Thursday, April 03, 2014

"We don't make Chardonnay, we make Chablis"

Yesterday evening G and I met up outside my office, finding each other easily despite the much-publicised haze of smog that was apparently covering London, and made our way to the Perseverance in Shroton Street for yet another Burgundy Portfolio event, a dinner with Nathalie Fevre of Domaine Nathalie et Gilles Fevre in Chablis.

Our visit to this domaine, in Fontenay-pres-Chablis, was one of the highlights of our trip to Burgundy in September last year (more about this here) and we have vivid memories of Nathalie showing us round her spotless winery, providing a massive basket of gougeres to go with the tasting, then taking us out for for a very nice lunch followed by a tour of the vineyards. So we were looking forward to this evening!

In the beautiful upstairs dining room, the table was laid for eleven, and we were greeted by ACC with a cold glass of Petit Chablis 2012. This makes a wonderful aperitif and the 2012 vintage seems to suit this wine. We said hello to Nathalie and I regretted that I'd forgotten to bring along my prize souvenir of the little fossilised moule which she gave us last year.

Two large plates of gougeres were handed round and were rapidly devoured as usual. We then moved on to the Chablis 2012, which has a snazzy yellow label, and the difference between this and the Petit Chablis was very clear - even though they are vinified in exactly the same way, the terroir expresses itself, and the Chablis is more complex with white flowers on the nose underpinned by that steely mineral quality. The Baron told me that he has some of this in halves and it's been going down a treat.

Sitting down at the table we discovered that each place setting had one of these. I wondered if it was a coaster and the Baron speculated that it was some kind of parking permit, but then Nathalie explained that it's a "drop stop" - you fold it up and stick it in the neck of the bottle and then when you pour the wine, it stops it from dripping. I look forward to using ours!

With the food, we moved on to a pair of premier crus - Mont de Milieu 2012 and 2010. ACC said that it was quite controversial that we were tasting the 2012 so soon, as it was only bottled in November, but it was very interesting to compare them and enabled us to see how the wine would evolve over time. The 2010 had knitted together, while the 2012 would take time to do so. Nevertheless I think the 2012 vintage is wonderful and already staked a claim to a case of it at the en primeur tasting back in January.

Our starter was a ham hock terrine with some cornichons and a little dollop of remoulade - delicious and a great accompaniment to the wine.

I forgot to mention that the 2010 was served en magnum, and there was some lively discussion about the best format for these wines. There's no doubt in my mind that they develop best in magnum, it's just a case of being patient and finding the right occasion.

Here we have, from left to right, the Petit Chablis 2012, the Chablis 2012, the Mont de Milieu 2012 and the Mont de Milieu 2010. It's hard to see from the photo but the two premier crus were noticeably more golden and had more body.

With our main course of guinea fowl (which was so delicious that I forgot to take a photo before I'd started eating it) we moved on to the premier cru Vaulorent, which the domaine's leaflet describes as its "flagship wine". This vineyard is in a very special location, next to the grand cru vineyards, and the nature of the soil and the south-west exposure give it fantastic concentration and complexity. With our final course, 2 year old Comte with some lovely soft oaty biscuits, we had the 2008 vintage of the same wine, which is wonderful. Only a few bottles remain and I'm delighted that I have three sitting on my rack. Nathalie did let slip that she still has some magnums of it, and G immediately started putting in for some.

Once again it was a real pleasure to get to try the range from the Petit Chablis up to the jewel in the crown, the Vaulorent, and to see how they developed both moving up the scale and as they gained greater maturity. It was particularly enjoyable to drink them with food which had been carefully chosen to complement them. Thanks again to Nathalie for taking the trouble to visit London and tell us about these wines, to the Perseverance for putting on yet another very fine meal, and to ACC for organising it all.

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