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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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WineAlign

A Canadian in Chablis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

amusebouche-lasperule-auxerre

#amusebouche #lasperule #auxerre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

piuze-bouqeyrou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

piuze-grenouilles

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

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

piuze

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Top 10 May 2nd VINTAGES

From left to right: Gérard Bertrand Languedoc Syrah/Grenache 2011, Markus Molitor Haus Klosterberg Riesling 2013, Salwey Pinot Gris 2013, Elephant Hill Pinot Noir 2013 and Elephant Hill Syrah 2012

From left to right: Gérard Bertrand Languedoc Syrah/Grenache 2011, Markus Molitor Haus Klosterberg Riesling 2013, Salwey Pinot Gris 2013, Elephant Hill Pinot Noir 2013 and Elephant Hill Syrah 2012

Top 10 best buys for VINTAGES, May 2nd release. Get out there folks.

Gérard Bertrand Languedoc Syrah/Grenache 2011, Ap Languedoc-Roussillon, France (413237, $17.00, WineAlign)

Admiration is afforded this tidy little Languedoc, where red fruit meets citrus, lavender and garrigue. Peppery and just the right amount of earthy warmth, spice, softness and yet durability. A pleasure of florality and a fine grain runs through, with no bake, no shake and no cake. Yeomans work in Grenache-Syrah symbiosis. Drink 2015-2019.  Tasted April 2015  @GBvins  @FwmWine  @LanguedocWines

Markus Molitor Haus Klosterberg Riesling 2013, Qualitätswein, Mosel, Germany (409698, $20.95, WineAlign)

Architecturally precise, of cleanly drawn lines, like the Mosel Vinothek acquired and restored by Molitor in 1984 and winner of the “Architekturpreis Wein 2013.” The Riesling mimics the juxtaposition of historical and modern, seemingly steeped in the past and transposed to the present by state-of-the-art winemaking. This has slate, steep steppes rising from subterreanean acquired salinity and ingrained aridity. There is no way to hide from the scree of the past, avoid the incline towards the future, nor can it exist without the run-off of mineral left behind. Brilliant hue, matched density, matchstick wisp and wild tang. Honeyed and suckling porcine in an early roasting stage, with terrific texture. The beautiful arid length is purposed and linear, with much oomph in its gait. Will linger for five to 10 years easy. Tasted February and April 2015     

Salwey Pinot Gris 2013, Qualitätswein, Baden, Germany (409912, $21.95, WineAlign)

This Baden Pinot Gris is neither fad nor fashion and not an acquired taste. In terms of modern European Gris to Grigio schematics, it is a step up in class, reaching to a chasm of intensity not oft achieved in Baden or other similarly priced Alsatians or Italians. For mineral streaks it reaches west across the Rhine to seek a Vosges mentality, found within a pure, dry and crisp interior. Quite concentrated and ripe like some stylistically-driven Friuli and yet it is the whole package, the sapidity and the good bitters that give it strength in totality. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted April 2015 @TandemSelection  @WinesofGermany  @germanwineca

Elephant Hill Pinot Noir 2013, Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand (309583, $22.95, WineAlign)

At this price it might seem a Central Otago impossibility but Elephant Hill achieves proper inertia with this fresh, forward, crisp and pure style, so at the end of the day it’s quite a steal. In consideration of the mostly 1er Cru appellation, it would be hard to find a better deal in Pinot Noir, save for a combined tumescence hailing from Niagara, British Columbia and Bourgogne. Struts carbonic in the best way imaginable, desires little in the way of cerebral complexity and hands over the goods with a quick delivery. But it hits the marks of Pinot Noir, Otago and New Zealand. The earth derived rides with chalky grain and the mudslide slim back side is energetic, mineral laced and just this side of gritty. Pinot Noir to sip towards a blue horizon. “I just might move my feet, ’cause there’s nothing like the sound of sweet soul music.” Taylor-made Central Otago, with easy sipping and listening in mind. Drink 2015-2018.  Tasted April 2015  @ElephantHill  @COPinotNoirLtd  @HHDImports_Wine

Elephant Hill Syrah 2012, Hawke’s Bay, North Island, New Zealand (408633, $22.95, WineAlign)

Much like the Central Otago Pinot Noir by this Hawke’s Bay based outfit, the Syrah is neither shocking nor strikingly complex but it does send a noticeable tip of the hat to the northern Rhône, with a cure on the nose, a smoke meat smouldering in flavour and a cool, sloping bounce in its step. The aromas bring both charcuterie and a braise of spice studded belly to mind. The flavours call upon dark, red fruit, fresh-faced and fleshy, along with needful, percolating acidity. The avoidance of sweetness and jam-layered cake is appreciated while it stays the course of Syrah and Hawke’s Bay, criss-crossing hydrated grains of sand and salinity like a river running beneath and through it. The lengthy finish offers the promise of mid-term cellaring. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted April 2015  @ElephantHill  @HawkesBay_NZ  @HHDImports_Wine

From left to right: E. Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2011, Bachelder Wines Pinot Noir Oregon 2012, Gundlach Bundschu Estate Pinot Noir 2012, Dog Point Pinot Noir 2012 and Jonata Tierra 2008

From left to right: E. Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2011, Bachelder Wines Pinot Noir Oregon 2012, Gundlach Bundschu Estate Pinot Noir 2012, Dog Point Pinot Noir 2012 and Jonata Tierra 2008

E. Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2011, Ac Rhône, France (704908, $28.95, WineAlign)

Syrah with character, personality and expression that stands up to be counted. High-toned, earthy and nearly over the threshold of palatable Bruce Banner-Betty Ross bunching. Hints at oxidation but is oh so sound, oozes liqueur like old-school Tempranillo and yet can be nothing but sloping Rhône. Kirsch, leather, roses, steeped cherries, orange tea, cinnamon, vanilla, charcuterie, bacon, game and acidity that is rapturous and encapsulating. Has it all going on, going strong, with forward motion and a nod to its past. Plays funky beats, swells in Paul Williams baritone and Melvin Franklin deep bass. The temptations of such a wine are hard to resist. In a world where manipulation and critters sell millions of bottles “stop worrying about your neighbors and the fancy things they got.” Focus on the real deal, like this CH from Guigal and “Don’t Let The Joneses Get You Down.” Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted April 2015  @DOMAINEGUIGAL  @VinexxCanada  @VINSRHONE

Bachelder Wines Pinot Noir Oregon 2012, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA  (333278, $34.95, WineAlign)

Pinot Noir packing blankets, covered, hovering like fluffy clouds on a windless day. “Today is a lovely day to run, start up the car with the sun,” to taste a pure and idealistic Bachelder Oregon expression. Big (14.1 per cent) for the monk, ripe, warm and reeling.

From my earlier December 2014 note:

Primarily constructed from the fruit of Yamhill-Carlton vines, a third of which is Lazy River, an apropos moniker because by harvest time it hardly moves. The warm vintage adds a calm dimension to a Pinot Noir more Burgundian than the Bachelder’s Niagara and also more table friendly. Pure perfume and like life in layered, rosy hues, a vie en rose, from the land and the river’s subtle flows. The terra mobilis. The underlying dream in Thomas Bachelder’s Oregon movement is mineral, like salinity, not limestone but something ambiguous from the river’s pull and under the river. Elegance lived and relived. Here is a wine from a very available warm vintage, with a mess of fleshy fruit, yet Thomas does not obfuscate the terroir. In 2012 and needfully so, it is served from a light hand. Currently available at the SAQ in Quebec and coming to VINTAGES in Ontario, Spring 2015.  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON

Last tasted April 2015

Gundlach Bundschu Estate Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma Coast, California (397513, $49.00, WineAlign)

From winemaker Keith Emerson a Pinot Noir strummed from top to bottom clay loam that is such a matter of controlled emotion and intensity. From out of the fog walks this Sonoman of searing clarity, unapologetic, warm but never hot, telling it like it is. The first chord is the thing, as is the Pinot voice, as sure as Sonoma always turns blue. Beyond that initial substantial impression it glides, even shows the semblance of age, in a beautifully creamy strawberry folded into caramel note. Then potpourri into demi-glace. If the plan is to purchase, pop, pour and saddle alongside duck breast or a veal chop, then giddy-up. “You see it’s all clear, you were meant to be here, from the beginning.” A trilogy of ready, willing and dutifully able. Drink 2015-2017.  Tasted April 2015  @gunbunwine  @LeSommelierWine  @sonomavintners

Dog Point Pinot Noir 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand (329672, $49.95, WineAlign)

Perfectly bright Pinot Noir while simultaneously deep, dark and recondite. Energetic in spirit, ripe and packed with barbed, piquant fruit sewed in threaded badges of spice. Perfumed as if by cinnamon and displacing rose petals. Like the scent of a crystal clear summer’s night, all warm, dry and of dried strawberry juice cracked paint. Grounded and fulfilling, of its own holes, in the mouth and finishes with a feminine touch. A thoroughbred, a filly, that trots on an on, long after it has crossed the finish line. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted April 2015  @DogPointWines    @TrialtoON

Jonata Tierra 2008, Santa Ynez Valley, California (221150, $89.00, WineAlign)

Syrah and Cabernet may be the varietal strikers in winemaker Matt Dees’ arsenal but take one whiff of his ’08 Tierra, a Sangiovese aged a spell to seal the sell and boom! Striking defines the operative, go figure. Never before has the Tuscan expatriate created such a buzz in a California uniform and it has yet been seen to contest with such hot skill. Bounces around in the glass, not so much reductive as plugged in, electric, static and then kinetic, even frenetic. The heat (14.6 alcohol declared) is felt though it’s filtered and spread, tempered by the cooler vintage, blanketing all facets of the composition, albeit with rhythm and in balance. This is Sangiovese from the Santa Inez Valley manifested as flowers and the steep-like tea of modern Nebbiolo wrapped around the enigma of bi-polar Brunello. The ’08 is brined, of olives and a cure, in Syrah braised bacon and smoky tufts of garrigue. Nearly sadistic in its heady risks and chances but how to turn away from the alluring intoxicants? “Forging ahead with precision, now there is no turning back.” This is a wine you can’t walk away from. Has great bitters and lit charcoal on the finish. Tierra the Annihilator. It is most definitely all in. Drink 2015-2020.  Tasted April 2015  @WoodmanWS

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It was Josmeyer’s imagination

Domaine Josmeyer

Domaine Josmeyer

Christophe Ehrhart has a very real and specific goal as custodian of the vines and as a collaborative winemaker at L’éclat Josmeyer. “To avoid oxidized, unclear and unsound wines.” Erhart’s reality lies in his exacting state of certified organic and biodynamic agriculture. He is also a true expressionist, manifested in the feelings of love for biodynamism, running like a dream throughout viticultural life. They encompass an imaginative broad spectrum of respect and attention to all things natural, especially given the spiritual nature of his quest to express terroir.

At Josmeyer, “the first goal is not biodynamism,” Ehrhart tells me at the family winery in Wintzenheim. “We eat only organic and biodynamic. It’s a philosophy of life, but the final goal is to make the finest wines that express the terroir, in a biodynamic way.” I sat down with Ehrhart, along with sommeliers Fred Fortin and Jonathan Ross, to taste eight explanatory wines that fortified insight into Josmeyer’s oeuvre. This second foray took place three days after tasting through a flight of seven wines with Christophe at the Millésimes Alsace, the professional trade fair for the region.

Related – In a Grand Cru state of mind

Domaine Josmeyer is the present day incarnation of a business begun by patriarch Aloyse Meyer. He was succeeded in 1933 by son Joseph who then further developed the operation in 1946. The current operation was established in 1963 by Hubert Meyer, in memory of Joseph. His eldest son Jean is the elder statesman of the modern domain.

Céline Meyer, Christophe Ehrhart, Isabelle Meyer and Jean Meyer, Domaine Josmeyer photo (c): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Domaine-Josmeyer/140625599300808?fref=ts

Céline Meyer, Christophe Ehrhart, Isabelle Meyer and Jean Meyer, Domaine Josmeyer
photo (c): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Domaine-Josmeyer/140625599300808?fref=ts

With daughters Isabelle (as winemaker), artist Céline (as CEO) and Christophe Ehrhart as wine grower, Josmeyer is three and a half centuries and 11 generations removed from its original beginnings. Today Christophe is a leader in Alsace, sitting on committees including the Alsace governing board of CIVA (Le Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d’Alsace) and the local AVA. Since 2001, Ehrhart has been the head of the local growers of the Grand Cru Hengst.

In his position on the Hengst committee, Christophe Ehrhart has been instrumental in eliminating chapitalization (2003), reducing maximum yield limits (55 hL/L) and creating a sugar code index for wine labels. The latter is Ehrhart’s baby and a result of that vivid, expressive imagination.

“Sometimes Alsace wines make one person unhappy,” notes Ehrhart. “If there is an index, we can make two people happy.” The codex rates wines from 0 to five on a residual sugar scale. The index is specific to the wines of Alsace, which differ greatly from those of Champagne, or anywhere else that still white wines are made. The variegated mineral soils of Alsace wreak havoc on how sugar manifests itself, confusing the perceptive ability to imagine the true level of residual. The Ehrhart scale helps the consumer decode that mystery. The purpose is to avoid mistakes, to let the people know what is inside the bottle. “Just to have information in a simple way.”

Josmeyer is anointed with the highest level of Demeter and Biodynamic certification. In fact, Ehrhart is one of the three global VP’s of the organization, the other two being Olivier Humbrecht MW and Eric Saurel of Domaine Montirius.

In his extensive and definitive profile, Tom Cannavan points out Josmeyer’s transition from négociant to biodynamic grower within the context of a “unique ultra-viticulture raison née.” Cannavan praises the purity of the wines while at the same time bemoaning the “bewildering” diversity of products. He writes, “the different ranges are a product of Josmeyer’s négociant roots, but they do not project the image of a single domaine.” Cannavan notes that switching to biodynamic farming did little to change the Josmeyer style, which is all about dry, crisp wines and yet he ignores the reasons for the creation of so many variations on a single (especially Riesling) theme. Soil. Unique geographical spots. Terroir. Jean, Isabelle, Céline and Christophe feel compelled to make small lots from micro-parcels. Organic and biodynamic are important. Terroir is more important.

Jamie Goode posed this question today. Do we make too much of terroir? In the end of his piece, Goode writes “”I reckon terroir deserves to remain at the heart of fine wine.” Jamie and I were together in Alsace. As they did to me, the winemakers of such a region have left an indelible mark on Goode as well. He has been to Alsace on numerous occasions. It has no doubt helped shape his feelings about the importance of terroir, but also the part the winemaker plays in shaping wine.

At Josmeyer, the science of making wine is like wayfinding, based on dead reckoning. In his anthropological study The Wayfinders, Wade Davis writes “you only know where you are by knowing precisely where you have been and how you got to where you are.” Wine making, like wayfinding, is a craft of intuition and experience. Like the Polynesians who navigated the Pacific through knowledge and photographic images committed to memory, the winemaker learns from what the soil and each passing vintage have told. The agglomerated data is applied towards making better, cleaner and clearer wine.

Each time Ehrhart and Meyer navigate the process, from grape life cycle to élevage, they are like the mariner making use of a 360 degree compass of the mind. The navigator will integrate climate (clouds, winds and rain) skies (sun, light refraction and stars) land (marks and bearings) and water (swells, pitch & roll of waves, feel, currents, widths & colours caused by light & shadow, horizons, subtended mast angles and the vessel’s relative position). Davis writes “the genius of the wayfinder lies not in the particular bit in the whole, the manner in which all of these points come together in the mind.”

At Josmeyer the winemaker uses terroir; lieu-dit & Grand Cru, granite, limestone & clay, slopes (steep or not) facing in various directions, climate and vintage. Christophe Ehrhart the wayfinder is what could be called a terroirist. But what about biodynamic wine growing? According to The Living Vine’s Mark Cuff, moon cycles and tides aside, what matters most, as opposed to organic, biodynamics is all about soil, vitality of land, resistance to disease; vines are like icebergs, we concentrate too much on what’s above the soil when 90 per cent of a vine’s life takes place under the soil.

Godello and Christophe Ehrhart, Domaine Josmeyer, Kientzenheim

Godello and Christophe Ehrhart, Domaine Josmeyer, Kientzenheim

The world according to Josmeyer, as related by Christophe Ehrhart is technically, biologically and viticulturally delicious. Yes, the biodynamic winemaker must concern himself, immerse herself, be disciplined to think deep. What happens in the vine’s subterranean world is everything, and at the same time, nothing. Everhart asked Jonathan Ross, Fortin and I what we thought may be the percentage a vine’s growth and energy is derived from beneath the soil (considering the rest comes by way of photosynthesis from the sun). Our guesses ranged from 10 to 33 per cent. Not even close. Christophe said that scientific studies show the number to be between three and five per cent. Who knew?

Ehrhart’s concession that the quantitative number is small for a vine to derive its personality, divined though the earth’s brine, was quite shocking. Though Ehrhart does not rely solely on the common practice that other Alsatian winemakers take for granted and even believe with blind faith, terroir still drives the Josmeyer machine. Like a sailor who can’t find his longitudinal way without a chronometer, the winemaker who is not in tune with the earth must make use of technology to find his viticultural way. Christophe Ehrhart has an advantage. Organic, biodynamic, wayfinder. This is why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world.

Tasting twice with Christophe in four days left a mark. It was Josmeyer’s imagination, running away with me. Here are notes on the seven wines tasted June 15th, 2014 at Millésimes Alsace.

Pinot Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes 2012 (WineAlign)

From calcaire-limestone, there is fine design in line, a mime of sugary lime with notes of white pepper and thyme. Wise and so very dry (5 g/L residual sugar), balanced, rhyming, keeping perfect four four time.

Pinot Auxerrois 1996 (WineAlign)

Acting as if it were recent, current, yet bottled, this is freshness in elegance defined. Still a bit reserved and not quite forthright, this is Auxerrois composed of tight, jutting angles, from ripe phenols and grape tannin. It must have been made with “crossing fingers and wiping brows,” by a winemaker with an awful lot of big dreams. At 18 those dreams remain unrealized. By 25 they will have materialized. Would partner well with Unagi.

Riesling Les Pierrets 2010 (WineAlign)

Simplified, the terroir here is part marl, part limestone. (See the 2002 note for more specificity.) The three areas combine for a full orchestral expression of Riesling. Dry as the desert with a triple threat tang of terroir. Intense, as per the vintage, from what I gather and heard around the trade show floor, the closest repeat to 2002 there has been. The sugar here is strikingly low (3.5 g/L) and the acidity (7.8 g/L) raging in comparison. Such sharp, awry but ripe citrus intensity the likes rarely seen in Riesling at 13 per cent alcohol. A Josmeyer study to be sure that needs several years to settle into its mineral skin.

Riesling Les Pierrets 2002 (WineAlign)

From a selection of prestige vineyards in Wintzenheim, Turckheim and Wettolsheim. Positively terroir street in this most arid yet fresh-driven ’10, yet another example of the absolute purity by way of the vantage point vintage brings to the path through time. There is poise but also texture in the form of a yogurty lees. This from flat alluvian Fecht deposits rich in clay of a soil predominantly built of sand, shingle and silt with les pierrets (little stones) and plates of loess. What it must be like to be a wine such as this. Turns a song on its head. This I would say to it. I wish that for just one time I could stand inside your shoes. “And just for that one moment I could be you.

Riesling Grand Cru Hengst 2010 (WineAlign)

From calcaire marls, the levels are raised, especially the sugar (9 g/L) though you would have no way of knowing it. More chalk grains through and less citrus, but it’s still a matter of zest. This shouts low yields and concentration with a Grand Cru’s deep, guttural voice and the immediacy is frightening. A dart to the Riesling heart. The stallion is at its finest and most focused in 2010. Like so many other pH arrested fermentative ’10’s the couple of extra grams of residual sugar rise up with the elevated level of acidity, but again, the change is both subtle and impossible to figure.

Riesling Grand Cru Hengst 2005 (WineAlign)

A slim Hengst, lower is sugar (7 g/L) and acidity (6.1 g/L) and minutely up in alcohol. That said it is possessed of a sweet round sensation with leaner, less obtuse angles of tension. More flesh and higher aromatic tones, of stone fruit, of tropical wafts most unusual and standing out in the Josmeyer scheme. The approachability here is base and nearly fun, like a tease of late harvest fruit.

Riesling Grand Cru Hengst 1993 (WineAlign)

Travelling back 21 years you see the Jean Meyer take on Hengst, from another era, another Josmeyer. The sugar (10 g/L) is higher, the acidity (6.4 h/L) lower and the alcohol (12 per cent) too. The atomic rise and petrol fuel-driven sensations are more pronounced, the vineyard speak quite real. This is the most polarizing wine I tasted (of the 15 from the Domain in Alsace), not because of the natural and wild expression but because of the way it arrests the ability to produce saliva. A touch of past ripe apple adds to the difficulty in deciding which direction this has taken.

Riesling Grand Cru Hengst Sélection de Grains Nobles 2002

An (SGN) already signed, sealed and delivered to now begin its secondary development stage. Persists with the character of freshness, angular pierce and of a tempered (8 g/L) acidity poking holes in the sugar’s (94 g/L) membranes. Very balanced and delicious, an atomic marmalade of peaches and cream of micro-managed sweetness.

Here are notes on the eight wines tasted at the domain on June 18th, 2014.

Pinot Blanc Mise du Printemps 2013 (SAQ, $22.90, WineAlign)

This is the first wine that goes to bottle (February 2014) from out of stainless steel and 1600-2500L old (1895) oak vats. A verdant amalgamation of spring vegetables, herbs and lime gain elegance and acidity from the blending in of Pinot Auxerrois.

Pinot Auxerrois “H” Vieilles Vignes 2012 (WineAlign)

Straight out the uncanny symmetry to Chablis-like sustenance is uncanny. From a vineyard planted in 1959, the “H” refers to the great Hengst, minus the Grand Cru attaché. Sticky soils with marl and clay make complexity real (like Burgundy). Jean Meyer was the pioneer of circumvention to the 1983 Grand Cru decree by using a letter in lieu of the GC. Many followed (like Albert Mann and Paul Blanck). This PA is clean, precise, creamy, dry and expansive.

Riesling Le Kottabe 2011 (WineAlign)

From the Josmeyer artist series, “young and impulsive, it shares with you its poetry and its intimacy.” The votes between Wintzenheim and Turckheim are old, the sugar (approx. 5 g/L) low and the alcohol (13.5 per cent) higher. “Riesling speaks a salt language that expresses terroir,” says Ehrhart, “as much as a fingerprint.” This has more full-bodied heft as compared to 2010, more muscle, more girth. Shells and a spritz of citrus mark this salt lick of a Riesling, spread evenly, in a chalky sprinkling throughout.

Riesling Le Dragon 2011 (WineAlign)

Very hot, described by Ehrhart as “little Senegal,” from the southwest facing slope of Letzenberg in a sheltered area known locally as “Petit Sénégal” with the dragon that is said to live (or resolved to die after a duel with the sun) in a cave within the Grand Cru Brand. From very ripe grapes that receive major amounts of sunshine. Flinty minerality comes by way of yellow limestone Muschelkalk (shell bearing limestone or, calcaire coquillier). Long and true, with a distinct chalkiness, from a bottle that had been open for five days.

Riesling Les Pierrets 2010 (see above)

Riesling Grand Cru Brand 2011 (WineAlign)

Here lies the mineral of perception, energy and of what is spoken by the fiery locale. Expressing the polarity of silica and chalk, Brand is a vertical line of silica filtering through granite rock. Pure, crystalline and focused because the mineral is filtered out, remaining behind only in deja vu, temptation like sensation. This here, in Brand, is the biodynamism of Josmeyer incarnate. Always the talk of terroir, for right or for wrong. “But it was just my imagination. Runnin’ away with me-once again.”

Riesling Grand Cru Hengst 2011 (WineAlign)

The solar-powered Grand Cru talks in proteins and salinity so the wine will seek more complex saltiness in food, like sharp (Reggiano-like) cheeses and lobster in a rich sauce. This is endowed with a completely different structure than the Brand, with more surround and circulating roundness. The mineral salinity resides in the back, of both the palate and the texture. It’s richer, with deeper density, less piercing and linear than the Brand. An enveloping, circumventing Riesling.

Riesling Grand Cru Hengst 2010 (see above)

Good to go!

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