Archive for June, 2011

Located in the village of Chichée, just to the southeast of Chablis proper, the Picq family has tended to its small parcels of vines for several generations. Brothers Didier and Pascal quickly established themselves as rigorous growers after taking over this 32-acre domaine from their father, Gilbert, who retired in 1976. Pascal is in charge of the vineyards for the family, while Didier mans the cellar and makes the wine.

The Picq style of Chablis is classic, with the unique expression of minerality that the chardonnay only picks up in these rolling hillside vineyards of the Yonne Valley, coupled with a racy acidity and depth that comes with low yields, meticulous winemaking and fine parcels of vines. Picq is careful to keep yields as low as possible each year, pruning back severely each winter and routinely crop-thinning on two occasions each summer. Starting in 2006, they have converted to 100% natural yeasts for all of their cuvées. All of the Picq Chablis bottlings are fermented and raised in stainless steel tanks to protect the wines’ underlying expressions of terroir.

Domaine Gilbert Picq et Ses Fils offers up a pair of premier crus, both located in the village of Chichée. These include the Vaucoupin (an underrated premier cru in Chablis) and a more powerful, but equally soil-driven premier cru of Vosgros, which is produced from the family’s oldest premier cru vines.

Situated in the commune of Chichée, Vaucoupin is a highly regarded premier cru on the right bank (east side) of the river Serein (all seven of Chablis’ grand crus are on the right bank). The Picq parcel is in the steepest section of the vineyard, on a forty-five degree slope and must be completely tended by hand, including at the all important harvesting time. It is a beautifully situated premier cru, which produces a wine with a lovely chalky, oyster shell base of soil, and notes of spring flowers and beeswax augmenting the lovely tart citrus core of fruit.

Generally speaking, the right bank premier crus usually produce bigger and more powerful wines whereas the left bank produces wines with more of an emphasis on elegance and finesse,” according to Burghound’s Allen Meadows. The 2008 Gilbert Picq Vaucoupin is excellent. Citrus with some honey and buttered popcorn on the nose. Solid minerality, orchard fruit, some tropical notes, oyster shell and oregano on the palate. Full, fleshy and long.

My friend Tim contends that if you couldn’t produce a good Chablis in 2008 that you shouldn’t be in the wine making business. While that might be true, this wine bears more than just the marks of a good vintage. 12.5% alcohol. Imported by Polaner Selections.

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“To say that his grapes are spun into gold would not be far from the truth; they are entirely otherworldly.”   Kermit Lynch

Jura is is home to some forty different grape varietals and its own style of winemaking that is quite unique.  While it might be a small and not very well known region, it is filled with some of the world’s great wine makers. One of my favorites is Jean-François Ganevat. His family has been making wine as far back as 1650, although the family supplemented their  grape growing with a dairy to support production of the local cheese, Comté, until 1976.

After working both for his father and for the prestigious Domaine Jean-Marc Morey in Chassagne-Montrachet, Jean-François returned to the Jura in 1998 to take over the family domaine. With only eight-and-a-half hectares, the family had seventeen different local varietals planted of both red and white grapes—an incredible amount of variation considering the size.

Ganevat creates a stunning number of cuvées, ranging between thirty-five and forty every year. It is not only the number, but the manner in which he makes his wines. He is a fervent perfectionist and insatiable lover of details with each cuvée receiving a highly individualized élévage. He takes the time to de-stem by hand and each cluster is carefully trimmed with scissors. Other very well-run estates larger than Ganevat’s employ just one or two people. Ganevat, however, employs eight people full time to tend to every detail.

The domaine is certified as biodynamic and Ganevat only uses minimal doses of sulfur.  Many would fear it hurting the wines during transport, but he ages many of his whites on the lees for extended periods of time (from two to eleven years).

In the Jura, many of the wines go through a traditional, intentional oxidation; however Jean-François gravitates toward a more Burgundian style, using a method referred to in the Jura as “ouillé” (meaning the barrels are topped up as the wine ages). This is the normal practice throughout the world of wine, and prevents the wine from slowly oxidizing in the barrel. In contrast, a wine made using the “sous-voile” method is not topped up in the barrel. As a result, a thin layer of yeast forms on the top of the wine, which the Jura winemakers refer to as the “voile” or veil. This prevents the wine from turning into vinegar in the barrel, and allows it to slowly age and develop a range of unique flavours, including the nuttiness and spices that are so pronounced in Vin Jaune.

The Les Chalasses Marnes Bleue ’08 is Savagnin topped up. Aromatics of sherry, orchard fruit with some burnt rubber, funky cheese (?) and caramel. More orchard fruit and sherry notes on the palate with some citrus, nuttiness, tropical fruit and melting butter. Rich and complex — a beautiful and unique bottle of wine.

His ’08 Chardonnay Grusse en Billat might be even better, as least for my taste. The minerality comes through on the nose and the palate with orchard fruit and lemon oil. Taut and acidic, but with such purity and freshness. A very refined and elegant wine that really leaves a strong impression.

His red wines equal the whites. The ’09 Côtes du Jura Plein Sud and Cuvée Julien are both outstanding. I expect all of the wines are built for the long term, the whites included given the extended aging on their lees. His wines are not widely available, but they are worth seeking out and each one a treasure. His wines are imported by Jeffrey Alpert Selections and Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.

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