31 Jul Wine & food in Chablis: Patrick Piuze & Thomas Pico
When I think of Chablis, I think of a nicely chilled white wine with a mineral taste reminiscent of seashells and notes of citrus and green apple: an ideal wine for a lazy-Sunday summer picnic on the grass. During my June trip to France, we stopped off in Chablis to visit renowned producers Patrick Piuze and Thomas Pico, after making the one-hour drive from the Côte de l’Aube champagne region.
It wasn’t warm enough that day for a picnic, but it was for a glass or two of Chablis and for lunch at Les Trois Bourgeons.
Chablis is in the northernmost part of Burgundy. The grape is Chardonnay, the soils are rich clay and the taste, in general, tends to be more steely and less fruity than the buttery Chardonnays grown in the more southerly wine-producing regions of Burgundy; and the wines traditionally spend less or no time in oak.
Patrick Piuze’s winery is in the centre of the picturesque town of Chablis. He is a ‘haute couture’ négociant – buying in grapes as the visionary creator of top-end wines tailored according to their individual Chablis terroirs. He hand picks his own grapes from specific vineyards on both of the hilly banks of the river Serein, which runs through Chablis. His cuvées range from ‘Terroir’ to 1er Cru and Grand Cru. Each cuvée comes from a specific village.
Having a good relationship with the growers is key, and Patrick is a pretty fun and outward-going guy. Few people know the characteristics of each Chablis vineyard better than Patrick.
From Canada to France
Patrick Piuze is evidence that you don’t need to be the scion of a prestigious family-run domaine to produce top-quality wine. Born in Quebec, he met Marc Chapoutier of the renowned Maison Chapoutier family from the Côte du Rhône when he was 18. This inspired him to work in the vineyards of Australia, South Africa and Israel, returning to Canada to set up a wine bar, Le Pinot Noir, in Montreal. The calling to make his own wine was still there, so he returned to France to work with some of the top wine makers in Burgundy. He set up on his own winery in 2008 and has never looked back.
One of my favourite film directors is French Canadian, Xavier Dolan, but I can hardly understand a word of what they say in his films because of the heavy French-Canadian accent. Wikipedia puts this down to the arrival of the British rulers in Canada in 1760, which left French Canadians isolated from the European French. Luckily I could understand Patrick.
Thomas Pico of Domaine Pattes Loup
Thomas Pico’s Pattes Loup winery is in Courgis, on the edge of Chablis. Pattes Loup means Wolf’s Paws, hence the wolf on the labels. He made his first wines in 2006 from grapes grown on 8 hectares of the family domaine of Bois d’Yver and quickly established himself as the new young wolf of Chablis. He also buys in additional grapes selectively.
His wines are organically certified and are produced using indigenous yeasts, with no fining or filtration and the minimum use of sulphites. Fermentation is either in oak barrels, concrete eggs or stainless steel. The harvest is carried out late, which gives a ripeness to the grapes and a fullness to the wine, yet the wines are not heavy. No wonder Thomas Pico has become such a star.
Restaurants in Chablis
The last time I was in Chablis was following my trip to Champagne in January 2016. That time we ate at Au Fil du Zinc, sitting at the bar that looks out over the river Serein. At the helm is Ryo Nagahama, who’s worked in the kitchens at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and with Yannick Alleno at LeMeurice in Paris, and Fabien Espana, who is from Le Soufflot in Irancy, on the other side of the A6, the so-called ‘Sun’ motorway from Paris that heads down to the Mediterranean.
For a more bistro experience, we went this time to Au Fil du Zinc’s sister restaurant Les Trois Bourgeons, the ‘three vine buds’. The three ‘buds’ are in fact three people: Takeshi Otomura, Yu Yokoyama and Masashi Yokoyama. All three are born in Japan and between them have worked in five Michelin-starred restaurants in France. All three came to Chablis in 2016.
If Au Fil du Zinc is closed, then Les Trois Bourgeons is open, and the other way round. Les Trois Bourgeons is open every day except Sunday and Monday, while Au Fil du Zinc is open every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
What we ate at Les Trois Bourgeons
We went for the lunch menu of €21 for 3 dishes.
- Gougères – cheese puffs with gruyère & a sprinkling of nutmeg
- Mackerel Marinated in Orange & Fennel Salad
- Supreme de Volaille (chicken breast) with a Boudin Noir (blood sausage) Sauce & a Potato Galette
- Cheese (clockwise from 12pm) – Abondance (Haute-Savoie – cow’s), Epoisses (Burgundy – cow’s), Charolais (Burgundy – cow’s and goat’s).
Chablis the town
Chablis is an attractive mediaeval town, and well worth a visit, especially for lunch or dinner. Here is a photo of Sébastien Crozatier of Clos Driver Wine Tours lending a bit of colour to the historic walls of Chablis.
To find out more about Burgundy wines:
At the Heart of Pommard: Fanny Sabre & Lejeune (July 2017)
Wine & Food in Chablis: Patrick Piuze & Thomas Pico (July 2017)
From the Vineyards of Burgundy to the Olympics of Rio (May 2016, updated August 2017)
And to meet an up-and-coming producer:
Young, French & Making Waves: Etienne Julien (July 2017)
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