It's poor form to be late to an appointment with any vigneron. But anyone familiar with unimpeachable greatness of Vincent Dauvissat's Chablis will understand why my friends and I were particularly concerned about arriving on time to meet the winemaker.
We had biked from Irancy that afternoon, taking an ill-considered route that led through steep, shadeless Saint-Bris onto a stretch of hellish highway (the D965) that we were unable to escape until exiting at Beine, a town west of Chablis distinguished by an artificial lake, the Etang de Beine. In Beine you see a blitz of proud signage for this artificial lake, but before you encounter it, you pass a really swampy mini-lake, which my friends and I incredulously took for the étang before arriving at the real thang. We had a good laugh about this and entertained the idea of joining some bathers at the étang until we realized we were in danger of arriving late to Chablis.
As it happened, we arrived chez Dauvissat a few minutes early. The family member who answered the door gestured to Vincent, who, evidently having just returned from work in the vines, appeared briefly in the doorway eating an apple, wearing denim short-shorts and a bandana. He made an apologetic gesture and disappeared, reappearing five minutes later dressed less like Axl Rose.
As we'd just arrived from Irancy, we chatted about Dauvissat's, a cuvée he's made since 2003 from vines rented from a practicing organic vigneron called Roger de la Loge, who retired in 2002.* Dauvissat predictably couldn't give us a good answer for why his Irancy is reliably more satiny and poised than most. He said for him it still felt like an experiment, an anomalous red in his oeuvre. The 2011 that day showed refined, crunchy cranberry fruit. In 2011 he destemmed, but sometime he doesn't, depending on the vintage.
I had tasted bottles of his 1èr cru Chablis before this visit, but only in a scattered fashion, here and there. As ever, tasting his full range of 2011 Chablis sequentially caused the differences to leap into high relief.
The 1èr cru "Les Sechets," a SE exposed plot of 50yr old vines, showed reserved, tenor aromas and a waxen, Rhône-like finish; whereas the 1èr cru "Les Vaillons," from deeper clay soil, possessed finer acid and was precociously open on the nose. "Le Forest"'s nose was more minty, its mineral profile more austere.
Of the grand crus, I fairly fell over myself for the 2011 "Les Preuses," from an ampitheatrical plot of clay with marl subsoil. There's something powerfully, seductively feminine and corporeal about the nose, a concept which I fear I probably expressed rather poorly in my broken, halting French. The aromas are quasi-pheromonal - they provoke the sort of wakeful, mouthwatering, heart-tugging feeling one gets from the proximity of certain lovers at certain times. Amid the bodies, I detected a bit of light incense.
Dauvissat treated us also to the latter half of a bottle of 1993 "Les Vaillons," an unusual wine, he explained, in that rain on the second day of harvest had caused the wine's tartaric acid levels to rise, the only time he'd ever encountered such a phenomenon in four decades of winemaking.
|A biodynamic calendar. Though in reference to the decision of when to harvest, Dauvissat says, "La matière est vivant, c'est pas sur le papier."|
Sure enough, at twenty years in, the wine was still wiry, shell-like, with pronounced notes of oyster liquor. I asked Dauvissat at what age, roughly speaking, he thought his wines showed best, and with regard to the '93 "Vaillons" he said "About now, that's to say, twenty years."
Dauvissat had squeezed our appointment in before one with Stephen Tanzer, so we tried not to tarry. We thanked the former and greeted the latter and savored the rest of the bottle from plastic cups by the river before dinner.
* During the rest of our time in the region we searched unsuccessfully for older bottles of Roger de la Loge's wines. Has anyone tasted ?
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