Tasted in Chassagne-Montrachet, 09 November 2017.
Sébastien Caillat has been in love with the vines since at least 1998, and I’m sure that this was helped by marrying Florence Lamy. Sébastien joined the domaine of his wife’s family – Lamy-Pillot in Chassagne-Montrachet – but it was hard to start at a big domaine, he confides. It seems to me that Sébastien has lots of ideas about how he might like to do things, but as an employee of a larger domaine, they have their own ways, and that’s that!
Sébastien and Florence did get the chance to do their own thing though, because in 2008 their octogenarian neighbours offered to rent them some vines – the number of hectares was small, but these premier crus were some of the jewels of Chassagne – they began with just one hectare. Sébastien explains their approach:
“We were looking to take much more time, and to do something in a different style – my father-in-law always used to say that ‘we do nothing’ in the cuverie, but it took me a while to work out what he actually meant. We took an old Vaslin press, and decided to keep all the bourbe when we pressed the grapes. Then into barrel, some of which are new, for one year before decanting everything into the tanks – you could say that this is the only batonnage! The wines stay there in tank for another year, so their turbidity is effectively zero. We bottle direct from tank without any fining or filtering. I’ve spent many years researching corks but I’ve liked the offerings of one supplier since 2002 and that’s what we still use. Our corks go deep in the bottle neck, then there is 4mm depth of wax, filling the gap right up to the top. Our bottles sleep in the cellar until required for orders, and then, by hand, we do a wax capsule. I would rather have a seal that’s too hermetic than not enough.
“It’s nicely dynamic and great for our morale to work together like this, Florence and I. It’s so different because there is a weight of expectation that what we do at the family domain should be done ‘just so,’ but here we can do as we feel.”
Today Sébastien and Florence produce only about 6,000 bottles per year but one day, there will also be vines from Florence’s family. Today the wines are sold in Germany, UK, US. HK, South Korea and China – “We have some nice contacts” says Sébastien “And quite a few outlets, but not many bottles of-course, and we are also quite expensive.”
In 2016 there are only three wines – usually there are 4 – Chassagne 1er Champgains was completely lost to the frost. It’s a mix of coopers here – with Vicard from Cognac being the one that I didn’t know. These 2016s won’t be bottled for a year and only finished their fermentations in August.
“Almost every year, in the first year I’m not really satisfied with the wines and I think that I might blend everything together – I find them heavy and tired. But after the second winter – so far – I’ve always changed my mind! I think the experience of 2005 helped me afterwards when thinking about keeping the acidity and freshness in the wines…”
Genuinely great wines from a domaine I only learned about 12 months ago – micro quantities, but with the hope of more in the future. Bravo!
Bright, floral really inviting nose – really inviting… Lots of volume, freshness, melting flavour with really beautiful slow-moving waves of finishing flavour. Simply delicious, indeed brilliant villages.
Beautiful. There is depth of aroma but the clarity of fine fruit notes at the top is frankly breathtaking. A little more volume in the mouth. Not lots more, but more depth of flavour and a little more cushioning to the texture. Long, more subtle than the last but longer, with a beautiful sucrosity.
Ooh, can it be that this nose is even better? It seems so! There is super depth and electric, pure, crystalline notes. Supple, a texture like the last but with a more flowing flavour due to fine acidity that drives you into the finish. Long, super-delish. Just great, again.
Ooh, lots of aromatic volume, a hint of oaky smoke. I keep using the word volume but here again this wine fills the mouth, the texture here is more like the 1ers of the 16s, leaching, melting flavour over the palate. Just achingly good flavour here, almost a little fat to the fruit that reminds me of low sulfur wines – but they are not.
2015 Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Romanée
This was bottled in August.
A pretty vibration of aroma backed by an even prettier floral note – almost, but not directly, an impression of reduction at the base. Such a width, faintly cushioned, melting from the core with very fine acidity for the vintage. A suggestion of caramel in the finish but so deliciously long…