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Patrick Piuze Chablis Vallee Sebillon 2016
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
After running a wine bar in Montreal for two years, Patrick Piuze moved to Burgundy in 2000 and for his first autumn there he spent the harvest with Olivier Leflaive in Puligny-Montrachet. Shortly after, Piuze was entrusted with the vinification of Laflaive’s new Chablis project and Patrick spent four years there honing his skills as a winemaker. Next, he spent a year at Verget with Jean-Marie Guffens where he developed a passion for exploring the distinct terroirs of Chablis. At this point in his career, he was earning recognition for the high quality wines he was making and after just a year at Verget, Jean-Marc Brocard recruited him to be cellar master and head wine maker. During this period, Piuze realized there was much more he was capable of achieving and made the most important decision of his life: to set out on his own and bottle under his own name. Not one to ease into things slowly, his first vintage in 2008 consisted of 20 different bottlings, all Chablis except for one.
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 is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy 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. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.