Friday, 25 November 2011

Burgundy Visit, 2011 - Day Two (part one)

Day two of our vinous adventure began, unsurprisingly, where day one had ended: Chablis. After a quick breakfast, we set about trying to find the inimitable Patrick Piuze (accompanied, incidentally, by a rather lovely sunrise).

Sunrise in Chablis

I've been aware of Patrick Piuze for a few years now, and imagined that a brief walk through Chablis would take us right past his door - it's not that big a town, after all. The reality was far more difficult, with the lettering on his door being negligibly bigger than the words you are reading now. This, he tells us when we finally arrive, is quite intentional. "Only the post-man knows where we are" he tells us, giggling with obvious amusement.

Panoramic View of Chablis Grand Cru

Patrick is not like the other wine producers in Chablis. He is not alone in wanting to stay off the tourist track, but he is unique in his history. Patrick, you see, isn't even French. He's French-Canadian, and has followed a rather unconventional track to arrive as a highly respected wine-maker in one of the world's most highly revered wine regions. His travels have taken him through Australia and South Africa, and delivered him, thankfully, to Burgundy - and what a wonderful addition to the region he is.
Patrick currently produces 18 wines each year, and invited us to join him in tasting through the 2011 vintage, unfiltered, straight from the tanks.

Unfined, unfiltered, Grand Cru Chablis straight from the tank!

The wines were, simply put, a revelation. It is always a delight to be able to taste wines in their infancy, and everyone enjoys a sneaky peek 'behind the scenes', but these wines were exciting in their own right. Never mind that they had come straight from the tank, they were absolutely stunning! In all honesty, I would never have been able to tell you these were unfiltered wines if I had tasted them blind-folded, and I can't wait to see them when they're 'finished' (which reminds me, you should come to the Bibendum Annual Tasting on January 25th and see for yourself). Without exception they were exciting, racy wines, with acidity and minerality galore, as Chablis should be.
Patrick, as a late-comer to the region, doesn't own his vines. He does, however, work extremely closely with the people who do, and even does all his own harvesting (helped by friends and family, but never machines). Because of this, he knows every inch of the Chablis region like you know the back of your hand. Or like you would know the back of your hand if you spent every waking minute looking at it. With a microscope.
He delights in showing us precisely which part of which vineyard each of his wines comes from: he know's the soil, the temperature, the rainfall of each vine, and chuckles to himself as he regales us with stories from each one. He's a character, and his wines represent him well.

Patrick Puize, wine maker extraordinaire

If you ever thought Chablis was all about stuffy pretentiousness, you have to meet Patrick: he will change your mind conclusively.

Read on for Day Two part Two

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