A Natural Expression of Chablis

A Natural Expression of Chablis

We don’t see many natural wines from Chablis. The de Moors and Thomas Pico’s Pattes Loup, of course. But the climate is unforgiving, the risks are significant and the payoff, when there’s such huge worldwide demand for anything labeled “Chablis,” is uncertain.

So, when Jeffrey Alpert, who has brought such luminaries as Ganevat to America, told us he’d found a great young Chablis producer working naturally we had to taste it.

It’s really good! Open it and right away it’s absolutely and obviously delicious, with lots of fruit (even a vague hint of something verging on tropical), a touch of florality, crystal clear Chablis minerality, and bright acidity. All the elements of spot-on Chablis.

But the real payoff comes if you give it some time. JR was the first to get a bottle and he followed it over a few hours as it opened up with exposure to air. He raved, so I got a bottle. But I didn’t have time to wait that night, so instead I decided to follow it over a few days, a glass or two at a time. The second night it was more open, with the fruit more prominent but the acidity and minerality a little less focused.

But on the third night, man was that wine ready. The hint of tropicality I had gotten on the nose was gone. There was seashell and citrus hinting at tangerine but more squarely in the lemon family. The palate had become saltier and the acidity was much better integrated, giving the fruit extra dimensionality.

The wine expressed all this in its own unique voice. It was less about the clear lines of your typical Chablis than it was an expression of the spirit of Chablis. JR first described it as “Chablis flavors hovering like colors in a Rothko painting.” It had sounded crazy, but now I got it. 

Maybe it's something about the minimalist winemaking, or maybe it's something about the vintage or Arnaud’s particular terroir, but it was impossible to say where one of the Chablis elements ended and the next began – all you could do was take a step back and enjoy the way the thing as a whole vibrated with life.

Who is Jeremy Arnaud and how does he do this? He’s a young guy from a winemaking family in Chablis who only took a real interest in wine late in his education. But then he went hard, pursuing a formal education at school while taking many apprenticeships in the real world.

Instead of starting out at the family domaine, he decided to try and prove himself with his own (very) tiny domaine of just 0.55 hectares in 2016, where he can do things his way. He’s off to a great start.  

His plot of Vau de Vey is about 40 years old. Just starting to get where you could consider it old vines, as he says. He farms with minimal inputs and grows grass between the rows on this very steep site to prevent erosion. He harvests by hand, works in the cellar by taste and minimizes sulfur and other interventions. He seems to be in the camp of young winemakers who aim to make natural wine but who put the expression of grape, terroir, and vintage above all else.

It was great to follow the wine over a few nights. And we’re even more excited to follow it over the next few months – and to follow Jeremy’s career over the next few years. Great things seem likely.

You can buy this wine on both coasts below. 

 

Jérémy Arnaud, Chablis 1er Cru Vau de Vey, 2017 

Vau de Vey is a very narrow, small premier cru valley to the north and west of the better-known Montmains and Cotes de Lechets. It's very steep and gets (gentler) morning suns, and has very thin topsoils over the kimmeridgian limestone. 

Buy in New York.

Buy in San Francisco. 

Joshua Cohen