Despite A Dramatic 2016 Vintage in Chablis, Kool Kid Patrick Piuze Made Stand-Out Wines!
The 2016 vintage will long live as a legend in Chablis. Everything that could have happened in a growing season did. Brows furrowed deeper and more hair turned gray - or even white -than in any vintage in recent memory. In fact, even the old timers say they’ve never seen anything like it.
There was frost, hail, record-breaking rain, scorching heat, disease…the litany of challenges was discouraging. Most of the die-hard biodynamic producers gave up to have somegrapes left worth harvesting. Overall, production in Chablis was down 34% in 2016 compared to 2015.
Yet, the vignerons of Chablis persevered, and I was thrilled to taste their results. I spent ten days in the region in late July and called on 46 producers. Rather than walking away thinking I couldn’t wait to taste something other than Chardonnay, I wanted to stay and keep tasting.
The 2016 wines of Chablis offer the come-hither ripeness of the 2015s with more backbone. Importantly, Patrick started harvesting the 21st of September – the earliest of all the winemakers I met. He told me he asked himself if he was a fool when he started because most of his colleagues didn’t start until days later. He feels he has never seen a vintage where the harvest date was so critical as in 2016.I assure you there is no shortage of freshness in these wines. The wines possess an unusual combination of approachability and poise, and that means they will be crowd-pleasers.
Patrick Piuze, a lively and witty Montreal native with an infectious smile and vivid sense of humor who has decamped to Chablis since 2008, bottled and shipped his 2016s very early. Alas, there are not a lot of them. Patrick was 60% down in quantity over 2015, but as he buys in allof his grapes he was able to make up half of that.
Patrick’s unique Terroir Series offers a unique glimpse into the different villages of Chablis. There are so many valleys, slopes and expositions that Chablis offers tremendous diversity. This is precisely what I adore about Chablis.However, we don’t usually get to see it because most producers blend their village wines into one cuvée. Tasting through the Terroir Series, you can tour Chablis in a glass! Of course, at the higher end, I love tasting the Bougros Grand Cru against the Bougros Côte de Bouquereaux Grand Cru. Patrick’s vines for these two wines sit right beside each other. You can’t taste the difference in vineyards more clearly than in these two bottles !
WINE NOTES FROM JULY 2017
Bourgogne Tonnerre Les Boutots 2016
This straight-forward, easy sipping wine is one of Patrick’s answers to the massive drop in production numbers in 2016. All baked apples and sweet spices, it’s more rounded in texture than the Chablis bottlings, even though this neighboring appellation also delivers wines from limestone soils.
Chablis Terroir de la Chapelle 2016
This is another new cuvée that Patrick picked up on the first day of the 2016 harvest. It comes from a 1974 planting of vines in Poinchy on a site that has always been planted to vines, on the northwestern side of Chablis. The wine is briochy and juicy with pit fruit notes.
Chablis Terroir de Courgis 2016
The yields were a punishingly low 23 hectoliters per hectare in 2016. The nose starts off with exuberant floral tones then the palate picks up some intriguingly funky earthy tones. The finish tastes of orchard fruits, yeast starter and cheese rind and offers a classy, lingering finish.
Chablis Terroir Découverte 2016
Patrick harvested this wine last – on October 4th. This single vineyard called Des Couvertes sits next to the Premier Cru Vaulorent, on the north-facing back side of the Grand Cru hill. It has excellent precision of crisp yellow apples and Asian pears accompanied by savory spices. There’s loads of lift on the back palate, making this a terrific food wine.
Chablis Terroir Vallée Sébillon 2016
Located in Beine near the lake that sits near the Troëmes Premier Cru, this wine is reserved in fruit but generous in savory tones of straw and Spanish almond. Its oyster shell and white nectarine flavors are moreish, especially combined with the mouthwatering – if brief – finish.
Chablis Terroir de Chablis 2016
This fruit hails from the northern portion of Vaillons, between Montmains & Vaillons. It’s one of Patrick’s biggest cuvées, and that’s a positive between its reasonable price and solid appeal of sea salt, citrus peels and jackfruit. There’s a definite step up in quality here from the first four in the Terroir Series listed above.
Chablis Terroir de Fyé 2106
Get this wine while you can! Patrick buys from the dynamic couple Eleni and Edouard Vocoret – whose cellar is just down the street from Patrick’s, and they are going to start keeping their fruit for their own production. Tangy in acidity, this wine has an almost searingly dry finish. Give it time to open up to show its floral, green pineapple and yuzu tones. 07/17
Chablis Terroir Côteaux de Fontenay 2016
If you’re into keeping up with vineyard plots, Patrick’s grapes for this wine come from just behind Nathalie and Giles Fèvre’s place near Fontenay. This also comes from behind the Grand Cru hill but faces west. Still, the chilly winds sweeping through the north-south corridor keep the acidity spry and zingy. There’s a delightful combination of white peach, yellow plums and lime peel with a dry and almost salty finish.
Chablis Vaillons Les Minots Premier Cru 2016
This Premier Cru was surprisingly much less fruit-driven than I expected given its warm site. There is lots of leesiness, lean yellow plums and yellow apple skin. Its nicely medium body has a lovely palate-coating texture that is cleaned up by tantalizing acidity.
Chablis Les Forêts Premier Cru 2016
Patrick’s vines sit beside Vincent Dauvissat’s in Les Forêts, the center part of Montmains. This wine shows density and intensity with masses of field flowers, nectarines and pear preserves. The finish is almost fiercely long.
Chablis Bougros Grand Cru 2016
There won’t be any of this wine, save a barrel or two, in 2017 due to the terrific frost this spring. This version tastes of baked bread, Spanish almonds and chicken bouillon. There was barely a trace of fruit here, which might have been due to its recent bottling. It has a supremely viscous mouthfeel that even lingers into the finish.
Chablis Vaulorent Premier Cru 2016
Both floral and saline, this wine is more straightforward than the other Premier Crus. Fresh pears and apples are accompanied by a big glycerol pop on the mid-palate. This needs some time to unwind in the bottle.
Chablis Montée de Tonnerre Premier Cru 2016
Hailing entirely from the Montée de Tonnere lieu-dit within the larger Montée de Tonnerre Premier Cru, this wine’s vines lay in the path of the setting sun. Not surprisingly, it is round, succulent and overtly fruit-driven. Patrick feels he might have harvested this two days too late. Still, there’s enough structure to keep everything in line, and this is certainly drinking well already.
Chablis Les Roncières Premier Cru 2016
Les Roncières is a subsection of Vaillons that is especially chalky. This particular section of it is planted east-west, so the fruit stays nicely shaded all day. These two factors contribute to the wine’s chiseled acidity and noticeably tugging texture. Oyster shell and cracked white pepper dominate the palate. This is the second vintage Patrick has made this wine.
Chablis Valmur Grand Cru 2016
Piuze’s grapes all come from the northern side of the Valmur valley, so they face south. His vines are beside Droin’s and Moreau-Naudet’s. This smells highly perfumed and tastes of cinnamon-inflected applesauce. This precisely balanced wine turns savory and dry on the solid finish. Very Valmur!
Chablis Butteaux Premier Cru 2016
Patrick calls this “the most lovely vineyard on the Left Bank.” The wine pretty much tastes like it, too. It’s floral and spicy with loads of juiciness. Everything is in perfect proportion here and carries on into a long and dynamic finish. This will be a beauty to age.
Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru 2016
This is an incredibly textured wine with plenty of dry extract and zingy acidity. Its somewhat square structure today pulls its tapestry of mineral-laden fruits into an impressively long finish. This comes from two parcels – one in the center of Les Clos and the other toward the top near Valmur.
Chablis Les Preuses Grand Cru 2016
The massive acidity takes center stage on this dense and racy wine. There’s lots of fresh peach, Comice pear and lime peel before the long finish turns savory with minerally tones. Super concentrated and focused with a full body (despite the 12.2% alcohol), this wine has a long life ahead.
Chablis Blanchots Grand Cru 2016
Juicy and delightful with a spicy nose and lots of pineapple and tangerine tones, this comes from vines at the bottom of the slope, near Pinson’s. The finish transforms into savory tones with lees and chicken broth notes. There’s vibrantly tangy acidity to rein in the palate’s ample extract.
Chablis Bougros Côte de Bouquereaux Grand Cru 2016
I’m particularly fond of this wine, and that’s not just because it is fun to pronounce! This incredibly steep slope – it’s about a 30% grade - on the edge of the Serein river at the north end of the Grand Crus faces directly south. It makes a distinctly different wine than the rest of Bougros. This was teetering on attractive reduction when I tasted it, and that just gave it an extra boost of Chablisienne character. Though almost full-bodied, it crackles with acidic structure. Its complex flavor structure includes dried apricots, straw and oyster shell.