inculcate the texture addendum. Acids are soft and caressing. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $23.20, WineAlign)

An all plots combed, 60 hectare extrapolative, best choices made cuvée in ode to the generous and convivial Roman officer and the monks who took his name and brought his relics to Chablis. Structure is at the heart and soul of the Saint Martin so it is a bit of hard to get at but highly recommended for slow, meditative assessment. Great compressed tart, all in terroir, soil and climate multi-interfaced chardonnay. Few ‘Chablis’ not specific of Premier or Grand Cru terroir can match its poise and precision. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

lunch-at-manufacture

Lunch with Benjamin and Stephanie Laroche at La Manufacture

Benjamin Laroche L’atelier Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

More than the Petit Chablis, as it should, the Chablis improves on fruit, ideal and expression, but also because of the cleaving and jaunty vintage. In ’14 Chablis is really precise, of an expansive mouthfeel, a lemon concern, condensed sweet bitters and all in all, really textural. Flat out delicious and full. So full, but ready to delight and divine for two more years. Drink 2016-2019.   Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

La Manufacture Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $29.99, WineAlign)

La Manufacture takes Chablis to a brazen level in and out of 2014 and whatever precision was shown by L’Atelier is elevated in focus with La Manufacture. The vernacular learned and utterances expressed are from precision in choice of fruit and how the vintage is left to speak with this poignant, direct attack. I actually find this a bit closed in its extended youth, perhaps a cause of nature over nurture from its combination, or accumulation of fruit. The locations of Beine, Maligny and Lignorelles are its sources. This ’14 will really shine in 2017, a high-water mark up to a wave’s peak at the point where ancient sea fossils and geological rock progression distill into settled salinity, melded into the piquant and the trenchant. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

J. Moreau & Fils Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (466144, $21.95, WineAlign)

Typically flinty and stony Chablis from Moreau of Portlandian influence and typically easy to get to know, as per the forward vintage. All good berries and the ease of ripening is here on display. Chablis never had it so good, easy and lazy. Drink up. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted August 2016

louis-moreau

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (124305, $25.95, WineAlign)

The vineyards for Moreau’s Chablis gathering are located in the village of Beine on the Left Bank and interestingly enough are older than the Premier Cru. So here the fruit is pulled from vines 35-40 years of age. As much mineral layering as you are likely to find in a Chablis-designate cuvée and so well-rounded for 2015, with grace and style. The broadest of Chablis definition, reliable to tell the whole truth, for the copacetic vintage, the hills all around and the classic flinty, borne straight out of stone chardonnay. Some citrus of course and fine acidity if not the most striking of better than good Chablis vintages. Good terroir breeds good Chablis and with a touch of flint this brings it all together. Perfect, textbook, dictionary Chablis in a ripe and forthright style. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted twice, July and September 2016  @MoreauLouis1

Domaine Louis Moreau Domaine De Biéville Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (106161, $21.95, WineAlign)

On the far opposite side of Chablis’ right bank, at the village of Viviers where it is a colder, morning sun terroir. An estate created by Louis’ father in 1965. A cooler and slightly herbal Chablis with a leaner profile. A good comparative to the Beine Chablis, where the shadows are not as long and the terroir does not make as many demands on your palate. Last tasted July 2016.

A flint foot forward and step back balm of a Chablis with a settled raft of lees knick-knack and some willy-nilly resonance. Gains stature with citrus and spice as it fleshes in glass and mouth. Perhaps a stave or two of wood is making the play. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted January 2016  @MoreauLouis1

Domaine Charly Nicolle Chablis Ancestrum 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Ancestral pays hommage to a long legacy of Chablis in the Laroche-Nicolle families, to ancient earth folds, the shells and fossils left behind by oceans. Takes up where Petit Chablis left off in the giving vintage to press on with roundness and richesse. Optimum phenolic fruit and 500L barrels deem “a combination of Charly’s will and mother nature’s season” into this ripe Chablis. In 2015, with fully realized malo this morphs into a happier, slightly magical dichotomy. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Charly Nicolle Chablis Ancestrum 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Ancestrum is an old vines (approximately 55 years) Chablis cuveé and here from a vintage driven by crisp, pure and clean acidity. An extraordinary level of dry extract conspires to elevate both the luxury and the perceived sweetness but every sip returns into territories occupied by that ’14 acidity. Ancestrum is Chablis specific to Charly Nicolle, to ploughing, tilling, hoeing, pruning and harvesting his golden grapes. It is a pure reminder of how basic and pleasurable Chablis can be. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted July 2016  

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

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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

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  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289371, $23.95, WineAlign)

As if handed off like a relay torch or baton from the Petit Chablis, the thread of elegance, purity and clarity continues in the Séguinot Bordet Chablis. Freshness floats in Chablis suspension, a liquid not so much viscous but one that acts as a cradling or a coddling. There is spice up on the aromatic front and it heads straight north to tease and tingle the olfactory senses. Deeper down it’s all inter-metallic compounds and alloys, a dimension that exists in a realm beyond chardonnay. Chablis. A circumambient capacity resistant to wood or nut but steals subtle aspects of both. Tasted with proprietor Jean-François Bordet in Auxerre he concludes, “my story is in memory.” Chablis by wrote. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted July and September 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Testut Chablis Rive-Droit 2015, Ac Burgundy (Winery, WineAlign)

Rive Droite is pulled off of a southern slope exposure on the right bank facing from Montée de Tonnerre and the Grand Cru Blanchots. It is a fine and delicate Chablis, golden from ripeness and typically 2015 but certainly very mineral because it can’t help but be on this side of the Chablis tracks. Wisdom and what comes natural from yields at 50 hL/L off 45 year-old vines seek and find a balance struck between minerality and maturity, but this is certainly on the ripe side. “It’s not complicated,” notes Cyril Testut. He picks on berry and seed. “You must have phenolic ripeness or the grapes will immediately begin to start oxidizing after picking. If they are ripe they will not seek it out. ” May as well be Premier Cru but it needs not be. Very good length. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Testut Chablis Rive-Droit 2014, Ac Burgundy (Winery, WineAlign)

Right Bank Rive Droite faces south on its poignant slope en face de Montée de Tonnerre and Blanchot Grand Cru. As good as ’15 is, in ’14 there flexes and strains much more vitality and with fruit not as obviously ripe. While the lack of self-regulation might cause some suffering (at least in a commercially appealing sense) it causes no compromise to balance (at least in terms of classic Chablis personality). The complexity of place really rises because the fruit is not ahead and even lagging just behind the acidity and the intense mineral. Rive Droit is right side of town top cru, white stone blessed all the way. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Cuvée Hélène, Grand Vin De Bourgogne 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Labeled Grand Vin De Bourgogne to elevate its Chablis status from a (2000 bottle) cuvée (named for Gérard’s wife Hélène) that draws one third of its fruit from 10 Premier Cru hectares. Aged in 100 per cent barriques blended with a small portion from stainless steel. This is not so typical of Tremblay or Chablis, from primarily 40-plus year-old vines, of a luxuriance that separates it from the Premier Cru. The palate and texture are flooded by a serious creaminess from oak but the lemon is so intense and the acidity runs extremely wild. Chablis at its lavish best, in bed with Beaune. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted at the domain with Vincent Tremblay, July 2016  

Domaine Le Verger Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (181289, $19.75, WineAlign)

From Beine, here a more reserved, classic, stoic, orchard fruit-led Chablis. Exceeds itself and its emollient aromatics on the palate with good fleshy spirit and then steps into grounded, almost earthy territory for Chablis. More clay than calcaire and not fully accepting of the vintage. Will please most in the short term. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted July 2016

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Chablis Vieilles Vignes 

Jean Marc Brocard Domine Sainte Claire Vieilles Vignes Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11589658, $29.95, WineAlign)

The abbey and the saint’s namesake vineyard’s vines are approximately 60 years-old and reduced output is in the vicinity of 30-35 hL/L yields. As always and nurtured with expectation you immediately whiff the old vine charm, lift, ethereal density and a pesto, this kind of herbal salinity that old vines bring. A brine that younger vines do not, with roots here burrowing six plus feet down into the kimmeridgian, far past the flora up top, seeking secondary and tertiary character. It takes little mindful and acquiescent effort to concur on the notification that double the length is perceived as compared to the younger Sainte Claire. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

La Chablisienne Chablis Les Vénérables Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (215525, $24.95, WineAlign)

Les Vénérables is the old vines cuvée that sees the same 14 months élevage as the other two, La Pierrelee and La Sereine. The lees effect continues but with Vénérables the running thread of aromatic sweetness is at first accessed and then subjugated to heavy layering, structure, compression and richness. Very citrus, first curd and then zest, coupled upon and adding on top of itself and nearly piercing. Pith joins on the palate. Classic Chablis. Crunchy and tart, like a bite into an acidulated green apple. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted at the domaine with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

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Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Planted in 1932 near Villy by Romain Collet’s maternal grandfather, these (nearing 75 year-old) vines bring the baller brilliance to Chablis, not in compression or density but for Collet, just the opposite. They gift ethereally, from 40 hL/L yields, a number pretty solid for such old vines. This 2014 impresses understanding about a vineyard with real mirondage, holding up a mirror to the past and paying it forward. Small grapes of vivid concentration breathe acidity, at first and then finesse. Precise Chablis is a great thing, especially when that inclination lingers for a very long time. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at the domain with Romain Collet, July 2016  

Domaine Hamelin Vieilles Vignes Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Lignorelles old vines on Portlandia limestone are at least 70 years-old, obviously the philanthropist of rich Chablis though here with sidetracks through verdant greens and herbal fields in balmy weather. This in 2014 and surprisingly approachable. Ripeness, sapidity and savour converge. The flavours zig-zag from lime to green apple and more bitters than many are seen in bright light aspects that remind of in country kin aligoté and auxerrois. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016    @oenophilia1

La Manufacture Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Once again it is the elegance that old vines bring to Chablis that is so counterintuitive to what they do almost anywhere else in the world. In La Manufacture’s case the reflexive fineness and haute innervation that is derived from these old vines is both calming and tangible. The consciousness is latent to a slope upon which the drive of direct acidity and salinity cling, angling in the particular way of the exceptional 2014 vintage. Laroche’s Chablis VV makes peace with tension, finds harmony before the sister Chablis and yet will live a longer life. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine de La Motte Chablis Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (334490, $19.95, WineAlign)

Located in Beine, Domaine de la Motte from the Famille Michaud fashions Chablis of nerve, tension and high on the floral scale. The old vines are 40-plus in age, doling out the proverbial excess of concentration and here with malolactic fully noticed from the start, for the first time in principal Chablis. Though almost certainly (and entirely) Inox barrel fermented, the malo is rendered in buttered popcorn and lemon. Still too young for the components to come together so put it in the three to five year conversation. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @gmlechablis

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

What is it that old vines bring to Chablis? Elegance, temperament or calm? All of the above. Jean-François Bordet’s grandfather planted these vines, 78 years ago. He’s 93 and drinks Chablis every day. So wisdom seems to be the key, that and a cordial-conjugal relationship between this every day wine and a consumer. The purity is predicated on lime and predicts many a cordial connection. This delicate Vieilles Vignes is also practical for every special occasion and it is possessive of surprising strength. It’s what you need, if necessary, every day. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Testut Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015, Ac Burgundy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vines are 50 years-old and from the same (right) bank as the (Rive Droit) so here the stylistic is replicated albeit with a deeper sense of the locale, but so much furtherer elegance and balance. The lees melding into texture replicates upon itself, recreating a cloning that interweaves minerality upon fruit in mille-feuille layers. Very mature, grown-up winemaking. Concentrated and clean. Still, very ’15. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

The wines of the Tremblay family exemplify the vignoble de Chablis and with this old vines you can’t help but repeat the house mantra, “c’est ce qui donne cette…arrière goût minéral qui semble avoir été extrait des entrailles de la terre!” Extracted from the kimmeridgian, from Exogyra virgula, from 25 million years of formed marno-calcaire. “Goût minéral,” the taste of mineral, from the bowels of the earth. It matters not that this Chablis is from the forward, fruit first, commercial vintage. With a selection made from Tremblay’s 40-plus year-old vineyards the high density of dry extraction from fruit does indeed lead to more weight and body. Mineral yes, but you will all like it too. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Tremblay, July 2016  

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

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The cru chief of Alsace: Zind Humbrecht

Le Clos Windsbuhl de Hunawihr PHOTO: http://www.zindhumbrecht.fr

Le Clos Windsbuhl de Hunawihr
PHOTO: http://www.zindhumbrecht.fr

Were Olivier Humbrecht, MW a Rock ‘N Roll star, he would be the guy, the man, the boss, the one everyone wants to hang around. He’d be invited to every benefit concert, like No Nukes at MSG, Live Aid, Live 8 and a Tribute to Heroes. He would sing the biggest parts on the raise awareness and relief funds records like We are the World. He would headline every star-studded gathering to celebrate an influential musician’s career, like that of George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan.

Olivier Humbrecht is a winemaker. He’s also smart, France’s first Master of Wine, rooted in his region’s history and hyper aware of every nuance in each terroir. He’s an extreme scientist, biologist, geologist, viniculturalist and viticulturalist. Olivier Humbrecht is a student of many Alsace genres, techniques and methods. He’s a bit of a perfectionist. So are many Alsatian winemakers. But Olivier also has the charisma, the persona and the drive to strive for bigger and better. People want to be near that.

The rock star complex manifests itself at a tasting of the Zind-Humbrecht portfolio. Olivier has laid 14 wines on the cellar room table for a group of eight journalists and sommeliers. After leading the group through the lot, he checks his watch and sees there are a few minutes left in the allotted time. He opens two more bottles, then two more. Time is up. The group must press on. He opens another. Just one more, “for perspective,” he says. He can’t stop. The adrenaline is pumping. One more encore. Just one more Sélection de Grains Nobles…

Domaine Zind-Humbrecht is well-known to the world, considered the consummate professional vigneron d’Alsace. The wines are immaculate to a fault; pure, precise considerations out of a multitude of variegated and diverse terroirs; of those around the winery’s home in Turckheim, Wintzinheim, in Gueberschwihr, Thann and in Hunawihr. The Grand Cru holdings of Brand, Hengst, Goldert and Rangen de Thann provide the stuffing for exceptional produce but can any other winery in Alsace lay claim to so many exceptional wines from their lieu-dit and single-vineyards not classified Grand Cru? The trifecta phenomena of the Zind-Humbrecht hill parcels, “Les Clos”; Häuserer, Windsbuhl and Jebsal may as well be Grand Cru squared. The wines from these most worthy soils are dreamy and in top vintages, impossibly perfect.

Most vintners in Alsace are connected to a village, have vineyard holdings surrounding or on slopes leaning upwards from the town. Many crush and ferment in caves beneath their homes right there in the ancestral village. Above ground Zind-Humbrecht is more modern than most, in many ways the embodiment of the 21st century Alsatian facility but Olivier’s wines are deeply connected to Turckheim, the village closest to a large proportion of his vines. The region’s regulatory board decision to eliminate a village like Gueberschwihr from being used on a Riesling label is both curious and counter-productive. Olivier is an island here, not having found any other producer’s support to keep such a designation alive. The irony is not lost. A winemaker incredibly passionate about soil having to label his wine by that very concept and against his will.

I had the opportunity to taste with Olivier Humbrecht on two occasions, thanks to CIVA and SOPEXA, at the winery and at the Millésimes Alsace trade event on Monday, June 16th, 2014. Humbrecht’s brain is in constant churning motion. He will never rest and settle for the status quo. He has learned everything and has everything yet to learn.

Biodynamic farming is at the nucleus of Zind-Humbrecht’s practicum and by now spoken as an apothegm, not ad nauseam. Olivier notes that Colmar, the vinous hub of Alsace and just down the road from Turckheim, is the driest town in France. “We are in a region that in the past we had to fight for ripeness. This is not the case anymore. I have not had to chaptalize in 20 years.” Global warming has had a great effect on phenols but Olivier stands firm on timing. Plants, including grapevines, have very specific life cycles, from flowering to ripening. “I will be ready for picking September 1st,” he insists, “regardless of the weather.”

On varieties, Muscat D’alsace remains “important and fantastic.” Humbrecht insists on keeping it viable and alive. “Reds are trendy,” but not significant to Zind-Humbrecht, adding up to less than one per cent of total production. Ninety per cent are single-varietal wines. Riesling persists as the core variety. It’s a grape that hates to ferment so noble rot should be avoided, because it arrests fermentation.” For Riesling to succeed? “You need a majority of tartaric acid, slowly, coolly, through the cold of winter, to achieve proper malic acid, to achieve good Alsace Riesling. Basically you don’t even want to know it’s happening.”

Olivier is an ally to both phenol and tannin. “Phenols in white wine is something that is always neglected,” he says, and “I do appreciate tannins in white wine, especially in low acidity grapes like Gewürztraminer.” Too many people do not understand the aging capabilities in the wines of Alsace. “We’ve gotten rid of too many phenols in white wine,” he complains. “We love the anti-oxidants, which will not allow the wines to age well, with no protection against oxidation.”

The phenol-tannin-sugar-acidity sequence only succeeds when PH is in the mix. “PH is more important than acidity. Low PH is a guarantee for good evolution in bottle, and good phenols.” That said, skin contact is to be avoided in Humbrecht’s world. “Alsace already has high aromatics so contact is contradictory.” It can lead to the inclusion of green phenols which would be detrimental to making sound wine. Ripe phenols come from the vines and Olivier continues to refer to structure and acidity as a direct consequence of what happens in the vineyard.

The ZH processes include high density planting, hand harvesting, gravity feeding, cold cluster pressing and the use of wild (indigenous) yeasts. The total annual output is approximately 300,000 bottles from 40 hectares, a capacity reached in the mid 1990’s. “We are not interested in getting any bigger,” concedes Humbrecht.

The last piece and going forward of the Zind-Humbrecht puzzle concerns vintages. “Vintages are very important and different in Alsace,” says Olivier. “2014 is very precocious.” Flowering was done the first week of June, almost two weeks ahead of the norm. This is similar to 2003 and 2011. “We made a lot of mistakes then, because it was the first time we had this.” The plan is to adapt to the climate by cooling down the soil, with more grasses to retain moisture. They will also let more branches grow to restrict sun and more canopy management. Biodynamic farming at work.

Olivier Humbrecht and Godello PHOTO: Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Olivier Humbrecht and Godello
PHOTO: Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Here are notes on the 20 Zind-Humbrecht wines tasted in Alsace on Monday June 16th and Wednesday June 18th, 2014.

Pinot Noir 2012

To Olivier Humbrecht, the location and managing the ripeness of Pinot Noir is key. “You can’t hide green character in Pinot Noir,” he asserts. Fruit comes from the Heimbourg vineyard, from west-facing slopes out of marl and limestone. This is a cooler, later ripening position with a draught between the hills. At 13 per cent alcohol it is pleasantly ripe but not as rich and intense as 2009. Still ripe enough for positive and effective phenols. Tannins are present and accounted for, wrapping a veil over the chalky, chewy, slighted coated fruit. The mineral is felt in texture coming from what is a simple, proper and elegant palate.

Muscat Goldert 2012

Like any self-respecting winemaker in Alsace, Olivier Humbrecht is intent on keeping Muscat d’Alsace alive with hopes that someday it will once again thrive. The white and red coloured, longer ripening, small berry Muscat Petite Grains receives minor (one or two per cent) support from grapey, soft and aromatic Muscat Ottonel. Raised from olitic limestone and marl soil, this Muscat is blessed with terroir inducing greater acidity and a dichotomous, silty ripeness, like a green, unripe Sauvignon Blanc. One has the sense that in this unique vintage the noble variety may age with an almost unexpected stride through the years.

Riesling Terroir d’Alsace Vin Sec 2012

This is the most basic and tenable wine in the Zind-Humbrecht portfolio. For the uninitiated it is an ideal embarkation point from which to engage the dry elegance and saline minerality of Alsatian Riesling. This “entry-level” effort is from 11 year-old vines, a slow ripening vintage and the stark reality of granite soils. The ever-present Humbrecht honesty and richness is here but in its most subtle (and only 2 g/L residual sugar) scale. Quick notes of lime, chalk and ginger. Olivier says it is made for the Brasserie or the Gastropub market. Never mind that it’s the most junior of his Rieslings. Nobility begins here with this reassuring, air-dried, easy to understand wine.

Riesling Herrenweg de Turckheim 2012

Here rolls the rock of the ZH stable. From gravelly, well-drained, poor soils around the winery. The citrus factor is front, centre and in surround sound but a natural richness and sweetness brings balance. This means the wine will gracefully incline through to a dry yet fruity future. A savoury austerity will increase the ageing quotient, in addition to the omnipresent mineral flavours by way of old (47 year-old) vines that burrow deep in the gravel, providing grit and strength, especially in drought vintages.

Riesling Calcaire 2012

The artist formerly known as Gueberschwihr is no longer. The new regulation regarding the production of village wines became effective with the 2011 harvest so, alone in its support for the quality of wine for the village, Humbrecht had no choice but a switch to the Calcaire nomenclature. From richer, cooler, alkaline soils. A touch more sugar (8 g/L) than the Turckheim counterparts, this also has higher acidity. Technically not so dry but this is the elevated, though not quite astronomical PH talking. It is dry enough to be considered Sec. Momentarily stuck in the proverbial petrol and mineral fence. The door will open shortly, to the ZH airy density and so physically speaking, this will taste drier as it ages. Even if “all this science I don’t understand,” I do know “it’s gonna be a long, long time” before the Calcaire comes down to earth and settles into its skin. Ten years to be sure. Rocket man.

Riesling Clos Häuserer 2012

Also Turckheim in origin (specifically Soedlen) but from marl soil atop really aggressive limestone from just under the Grand Cru Hengst’s nose. One of the highest in PH, this is austere and currently shut tight within a dry (4 g/L sugar) free lime zeppelin drum. Though aromatically mute, the mineral density on the palate is striking, like a reduction of half and half spread on sourdough toast. The 18 month lees program is most noticeable here and this Riesling will be led towards a petrol induction future. When it gets there, a taste will bring you into the Häuserer of the holy. The deep marl soil on top of calcareous Oligocene mother rock will speak and it will ask  “are you dizzy when you’re stoned?”

Riesling Brand Grand Cru 2012 (SAQ 11532951 $73.00, WineAlign)

There is a roundness to the Brand, in beautiful calming aromatics in defiance of the hard biotite granite, black and white mica soils. The pure mineralized clay silica brings heat to the land, with a high surface exchange quotient, not so different from the Schlossberg. This is precocious and precious Grand Cru that demands the wisdom and the fortitude of old vines, of a minimum 25-30 years of age. Zind Humbrecht’s average 66! With two per cent noble rot in the mix the wine reaches for more sugar (11.5 g/L) out of its desperately low yields. There is a high mineral ripeness and a tropical tingling, in melon and clementine.

Riesling Clos Saint Urbain Rangen de Thann Grand Cru 2012 (SAQ 12133871 $101.00, WineAlign)

The Thann is a 22-hectare, low yielding Grand Cru. The terra is volcanic and dark sedimentary soil, very steep and homogeneous. The high mineral altitude and poor attitude means the Zind Humbrecht ambition is aromatically challenging to assess, even if to taste it’s so obviously exquisite in concentrated depth. Such a rich, intense grapey nose but the flint smothers the smoky smoulder that should be present. A tight, angular and sobering expression, more isometric and idiosyncratic than anything tasted to this point. An island in the line-up. Not the most loveable Rangen, like its name, which is too old to even know its meaning.

Riesling Heimbourg 2012

From the village of Turckheim, the vines are planted on the steepest aspect of the marl covered, oligocene limestone slope. More noble rot present here than in the Brand, resulting in, naturally higher sugar (15 g/L), richer fruit and a deeper hue. “The sweetest Riesling we’ve made in 2012,” admits Olivier. A most interesting specimen too, an upside down cake in alternating layers of apricot and crushed rocks. The flavours are high-toned, not necessarily tropical, but lush.

Riesling Clos Windsbuhl 2011, Alsace, France (agent, $80.00, WineAlign)

“Vintages are very important and different in Alsace,” notes Humbrecht, exemplified by this blasted 2011 in contrast to all the ’12’s at these tastings. Here the fruit leans in the most elevated petrol direction, from a warm year and an earlier harvest. A younger evolution is taking place, showing immediate and gratified balance. The terroir is cool, rocky limestone with shells, similar to Burgundy. The clos is a gently sloping, six-hectare parcel. Overall it’s anti-floral, wet chalky creamy and striped by linear acidity. Only 4.5 g/L of sugar. These last two numbers mean nothing if you don’t recognize the PH because there are different acidities in wine. Here the acidity walks the fine line, side by side with its partners.

Riesling Clos Windsbuhl 2007

From a different era, this was fermented bone-dry, dire, with less than 1 g/L of residual sugar. A Riesling to show just how tight the Zind-Humbrecht band was back then and it is just beginning to communicate in its mid-life, mineral voice. If as a lieu-dit subject it was once “incommunicado,” with no comment to make, this has changed. The notes are layered and together, the mid-palate extraordinarily full, the length in reverberating, extended play. Here in today’s communique he’s come clean, having moved on from the strict, straits style, once spun unbending. The experience of great players and exceptional monopole (Grand Cru deserving) terroir has given the ’07 Windsbuhl the foundation to realize a classic Riesling.

Pinot Gris Calcaire 2012

Fruit comes from the Heimbourg, providing pure limestone effect and a great nutty character. The sugar is nothing to forget about (10.6 g/L), here already commissioned and integrated. Provides support for Olivier’s declaration that “if anything should happen to a wine, it should be before you bottle it.” Much more accessible than the fastball-curveball-changeup, out of the strike zone ’11. Here it’s all down the middle,  juicy, hittable fastballs.

Pinot Gris Rotenberg 2012

The Rotenberg’s shallow, red soils (located on top of the Hengst) bring a whole new set of parameters to Pinot Gris, in stark contrast to the Calcaire. Two bottles were poured. A two-day old sample showed settled and mellow flavours. A new bottle was crackerjack reductive, leesy and with a shocky aridity so unusual for Pinot Gris. The soils bring concentration, here magnified and compressed by the hastened moment. All the hallmarks of the Zind-Humbrecht style are there, if suppressed; tang, herbiage and a spicy spike. Very dry (4 g/L) and really invigorating white wine.

Pinot Gris Clos Saint Urbain Rangen de Thann Grand Cru 2012 (SAQ 11545233 $74.25, WineAlign)

The noble grape in this Muschelkalk (calcareous) vineyard comes through in high concentration, with an increase in noble rot from very low yields (12 hl/L). There was hail here in 2012, just after flowering, not a devastating storm but enough to minimize quantity. The sweetness (35 g/L) is heightened and uncompromising yet always mitigated by intense mineral activity. The richest and most unctuous wine of the morning (to this point) with direct, pure ripe tree-fruit flavours. This is a Pinot Gris that remains firm against the dangers of oxidation and it will develop smoky and toasty aromas. The structure is what I would call remarkable but not exceptional. Time will tell. Here the wait needs to be a minimum five years and then to drink well past 2025.

Gewürztraminer Calcaire 2012

As of the 2011 vintage, the Wintzenheim bottling became the Calcaire, for village designation (or lack thereof) reasons. Fruit here in 2012 is mostly (not necessarily typically) from the Hengst Grand Cru vineyard. The marl and limestone leads to a very typical Alsatian and even more typical Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer. Full on glycerin, creamy, perceptibly sweet and protracted wine. Even at 35 g/L it is tempered by high tannic animation, as much as in Burgundy. Skin tannins are much more interesting than those from oak because they elevate the acidity by way of contrasting balance to the sugar. This is why they succeed.

Gewürztraminer Hengst Grand Cru 2012

From old vines of the Hengst, the yield is half of the Calcaire, the concentration raising the bar in the opposite direction. The residual number is the same but the sugars are more complex, intensely natural and variegated. The texture and flavours cover a creamier, wider spectrum and even though some typical rose petal/lychee components are noted, they remain submerged beneath the piquancy and the richness. This Hengst will gain flesh and weight as it ages, elevating the potential for late harvest sensations and alcohol.

Gewürztraminer Clos Windsbuhl 2012

The Muschelkalk calcareous, southeast facing slopes of this Clos employ slightly cooler temperatures and the stretched elasticity of slow-ripening to bring a sense of balance and poise to Gewürztraminer. The same can’t be said for Riesling on the same site, at least not in 2012. The Windsbuhl here speaks in more sweetness and less alcohol. “If you can see the differences of terroir in Gewürz,” says Olivier, “then you won’t see it in Riesling.” Here is an example that backs up one of his most telling axioms. “It’s the phenols of the grape that make it age gracefully better.” Age it will. Drink this beginning in 2020 and through 2040.

Gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardives Hengst Grand Cru 2011

A wine not often made because of the dry climate in this Herrenweg vineyard. The gaining of full botrytis expression only happens once in every five or six years and when it does, this eager and vivid sweet wine is the result. Harvested at high ripeness and proportion (50 per cent) of noble rot, with a quick (one month) fermentation to achieve a sweet balance (vin liquoreux) not that far from some SGNs. At 102 g/L it is obviously quite sweet though once again, with acidity, PH and exceptional phenolic character it strikes a balance. I don’t normally imagine late harvest wines to speak in terms of elegance or restraint and I’m not sure those are the most apt descriptors here. Yet the Hengst is as subtle as it gets for the genre and never enters the arena of the cloyingly sweet and absurd.

Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Sélection de Grains Nobles 2010 and the tasting table PHOTO: Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Sélection de Grains Nobles 2010 and the tasting table
PHOTO: Cassidy Havens, http://teuwen.com/

Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Sélection de Grains Nobles 2010

The residual on the 2010 Windsbuhl is remarkably high, this as a result of its long but (not compared to 2009) fermentation. From a historic vintage, with top-notch acidity (the goal was 16 g/L) and clean, precise botrytis. With the complexity and structure provisos of the Muschelkalk calcareous terroir and (43 year-old) vines, this exceptional dessert wine was given all the tools necessary for success. A parabola of a dessert wine, one sip and “we barely remember who or what came before this precious moment.” Attacks the mouth with an unparalleled sugar/acidity/tannin continuum. The flavours bring to mind quince, apricot and creamy mangosteen in out of control concentration. There is a reason sweet wines like these are so rare and receive such high praise. Exceptional fruit of uncompromising quality and a winemaker’s reverence are the reasons. Olivier Humbrecht prepared this 2010 to succeed and to live for decades. Drink from 2025 to 2055.

Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Sélection de Grains Nobles Trie Spéciale 2009

A south-facing, very steep slope of grey marls and gypsum. A vineyard that yielded a miniscule 10 hl/H. A stratospheric residual sugar quotient (in the realm of 500 g/L) and incredulous acidity to prevent the development of the yeasts. A fermentation that finally finished in the late winter of 2012. A wine aged in demi-guid. Selection of grapes of a botrytis so pure and dry. These are the specs of a wine I may never taste again. Olivier concedes he “really tries not to obtain the highest sugar concentration possible” but this 2009 is a “monster of a wine.” It will take forever to assimilate and digest the sugar. Unctuous, lush, rich and gorgeous does not do it justice. Pure distillation of fruit and stone, accented by spice, wild herbs and flowers. Like an injection of pure, Pinot Gris adrenaline. All this from dry extract, slowly rehydrated with magic pixie dust and the wonders of the natural world.  Will live for a century and then some.

Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Sélection de Grains Nobles Trie Spéciale 2009

Pinot Gris Clos Windsbuhl Sélection de Grains Nobles 2010 and Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal Sélection de Grains Nobles Trie Spéciale 2009

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Take them home, County wines

County in the City PHOTO: Michael Godel

County in the City at the Berkeley Church

Life is old there, older than the trees,
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Can you think of an island (leaving Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand out of the discussion) of greater interest anywhere for growing grapes and making world-class wine? Prince Edward County’s just a shade more than 1000 square kilometers, 800 kilometers of shoreline and tiny 22,000 population is that place. It’s geology and climate eerily mimics that of Burgundy. A superficial layer of limestone peppered clay loam hovers above penetrable layers of larger limestone. Fissures in that bedrock allow vines to reach deep into its crevices. It’s a veritable mineral wonderland.

Related – You can lead a county to the city

Huff Estates Photo: Michael Godel

Huff Estates

More than 30 wineries dot the land and water interspersed honeycomb of a wine trail. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the obvious cornerstone varieties but unique Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Gris have joined the attention gaining fray. Ontario’s finest Sparkling wine is being made at Hinterland. Vintners like Rosehall Run and Keint-He Winery exemplify top to bottom consistency. They and others like Lacey Estates are involved in the yeoman’s ambassador work, in the field, at tastings or through social media. Smaller production houses like The Old Third Vineyard, Hubbs Creek and Exultet Estates are sought after by those who know.

Stanners

Stanners

The County returned to the city on April 3, 2014 to showcase a cross-section of their wares at Toronto’s Berkeley Church. The usual suspects continued to impress, yet the collective needs to embrace the Sparkling example set by Jonas Newman and Vicky Samaras at Hinterland. If White Cap and Ancestral are any beacon to be drawn towards, plantings of Vidal, Riesling and Gamay should be employed in earnest in the turning towards pressure in the bottle. Lighthall’s Glen Symons gets it, as does Frédéric Picard, with his Cuvées, not to mention Bill Turnbull and his 3630 Bubbles. True, Casa Dea has the shy Dea’s Cuvée and the Grange makes a Sparkling Brut and a Riesling (346726, $24.95). But the questions begs, is fizz just another word for everything to lose in the County?

Here are notes on 23 wines tasted. The soundtrack to these PEC Wines includes Foo Fighters, Cracker, Nine Inch Nails, Modest Mouse, REM, Sufjan Stevens, The Beatles and Dire Straits.

From left to right: Casa Dea Riesling 2011, Huff Estates Winery Off Dry Riesling 2012, Harwood Estate Pinot Gris 2012, Lighthall Progression Sparkling Vidal 2012, Norman Hardie Riesling 2012, Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay 2012, Karlo Estates Lake On The Mountain Riesling 2012

From left to right: Casa Dea Riesling 2011, Huff Estates Winery Off Dry Riesling 2012, Harwood Estate Pinot Gris 2012, Lighthall Progression Sparkling Vidal 2012, Norman Hardie Riesling 2012, Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay 2012, Karlo Estates Lake On The Mountain Riesling 2012

Casa Dea Riesling 2011, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario  (winery, $16.95, WineAlign)

Pours and perches in the glass dry and stoic, as if bled from concrete or amphora. Swirled or not this fighter begins to rumble in a growing momentum of tang and acidity, as if it were being fed by sugar and feeding on yeast. So primary, like a sample in thief, yet already circling in complexity. A spike of spicy sweetness, a delicate dressing of aglio e olio, a chiffonade of basil on top. The County does this style of dry Riesling at this price in ways no one in Niagara can. This is no foo but rather a “blessing in disguise. Believe it or not, hands on a miracle.”   @casadeawinery

Huff Estates Winery Off Dry Riesling 2012, VQA Ontario (155606, $17.95, WineAlign)

Note the VQA Ontario designation, meaning the fruit is a combination of PEC and Niagara. The former brings limestone to the table while the latter weight and substance. Typically soda-driven and spatially atomic in maximum thrust. Turns towards the lake with sweet emotion and sails off into the sunset. Multi-purposed, works to great summer afternoon effect, especially with the waves of the bay lapping at the shore.  @HuffEstatesWine 

Harwood Estate Pinot Gris 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $18.00, WineAlign)

Light, airy, delicate and nearly ethereal Pinot Gris that takes few chances, instead choosing an acquiescence with life’s simple pleasures. The vanilla of Gris, malleable, agreeable and ready to pair with whatever comes its way. A minor spike of Hillier minerality gives accent to pears and its blossoms.

Lighthall Progression Sparkling Vidal 2012, VQA Ontario (Winery, $20.00, WineAlign)

A most non-pretentious sparkler that holds a pertinacious attitude towards anything but serious fun. From estate Vidal grapes that has seen a second fermentation using the Charmat Method, Lighthall’s ’12 picks up right where its solid ’11 left off. Picked early to preserve freshness and acidity, the Progression is big on tart green apple preserved by a squeeze of lemon. Chill it, refresh with it, serve it up and bring the house down.

Norman Hardie Riesling 2012, VQA Ontario (131169, $21.00, WineAlign)

Twenty Mile Bench in Niagara borrows 30 per cent County fruit to complete Hardie’s cracker Riesling. Low in alcohol (9.1 per cent) and residual, bound by jacked up acidity and tension. Pale platinum with an old-school aromatic sentiment that “fruit is rusting on the vine,” and flavours recalling that “the fruit is calling from the trees.” A masonic force of winemaking, “like being low, hey hey hey like being stoned.”  @normhardie

Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $21.95, WineAlign)

The Huff Chardonnay bent has seen a shift as strong as South Bay’s prevailing winds, away from the weight of barrel ferment to a clean, Chablis-like style. The ’10 might just have been the turning point and though they now make two versions, this ’12 is the cementing of the attitude. What is most amazing is that the texture, aromas and feel remain those of an oak-influenced wine. Huff manages the linear consistency without the need to encumber, toast or char the purity of its glade, glycerin and citrus fruit. Only Prince Edward County’s limestone soil can effect this kind of nine inch nails drive into Chardonnay without oak and only Huff can do it with this kind of elegance. A wine “less concerned about fitting into the world.” Do not miss this singular effort.  @HuffEstatesWine

Karlo Estates Lake On The Mountain Riesling 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $22.00, WineAlign)

Karlo’s take is Riesling in torsion, barrel fermented & aged in older (six-year) French Oak. The program adds wax and herbal mucilage to what otherwise would have been a frenetic study in bone chilling acidity. This unique and neo-progressive intuit invites a global Riesling symposium to the County to learn something old and something new within this single bottling. Riesling with attitude that’s got glycerin and a medicinal meets floral, pear extract meets candied lilac viscidity. Though so young, it seems wise, with an anamnesis for old Mosel, a coolant aroma and a taste that recalls white sangria. Yes, it’s different and eclectic. Anti-bracing stuff, not for everyone, but everyone should be for it.

From left to right: Stanners Vineyard Riesling 2011, Closson Chase The Brock Chardonnay Unfiltered 2011, Lighthall Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2012, Karlo Estates Chardonnay C.H.O.A. 2012, Norman Hardie County Cabernet Franc 2012, Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2010, Closson Chase Vineyard The Loyalist Chardonnay 2012

From left to right: Stanners Vineyard Riesling 2011, Closson Chase The Brock Chardonnay Unfiltered 2011, Lighthall Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2012, Karlo Estates Chardonnay C.H.O.A. 2012, Norman Hardie County Cabernet Franc 2012, Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2010, Closson Chase Vineyard The Loyalist Chardonnay 2012

Stanners Vineyard Riesling 2011, Vinemount Ridge, VQA Ontario  (winery, $23, WineAlign)

This is the inaugural Riesling release for Stanners, from a single Vinemount Ridge plot. If it were not so winged-footed it might gain more positive repute from the appellation’s quarry effect, but in time and with experience, Colin Stanners will settle the grassy aromas into the limestone demand. For now it remains effortless and balanced with a dismounting of acidity and well provided apple and lemon flavours.  @StannersWines

Closson Chase The Brock Chardonnay, Unfiltered 2011, Niagara River, VQA Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

The 2011 Brock has settled into its Niagara River appellative skin, having now been in bottle 18 months. Working with fruit from 300 kilometres away increases the unknown quotient, magnifying the adage that you have “one chance to get everything right,” Closson’s ’11 is neither modest nor is it a mouse but it is less frenetic than it acted when tasted repeatedly last year. The hard deposits have oozed into liquid metal gold and the ripe orchard fruit has mellowed into a creamy pudding with a hint of spice. I don’t see the Brock as a very public wine, but more from a maker, for friends, from habit, for family. A wine that you need to get to know, to patronize with repeated listening’s, to accept.   @ClossonChase

Closson Chase The Brock Chardonnay, Unfiltered 2012, VQA Niagara River, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

The 2012 Brock was only sulphured and bottled a month ago so it’s quite shocky and shaky. Still in the REM sleep stage, the ’12 is not quite ready to reveal the warmth so generously granted by the Niagara River appellation’s extending growing season. The ripe tropical fruit notes are there, if subdued and the omnipresent minerality will rear its rocky head before too long. This Brock will see a lifting “but gravity is holding” it down for now. Look to see the weights fall away late in 2014 “and in review,” you will have noted “the air was singing,” all the way to 2020.

Huff Estates Gamay 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (winery, $25, WineAlign)

If $25 seems a premium to pay for Ontario Gamay, consider all that is on offer in winemaker Frédéric Picard’s take on the friendly French grape. Picard caddies for 13th Street (Niagara) fruit, vinifies it bone-dry with the minimalist edge of 14 months in 15 per cent new French oak.  The fruit is so very ripe, in raspberry and gritless, creamy blueberry. Like savoury adult ice cream, silky smooth and with nary a hint of chalky grain. Well-designed and consumer-friendly as any Gamay has ever graced the Ontario consciousness. So you’ve “got that going for you, which is nice.” Shack up with Huff’s Gamay treat.

Lighthall Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2012, VQA Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Proprietor Glen Symons sources his fruit for this unctuous Gewürztraminer from Vineland at the base of the Escarpment’s steps. Highly tropical and exaggerated by the warm summer of 2012 to the point of candied, but with an edge. Just restless enough to divine temptation for further sips which when multiplied, relax the palate rather than excite it. The flavours turn nutty, waxy, even and calm. A mistral wind blows through in a breezy finish.

Karlo Estates Chardonnay C.H.O.A. 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

It should be assumed that the four types of wood used to house this warm and inferential Choa (cherry, hickory, oak and ash) would smother and smoulder other aromatic suitors but those woods are actually quite subtle. The other woods, as in forest, backyard and compost are the acute players. The Choa goes from fromage to funky, from an enzymatic leesy feeling to inner, inward innards. It barks of a dogged persistence, I will give it that. Most definitely singular of style to be sure and will need a few years to settle down.

Norman Hardie County Cabernet Franc 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (winery, $25.00, WineAlign)

Hardie’s 2012 Cabernet Franc comes of age out of a preternatural and ontological perfect storm. Casts odds into the river of ideal weather, procures phenolic grape ripeness out of the vineyard, avoids the green and embraces the brown stems. Ferments under the natural eye of indigenous yeasts and settles into its silky skin at a low, low 10.8 per cent (give or take a lab sample) alcohol. Cabernet Franc of impossible soul, its “burden is the weight of a feather.” Pepper and currants are noted, tobacco and tomato are not. Comes “bearing a sword” but seduces with primal proclamations. Radical County red.

Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2010, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The oak repeal in decreased new barrel impact allows the County to speak in the clearest of voice. As it should, from a South Bay landscape and terroir as rugged and dramatic that can be found anywhere Chardonnay is made in Ontario. There is a honeyed unctuous and viscous feel to the South Bay ’10, no doubt a result of its middle filled in by a meritorious and pure lees. Limestone wraps up the fruit in a clean, crisp and pure package.

Closson Chase Vineyard The Loyalist Chardonnay 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

The licensee only Loyalist is the micro-embodiment of the Deborah Paskus style. Rich, compact and built to satisfy a need for lush, nearly tropical Chardonnay. From a vintage that saw bud reducing spring frosts and resulting yields of only one tonne per acre. The oak influence comes to it with a scaled back embracing, allowing the County’s rock bent to connect and form a bond with the acidity’s bracing intent. Perhaps the profits will suffer from the year’s miniscule crop, but the level of quality will making it all right.

From left to right: Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011, Karlo Estates The Fifth Element Petit Verdot 2010, Closson Chase Pinot Noir K.J. Watson Vineyard 2011, Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2012, Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2010, Norman Hardie Unfiltered County Chardonnay 2012

From left to right: Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011, Karlo Estates The Fifth Element Petit Verdot 2010, Closson Chase Pinot Noir K.J. Watson Vineyard 2011, Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2012, Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2010, Norman Hardie Unfiltered County Chardonnay 2012

Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, VQA Ontario (winery, $30, WineAlign)

A year later has softened considerable and thinking of laying down in softer pastures.  From my earlier, April 2014 note: “Combines 60% (horizontal) County fruit with 40 per cent (vertical) Niagara (Lincoln Lakeshore) grapes in balance and with finesse. Simply apply the distance formula to figure out the length of the hypotenuse. Bridging the kilometres that lie between, though inadmissible to some, comes by way of a deft winemaker’s vision and touch. Plum good, mineral rich and perceptibly tannic without breaching a threshold of varnish. Cherry toffee speaks of the sunshine and indicates time is of the essence. Will look forward to full-on County issue for 2013 in the hands of Cliff and Colin Stanners.”  Last tasted April 2014

Stanners Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Prince Edward County (winery, $30, WineAlign)

After wetting their Pinot Noir feet with a few vintages that coalesced Niagara and County fruit, this is the first go it alone release for Stanners. It’s yet another effortless and quiet handed response to impressionist County fruit. A noticeable step up from what came before, this has primary balance, secondary (floral) aromatics and tertiary brightness. Like Hillier lavender, drying on the rocks in the waning afternoon sun.

Karlo Estates The Fifth Element Petit Verdot 2010, VQA Ontario (Winery, $33.00, WineAlign)

Mounds of respect are due any Ontario winemaker that decides to tackle single-varietal Petit Verdot, especially in a climate-forsaken locale like the County. Richard Karlo tackles such a struggle between good and evil, looking to elevate this fifth most important Bordeaux grape (not Malbec?) to great PEC heights. His dark, brooding wine of massive extraction starts off into the toffee, the after dinner mints and a suck of coffee cream through a wood straw. Twiggy, angular, resinous and wired, the wine then turns incredibly floral, in violets, from boron to aether and then returns to its roots. The rebound is to acidity, freshness and tang. An intriguing wine that “used to be angry young man” but the evolution it shows in glass bodes well for its future. Give it three to five years to achieve quintessence. “I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time.”

Closson Chase Pinot Noir K.J. Watson Vineyard 2011, VQA Niagara River, Ontario (Winery, $34.95, WineAlign)

Only 165 cases were produced of this Niagara born Pinot Noir. Discreet and unpretentious in every facet of its being. Like the colour of beautiful Rosé, the Watson causes such small-scale tannic pain. Though elegant and lithe, don’t be fooled. It’s not Burgundy. It’s Deborah Paskus. It’s Closson Chase. Profoundly appointed, in mind of those who mind. A signal to the understanding and knowledge of what the variety is and from this place. Clarity comes from an intensity in flowers, quality from a high sense of purpose.  Really fine.

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (125310, $35.00, WineAlign)

Hardie’s 2012 County Pinot Noir is a beacon, a flashing light on the shore, an invitation to copycats because this is what making red wine from limestone foundations is all about. To taste this ’12 is to experience Hardie’s purest berry maceration and distillation to date. It’s as if there was no alcohol present and in fact, at 11.5 per cent it is a modest and transparent pronouncement. Longevity may not bless the ’12 as in other vintages but this is certainly the most groomed and coiffed County Pinot Noir.

Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario  (208702, $39.00, WineAlign)

The calcareous clay, the edgy stone, the molt of the earth. Dense, cluttered and clamorous fruit. A different animal then what walks the County. Magnanimous Pinot Noir full of fruity flesh and medieval attitude. From my earlier, October 2013 note: “That Norman Hardie can make Pinot Noir in Prince Edward County that could never be confused with any other makes it that much more incredulous to nose this Niagara cousin and know it can only be his. A barb on the very verge of ripe, tart cranberry and as smoky a nose as Hardie’s Pinot wants to be. Strawberry and raspberry red beret. Ashes to ashes but not funk to funky, we know Hardie is a Pinot junkie. Still, this is a warm and melodious example with only one coat of primer. Impressive.

Norman Hardie Unfiltered County Chardonnay 2012, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (184432, $39.00, WineAlign)

Norman Hardie’s uncanny ability to coax hyperbole at the lowest alcohol levels is again blatantly apparent in this climatically epochal, yet restlessly cool County Chardonnay. Recalling and expanding on the exceptional ’08, the tonality, texture and motion are achieved by way of a) early picking, b) indigenous yeasts, c) arrested fermentation, d) lees and e) moxie. The dire straits of the vintage wants to exaggerate the fricassee, the roasted nuts and the chemical flow but who might argue against the gape at Burgundian reduction? She’s a roller girl this ’10, taking chances. She skates away, “making movies on location,” all in the name of learning ahead of the curve.

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Between a Flat Rock and an escarpment

Flat Rock Vineyard, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara PeninsulaPhoto: Brian Barton - Guelph, Ontario

Flat Rock Vineyard, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Photo: Brian Barton – Guelph, Ontario

as seen on canada.com

I attend many tastings but none are better than the ones accompanied by the growers, the negociant and the vintner. To a maker, the adage is repeated again and again. Wine is made in the vineyard. Here is part two in the series on land, vineyard and terroir.

Related – Vineyards, winemakers and their sense of place: Bachelder and Leaning Post

Flat Rock Vineyard

PHOTO: Flat Rock Cellars
Flat Rock Vineyard

Assuming the essential information about Flat Rock Cellars proprietor Ed Madronich is on a need to know basis, know this. Madronich is entirely sure about what matters to him, his vineyard and how he approaches the science of making wine. He and winemaker Jay Johnston have embarked upon a new Pinot Noir project. The Block Series investigates the magic of Pinot Noir through a series of a vineyard’s three blocks and plots. Flat Rock’s is a study in soil, slope and altitude.

Notes Johnston: “We can’t learn or get better about our Pinot unless we enter into this type of experimentation.” Adds Madronich, “just don’t screw it up.” They don’t call him Unfiltered Ed for nothing. On Pinot Noir? “When I think about it, I think Burgundy, Oregon, New Zealand and Niagara.” On winemaking? “Jay may be hands on in the vineyard but we are strictly hands off (in the winery).” On closures? Only screwcaps. “The alternative closures are the only way to ensure the wine we make is the wine you’ll drink.  Simple as that.” On taking risks in Flat Rock’s locale as compared to Beamsville? “He’s always had a crop,” says Madronich about a fellow Bench grower. “I’ve always made a better wine,” confirms the unfiltered one.

Flat Rock Cellars

PHOTO: Flat Rock Cellars
Flat Rock Cellars

Soil. Flat Rock’s vineyard set on the Twenty Mile Bench is built of deep clay and till, limestone and shale. The Micro-block Pinot Noir share a commonality from that composition but each plot is possessive its own variation on the rock to soil ratio.

Slope and altitude. Flat Rock lays claim to the biggest elevation change (60 metres from top to bottom) of any vineyard in Niagara. Located approximately (as a function of proximity) 7 – 7.5 km from the lake, propitious air flow dries out the vineyard and mediates humidity. Yields are lower and vines are more vigorous on this part of the Bench, with more rocks dotting the earth. “A super vineyard, great for ripening,” notes Madronich. It’s all about the elevation.

Flat Rock’s Pinot Noir blocks would normally produce 100 or more barrels. Launched with the 2011 harvest, the Block Series encapsulated a selection of 12 barrels, four each from what Ed and Jay considered the “best expressions” of the grand cru determined blocks. Neutral oak was employed to guarantee a fresh, direct and unhindered capture of Flat Rock’s top Pinot fruit. Will this experiment persist vintage after vintage, regardless of cold winters and/or warm summers? Notes Johnston, “we can mine for gold, from block to block, but not necessarily in every year. We’re not trying to razzle dazzle with alchemy in the winery.”

Flat Rock at Crush Wine Bar

Flat Rock Cellars The Block Series Pinot Noir 2011 tasting

Crush Wine Bar, 455 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1K4, 416.977.1234 @CrushWineBarTO

BRUCE ($29.95)

From the northern most block, up at the Escarpment/Bruce trail. Thin, one foot deep soil meshes flaky limestone at this elevation. Smallish berries predominate and an earthly mote accents the flowers, cherries, strawberry and classic purity of this bonny Bruce. A Oregonian lightness of being, if you will. From one of the few south-facing slopes in Niagara (because of 20 Mile Creek), where the limestone chalk imparts fine-grained tannin so apparent to taste.  91  Tasted Oct. 23, 2013

SUMMIT ($29.95)

This block’s base is slightly deeper, spreading over dolomite limestone. Diminished average temperatures mean berries develop lower and slower, hang longer (up to three weeks) resulting in higher phenolic ripeness. Summit may be the caveman of the three, seemingly in dire straits, covered in leaves, snapped twigs, truffles and porcini mushroom but damn if impossible Burgundy does not come to mind. This is one to ask where do you think you’re going? It will surely reply, “if you ain’t with me girl, you’re gonna be without me.” 92  Tasted Oct. 23, 2013

POND ($29.95)

Crosses the twain between Bruce and Summit. A cottony touch, most pronounced perfume and of the three, the lowest acidity. Mellow, easy, J.J. Cale peaceful, void of chalk, grain or angst. Speaks in a cherry voice, smells like cherry and returns that cherry to taste. Ripe and soft. “Sweet as a morning sunrise, fresh as a mountain dew.”  89  Tasted Oct. 23, 2013

Two more Pinot Noir

ESTATE 2011 (1545, VINTAGES Essential, $19.95)

A blend of all 13 blocks, made in a rounder and more accessible style, but still consistent with the Blocks and Gravity. Hand-picked, gravity fed, naturally and in a search for fruit truth. Bottled early (August of 2012), the earth, cherries and plant phenol are all here. Blessed with 20/20 Bench vision, in price and location. Really pure expression and unsevered length from beginning to end.  88  Tasted Oct. 23, 2013

GRAVITY 2011 (1560, $29.95, Coming to VINTAGES Nov 23rd.)

From a blend of eight different blocks, 25 barrels were held back for the Gravity. Less made in ’11 due to the Block Series initiative. Magnified pierce, plum, freshness, flow and complexity, a completely gathered Pinot feeling Gravity’s pull. “Reason had harnessed the tame.” A fable of reconstructed Pinot Noir, the Gravity is Flat Rock’s most complete expression.  From my earlier note: Top wines shine at taste Ontario 2013, “may at first strangely seem that it had ”stepped out of the wilderness all squint-eyed and confused” but my how a swirl elicits gorgeous red berries and an emphatic oomph, even without a sip. Impressively ripe, blooming red rose and cinnamon from the heart of a winemaker’s boots. A mineral streak brings to mind Volnay, in spirit and tragically hip Pinot essence.” 92  Tasted Oct. 10 and 23, 2013

Good to go!

Essential wine for Father’s Day

Father’s Day Wine. Photo Credit: ehow.com

What to get dad this year for Father’s Day. Perhaps not the gifting conundrum that is Mother’s Day but no walk in the park either. The obvious gadgets present themselves; Iphone, Ipad, Kindle, Nook or Golf Course GPS, because no real man wants one for the car.

Forget the camera, video recorder and BBQ. Those things just tell dad he has to work harder. Give him something he can use. Better yet, choose something you can share with him.

VINTAGES Essentials are the Fine Wine and Spirits Division’s collection of always available products. Imagine it’s Sunday afternoon. You are a mere hours away from Father’s Day dinner. You have been tasked with bringing the wine. You need to pick promising bottles to match hors d’oeuvres, appetizer, main course, dessert and one special bottle for Dad to take home to his cellar. In between Soccer finals and gymnastics pick-up there is only time to stop in at the nearest LCBO. The VINTAGES kiosk at the store’s rear only carries certain release products and is sold out of everything you came looking for. That is where Essentials answers the bell. These products can be counted on to be found in most (decent-sized) Ontario stores.

I tasted through 90 VINTAGES Essentials two weeks ago. Here are six to bring to dad; five to share with him and one as a special parting gift for his singular day.

Thirty Bench Riseling 2010 (24133, $18.95) with it’s Huet of the Loire, Chenin Blanc-like citrus, pear and honey blast begs for some BBQ starters. Like good wurst and spicy mustard. Like Chinese BBQ glazed ribs. Incredibly youthful, living in a wild west end of the Beamsville Bench. “Greasy hair easy smile..this is the seventh heaven street to me.” A benchmark Riesling to put Niagara on the popular map.  90

Louis Jadot Chardonnay Bourgogne 2010 (933077, $18.95, LTO until June 24, 2012 at $16.95) keeps on caramelizing but less so in ’10. The oak barrel toast level quotient is down close to 200 for those of you counting at home. This allows a searing acidity to zap the mellow white cherry, rose and raspberry fruit into life.  Best Jadot White Burgundy normale in quite a spell. Would serve well alongside soft taco or slider appetizers. Of fish, pork or chicken. Some cracklings would be nice.  88

Esporao Reserva Red 2009 (606590, $25.95) made from parochial Aragonés, the Tempranillo of Portugal. This particular vintage brings Spanish Montsant to mind, especially the wines of Celler Capçanes. A thread of ripe cherries, cocoa dust, milk chocolate and spice link it to a style also not unlike Napa. Stillwater runs deep for this deeply-hued, Portuguese raven and methinks it almost famous.  Rubbed ribs and chicken await.  88

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (255513, $34.95, LTO until June 24, 2012 at $29.95) signals reform and a serious return to form. Dictionary Napa entry, a reigned and refined milkshake of California berries and dark chocolate. Solid mineral bones full of might, fight and planar, ferric-iron leucos-phosphite. This is the tetrameric rub that notches new found response and respect for the can be found everywhere, once Philistine Mondavi.  Top cut, seared on high heat and rare of course. 89

Cave Spring Indian Summer Select Late Harvest Riesling 2010 (415901, $24.95) wins the race to accompany dessert for its Spätlese sensibility melded to a Niagara Crèvecoeur smoke and mildness mentality. The Peninsula’s typical lime, slate and chalk it shares with Germany’s Mosel are front and centre, cojoined by Icewine’s candied, orange marmalade. At half the tag, the Late Harvest is the leading Essentials sticky deal.  88

Tignanello 2008 (986786, $99.95) gets the nod for dad’s big gift because the singing Tig is flat out esculent. A smoked, Blueberry Margarita, Porcini Risotto with Tartufo di San Giovanni d’Asso and long espresso all rolled into one Super Tuscan. The Cabernet components don’t just get lucky, but are hugely supportive of the vernacular Sangiovese. The Tig might march you up a Florentine hill and get you singing “if you got a truffle dog, you can go truffling.”  90

Good to go!

Re-wined up. May openings and online releases

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/06/01/re-wined-up-may-openings-and-online-releases/

One Pinot, two Shiraz, three Tintos and 27 obscure grapes.

Belle Glos Pinot Noir Clark & Telephone Vineyard 2005
(652883, $39.95) has softened since the last visit on Mother’s Day 2009. Speculation upon release of Chuck Wagner’s Single Vineyard Pinot fetish was “just a bet on a race between the lights.” Mom (and dad) agreed back then there was too much mined, dark anise and vanila fruit, too much ore. The C & T abused the mouth, took no prisoners. Today the plum candy remains and despite a band-aid note, a silky texture lights the Paschal flame. The univocal Glos has transfigurated out of the “darkness and into the day.”  91

St. Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2009 (535104, $29.95) from the March 17th, 2012 VINTAGES release as I previously penned, “bests Barossa at this price point and on a limb for that matter, anywhere in the land of Oz.” From lands Ebenezer, Seppeltsfield and Greenock, receives extended elevage (20 months) in American Oak and shows off like a multi-coloured bruise. Blackwell’s got Squib Cakes, stands as a raw, intense tower of black fruit power. Has the chop and staining Syrah concentrate to oak land a knockout punch to the teeth, mouth and gums. The flagship $50+ equivalent to most South Australian Shiraz, this one is positioned middle of the pack for St. Hallett and is therefore impressive CVR** value for its full-on Barossa style.  91

St. Hallett Blackwell Shiraz 2009, Barossa, South Australia Bottle

Howard Park Leston Shiraz 2005 (923565, $29.95) may come from vines beholden to the deep pockets of its founders but this is not exactly Napa dotcom milliionare playtime. “Members of the Australia wine trade aren’t precious about their wine. But they do love it.” This Leston (from a bonza vintage) spouts a fountain sluice of youthful Margaret River mint and tisserand scented red fruit. Muted middle earth note swings hypoteneuse through hoops and microeconomically bests McLarenVale and Barossa.  90

 

Quinta Do Crasto Old Vines Reserva 2004 (990572, $34.95) released through VINTAGES back in 2007 was juiced from upwards of 30 varietals from then 60-year old vines growing in schist soils. Firm framework, toast smokey, persistent cream and chocolate. Cherry-centered dark chocolate too. The newfangled Douro.  90

Notes on the May releases of 14 VINTAGES online wines.

Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Hunter Semillon 2004 (093495, $49) of apricot, peach, citrus and chevre verging on Cendrillon is just that; funky and stinky. Love the petrol age though.  86

Davis Bynum Bynum Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007 (0201580, $34.95) emits sweet beet and licorice hokum from the dehydrator. A xerophytic aroma keeps it grounded in its Russian River Valley home.  87

Château Latour à Pomerol (0133876, $89) may be a bit corky but I can still see the leaves for the forest. Hints at so much lithe, like leafy tobacco, damp earth, landes shavings and pickled berries. A cushioned launch TGV’s on espresso and toughens late with a firm grip. Give it 10 to 15.  93

Château Le Croix De Gay 2008 (136879, $39) whorls along crude, jangling lines like a Heavy D remake of Ms. Jean Knight’s big tune. La Croix has front and back stuffing in ’08 sandwiched around an 80’s, less than flattering and infundibular midriff.   88

Château Haut-Bergey 2008 (136648, $45) while uncombed and unbraided, is mouth filling and ultimately shows a bit of balance.  87

Tablas Creek Esprit De Beaucastel (735654, $45) may cause addiction due to sweet, sweet candy and mama’s marmalade. Consistent with my April 24th note: “The worthy adversary is just a dude from California. A honey pot of stewed prunes and “Seville oranges” notes the quote machine. A sinkhole of 38% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 26% Syrah and 6% Cunoise, the Esprit does admirable expatriate yeoman’s work and I wouldn’t even think of marking it zero.  88

Casanova Di Neri Pietradonice 2007 (0103085, $79.00) from a master Brunello producer is a dark, dank, hefty and concentrated grunge effort. A brandied effect brings Vintage Port to mind. A meal not to leave hungry, from the mouths of decadence. Perhaps today Cornell and Vedder sip this seemingly evolved and enticing Super Tuscan.  92

De Bortoli Rococo Blanc de Blancs (0238014, $25) flashes some of the largest bubbles and that is not necessarily a good thing. Baroque, not so much. Late, yes. The chalk and talc do match a Roccoco-like creamy, pastel style but the wine is simple, not ornate.  May only “say its name in an empty room.”  86

Cooper Mountain Reserve Chardonnay 2009 (0232827, $22.95) gives orange peel, green apple and foil. Atomic number 16, Chardonnay pearls duettia and a Chablis (Fourchaume) fromage permeate this no toast radio Oregonian. A bit soft, but clean and certainly not oaked to a fault.  88

Château Chasse-Spleen 2008 (0134452, $44) has nearly peaked. The wine past its prime shines LED light. LED wines are so last year. The weald has wielded and waned, the caper and tobacco berries melded into molasses.  87

Château La Couspade 2008 (0229245, $72) of aromal Cassis, Panatela and CDP-like Kirsch is big on extraction for ’08.  Earth, wine and fire of a shining star. Just like meat in a stew. It’s got sustenance.  90

Château La Gaffelière 2008 (0136127, $84) my stars will be beautiful. Colour and potency but currently closed for business. Hidden purple perfume of Aubrietia, Lilac and Lavendar.  90

Château Malescot St-Exupéry 2008 (0137109, $64) never lets me down. “I feel my temperature rising” when a Malescot is on the table. Seamless wine showing a modified ’08 evolution. Noble as Bordeaux comes at this price. Terrific balance of forest, florals and ebon. The Malescot is always on the bus92

Fuligni Ginestreto Rosso di Montalcino 2009 (0245241, $24) is light, delicate and redolent Sangiovese. Impractically colourless to look at, the palate does the talking. Could drink this every day.  89

Good to go!