Why is this Wine so Yummy?
A Winemaker’s perspective on the ripeness of Chardonnay
This is an extract from: “Vintage 1998 – 2000 Yering Station in the Yarra Valley”
After a moment of clarity, I saw an opportunity to push the boundaries harder with the Chardonnay to introduce refinement, elegance, finesse, pick earlier, preserve a fresher set of flavours and the natural acid to maintain a sense of purity. More importantly make wine that was more suited for consumption at a shared table, with, a shared plate and a conversation. There’s a wide band within which you can pick Chardonnay. As the fruit rippens the sugar levels increase, the acid decreases and the flavour profile changes. Chardonnay can be flavour ripe with only enough sugar in the fruit to produce 9.5-10% alcohol wine, at the other end of the spectrum you can pick with enough sugar, significantly lower acid and produce 14.5% alcohol wine. OK, you could argue that this is a stylist preference, it is undoubtedly a preference based on the vineyards we had access to. For me, the ripper end borders on the ridiculous, balance goes out the window and commits the cardinal wine sin of being boring and lifeless. You may as well attempt to make a fortified wine from it! You can’t craft a Chardonnay in the Yarra that passes the Filthy Good Vino Tests with this profile of sugar, acid and flavour. Doc and my vintage experience in 1996 at Yarra Yering, a cool year, with searing, excessive acidity, undoubtedly influenced these thoughts.
It’s been great to see Yarra Valley Chardonnay producers now well and truly on this band wagon producing lower alcohol, stylin’ wines. Cool climate wines of elegance, freshness of fruit, both red and white, made with an emphasis on texture and complexity are the norm, not the exception 10 years down the track! Wines that are best consumed at a shared table with a plate of something delicious to munch on.
VINEYARD Planted on the hillsdies of Courgis. Vines were planted in 1951. (4 ha)
SOIL Kimmeridgian – Broken down sea shells.
VITICULTURE Pico has a program of strict yield control and a commitment to organic Viticulture. He harvests everything by hand, with hand sorting of any imperfect berries at the winery on a vibrating table de trie.
VINIFICATION Fermented and aged in a combination of stainless steel (2/3) and concrete eggs (1/3).
AGING Aged in stainless steel and concrete eggs. Sulfur analysis: 36 mg/L total sulfur, 9 mg/L free sulfur.
PRODUCTION 1,000 cs
About Domaine Pattes Loup
William Kelley, The Wine Advocate: Thomas Pico’s priority is to achieve moderate yields and full maturity. He picks rather later than most of his neighbours, judging the moment to harvest by flavour and appearance rather than laboratory analyses. Fermentation occurs in neutral wood, concrete and stainless steel varying, like its duration, by cuvée and vintage. Confronted by the tiny crops of 2016 and 2017, Pico elected to retain some of his 2015s for a later bottling, keeping them on the lees in tank for longer, an experiment he had long wanted to make. Pico is extending the Mise Tardive designation and approach to several other cuvées. There isn’t really anything else like these wines in Chablis – imagine if the Mâconnais’s Domaine Valette made wines here and you’ll get a partial idea of what they’re like – but they’re undeniably delicious, indeed thrilling, in their alliance of texture and saline nuance.
Jamie Goode, Wine Anorak: One of the distinctive things about his approach is the long élevage he gives his wines. The village Chablis gets 18 months minimum before bottling, while the premiers crus get 34 months. “To arrive at transparency you have to wait,” says Thomas.
William Kelley, Wine Advocate, “Subtle improvements have brought evermore precision and elegance. They’re undeniably delicious, indeed thrilling, in their alliance of texture and saline nuance.”
Neal Martin, “One of the most exciting vignerons in Chablis. I am constantly ordering them off restaurant lists.”
Domaine Pattes Loup is one of the most exciting estates to emerge from Chablis in recent years (Pattes Loup means “wolf paws”). Thomas Pico started his tiny estate in Courgis in 2005, just outside of the village of Chablis, under the wings of his friends and fellow organic Chablisiens, Alice and Olivier de Moor. He inherited 2.4 hectares of vines from his family’s estate, which historically produced correct, but uninspiring wines. Motivated to take a qualitative leap in a new direction, and against the wishes of his father, Thomas immediately began a program of strict yield control and a conversion to organic viticulture. This is a rarity in Chablis and a feat of extreme diligence in this often inhospitable vinegrowing region.
For a young winemaker, Pico is wise beyond his years. His drive and passion to express the soul and spirit of his land reminds of icons like Anselme Selosse. These wines are the essence of “Chablis”, but not only in their briny minerality. There is a sense of vitality to the wines, and a textured density that can only come from dedicated work in the vineyards and transparent winemaking.
In the Vineyard
Progressively, Pico has taken over more and more of his father’s vines. Today, the estate comprises 15 hectares of vineyards, all carefully and organically farmed. Fortunately, most of Pico’s vines are selection massale planted by his grandfather on the hillsides near Courgis and Preys, the two highest altitude villages in the appellation, with vineyards up to 300 meters in elevation. He is also experimenting with a rotation of cover crops to both protect against erosion, increase water retention, and increase microorganisms in his soils.
In the Winery
Another distinguishing factor is Pico’s commitment to hand-harvesting, followed by hand sorting of any imperfect berries on a vibrating triage table at the winery. He ferments all wines using indigenous yeasts, does a minimum 14-16 month élévage, sometimes longer depending on the cuvées and vintages, and he bottles without fining and filtration. His AC Chablis from 55+ year old vines and up to 40% of the juice is fermented in concrete eggs with the balance in stainless steel. The Premier Crus of Côte de Jouan, Beauregard and Butteaux (from within Montmains) are from hillside vineyards between 30 and 55 years old, and are all raised in older oak.
Where in the World is Domaine Pattes Loup?
The Chablis governing body has an excellent interactive map that allows you to find producers and vineyards, zoom in and explore.