Jean-Marc Brocard – Chablis on a grand scale
The difficult history of the Chablis area has been summarised on the Chablis home page. Suffice it to say here that Brocard is a shining example of the quality of wines being made now and their commercial success. The new, quite substantial winery, producing 4-5 million bottles a year, is a testament to that. They have kept the older one with its great views and adjacent chapel. Judging by the size of the church in the middle of open fields, this is clearly not the first generation when there has been money in the area.
We visited Brocard on a cold but beautiful and sunny day and enjoyed the views across the fairly flat land around Préhy, one of the Chablis villages of which there are 20. Some of the land around the winery is farmed biodynamically with the majority of the company’s 200 hectares in conventional farming. While this sort of mix does not go down well with the small, organic growers, it is good to see a large concern taking care of the soil. Brief photographic aside: I didn’t have my proper camera on this visit, but when you have a good well-lit subject the camera on the iPhone 4 is pretty impressive.
The old winery has a range of fermenters including the new-fangled ‘egg’ shape for very special wines. The size and shape is not completely unlike the ancient amphora or other terracotta jars. The beautiful looking oak fermenters are used for the Grand Cru wines and some Premier Crus. Otherwise it’s stainless steel. That is not just convenience but results in the right style for Chablis and Petit Chablis with its sharp apple and mineral flavours. The egg fermenters are just three years old, made of cement and apparently ensure the constant movement of wine and lees during the massive eruption which is fermentation. According to comment on the internet, they help to bring out bright fruit flavours. Here they are used just for the Grand Cru Les Preuses.
Although the winery was interesting, what really stood out here was the range and the quality of the wines, which of course is how it should be:
Petit Chablis 2009 – pleasant, slightly minerally nose, classic green apples, then a bit of lime citrus, from a ripe vintage with lower acidity than typical
Chablis Les Vielle Vignes de St Claire 2009 – richer, riper apple notes even tending towards melon, some yeastiness, good skeleton of acidity
Chablis Premier Cru Vau de Vey 2008 – from one of the newer Premier Cru, very good dense fruit on the palate and a shaft of acidity from a more typical year. Ripe and pleasant in style, rather than the more typical mineral steeliness you might expect from a Premier Cru site.
Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2008 – minerals to the fore then some apple notes emerging, lots of fruit on the finish, elegant, no oak but some yeasty notes
Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre 2008 – from biodynamically farmed vines in a sunny spot, this had powerful lime and apple aromas followed by buttery notes, excellent, perhaps 90% of Grand Cru quality
Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 1998 – a splendid opportunity to try a fully developed Grand Cru with bottle age. The youngest of our group (by some margin!) was eight when these grapes were harvested. Pronounced nose but not of fruit – wet spaniel and a ripe mild cheese come to mind! Rich apples and honey, not long but delicious. The Chardonnay character has gone and you might wonder if this was another grape variety altogether but that’s what happens when you age white wines.
Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2008 – a complex nose of cheese (see immediately above), a little honey, lees and flowers; great intensity and substantial acidity, this clearly needed time.
While it was slightly surprising to taste the young Grand Cru after the aged one, this was an impressive range by any standard and showed that high standards are being achieved across the range. Brocard is a name to follow.
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