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Average critic rating : 92.5 points
Alas, there are only two barrels. “I always harvest here late in the afternoon,” says Piuze of his 2012 Chablis Valmur “because the skins are softer and the afternoon lees accentuate what I think the monks who planted and named this site ‘vale of ripeness’ had in mind. That’s why,” he adds – citing this cru’s surprisingly wide discrepancies in exposure – “I wanted fruit from the south-facing portion or nothing.” Scents of woodruff, arbor vitae and grapefruit, resin and nutmeg anticipate the flavors of a sappy, expansive, glycerol-rich palate, leading to a superbly-sustained, complex finish. Here is another of this producer’s grand crus worth following through at least 2024. ||Quebecer Patrick Piuze – a former cellarmaster for Brocard about whose inaugural 2008 vintage under his own name I enthused in issue 191 – has since then significantly expanded his range; further honed his already formidable skills; and acquired some superb new sources of fruit, making his one of the most exciting among France’s modern breed of micro-negociants not to mention among newcomers to Chablis during the past decade. Incidentally, like many of the aforementioned breed, Piuze sells his wines overwhelmingly (at last count, he says, 93%) abroad. He exercises considerable control over the viticultural regimen practiced by his dozen suppliers (three dominant) in the parcels for whose fruit he contracts, and continues to be a tireless experimenter and self-critic in matters of vinification. With 2011, he began utilizing a mechanical rather than bladder press for half of his wines, and in 2012 exclusively, citing his belief that this enhances dry extract and stability, though it requires much more time and someone standing by the press. Piuze adds that this approach also gains him some of the advantages in quality of juice associated with traditional Champagne presses, but that a vertical press such as used in that region is impractical for his large number of small lots and small team (with only two other full-time participants, his partner Sylvie Quittot and his father-in-law). Non-cru wines here are raised almost entirely in tank and crus in previously used barrel. “We picked beginning September 20 in 2012, and as fast as we could” Piuze notes, “because there was quite a lot of rain and it’s easier to pick with water on the grapes that I can dry-off than with water in the grapes.” Alcohols, unadjusted, registered from 11.8-12.3% (very close to the estate’s readings in 2011). “The point is not to pick early but ripe,” Piuze generalizes, “and to pick ripe but not overripe where you lose brightness and saliva inducement for the sake of fat.” Most of Piuze’s 2012s finished malo-lactic conversion by Christmas but alcoholic fermentation only in early spring. “I don’t do this on purpose, it just usually happens” he notes, adding “I don’t know why myself. But the levels of volatility come out all right, and anyway, I don’t like wines that have too little volatile acidity.” Despite what was already the certainty of a late 2013 harvest, Piuze planned to bottle his 2012 crus (excepting Les Clos) already in July, a testimony to economic considerations – “I’m already lucky enough (just) to be able to do what I do, that it’s not even a burden to bottle one stage earlier than I otherwise would” he notes with a grin – but also a policy that has stood his wines well in past vintages. So many sites I hadn’t anticipated were represented in the 2012 line-up that the time I had allotted for our tasting session did not permit opportunity to taste even one of Piuze’s 2011s (nor did my subsequent schedule), so I’ll plan to report next year on how at least some of his efforts from that vintage are faring.||Imported by Aliane Wines, La Jolla, CA; tel. (858) 361-4529, David Bowler Wine, New York, NY; (212) 807-1680, and Martine’s Wines Novato, CA; tel. (415) 883-0400 Wine Advocate.August, 2013
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