June 16, 2017
Val de Mer is Patrick Piuze’s second winery, co-owned with François Moutard, of Champagne Moutard. Patrick Piuze made wine in Chablis for more than a decade for producers such as Olivier Leflaive, Verget, and Jean‐Marc Brocard; in 2008 he started his own label. Demand for his wine was great, especially in the US, but Patrick was not interested in increasing production. He had an idea of doing another small project of the same quality just for the US market, but he didn’t have the capital to make this happen. Then in 2010 François Moutard purchased a few hectares of vineyards in Tonnerre, a village about 20 minutes outside of Chablis. François asked Patrick to help manage the vineyards and make the wine, and out of this partnership, Val de Mer was created. Farming here is the same, essentially organic, though not certified, and the winemaking is very similar at both properties: hand-harvesting, spontaneous fermentation, and élèvage in used barrels for 1er Cru and Grand Cru, and tanks for entry-level. Some of you are probably familiar with the non-dosage Cremant, which we’ve been loving since last fall… But now for the bad news: Val de Mer was hit hard by hail last year, and the future of the property is not certain. We’ve purchased what’s available to us, but there’s no guarantee of procuring the wine in the future. This is what divides the small farmer from the factory producer, and why we’ll continue to support the little guy every chance we get; when mother nature comes stomping through their vineyards, these producers can’t call on their investors and lab managers to make it right, they live and die by that year’s harvest, and sometimes they can’t recover. And every year, the wild weather and hail just seems to get worse and worse. Anyway, enjoy this wine (and the sparkling) while you can, and remember that these winemakers aren’t trying to build empires, they’re just doing what they love and sharing what they love with us.
AOC Petit Chablis forms one of the rings of the Chablis area, with soils dating from the Tithonian age (152-145 million years ago), a little more recent than those of the other appellations in the region. The soil is usually hard, brown limestone, and sometimes silty or sandy. The wine is 100% Chardonnay, and typically tangy and evocative of the sea, even though the AOC is inland. Flowers, flint and citrus on the nose are coupled with a little bit of fatness on the palate that’s balanced by refreshing acidity. This is a perfect seafood wine: sushi, sashimi, shrimp, lobster, oysters…it’s a lovely little white.
Marc Pesnot (Domaine de la Sénéchalière) “Miss Terre” Melon de Bourgogne 2015
Marc Pesnot organically farms 13 hectares of fifty-plus year old Melon de Bourgogne vines near the city of Nantes, on the western edge of the Loire, in the Muscadet appellation. His old vines thrive in schist rich soils, adding depth and character to his wines.
Miss Terre is from vines that are 50 to 80 years old. This wine is set apart from Pesnot’s other melon de bourgogne, La Boheme, because it undergoes malolactic fermentation, which adds a touch of softness to this minerally wine, as well as depth and substance. There’s still lots of lively acidity, along with savory notes and pithy fruit on the finish.
Gauthier (Domaine de Bel Air) Bourgueil “Jour de Soif” 2015
Catherine and Pierre Gauthier have been making wine on their 18 hectare property in the heart of Bourgueil since 1979. They’ve been certified organic since 2000, and in 2005 their son Rodolphe officially joined the domaine, ensuring their lineage for at least the next generation. They were friends with famed and too-soon-departed Didier Dagueneau, who recommended these “masters of cab franc” to a US importer. Work in the vineyard and the cellar is all by hand and meticulous. Their cellar was in fact carved directly out of one of their vineyards, providing it with natural temperature control. All fermentation is with native yeast.
Jour de Soif is meant for early consumption. It’s soft, dark fruit, refreshing acidity, pretty violets and subtle foliage notes. Put a little chill on it and enjoy.
Triennes, Provençal Rouge “St. Auguste” 2013
Jacques Seysses, founder of Domaine Dujac, and Aubert de Villaine, co-owner of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, are the partners behind this 46 hectare property established in 1989 in Provence. Just a little bit of name recognition there….this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot from organically farmed vines grown on clay and limestone. It’s fermented in stainless steel, then aged for 12 months in french barrels seasoned at Domaine Dujac. It’s lightly fined, and unfiltered.
This wine is pretty delicious. Lots of raspberry, blackberry, with a touch of black licorice and fresh black tea leaves. It’s got body, depth and fine tannins. This is your cozy wine for cool nights, but it would also be lovely with sunny southern french fare, like a big bowl of bouillabaisse.