There’s Chablis and then there’s Patrick Piuze. The French Canadian owned a wine bar in Montreal before deciding that he needed to get his hands dirty. He had a chance encounter with Marc Chapoutier (of the famous Northern Rhone winery) in the early days when he was working out west as a server. Chapoutier connected Patrick with his importer in Australia where he quickly set off to work, followed by cellars in Israel and South Africa. In 2000, he was lured to Burgundy and worked alongside Olivier Leflaive for three years before landing the cellar master job at Jean-Marc Brocard. In 2008, he struck out on his own.
Piuze is a micro-négoce, meaning that he doesn’t own any vineyards. He purchases old-vine fruit from top growers throughout the appellation, which allows him to zone in on the distinct terroir of individual sites. Whereas most producers make one generic village-level Chablis from scattered vineyards, Piuze makes half a dozen, all of which are village designated. He harvests the fruit himself and picks by hand in a region where machine harvesting is the norm. In the cellar, Patrick lets the wild fermentations go at their own pace (it can take weeks or months). Village-level wines are done in tank and Premier or Grand Crus are fermented in 6 to 8-year-old barrels. Even here, he’s particular. Patrick avoids using barrels from warmer vintages so that the wines don’t take on tropical notes. Not a hair is out of place in these precise, concentrated, intensely mineral wines. Every bottle is hand dipped in cream-coloured wax.
I mean LOOKat them.
Like all truly great things, these are available in limited quantities.
A note on the vintage:
Why so little wine? The 2016 vintage in Chablis was a bit of a disaster, at least in the beginning. Budbreak came early after a mild winter but spring was rainy and frost hit in April. Then in May, back to back hail storms decimated the vineyards. Several producers reported crop levels reduced by nearly half. But despite the dramatic loss of fruit, quality is good! Sunshine and warm weather finally arrived in July and what grapes were left hanging on the vine ripened well into the fall. Low yields produced concentrated wines with fresh acidity.
2016 Chablis Terroir de Chablis
$47.99 / btl (6 btls/cs)
Terroir de Chablis tends to be Piuze’s most immediately accessible wine. Pure, perfect Chardonnay with citrus, white flowers, chalk and seashell notes.
2016 Chablis Terroir de Fye $47.99 / btl (6 btls/cs)
Of the village-level wines, Terroir de Fye is the most dense and structured. Fruit comes from a 2.5-hectare vineyard across from Les Blanchots Grand Cru.
Forêts is one of the best vineyards in Chablis. On the left bank of the Serein the Kimmeridgien limestone has a higher proportion of clay creating a slightly fuller and more honeyed style. This one from Piuze has a deep saline character.