15-25hl/ha is normal here, always a tiny yield; these 70 year-old vines give gorgeous but intense juice - sadly just not much of it anymore. But Virginie loves them and will not replant. Brisker, more energy. Really lovely old-vine intensity which still has sherbety-like pep. Premier cru quality with richness and even some exoticism, but still a very classical svelte and linear Chablis shape, with terrific length. Drinking range: 2020 - 2025 L&S (Nov 2019)
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For many wine aficionados, Christmas without Chablis – the classic steely wine of Burgundy’s northernmost vineyards in north east France – is unthinkable. All the stony and limpid premium-plus Chablis you’ll need, made from low-yielding, 50-70-year-old Chardonnay vines (yes, Chablis is Chardy!), this has the lemony tang, tell-tale expressive racy mineral and evocative oyster shell/rock pool salinity to make you chortle with cheerfulness. Les Pargues is a one-hectare lieu-dit (named site) which has a similar exposition to premiers crus Vaillons and Montmains. From ear to ear the quality is simply stupendous. Blossoms on the finish. Fermented with wild yeasts, most of the final blend was aged in old 600-litre French (steamed, not charred) barrels, hence the wood influence is extremely subtle indeed. But the X-factor and great sense of place here are both quite unmistakable: take a bow cult Chablis supremo Virginie (Mimi) Moreau!
But what to eat with it?
I caught up with Jack Chapman, Head of Private Clients at London’s fine wine merchant Lea & Sandeman (recently granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment to HM the Queen) to find out more:
“The most immediate and predictable pairing you’ll be offered for Chablis is seafood – with good reason, it works wonderfully. However, for a real treat, drink it with homemade cheese gougères. For the uninitiated, these are more or less little choux pastry cheese doughnuts. Incredibly easy to make and I’ll eat my shoes if they don’t quickly become a go-to dinner party snack.” À votre santé and bon appétit!James Viner, Times of Tunbridge Wells (Dec 2021)
The 2018 Chablis Vieilles Vignes Les Pargues is a rich wine with all of the gravitas that comes from the old vines; it is a wine of real substance. Tropical fruit, exotic floral notes and spice all emerge but it is the wine's vertical power and depth that stand out most. Rating: 89-91 Antonio Galloni, www.vinous.com (Jan 2020)
A domaine of 25 hectares, of which 3 are in Petit Chablis, 11 or 12 in Chablis, 3 in Vaillons, 2 in Forets, 1.6 in Montmains, 0.86 in Montée de Tonnerre, and 0.58 in Valmur. (Yes, this does not make 25 - there are further parcels of young vines in the Courgis sector - Beauregards, Côte de Jouan and Goulotte, which are currently sold in bulk).
Virginie (Mimi) Moreau is proving more than equal to the task of taking over from her husband Stéphane. Stéphane, who was influenced by Vincent Dauvissat (who recommended him to us many years ago, and who remains an influence here) was a vigneron whose star burned very brightly, and the domaine continues along the lines he set, working organically, hand-picking, aiming for optimum maturity while avoiding any botrytis influence.
The cellar-work is also masterful, using 30% barrel-élevage for all the Premier and the Grand Cru, but not in such a way that oakiness can readily be detected in the wines (all the barrels are steamed rather than charred and there is no new oak except for in the straight Chablis, and then only one barrel per 100hl in order to age it prior to using for the Premiers Crus).
Virginie is now really totally confident in her role here, and the wines here, full of racy character, textural depth and complexity, seem to be better with every vintage.
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