Sunday, March 07, 2010

Tidal Pool

A few years ago I spent a lot of money on two bottles of Chablis, money that I wish I could have back right now. It's not that I don't like Fèvre's wines, I haven't had enough of them to know for sure. But the 2005 Domaine William Fèvre Grand Cru Le Clos, those bottles were an expensive mistake. I paid up for the wrong vintage. Chablis is a difficult wine to get spendy with, assuming you want to drink Chablis that shows real Chablis character. In a very ripe vintage like 2005, the character of the vintage can easily overshadow the expression of terroir. I drank one of these bottles not too long ago and although the wine was very nice, it was nice as a good Chardonnay, not as Le Clos. Probably it needs more time, but still, I would need to be convinced that this will become a glorious expression of Le Clos.

I'm not sure that I would buy William Fèvre's wine again if I were paying $75 for Chablis. At this point I think I would rather have something by Dauvissat. But the thing is, I'm not sure I would pay $75 for current release Chablis right now. I like the Raveneau wines I've drunk, Dauvissat too, but there are some $30 Chablis bottles that are pretty great too. Closer in quality to the top guns than Savigny-lès-Beaune is to Chambertin. My favorite Chablis producers these days are Alice and Olivier de Moor and Gilbert Picq. Both make delicious wines that really say something of Chablis.

The other night we had some friends for dinner and we ate scallops, among other things. We drank two wines by Picq, both from the excellent 2007 vintage. These wines reminded me of how completely delicious Chablis is when it's good. They also reminded me of what Chablis is supposed to taste like - the fruit, the white flower, everything is infused with this seashell iodine character. The best descriptor that I've read for Chablis is "tidal pool." I think it makes perfect sense. Both of these wines had it.

The 2007 Gilbert Picq Chablis Vieille Vignes, $23, Polaner Imports, might be the greatest value in Chablis. This wine is particularly good in 2007. It shows richness and intensity that come from old vines, and also a great balance of fresh ripe fruit, floral hints, and a low register iodine nuance that makes it unmistakably Chablis. It has good acidity and will probably improve over the next 5-plus years in the cellar, and I'm happy to have a few more bottles to watch this unfold.

I have less experience with the 2007 Gilbert Picq Chablis 1er Cru Vosgros, $29, Polaner Imports, than I do with the Vieille Vignes, but in 2007 this wine is a definite step up. The aromas are more broad and more delicate, the flavors more clearly defined and resonant. And the wine offers a bit more extract and depth, yet feels more graceful. This is seriously classy wine, and it's under $30. I should have bought more than I did. When I think that I could have five bottles of this instead of two of the 2005 Fèvre's, I feel like a dunce. All part of the learning curve, I guess.


David McDuff said...

Hey Neil,
I've only recently begun to scratch the surface with Picq, though I've very much liked what I've found thus far. I'm pretty confident you'd enjoy Laurent Tribut's wines as well – very expressive and pretty good values.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen Picq wines in California, nor Vosgros on any label. Fevre wines should be discounted 50% to account for their premox failure rate. On the bright side, you didn't buy any 2003 Chablis, like i did.

Asher said...

I'm a big fan of Chablis, and I echo your thoughts on Raveneau and Dauvissat. But neither of these producers are within a comfortable pricepoint. I've seen Dauvissat just dip below $50 for Le Forest, though, nothing lower. Raveneau is $100+, as you know. So, it's imperative to find more affordable options. While I like many of Fevre's wines, and they are more affordable, I was shocked that many oenophiles put Fevre in the same league as Raveneau and Dauvissat. I'm not sure I agree with that placement. I've had very good results from Fevre's Vaillons and Montmains, and these bottlings can be found in the $35-50 pricepoint. But, Fevre is notorious for having been plagued by premox; therefore, I am not aging these wines, even though I've read claims that wines after 2005 are not as susceptible to premox. I'm not waiting around to test this theory. And I also have a hard time keeping track of which of Fevre's wines are estate grown, and which are the product of the negociant side.

One tip. I recently tried a bottle of the base level Chablis from Domaine Nathalie et Gilles Fevre. I'm advised that the producer is a distant cousin of the more well known William Fevre producer that we're discussing above, and the former winemaker of the Chablisienne cooperative. I'm told further that this wine is all stainless. At around $18, this base bottle was impressive enough for me to explore some of the 1er bottlings at higher prices.

Oh, and I like Picq too. They have a brightness that is captivating.

The Wine Mule said...

I would not want to be a vigneron in Chablis right now: Global Warming has created an identity crisis: The grapes are supposed to struggle towards ripeness; lately, it seems they don't. The really good stuff should taste like lemons and rocks (I can sorta understand "tidal pool," although I think it's more appropriate for something from Guy Bocard), not like Meursault. Anyway, I agree that if you're gonna drop $50 on the stuff, Dauvissat is a better bet.