I tried a line-up of 1er and Grand Cru Chablis earlier this week that were new entries in the resurgent negociant trade. For decades negociants in Burgundy--more specifically, those who were not also growing their own fruit--were, in far too many cases, little more than swill merchants. That has changed dramatically over the past twenty years, with two Chablis-oriented purveyors, Verget and Brocard, among those showing the way. These négociants purchase high-quality fruit from growers with whom they have influence regarding growing practices. Their track record of beautiful wines is impressive, and they have been joined by a Québecois named Patrick Piuze, who made wine at Verget for four years, then spent a year or as cellarmaster for Brocard. Clearly the lure of being his own master was too much to turn down (who can blame him?), so he decided to start his own label with fruit from the 2008 vintage.
Thank goodness. That's what we need--more wine! Okay--sarcasm aside, we REALLY DO need more good Chablis, which remains, in my view, in tragically short supply.
As a rule, the style cultivated by Patrick Piuze differs from his former employers: Verget's wines are creamy and with softened-edges yet still quite bright, while Brocard's wines are more streamlined and gilded more obviously with the classic brilliance of fruit grown in the Côte d'Auxerre. Piuze's wines are a step beyond this--they are austere, effulgent, tensile, and haunting, due mostly to a most transparent purity. While I recognize that these wines may cause some revulsion from those who tend to like soft and pillowy Chardonnay, I would contend that lovers of Großes Gewächs Riesling [a recently implemented Grand Cru system (don't get me started on the folly of that) in Germany from which the wines are, by law, intensely dry] would be enthusiastic. I'm actually convinced that anyone who loves great Chablis will like these wines, because they are crafted with such care. They were all excellent wines, but my favorites were the 1er Cru Mont de Milieu, which was more enchanting than the Grand Cru Les Preuses (one of the more famous Grands Crus of Chablis), though it lacked the classiness of the Grand Cru; the Grand Cru Blanchots was also extraordinary--supremely succulent and penetratingly aromatic, with a rapier zing driving it along. In the end, the one that stood out the most was one of those that seemed least impressive initially: the Grand Cru Bougros, which I discovered was absolutely mesmerizing TWO DAYS after it had been opened, whereas it was clearly well-made but overly reticent when I tasted with the others. What a difference two days makes.
These were great wines, but don't yet have much market penetration. Ask your retailer about them, because they'll hear about them...eventually...so help speed things up!
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