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Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir Vallee Sebillon 2016
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Piuze purchases all his fruit (never must or juice) and focuses on sourcing grapes from old-vines situated in prime locations. Interestingly, these vineyards are available because their location on the slopes makes them more difficult to work and impossible to machine harvest. This suits Piuze since he chooses to harvest every vineyard by hand anyway, even at the Petit Chablis and Village level! He has long-term contracts with his growers and only works with producers who are practicing sustainable viticulture. He has his own wine-making facility where he uses temperature controlled steel tanks and only used barrels for the fermentation and élevage – no new oak here. The approach in the cellar is hands-off; indigenous yeasts are used and nothing is added nor taken away. Piuze believes that Chardonnay is perfect for showcasing the expression of the various terroirs of Chablis, and each of his many bottlings captures a distinctive facet of the region.
Despite doing nearly all the work himself, Piuze seems to have limitless energy and drive. He seems to be in a constant state of excitement and his incredible wines echo his liveliness and sincerity. Though his first vintage was just in 2008, Piuze already has the makings of a legendary producer.
The source of the most racy, light and tactile, yet uniquely complex Chardonnay, Chablis, while considered part of Burgundy, actually reaches far past the most northern stretch of the Côte d’Or proper. Its vineyards cover hillsides surrounding the small village of Chablis about 100 miles north of Dijon, making it actually closer to Champagne than to Burgundy. Champagne and Chablis have a unique soil type in common called Kimmeridgian, which isn’t found anywhere else in the world except southern England. A 180 million year-old geologic formation of decomposed clay and limestone, containing tiny fossilized oyster shells, spans from the Dorset village of Kimmeridge in southern England all the way down through Champagne, and to the soils of Chablis. This soil type produces wines full of structure, austerity, minerality, salinity and finesse.
Chablis Grand Cru vineyards are all located at ideal elevations and exposition on the acclaimed Kimmeridgian soil while most of the vineyards in the outlying spots are referred to as Petit Chablis. Chablis Grand Cru, as well as some Petit Chablis, can age for many years.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it’s grown and how it’s made. In Burgundy, Chardonnay produces some of the finest white wines in the world, typically tending towards minimal intervention in the winery and at its best resulting in remarkable longevity. This grape is popular throughout the world, but perhaps its second most important home is in California, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia, South America, South Africa, and New Zealand are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay’s flavors tend towards grapefruit, green apple, minerals, and white stone fruit, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of fig, melon, and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut, and spice (as well as texture), while malolactic fermentation can impart soft, buttery acidity.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with simple seafood, light chicken dishes, and salads. Richer Chardonnays marry well with cream or oil-based sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. These Old-World style wines have been dubbed the “New California Chardonnays,” and anyone who claims they do not like Chardonnay should give them a try.