Friday, March 7, 2014

Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Tasting with Jean-Philippe Archambaud

The Houston Sommelier Association hosted another fantastic seminar and tasting. This week, members were treated to an in-depth discussion of the terroir of Chablis and how it influences the wines that are produced there. The seminar was led by winemaker Jean-Philippe Archambaud of Simonnet-Febvre.

We started with the 2012-2010 vintages from two Chablis Premier Cru vineyards, Vaillons and Fourchaume. They both have the famous Kimmeridgian limestone soil. Vaillons is located on the left bank of the Sereine River and Fourchaume is on the right. The Vaillons vineyard's history is to create more accessible wines. For both of these wines, Jean-Philippe prefers to use all stainless steel, no oak barrels in this production, he does allow full malo-lactic fermentation for complexity; he does not engage in any battonage or stirring of the lees during the 10-12 months that the wine ages with the yeast.

Jean-Philippe discussed 2012 as being a rather difficult year with a wet spring and a windy June, it ended with warm, dry weather which saved the vintage. Yields were down and the wines produced were not typical of the region but they were good.
2012 Vaillons - ripe peach aroma with fresh melon flavor, smooth, moderate acidity, fruity finish
2012 Fourchaume - slow to open, light floral aromas of citrus blossom with lemon zest flavor, citrus/mineral finish.

The prior year was also a difficult year with an early spring followed by a cold, windy May. This also led to lower volume production though it created a more typical Chablis wine.
2011 Vaillons - more austere, linear, lemon
2011 Fourchaume - rich lemon zest aroma and flavor with a touch of mint, longer finish

Fortunately, the year before was a more classic year for weather and wine in Chablis.
2010 Vaillons - fresh lemon citrus aromas and flavors, higher acidity with a long mineral-tinged finish.
2010 Fourchaume - more aromatic, citrus blossom and mint aromas with lemon zest flavor, higher acidity, long finish

Next, we looked at the Simonnet-Febvre Chablis from the Grand Cru vineyards of Les Clos and Les Preuses.  The Preuses vineyard is on the steepest part of the hillside on Kimmeridgian limestone with longer hours of sunshine and better drainage than other parts of this climat. Jean-Philippe feels this is the purest example of the terroir; he prefers to use only stainless steel with 15-18 months on the lees to try to achieve this expression in the wine. 
2011 Preuses - floral citrus blossom and honey aroma, lemon and mineral finish
2010 Preuses - honey, lemon and mushroom with a long mineral finish
2009 Preuses - lemon richness with a bit of mushroom followed by acidity with a long slightly saline mineral finish

Les Clos produces more powerful wines with great age ability, in fact, they need some aging for optimal enjoyment as they can be austere in youth. Because of this, Jean-Philippe Archambaud prefers to ferment half of the wine in barrel and half in stainless steel with the 15-18 months of aging on the lees.
2011 Les Clos - very closed, lemon.
2010 Les Clos - A slight reductive character that tells the winemaker that this wine is going to age well; citrus and a bit of baking spice, long finish
2009 Les Clos - lemon, dried herbs and mushrooms; rich, flinty minerality, long finish.

After three years of low yields due to the weather in Chablis, it was interesting to taste two of those vintages and see how good the wines were despite the hard growing season. The downside for consumers will be increased prices as availability decreases due to the lowered volume of production over multiple consecutive vintages, so get it now. 

Thanks again to the 
Houston Sommelier Association 
for providing these educational opportunities to our local wine professionals!