Sunday, May 09, 2010

Chablis Night

We had a bunch of people over for dinner this weekend for Chablis night. We pulled out all the stops - had the living room re-done with shag carpeting, disco balls, velour shirts, and big jugs of California white wine. Okay, that's not exactly what we did. But close. Everyone brought along a bottle of Chablis, I made dinner, and we enjoyed eating, drinking, and hanging out.

In part, this was inspired by this Chablis post and the reaction to it by Kristin, Henriot's marketing director. I wanted to drink a few of the William Fèvre wines alongside some other good Chablis. As I knew they would, our guests brought along some excellent wine.

As people arrived and got settled we drank wines by two of my favorite Chablis producers, Gilbert Picq and Alice and Olivier de Moor. The 2007 Gilbert Picq Chablis Vieille Vignes, $23, Polaner Imports, was just delicious. It's coming into a great place right now - very open and expressive. The wine has such great extract and richness of fruit, yet remains essentially a wine of minerals and soil. One person said that it was like drinking limestone. I'm a big fan of the Picq and this wine is a great example of why - these are inexpensive wines that offer a whole lot of Chablis. The 2008 Alice and Olivier de Moor Chablis Rosette, $38, Louis/Dressner Selections is the first Chablis I've had from the 2008 vintage. A little hard to tell what's going on here as the wine is several years away from any kind of peak drinking window. Very tight aromatically, but there are hints of chalky rock and citrus fruit, and there is a definite oxidative character to the fruit. It opened up a bit over the next 45 minutes and I think the wine is very promising.

We then enjoyed two wines from the 2005 vintage with my fish soup. 2005 is thought to be a great vintage because, as in most of France, conditions were essentially perfect. No sorting was required - fruit was free of rot and perfectly ripe. I'm not sure yet where I stand on 2005, as I've had some wines that are more about ripeness and grape character than they are about terroir. This was something that we discussed a bit over dinner, with at least one person's experiences completely counteracting what I just said about 2005. Anyway, these 2005's were both quite good. The 2005 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis, about $25, imported by Wine Cellars (acquired from a private collection) was a ripe and fleshy wine that showed lots of character for a regional wine. Texturally luscious, beautifully extracted, a delicious wine. After 15 minutes open, I preferred its partner at our table, the 2005 Daniel Dampt Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet, about $25, Vinalia Imports. Côte de Léchet is a 1er Cru that I've never had before, a hill directly east of the village of Chablis next to a smaller village called Milly. It seemed rather nondescript at first, especially next to the little pool of hedonism that was the Dauvissat. But it opened up nicely and showed layers of fruit, stone, and that iodine Chablis character, particularly on the finish. Both wines stood up beautifully to the fish soup, which was a bit spicy.

With a dish of scallop and king oyster mushroom with sorrel oil, we had two interesting wines, both of which never fully opened up. And I can tell you that confidently because I drank the remnants of both on the following afternoon (after being left out all night and half of the next day with no cork or anything) and they were both just great. Not that they were bad at dinner, just less expressive. The 2002 Billaud-Simon Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume, price unknown, Imported by Wine Brokers Int'l and acquired from a private collection, was rather mute on the nose at dinner, but I loved the taste of the wine. It was subtle and very mineral, the fruit felt delicate. And on the finish there was a pungent jab of Chablis marine character. The next day the nose was more expressive too, very stony, with high toned green fruit. Lovely wine. And then another Côte de Léchet - none in my whole life and then two in one night. Who can predict these things? The 2001 Daniel-Etienne Defaix Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet, about $50, Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant, showed an entirely different character from the other wines, very oxidative. It was also more golden in color than anything else we'd had, and so I was thinking it was a bit past its prime, but I was probably wrong. Especially after drinking it on day 2. If it was past prime, wouldn't the 18 hours open have done some damage? It seemed more fresh, somehow, the next day. The fruit was infused with this pungent marine essence, and there was very good extract and length. The oxidative notes added complexity and did not distract from the Chablis nature of the wine. We had another 2002, by the way, a Jean et Sebastien Dauvissat 1er Cru Séchet, Imported by Rosenthal Wine Merchant, but the statistics played out as expected, and one of our 9 bottles was corked - this was the one.

With roast blackfish, spring vegetables, and tarragon cream sauce we ventured into Grand Cru territory. The 2006 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, about $80, this wine is a sample donated by Henriot Inc., was to me, a real knockout. it took a little time to open up but then the nose was chalky and fresh, floral, and with a core of lemony marine infused stone. Pure and graceful, and it packed a lot of power into a lean frame. The finish was pungently Chablis and quite long. I would rather drink this than the 2005 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, $75, Imported by Henriot Inc. Others at the table disagreed, saying that the 2005 is a better wine and needs time, that it has better material and is still true to Chablis and to Les Clos. I don't have enough experience with these wines to say anything definitive here, but the next day I drank what remained from each bottle and the 2006 was even stonier and better defined, and the 2005 showed a bit more Chablis character than it did the previous evening, but still to me was more of a delicious Chardonnay. It could simply need more time to unlock the rest of itself, who knows. It certainly is a solid wine with great material. Perhaps its simply a matter of taste. Anyone who has played around with these vintages in Chablis, please feel most free to add your two cents.

Anyway, good friends, lots of Chablis, some Captain and Tennille on the 8-Track, a little dinner...that's a good night.


Unknown said...

Wow...that's some serious juice!

How does someone get themselves to your next wine tasting! ;)

I love the laser-like quality of the Chablis I have enjoyed...


rhit said...

Nice post, as usual. My 2005 experience has been limited to a Fevre 1er Cru Fourchaume. But I thought it was killer.

That bottle really got me excited about Chablis, and now I'm interested in some Fevre Vaudesir Grand Cru.

Know anything about it or have any experience with other vintages of that stuff?

Anonymous said...

DeMoor usually doesn't even taste like Chablis for several years. You really need to find some Tribut if you're continuing down the Chablis path. Better than Dauvissat in my humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

BG, think you should try Louis Moreau Chablis. Don't know who brings it into NY, but the 07 1er Vaillons is pretty amazing, in my opinion.

Weston said...

you know to be honest I find Muscadet a lot more interesting and enjoyable then Chablis and heck its usually cheaper, esp here in Vancouver Canada

Anonymous said...

My sample size is small (and I may just be wrong) but I'm finding oxidation issues with the De Moor wines. Your comment about the apparently oxidized wine that improved has me completely confused. I, too, think Tribut's wines are good (though I'm definitely in the camp that prefers those of his brother-in-law).

Sam said...

My favorite subject. I've had some very good 05s, including that 05 Fevre Fourchaume Rhit mentioned above, Savary's Vielles Vignes (one of the best values in wine, every year, Christian Moreau's Vaillons "Cuvee Guy Moreau." Rhit, I have some 04 Vaudesir from Fevre, and it needs time still. It's a particularly broad and rich wine, even for Vaudesir, though I haven't opened one since January 09. 06 is good too, though it varies according to producer. Bernard Defaix (Winebow) made excellent 06s, including an excellent Cote de Lechet.

Brooklynguy said...

thanks for the kind words, Richard.

I don't, Rhit. My experience with Fevre begins in 2005.

hey cory - i haven't found that, regarding De Moor. I thought 06 and 07 Rosette were identifiable blind as Chablis, even early on. Supposedly this 08 is better than those, and perhaps it's simply too young now. or maybe you're just right. on Tribut - i asked around and heard the same annoying thig more than once - the distributor is a behemoth and requires investing in lots of crap quality stuff before you can buy things like Tribut. I don't blame the small places for not getting involved. but i'd love to taste it some day.

Anon - louis moreau - duly noted

hey weston - i hear you, but i haven't explored Chablis the way I have Muscadet, and I think there's something to it. I've had some phenomenal bottles.

Anon (2) - i'm not certain that it was oxidized on day 1. it just showed a lot of oxidation in addition to other things, which became more prominent on day 2.

hey sam - but what about the question of whether or not the vintage character of 05 overwhelms the subtleties of terroir?

lars said...

Had a bit of the 08 De Moor Rosette at Alto a couple weeks ago and thought it was breathtaking. Literally. It was so intense in it's Chablis-ness it nearly knocked me off my seat. And the taste just lingered forever. I believe they were pouring it by the glass for a dinner pairing so it had probably been open for a bit that day and maybe that helped. I loved it so much, the next day I ran to CSW to buy a bottle. The only other 08 Chablis I've had so far is the Petite Chablis from Dauvissat, which was quite nice for what it was. But I agree that the De Moor has years to go.