Friday, March 18, 2011

An Afternoon of Grand Cru Chablis

The other day I had the opportunity to taste wines representing all 7 of the Grand Cru climats of Chablis, something that I had never before done in one sitting. The Union des Grand Crus de Chablis put on a tasting at The Modern, and 13 producers were in attendance pouring their Grand Cru wines. It was a nice opportunity to explore some producers who are new to me, and a great opportunity to try to learn something about the tastes of the different Grand Cru climats. The Wine Doctor has a nice page that describes these vineyards, by the way.

The producers mostly poured their wines from the 2009 vintage, and 2009 is not a vintage that will be celebrated for its clarity and expression of terroir. This is a vintage of ripe fruit, one that appeals in the same way that 2005 appeals - the wines are delicious and perhaps will last a very long time. But as Didier Séguier, wine maker at Domaine William Fèvre put it, "2009 is very good and everyone will like the wines. 2007 and 2008, these are vintages for connoisseurs. They are more typical of Chablis." In other words, it is not as easy to learn about Chablis terroir by drinking 2009 wines as it would be to learn by drinking 2007 or 2008 wines.

The youth and ripeness of 2009 notwithstanding, I did learn a little bit about Grand Cru Chablis terroir. I also learned about several producers whose wines I really liked, and would consider buying for my cellar.

I began by tasting the 2007, 2007, and 2009 Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses. Yes, they are related - Nathalie told me that her grandfather and one of the Fèvre's grandfathers (William's?) were brothers. These wines showcased the incredible differences between vintages like 07 and 08, and vintages like 09. The 2009 was a very big wine, round and lush, highly perfumed. The 08 was very good, but a little closed, while the 2007 was gorgeous, full of iodine inflected white fruit and stone, racy and energetic, just excellent.

Didier Séguier and a colleague.

Then I tasted five of Domaine William Fèvre's Grand Cru wines from 2009, along with one from 2008. They were all quite good, although all showed very young. My favorite on this day was Valmur as it was a bit leaner, but it also felt very substantial, with lots of dry extract. I asked Didier Séguier which of his 2009 Grand Crus he feels is the most terroir expressive, and he said Valmur and Côte Bougros. The 2008 Les Preuses, by the way, was very intense with pungent marine and fruit aromas, and great body and balance. Didier told me that he continues to experiment with biodynamic farming, devoting one hectare in both Les Clos and Les Preuses, and that today he organically farms every one of his Grand Cru and 1er Cru vineyards.

François Servin holding the delicious 2008 Les Preuses.

I really liked the wines of Domaine Servin, a producer I had never heard of. Wine maker François Servin's wines impressed me with their energy and lean muscularity - power without weight. 2009 Les Clos and Bougros, and 2008 Blanchot and Les Preuses were all very promising wines, the 2009's perhaps more appealing to me than any other 2009's that I tasted on this day, as they were able to maintain a striking purity and definition, in addition to smelling and tasting great.

François Servin brought along a special treat with him, a bottle of his 1999 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. This wine was an interesting choice in that I believe 1999 would be more similar in climate to 2009 than to 2007 or 2008, so we had an opportunity to imagine what the 2009 Les Clos might become in 12 years. The wine was a true pleasure, mature and gentle, the marine influence prominent, and also the sweet white floral scents that wafted in and out, surrounding the very stony fruit. Perfectly balanced, great texture, a wine to covet. Maybe Domaine Servin is very well known in the US and I'm just ignorant, but if you don't know the wines, they are imported by Weygandt Selections.

Anne Moreau discussing her wine.

I also liked the wines of Domaine Louis Moreau, another Weygandt selection. Anne Moreau, wife of wine maker Louis Moreau, poured and talked about the wines. As with Servin's wines, these 2009s were delicious and ripe but also already showing quite differently from one another, expressing their individual terroir. They were all very good, but my favorite was again Valmur, an elegant and complete wine whose ripe white fruit is vividly stony and touched with iodine. The 2009 Les Clos made from 50 year old vines also wasn't bad.

There were other wines that moved me - the 2001 Gérard Tremblay Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir was pungently marine and the essence of Chablis. Domaine Drouhin Vaudon (one of the four Drouhin siblings) poured Les Clos and Bougros from 2008, both very impressive, the Bougros particularly expressive and enchanting. But the producers whose complete lineups impressed me the most were both of the Fèvre domaines, Domaine Servin and Domaine Louis Moreau. And Valmur...this is a wine that I clearly have to explore further.


UGCC said...

this was just to whet your appetite.

come to Chablis and we'll walk you around all of the seven Grands Crus and really reveal the individual terroir.

It's an open invitation. Hope to see you there one day.

all of us at the UGCC

Anonymous said...

Servin's wines are great -- to date, my favorites are his Premier Cru Montee de Tonerre and Premier Cru Butteaux. He also makes Vielles Vignes Massale that is very good and a great value as well.