Thursday, 16 February 2012

Award Winners from the 26th Concours des Vins de Chablis

As I wrote a couple of days ago, I was recently touring Chablis with the AWE (the Association of Wine Eductators), which I'm very happy to be a member of. Whilst on the tour we visited some excellent producers and went to a couple of events, including a private tasting of all the medal winning wines from this year’s Concours des Vins de Chablis, which was held in January.

We were lucky enough to have Eric Szablowski with us for the tasting, who was winemaker at leading producer William Fèvre for 15 years before setting up his own Chablis tastings and tours business, Au Coeur du Vin. Now he’s also been accredited by the Ecole des Vins de Bourgogne as an Ambassador of Burgundy Wines, which was why he was on hand to take us through the Chablis medal winners. I feel it’s safe to say it would be hard to find anyone who understands more about Chablis’ vineyards and its wines!

It was fascinating listening to Eric talk about the region. For him, Petit Chablis is an expression of Chardonnay from the greater Chablis area, whereas he sees Chablis as having a very specific terroir characteristic – expressing the Kimmeridgian soil of the region. We would have liked to talk to Eric for hours, but we had quite a few wines to get through, so onto the competition…

Any producers who wanted to could enter their wines, with separate categories for Petit Chablis through to Grand Cru Chablis. The jury of 65 was a mix of journalists, restaurant owners, sommeliers, oenologists and keen amateurs. Out of the 335 wines entered there were just 26 medal winners, so as you would expect with just 8% getting a gong, the standard was very high. Getting through all 26 in just an hour was pretty tricky, especially as we were all enjoying grilling Eric on a variety of topics whilst going through the tasting.

One thing we really learned through the trip was the difference between left and right bank 1er Cru wines. The former, very generally speaking, are slightly lighter, racier and more floral, whereas the latter are usually richer, rounder and fuller. So on that theme, here are a couple of highlights from the concours, two 1er cru wines, one from each bank:

In the Chablis 1er Cru 2010 Right Bank category, Domaine Christophe et Fils won a sliver medal for their Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume. The wine was fairly full and round and slightly spicy, with a lemon crispness running right through it. A very long finish and a terrific wine.

In the Chablis 1er Cru 2010 Left Bank category, Domaine Servin also won sliver for their Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons. This one by contrast was lighter in style, with a crisp green apple and lemon character and a slightly floral nose. A very well balanced wine it was elegant and long. Also first rate.

Coming after a full day of domaine visits, this tasting of Chablis medal winners underlined something that had become ever more apparent as the trip progressed; the excellent value represented by 1er cru Chablis. For a relatively modest premium, say €15 for 1er cru bought directly from a domaine instead of €10 for regular Chablis, you get a serious step up in quality. The Grand Cru wines were of course fantastic, but as they typically cost at least twice the price of the 1er cru wines I think the former generally offer the best value. What also became increasingly clear was the open, attractive and well balanced nature of the 2010 vintage – it’s a classic.

So for these two reasons my boot came home full of Chablis Premier Cru 2010. I’d recommend going over there and doing the same whilst the vintage is still on sale.




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