All-Chablis Lunch: Raveneau, Fèvre and Brocard

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I love minerally white wines. They are refreshing and delicious on their own, and the perfect accompaniment to a summer meal. The king of minerally white wines is Chablis, at least top premier cru and grand cru Chablises. I was therefore very excited about our monthly Euro lunch this month, with the theme of Chablis from some of Chablis’s great producers. And the king of kings when it comes to minerally white wines is the top grand cru of Chablis, Les Clos. Five of the 13 Chablises we sampled at this lunch were from the Les Clos Grand Cru. Domaine Fèvre, a great producer, was responsible for a plurality of our wines–five. Next most represented was Jean-Marc Brocard with four. Domaine François Raveneau was responsible for two of our most stunning wines. We also had one each from Vincent Dauvissat and Domaine Christian Moreau.

Our chef, Pedro Ayala, did his usual expert job of pairing new dishes (he’s never repeated himself yet, in the course of 15 Euro lunches) with our minerally Chablis. We ended with a sweet wine that, like the Chablis, is entirely Chardonnay–the best late harvest, botrytised California wine I’ve ever tried. In all, it was a delicious lunch, and the wines showed well.

We were lucky that nothing was prematurely oxidized–the curse of white Burgundies these days–despite a scarily darkened ’01 Dauvissat Les Clos. And nothing was corked either. What we did experience was some late onset “green meanies” in two of our three 2004 Chablises. This is a phenomenon that lovers of Burgundies have been experiencing with red Burgundies, and many white Burgundies, from this vintage–a distinct and often overpowering green note, like split pea in some Burgundies, or green chilies in others. The writer who first reported this phenomenon was Bill Nanson in his Burgundy Report. For Bill’s conjecture on the source of this increasingly dominant “green” note in 2004 Burgundies, which has to do with a large number of ladybugs reportedly present around harvest time, see here. We found this distinct green note, more like green chilies than split pea, in two of our three 2004 Chablises, neither of which had shown this feature when I had sampled them in previous years. That was the saddest takeaway from this tasting–the insidious, late onset of the 2004 green meanies. Otherwise, there was much to enjoy in this line up. My wine of the day was the exquisite 2001 Domaine Fèvre Les Clos, but there were many great wines. For my detailed tasting notes, and summaries of winemaking at the producers represented, see below.

Our talented chef, Pedro Ayala
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2008 Flight

Domaine Christian Moreau came into being in 2002, after Christian Moreau triggered a five-year take-back clause in 1997 from the family’s sale of J Moreau and their vineyard holdings to Canadian firm Hiram Walker. Fabien Moreau took over from his father in December 2001. Fabien received his degree in Oenology from Dijon and a Masters in Business Administration at the E.N.I.T.A in Bordeaux. With this vintage, 2008, they began using ambient yeasts for fermentation. The family owns half a hectare of Vaudésir, which is planted 7,000 vines to the hectare. The average age of the vines is only 10 years. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and then raised for four months in barrels, 90% in one-, two- and three-year-old barrels, and 10% in new and one-year-old barrels. This was a wonderfully well made wine, with creamy texture and poise. I think it will also age quite well, and be even more complex and delicious in 2018.

Jean-Marc Brocard set up shop in 1973. The domaine is a mixture of land it owns and vineyards under long-term contracts–for a total of about 200 hectares. Jean-Marc’s son Julien and son-in-law Frédéric Gueguen are currently in charge, with Julien serving as vineyard manager. The vineyards, which have been certified organic since 2004, have been converted to biodynamic principles under Julien’s leadership. Patrick Piuze, whose wines I earlier posted about here, is the assistant winemaker. Most of the premier crus, including the Fourchaume, are made in stainless steel. The grand crus, including the Bougros in this flight and the Les Clos in our third flight, are fermented and raised in large oak foudres.

Our caponato dish went beautifully with the wines, to my surprise. The silky texture of the dish also complemented the silkiness of our wines.
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Sicilian caponato with pesto Genovese, buffalo mozzarella and carta musica
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  • 2008 Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Light yellow color; nice, focused, apple, ripe lemon, hazelnut shavings nose; creamy textured, medium bodied, poised, tart lemon, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (45% for 7 mos. in barriques) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Bougros – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Light medium yellow color; reduction, tart lemon, ripe grapefruit nose; a little reductive, tart lemon, ripe grapefruit, mineral palate with medium-plus acidity; medium-plus finish (50% stainless steel, 50% foudres) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru
    Light medium yellow color; waxy, light hazelnut, acacia nose; tasty, medium bodied, ripe lemon, tart apple, mineral palate; needs 2+ years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Fèvre Bougros Cote de Bouguerots flight

Domaine William Fèvre owns substantial parcels in some of the greatest vineyards, and regularly makes some of the finest Chablises, especially since the oak treatment has been dialed back following the sale of the domaine to Joseph Henriot in 1998. The wines are now made by Didier Séquier, who came from Bouchard. The domaine owns 12 hectares of premier crus and 16 of grand crus, including 2.11 hectares of Bougros Cote de Bouguerots. These are on a steep portion of Bougros, above the road, and the wines made from the grapes from this portion tend to be very minerally. The 2007 was my favorite of this treat of a flight, showing wonderful definition and minerality, but the 2008 is also quite good, if softer. The green meanies have attacked the ’04, unfortunately, giving it a strong note of Padron chilies that just wasn’t there when I last tried this bottling a year ago.

The wild prawns poached in lime juice dish with this flight went perfectly with our wines. Kudos to Chef Pedro for a particularly inventive, great looking and ideal pairing!
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Les Clos flight

On to an all Les Clos flight–from the well acknowledged greatest vineyard of all of Chablis’s grand crus. It is also the largest of the grand crus, at nearly 27 hectares. Domaine William Fèvre owns the largest portion, with 4.11 hectares. Vincent Dauvissat has 1.7 hectares. Jean-Marc Brocard’s Les Clos bottlings are from vines they have under long-term contract. The best of this flight was the stunning 2008 Brocard, with wonderful minerality and a long finish. The 2007 was also very good and aromatic. The 2004 Fèvre was another unfortunate victim of the late-onset green meanies, as this was a delicious wine only a year ago when I last tried it, but it’s now showing off-putting and dominant green notes.
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Spaghetti with squid ink, with Monterey Bay calamari, peeled grape tomatoes, scallops and arugula
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  • 2008 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Light yellow color; ripe green fruit, lime cream, green apple nose; tasty, medium-bodied, tight, tart green apple, lime, mineral palate with balance; long finish (decanted for 2 hours) (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Light medium yellow color; intriguing, ripe green fruit, green fig, lime, aromatic nose; tightish, tart lime, mineral,, gunpowder palate with depth; long finish 91+ points (decanted for 2 hours) (91 pts.)
  • 2004 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Light yellow color; very ripe green fruit, kiwi, gooseberry, nearly a NZ Sauvignon Blanc type nose; green on palate too, tart gooseberry, tart kiwi, gunpowder, mineral palate, with off putting green notes; medium-plus finish (seems like the cursed ’04, time-delayed Burgundy green meanies have claimed another victim, as this was wonderful last year) (89 pts.)

Older flight

For our last flight, we moved to our oldest Chablises–two from Raveneau and two 2001 Les Closes from Fèvre and Dauvissat respectively. I have written on this blog about Raveneau a number of times, and a post with more background on this great producer, with information as well on Dauvissat, can be found here. Montée de Tonnerre is typically the greatest of Raveneau’s premier cru Chablises, and our 2002 certainly showed very well, with strong minerality and oyster jus characteristics. I preferred the 2004 Butteaux between the two Raveneaus, however, and it was thankfully free of the dominant green notes that had afflicted our prior two wines from that vintage. The Butteaux had the weight and richness that I admire and enjoy in Raveneau Chablis.

The best wine of the flight, however, and my WOTD, was the gorgeous 2001 Fèvre Les Clos. Fèvre’s 4.12 hectare parcel of this great vineyard is divided up into eight plots, nearly all of which are on the upper slope. The average vine age is 50 years. This wine and our 2001 Dauvissat Les Clos had the longest finishes of all of our Chablises. The Dauvissat is at a more advanced stage of evolution than the Fèvre, with our bottle showing a medium golden color, and the nose having a mature, clarified butter character to it. From these two samples, I would predict the Fèvre to be the one most likely to age beautifully for another 20 or more years.

The truffle and mushroom flavors in our riostto with this flight were a great counterpoint to the maturing flavors to be found in older Chablis.
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  • 2004 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru
    Light yellow color; lovely, maturing, apple, light honeysuckle, green fig nose; tasty, rich but balanced, medium-plus bodied, ripe lemon, saline, mineral palate with a touch of gunpowder; medium-plus finish 92+ points (no ’04 Burgundy “green meanies” here as yet) (92 pts.)
  • 2002 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru
    Light yellow color; earthy, oyster jus, floral nose; earthy, oyster jus, mineral, saline, tart citrus palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2001 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Light yellow color; green apple, acacia, green fruit nose; tasty, maturing, tart lemon, mineral, lightly honeyed, light gunpowder palate; long finish 94+ points (gorgeous, my WOTD) (94 pts.)
  • 2001 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis Grand Cru
    Medium golden yellow color; mature, clarified butter, tart lemon, green herb nose; tasty, mature, tart lemon, mineral, gunpowder palate; long finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Sweet Finish

For our final Chardonnay, we turned to my last bottle of a half case of a botrytised late harvest gem made by Jeff Pisoni for Baton Wines, a producer whose first vintage happened to be 2006. The 2006 vintage in Sonoma was one of those rare ones–it happens every 15 to 20 years–where a rainy spring and two weeks of cool and cloudy weather in September permitted botrytis cinerea to develop on some of the grape clusters. Baton’s owner asked vineyard owner Charles Heintz to let those clusters continue to hang after the rest of the Chardonnay was picked. In November, they finally picked these botrytised grapes at 36.4 brix. The results, in the hands of Pisoni winemaker Jeff Pisoni, were, I think, pretty spectacular. The wine had good acidity, with a pH of 3.58, and reached 15.2% residual sugar. As usual, this wine was showing rich lime cream and lemon meringue flavors, with good balancing acidity. Along with our peach poached in Moscato, this was a delicious sweet ending to an all-Chardonnay wine feast.
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  • 2006 Baton Wines Chardonnay Late Harvest Charles Heintz Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    From 500 ml – light medium golden yellow color; botrytis, lemon meringue pie filling, baked apple nose; tasty, rich, lemon meringue pie filling, green apple, lime cream palate with good balancing acidity; long finish (94 pts.)
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