Patrick Piuze and John B. Truax tasting in Chablis
Our last stop in Chablis was with Patrick Piuze, a 41 year old French Canadian who found his way to Burgundy. He worked the harvest for Franck Grux at Olivier Leflaive in 2000. Grux was so impressed with his hard work and enthusiasm he was offered a job.
After a brief winemaking course at the Beaune wine school he was entrusted with making the Chablis for Domaine Olivier Leflaive for four vintages, after which he went and worked with Jean Marie Guffens at Maison Verget. He then ended up as the cellar master at Jean-Marc Brocard for a short period but he knew it was only a matter of time before he would strike out on his own. On July 1st 2008 he started his own negociant firm.
Piuze is right across the street from Vincent Dauvissat. They are good friends. He bought an old building from Vocoret and it is a sort of messy and chaotic place – kind of the opposite of the precision and focus of his wines and indeed – his vision.
We came in through the very tall wide double doors - like a stable door- and he immediately said, Oh no, you guys are from New York! You know your Rangers tried to take out our goalie! Your guy came into the net skates first! He hurt our goalie! A national hero! Won the Olympics for Canada!" I had no idea he was Canadian until that moment. I stupidly asked where he was from. I know a Montreal accent when I hear it. Especially when a Quebecker francophone is speaking English.
I asked if he knew Pascal Marchand. He replied, "Well you know he is the Godfather of my second child so I guess so!" Having grown up in Minnesota I have a certain affinity for people from cold climates, hockey, maple syrup and all that stuff. We were bonding already.
Soon we got down to brass tacks and Patrick was explaining that he did not use a pneumatic press anymore, he liked the old fashioned Chablis that were all made with the old fashioned screw driven Vaslin press. 5 bars of pressure in 2011, he said. Went on to mention that Jean Francois Coche of Domaine Coche Dury had experimented with the pneumatic press from 2004-2011 but has now gone back to the Vaslin press. (Which is featured on the Coche Dury label, by the way.)
He went on to explain that he buys barrels from high acidity vintages only - 2002- 2004 - 2007 - 2008. He said 2005 barrels taste like apricots! He said that the 2012 vintage is the best he has ever seen, "the acidity is all dressed up!
He is very thoughtful and very business savvy. He gave each of his growers 4% of the business to guarantee that they would continue selling to him. He is a great farmer and it sounds like he is a very good cook too. He ran a wine bar for two years back in Montreal but his heart wasn't in it. Some "bon mots" from Patrick Piuze:
"Sea salt is just salt but Fleur de Sel is a spice."
"Valmur has a nutmeg character."
"If you pick a tomato in the morning it will be tight and hard, if you pick it at the end of a hot day it will be ripe and delicious."
So he picks Vaillons early in the morning and Valmur he harvests late to accentuate the fruit. He thinks that Preuses has lots of spice.
Here are my notes from the tasting with Patrick:
2013 Petit Chablis - He called it "petit Preuses". Very nice, very fruit driven.
2013 Chichee - Patrick explained that this was bottled early to prevent apricot flavors from developing, "to stay in white fruits". Chichee is near Vaucoupin. This was the white fruits with a chalky kind of quality.
2013 Courgis - more clay here which seemed to make the wine very round and nice.
2013 Decouvert - touches Vaulorent - a very mineral driven and more austere wine, very racy.
2013 Terroir de Fye - Touches Chapelot - very stony, sort of like chewing rocks.
2013 Montee de Tonnere - A block of limestone! Hard, austere and very, very fine.
2008 Vaillons les Minots - from 71 year old vines - deep, full bodied and rich. Good mouthweight and a very, very long finish.