After four solid days of wine tasting, great hospitality and excesses (mostly with the Collets) in Chablis, we are off to the Loire Valley tomorrow to visit François Crochet and a new producer in Pouilly-Fumé.
Chablis was as great as usual and the group we visited is optimistic about 2018. Why optimistic so early? Because it’s still cold! The last two years the vegetative cycle began too early with too much heat at this time, which left the tiny new baby shoots open for that sneaky little Jack Frost. This year the buds haven’t broken out yet because a cold front came in (just before we arrived to France, of course) after a couple weeks of hot weather in early spring. Everything is still tucked inside the vine and safe from this early spring frost. Fingers crossed for a classic vintage with some quantity!
My takeaway from our visit is that our guys here are getting better at managing the heat, like most in France. I can’t speak for all in Chablis but our two producers, Romain Collet and Sebastien Christophe, have found ways to not get caught with their pants down. They’ve accepted the inevitable and are now planning for it with adjustments in the vineyard. Even in warmer vintages (2015, 2016) their wines maintain a strong sense of place with freshness that’s not burnt out by the sun. 2015 is good drinking—not especially for those of us who like a little punishment with our Chablis—and 2016 is a cusp vintage with a lot more fresh energy than we expected. 2017 seems promising as well, although we only tasted a few examples that were being bottled at Sebastien’s place when we visited.
All of our producers are up to good things, but none more thrilling than what’s happening chez Thierry Richoux. He already makes fantastic wines but apparently he’s not satisfied yet. Now at age 57, he’s knee deep in experiments with his sons, Gabin Richoux and Félix Richoux.
A few years ago, he planted a high density Pinot Noir parcel with 23,000 vines by hectare, as shown above. He only has a tiny quantity planted, but it was enough to make a single barrel in 2015. None in 2016 or 2017 survived Jack Frost and the erratic hailstorms. We had the privilege of tasting the 3rd bottle he’s opened since it was bottled. It is one of the single most fascinating young wines I can remember tasting, and J.D agreed. It’s both abstract and noble, and smells and tastes like everything grown in its soil: fresh mushrooms for days, wild grasses, aromatic herbs, tiny little purple flowers, dirt, minerals, crushed rocks, bramble and wafts of cherry from the trees that grow just across the way. I know I won’t be able to buy it (so don’t even ask me for any 😉 but my request was that every year when I visit I want to drink a bottle with them. He agreed to it and I’ll never let him forget that! Right, Thierry??
His 2014s are classic Richoux: structured, taut, aromatic and pure Irancy Pinot Noir. His village Irancy just hit the water now along with 2013 Veaupessiot (which I’ve been waiting impatiently for!). His 2015s are, well…, stupidly good. One could easily pound them by the pitcher but it’s a vintage for the ages—monumental and epic written all over this one.
Wait, there’s one more! In 2012, Thierry made a special wine for his grandmother. It’s from Irancy, but it ain’t like any Irancy I’ve tasted. It’s a shocker and will put top—and I am not blowing this out of proportion—Côte d’Or wines from the same vintage to the test. It’s vinified and raised more like a wine from the Côte d’Or and won’t be released for another couple of years (cause that’s how our boy rolls sometimes) but when it is, you MUST find as much as you can get. What a pitch, eh!?
Thierry Richoux has gone mad in the best sort of way and there is not a more exciting producer within our portfolio.