By: Keith Wollenberg | K&L Burgundy Buyer
Hello Burgundy Lovers,
Another container just landed, with some wines I have been waiting impatiently for. They are a range of superb Chablis from Jean-Claude Bessin. He has not had a West Coast Importer, until I talked him into selling us a few cases. Before he would sell me any wine he wanted to know who I worked with in Chablis, about our stores, what I knew about Chablis, etc. etc. It was a challenging and rewarding visit.
Our supplies are limited, and these should go quickly, once people taste the wines. You know I am not prone to hyperbole, but tasting in his cellar last summer was a highpoint of my trip. These are wines of Raveneau or Dauvissat quality. He works by hand, with no machine harvesting, no herbicides, no pesticides and use of cover crops.
Let me make 2 bold predictions:
1) You WILL NOT be sorry to have these brilliant wines in your cellar and on hand when crab season starts.
2) You WILL be sorry later if you miss these wines. I bought some bottles for my own cellar before I sent out this email. ‘Nuff said.
Here is what Jean-Claude has to say about his domaine (From an interview in our November newsletter, translated from the French by yours truly)
How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?
“The Art of the Vines”: To be guided by nature.
“The art of Winemaking”: Simplicity.
What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy?
No one particular wine or winemaker. We apply all the traditional methods, which we adapt and change according to our sensibilities, staying in tune with nature.
How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that excites you year after year?
I am 100% involved in grape-growing, as wine is made in the vineyard. Each of my vineyard sites reveals its secrets over the years as I work with it in successive vintages.
How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that has influenced your wines?
The purity of our wines has always been a priority. When I was younger, I liked wines which were perfumed, with richness and roundness, but today I prefer elegance, finesse and personality in wine. I leave it to you to taste my wines and tell me how this change has influenced my winemaking!
What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with?
Sashimi of Scallops, Wild Sea Bass ...
What changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new (top secret) varietals, blends or proprietary wines on the horizon?
We intend no grand changes, just to continue to work with, and listen to, each vineyard site.
Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your personal favorite style? How do you deal with it?
What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?
All the good wines!
Do you collect wine? If so, what’s in your cellar?
Burgundies, of course, but also the wines of the Loire Valley, Rhone Valley and other regions.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry today?
I will not venture an opinion on this subject. I consider myself a craftsman, and feel that the greatest challenge facing small growers (such as I am) is to remain artisanal.
These wines are in stock in all locations, and available on the web or by phone, while they last.
100% Hand-harvested, all wild yeast fermentations, and a full 18 months of élevage. Reserved with lots of concentration. Made from 45-55 year old vines. Nice minerality, with a bit of floral notes on the nose. Very nice weight on the mid-palate from the old-vine concentration. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/11) Allen Meadows writes: "A pretty nose of modest Chablis character also features notes of pear, white peach and apricot that lead to rich, generous and relatively full-bodied flavors that possess a seductive texture on the delicious... Read More »
Very lovely character, with clean, focused fruit and nice minerality threaded behind it. This is very good. It sees some (not much) neutral wood in its élevage. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/11) Allen Meadows scores this 90 points and writes:"A fresh, elegant and floral nose is nuanced by hints of stone, spice and green fruit that merges into middle weight flavors that possess good richness but also good detail, all wrapped in a delicious, balanced and solidly complex finish." (Burghound, 10/11)
This I thought was truly terrific Chablis, with very, very pretty fruit and wonderful concentration on the palate. Absolutely singing at this juncture. Notes of honey combine beautifully with the minerality here. Has that characteristic of the acidity that makes you r mouth water, quite literally. As Jean-Claude told me: "This terroir typically has lots of freshness and tension, from the limestone rocks in the soil here." " (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/11) Allen Meadows calls this "Outstanding", scores it 91, and writes:"This is a bit f... Read More »
From several parcels, in the heart of Fourchaume and one in Homme Mort. Open and pretty in character, with lovely floral notes and a rather round character on the palate for a young Chablis. (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/11) Allen Meadows Scores it 91 and writes: "(from a 2 ha parcel in Fourchaume with a small portion in L'Homme Mort). This also displays white orchard fruit aromas with hints of exoticism but here there is more of a floral influence that slides gracefully into rich and big-bodied flavors that possess fine depth and length, ... Read More »
This is Jean-Claude's oldest vines, aged 58-78 years old. It is very, very elegant on the palate with more extract and focus. It also shows terrific poise and energy. Lots of little tine white flowers on the nose, with pronounced minerality and a more powerful finish. Terrific! (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer, 03/11) Allen Meadows calls this Outstanding!, scores it 92 and writes: "(Bessin explains that this is essentially the old vines Fourchaume). This appears to have better integration of the wood than is typical at this early stage with a s... Read More »
Ok, folks, hold your hats. This is the most concentrated, high-energy 2009 I tasted on my March trip. It comes from the Domaine's oldest vines (more than 80 years, but no one knows how old they actually are!) Lots of energy, lots of tension, more size than any of the 1er Crus, terrific concentration. In a word, superb! (Keith Wollenberg, K&L Burgundy Buyer) Allen Meadows scores this 93, awards a "Sweet Spot" and notes: "A visible if discreet touch of wood allows free rein to the green fruit and spiced pear aromas that complement the rich, serious and... Read More »
A Santé, and enjoy Dungeness crab season, if you are in the right part of the country.
Mr. Keith WOLLENBERG
Directeur Commercial Bourgogne
K&L Wine Merchants
+1-650-556-2724 Direct Line