Profile: Christophe et Fils

Update 20.6.2019(28.4.2019)billn

Tasted in Fyé with Sébastien Christophe (right, blinded by the sun), 19 March 2019.

Domaine Christophe et Fils
Ferme des Carrieres
89800 Fyé
Tel: +33 3 86 55 02 83

Seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by arable land, the unsignposted Domaine Christophe began life in 1999 with a modest 0.6 hectare plot of vines. Sébastien notes that the family were lucky to have many parcels that were included in the AOCs for Petit Chablis, Chablis and 1er cru Chablis – it’s just that for many years they had been planted to cereal crops! “My father wasn’t particularly interested in vines but still worked the parcel we had!

Sébastien, who studied in Beaune, is now responsible for 30 hectares of vines that are spread across the AOCs of Petit Chablis, Chablis – including the 0.6 hectares that his father used to work, these are old vines – plus 3 premier crus from the right bank. “Fontenay is our most distant parcel, but generally all is close together – one of our single parcels covers 6 hectares, for instance.” All the domaine’s production is bottled and commercialised – apart from the youngest vines – “We wait until the vines 6 years-old to keep the produce.” 90% of the domaine’s production is exported and a large part of that to the UK. In France the wine is mainly found in ‘good’ restaurants.

Sébastien explains his philosophy for the vineyards: “We work only with organic specified treatments, but we also reserve the right, in extremis, not to imperil the harvest – weve twenty years of investment here so it’s not a risk I want to take – and even the allowed amount of copper is something I’m unhappy with, particularly with its buildup in the soil. But we plough to aerate the soil, and to encourage the roots to go deeper and with that they will suffer less from dryness.

Taking a tour with Sébastien in his vines, you can see that some of his Chablis is really on the Kimerigian-Portlandian border – you can see the melange of stone types under the vines – “It’s a nice balance, extra fruit with the more mineral aspects,” says Sébastien. “I’m looking to reflect the soils in the wines – that’s vineyard work, not cuverie work! – and there are multiple soils types with more or less fossils, but all blended – in 12 tanks!

“I’ve used natural yeasts for the last 5 years – it’s more stress for me as the fermentations take longer – it was the worst in 2018! And,of-course, there’s nothing done to encourage the malo either! I use just a light fining before bottling.

Sébastien on 2018 and 2017:
Of-course we have plenty of wine in 2018, and the last parcels – even in Petit Chablis – were close to 14 degrees when harvesting. We had more acidity in 2017 – and I like a wine with more tension. In 2017 we only had a little frost at the bottom of the hills – it was 2016 where much was lost on the plateau – like in Viviers and Beru. We produced 120,000 bottles in 2017, but it was 180,000 in 2018 – that’s a mix of higher yields plus newer vineyards coming of age.

The wines…

Not just three super 1er crus – each different and each of fine value – the Petit Chablis is brilliant and the Chablis Cuvées are deliciously tasty! A very worthy label…

Currently the wines are sealed with cork for the old-vine cuvée and the 1er crus, DIAM-style for the Petit Chablis and actual DIAM for the Chablis.

They have just started to bottle some 2018s – and they are all reserved too – “It’s one of the reasons that we’ve no signpost outside of the domaine,” says Sébastien, “It’s not just that there’s probably non-one here to receive visitors, as we’re in the vines, it’s also because all the wine is sold – so it makes no sense to encourage passing trade!

2018 Petit Chablis
Bottling tomorrow. Make almost as much of this as their Chablis, but as the young vines come of age there will be more of this. It’s all tank elevage – including the 6 ha parcel – in three different zones – 20 years ago this was just cereal – ‘But we get better yields for the wine!’
A nice freshness and some citrus. Supple, a lot of weight, really a concentration here. Rich, ripe, but a vibration of finishing energy – holding very well in the finish. I’d like a little extra freshness but despite that, there’s plenty of energy here.

2018 Chablis
This is more directly attractive and perfumed on the nose. More drive, open, again concentrated but less bulky than the PC, a fine drive and energy. This is fine and like the last very long indeed. A tasty, mineral, complexity in the finish, this is very nice indeed. The last drops of this 2018 Chablis in the glass have a really super aroma – very attractive.

2017 Petit Chablis
Ooh – a delicious and open nose of attractive fresh. Direct, drive, mineral, energy – but depth and virtually no rigour. A wine of expression never facile – complex, tasty wine – subtly saline and so wide finishing…

2017 Chablis
Deeper, more mineral and saline impression to the aromas – air liberating more attractive higher tones. Drive, growing intensity – the shape and direction differentiates this from the PC – slowly a nice depth of texture in the middle. This will get better and better – wait a couple of years but it’s really fine.

2017 Chablis Vieilles-Vignes
Aim is 10% barrel elevage but was nearer 15% in this vintage – just because they had more barrels.
This nose is deep, and not overtly showing any oak. More width – fine texture, a suggestion of oak spice but nothing like vanilla. A wine that has a little more dimension that the simpler drive of the last the wine. A wine with an inner calm – more-so than the last wine. Excellent!

2017 Chablis 1er Fourchaume
Bottled in September. 20% barrel elevage – normally up to 5 year-old barrels – ‘The vinification is exactly the same for the 1ers, so it is the individual sites that speak.’
Hmm – lovely a width of aroma – this is highly attractive – almost creamy. Incisive, mineral and with fine energy – growing in both intensity and energy – a proper step-up. Vibrant finishing with a saline minerality. Yes!

2017 Chablis 1er Mont de Milieu
Plenty of aromatic volume – growing with aeration. Hmm – volume, silky, freshness almost a touch of tannin, vibrant again but with more weight and density versus the incisive drive of the Fourchaume – today take the Fourchaume in preference but this is very tasty and a beautiful width and clarity of finishing flavour – the finish is already better here..

2017 Chablis 1er Montée de Tonnerre
Ooh – directly the best of these aromas – more volume and energy but then it slowly tightens, becoming less expressive, in the glass. More intense, more direct acidity, a wine of drive and of line, always mouth-watering – super complexity – you have the incisive the wide and here the dynamic in these three premier crus. Super mineral in the finish – lots of volume, just a little behind the MdM in the finish today.

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