Kick­ing things up with higher-tier Chablis

The Bot­tle Kur­tis Kolt

The Georgia Straight - - Food -

Two weeks ago, I shared tales of my re­cent ven­ture to Chablis, the iconic French wine re­gion where one can find some of the best Chardon­nays on the planet. We stepped through the ap­pel­la­tions of Petit Chablis and Chablis, and this week we’re go­ing to kick things up a bit by look­ing at a trio of wines from pro­duc­ers worth search­ing out and cli­mats (or sub­ap­pel­la­tions) of the higher-tier Pre­mier Cru Chablis and Grand Cru Chablis ap­pel­la­tions.

JEAN-MARC BROCARD CHABLIS PRE­MIER CRU MONTMAINS 2015

($47.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

As my ride pulled up to Brocard’s do­maine, it was early in the day and a fog had set­tled on the vine­yards sur­round­ing his es­tate. The leaves on the re­cently har­vested vines had a lovely yel­low au­tum­nal hue; I was al­ready pretty darn charmed by the place be­fore open­ing the door. I was im­me­di­ately in­tro­duced to Jean-marc Brocard, who whisked us out­side to a bal­cony over­look­ing his vine­yards to of­fer his lay of the land. He dis­cussed the re­gion’s hall­mark Kim­merid­gian soils, full of fos­silized oys­ter shells, which bring the area’s tell­tale crisp min­er­al­ity to each glass of Chablis sipped any­where in the world. Need­less to say, that clas­sic food and wine pair­ing of oysters and Chablis is au­to­mat­i­cally a given, since they’re al­ready paired up in the vine­yard.

Brocard shared that the wines in the more south­ern, hot­ter re­gions of the Langue­doc in France are wines of the sun, of­ten gen­er­ous with well-ripened fruit. Here, he says, they find their sun in the soil; it’s from the earth that Chablis wines source most of their char­ac­ter. He treats that soil with re­spect, too: most of his wines are farmed or­gan­i­cally with bio­dy­namic prac­tices. This rec­om­mended Pre­mier Cru Montmains comes from the slightly cooler left bank of the Serein River, al­though the vine­yard is south­east-fac­ing on the hill­side. (Montmains trans­lates as “medi­um­sized moun­tain”.) So al­though there is strik­ing cool-cli­mate acid­ity, it is rounded out with lively citrus fruit and yel­low plums. Those soils bring such a nice tang of river rock, and maybe even a hint of nori as well—beg­ging for pretty much any kind of seafood you feel like dish­ing out.

DO­MAINE PATTES LOUP CHABLIS PRE­MIER CRU BUTTEAUX 2014

($60.49, Ev­ery­thing Wine) Thomas Pico is the guy at the helm of Do­maine Pattes Loup and very much part of the lo­cal ter­roir. Not only did he grow up in the Chablis ham­let of Cour­gis but he has fol­lowed his grand­fa­ther and fa­ther in the fam­ily wine­mak­ing busi­ness. While his fam­ily’s his­toric es­tate is Do­maine de Bois d’yver, Pattes Loup is the re­sult of his tak­ing eight hectares of the fam­ily land in 2005 and con­vert­ing it into or­ganic vine­yard shortly there­after. Though his fa­ther scoffed at him for the shift to or­ganic farm­ing (par­tic­u­larly in his first year, when he lost much of his fruit to frost), Pico has been con­sis­tent in his fo­cus on min­i­mal-in­ter­ven­tion farm­ing and wine­mak­ing. As a re­sult, his wines are re­mark­ably hon­est, fresh, of­fer­ing in­cred­i­ble pu­rity and fo­cus. The Butteaux cli­mat—on the left bank, not far from where he grew up— is fairly steep-sloped and south-fac­ing, with high con­cen­tra­tions of lime­stone in that Kim­merid­gian soil. Wet rock, salty sea air, and flinty notes swirl out of the glass, with fresh-squeezed man­darin or­ange flood­ing the palate, coast­ing on a very light cra­dle of marzi­pan.

LA CHABLISIENNE CHABLIS GRAND CRU CHÂTEAU GRENOUILLES 2013

($109.99, B.C. Liquor Stores) Op­er­at­ing since 1923, La Chablisienne is a co­op­er­a­tive win­ery sourc­ing fruit from the 280-odd grow­ers be­hind it, de­liv­er­ing qual­ity wine from all four Chablis ap­pel­la­tions via the steady wine­mak­ing hand of Vin­cent Barte­ment. All seven of Chablis’s Grand Cru cli­mats are lo­cated on the Serein River’s right bank, al­low­ing long af­ter­noon sun. The wines from these cli­mats are gen­er­ally rounder and a tad more fruit-for­ward than those from other ap­pel­la­tions, and it’s not un­com­mon to see oak fer­men­ta­tion or ag­ing in­cor­po­rated into the fi­nal prod­uct. Gre­nouille is in­deed what many may re­mem­ber from their grade-school French lessons. It’s the French word for “frog” and likely a ref­er­ence to the cli­mat’s close prox­im­ity to the river and its am­phibi­ous res­i­dents hop­ping around the vine­yards over the years. With vines av­er­ag­ing 40 years of age and south­west ex­po­sure, this is prime land for wines of­fer­ing plenty of charisma that im­prove with a good half-dozen years of age on them. This is a white wor­thy of de­cant­ing, which will un­furl plenty of toasty French oak, a few slices of warm brioche, a dol­lop of or­ange mar­malade, a splash of le­mon­ade, and a pinch of flaky sea salt lightly sprin­kled through­out.

Of course, with a fo­cus on Pre­mier Cru and Grand Cru Chablis, things got a lit­tle pricey this week. Next week ev­ery­thing’s un­der 15 bucks, so feel free to splurge in the mean­time!

Chablis wine­maker Jean-marc Brocard (left), with his son and a ca­nine com­pan­ion.

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