Domaine Christophe et fils

The Story

Sebastien Christophe is our budding superstar from Chablis. We love his wines, but we also love him, the ultimate underdog. While known for its stolid rigidity, France’s wine culture still allows for a lot of mobility. That’s how a young kid gifted just a couple of acres of average vineyard land in Chablis could rise up seemingly out of nowhere to make brilliant wine from the three most heralded Premier Crus in the region. That happened because he was also gifted with a good bit of moxie and a cranking work ethic, which will you get far anywhere. What makes Sebastien’s wines so great? Well, as is the case in Chablis, it’s not the winemaking, which is pretty standard for the region, as the goal here is never to showcase cellar prowess, but rather the nature of the vineyard. Sebastien vinifies and ages wine overwhelmingly in stainless steel, as is the general practice of the region. Less than 10% of the wines see cellar aging in neutral oak barrels, providing a little textural and structural contrast to the bristly energy of stainless steel.

He started with a small half hectare parcel of Petit Chablis from his family and made a run for it. After winemaking school he started to vinify this tiny parcel and has slowly acquired small parcels of village vineyards and a lot of Petit Chablis land. He also rents parcels that he farms entirely himself. Today, he has three premier crus on the right bank of the Serein river, Fourchaume, Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre. To our surprise, it’s difficult (almost impossible) to find his wines in town on any list. He exports almost everything, save the wines sold to some of the top spots in Paris. Luckily for us, we are the first to work with Christophe in the United States. -TV

Lay of the Land

Despite nearly unequivocally mentioned in the first breath by sommeliers as one of their favorite wine regions, Chablis often appears in books as the “I guess I should make a little room for Chablis in my Côte d’Or Burgundy bible” category. Indeed it’s not as sexy and elite as the Côte d’Or, but there is a lot to say that doesn’t get said enough. So, while we don’t intend to write an entire book out of this section on our website, perhaps we can bring some ideas not often discussed about Chablis, but relevant to better understand the subject—one that is not so expensive a lesson in understanding terroir compared to that Golden Slope, further south. (Maybe Chablis should consider changing its name to the Côte d’Argent, or maybe the Côte de Platine—a little silver or platinum could be a competitive contrast to the gold.

Chablis winters can be bitterly cold and dry. The lack of snowfall can be deceiving when you’re feeling the bite of the wind, and there are precious few easily found and inviting establishments to duck into and shake off the chill with a warming drink. Its semi-continental climate is similar to Champagne’s to the north, with the winds that whistle in from the North Sea. The frigid air that goes straight to the bone is caused by a relative lack of trees, which fully exposes to the elements, making one of the best refuges to warm up a 50-55°F cellar.

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Domaine Christophe et fils Fourchaume

Domaine Christophe et fils - 2018 Chablis, 1er Cru Fourchaume

Price: $67.00
Size: 750ml
Availability: 

24+ in stock

Type of Wine: White
Grape(s): Chardonnay
Style: High acid, Mineral

The Wine

Google 3-D Image of Fourchaume: Christophe’s section is just to the right of the stark white vineyard road in this image that goes up and then to the right. It’s the first section up from the main road. You can see that it is almost an exact south-face, while much of the rest of Fourchaume faces southwest. Also, here is a downloadable pdf on Premier and Grand Cru Chablis. It's thorough, but it's in French. The geological and vineyard maps are key. Another great resource for specific vineyard information is here and be sure to click on the vineyard names for more information about them.

INFORMATION DISCLAIMER

Terroir: Sebastien’s Fourchaume vines planted by his uncle in 1981 are located in the lieu-dit, Côte de Fontenay, situated on a perfect south face toward the bottom of the hill and next to the road about 120-130 meters altitude. This position brings the advantage of easier ripeness in colder years, while also exposed to winds from both the north and east. The kimmeridgian rocks here are—for whatever reason—unusually hard by comparison to other areas of Chablis, which we know firsthand because we’ve broken them and many other rocks in Chablis with mallets while on tour with Brenna Quigley, a geologist. The limestone rocks in the topsoil are slightly more rounded, demonstrating that much of it was brought in long ago either by the Serein or the Fontenay Valley. Fourchaume is the most muscular premier cru in the range, and for what it may lack in elegance compared to the other two, it makes up for it in abundance of classic and complex Chablis characteristics.

Vinification: The grapes are picked by hand, pressed, settled in tank overnight, then racked off the heavy sediments after one day before beginning its low temperature fermentation. The spontaneous wild yeast fermentation lasts between 1-2 months and takes place in stainless steel (80%) and the remainder in 228-liter oak barrels (new, 1, 2 and 3 year-old, the total new wood is approximately 7%). Battonage (stirring) is sometimes made, but only in the steel tanks and the frequency depends on the vintage—warm years nothing and in colder ones no more than two times. The first SO2 addition is made after the press before fermentation and the second (and sometimes the last) after both fermentations have finished.

Aging: One year in stainless steel (80%) and the remainder in 228-liter oak barrels (new, 1, 2 and 3 year-old, the total new wood is approximately 7%). It is fined and filtered.

(Subjective and based on young wines)

General Impressions:

Mineral, Muscular, Stony, Dense, Salty, Citrus and White Fruits

Mineral Impressions:

Lightly SaltySaltyMetalMineralWet StoneFlintGraphiteReductivePetrol

Ageability:

Drink YoungShort-Term BenefitsLong-Term BenefitsUnknown

Technical Precision:

NatureModerateNurture

Intensity:

SubtleVigorousElectric

Core:

LitheMediumDense

Acidity:

LightMediumFullElectric

Texture:

LitheMediumDense

Body:

LightMediumFull

Tannin:

NoneLightMediumFull

Finish:

FrontMiddleBack

Wood Presence:

NoneSubtleNoticeable

The Vineyard

Soil:

Kimmeridgian marl bedrock with a calcium-rich clay topsoil mixed with compact and unusually hard and sometimes rounded Kimmeridian marl stones and Portlandian alluvium.

Farming:

SustainableOrganic CertifiedBiodynamic CertifiedUncertified Naturalist

Irrigation:

ForbiddenNeverSometimes

Vine Age:

Planted in 1981

Altitude (meters):

120-130

Aspect:

South

Slope:

Soft slope
(typical numbers; not vintage specific)

Enological Additions:

Sulfur Dioxide. It’s fined with bentonite (a natural clay) and filtered with diatomaceous earth (fossilized sedimentary algae with a silaceous skeleton)—both are natural products.

Total SO2:

None AddedVery LowLowMediumHigh

Alcohol:

12.5 - 13.50

pH:

3.15-3.25

Titratable Acidity:

N/A

Residual Sugar:

Dry

Notes compiled in 2019 by Ted Vance (The Source) and Sebastien Christophe

About The Wine

Google 3-D Image of Fourchaume: Christophe’s section is just to the right of the stark white vineyard road in this image that goes up and then to the right. It’s the first section up from the main road. You can see that it is almost an exact south-face, while much of the rest of Fourchaume faces southwest. Also, here is a downloadable pdf on Premier and Grand Cru Chablis. It’s thorough, but it’s in French. The geological and vineyard maps are key. Another great resource for specific vineyard information is here and be sure to click on the vineyard names for more information about them.