My adventures in Burgundy continued as we climbed into our big red bus, and headed northwest, along the very narrow and incredibly winding roads, to the northern Burgundy region of Chablis, where we visited Domaine de la Motte. The Chablis wine region is named after the small, sleepy village on the left bank of the River Serein. Just across the river on the slopes of a large hill, lie the 7 Grand Cru vineyards. Chablis is quite far removed from the famous Cote d’Or region of Burgundy, looking almost like a lone island off in the distance. It’s actually closer to Champagne than the rest of Burgundy.
Chablis is famous for its steely, flinty, minerally wines made from the Chardonnay grape. There are 4 classifications of Chablis wines: Grand Cru (7 of them), Premier Cru (17 of them), Chablis, and Petit Chablis. For more information on Chablis, read my article “The Wines of Chablis” on Suite101.com.
Domaine de la Motte is located in the tiny village of Beine just northwest of Chablis. It is run by the Michaut family, who were gracious enough to show us around their facility and offered us the opportunity to taste several of their wines.
Domaine de la Motte’s winemaking facility is new and pristine with big, shiny, stainless steel tanks and a floor so clean you could eat off it. All the wines are fermented and aged in these beautiful steel tanks, with the exception of the Premier Crus which are aged in oak. Once fermentation is complete, the wine remains in the same tank until the malolactic fermentation has run its course. When MLF is complete the sediment is removed from the wine, refermented, and then added back to the wine to add complexity. The wine is only racked once to prevent stress on the wine. The finished wine is fined with Bentonite. They admit that fining may take away flavour, but that consumers demand a completely clear wine. After fining, the wine is filtered once through a cake of ground seashells.
Domaine de la Motte owns about 60 ha of vineyards including parcels of Premier Cru vineyards, such as Vauligneau and Beauroy. We visited both. The Vauligneau vineyard is about 37 years old. It was a forest until as late as the 1970s when vineyards were planted, and was only recently promoted to Premier Cru status. The soils are Kimmeridgian limestone which is a combination of chalky limestone and clay containing the fossils of ancient oyster shells. In addition to making their own wines, they also sell some of their grapes to other negociants such as William Fevre and Bouchard Pere & Fils.
Beauroy Premier Cru is perhaps the flagship wine of Domaine de la Motte. The vineyard has better explosure than the Vauligneau vineyard and the vines are about 40 years old.
The winemakers in the Chablis region and throughout Burgundy were very excited about the prospects of the 2009 vintage. They claim it might just be the best vintage yet, especially for the white wines. It seems the growing season had perfect conditions. Clive Coates MW puts the vintage up there with 2005 and 1999 as the best in the last 25 years.
Petit Chablis 2009: Lots of green apple, mineral, and flint aromas with a slight grapefruity note. It’s light bodied with a steely minerality, zippy acidity, and a medium length. A young, fresh, thirst-quenching wine.
Chablis 2007: A light straw colour with a greenish hue and aromas of green apple, mineral, and gun flint. Fuller-bodied than the Petit Chablis, it shows flavours of gun flint, chalk, and wet stone. A nicely balanced wine with a good length.
Vieilles Vignes Chablis 2008: the grapes were grown on vines over 30 years old. An intense nose of gun flint, lime zest, and green apple. A fuller-bodied wine again displaying concentrated lime and mineral flavours, with a long, creamy finish. A very nice wine.
After a delicious lunch of wild boar pate with a baguette and various cheeses, we continued our tasting. M. Michaut, himself, killed the wild boar and made the pate.
Beauroy 1er Cru 2007: This wine was aged for 3 months in Troncais oak barrels. A beautiful nose of yellow and green apple, mineral, lime, white blossoms, and ever-so-slight vanilla. The oak is very well integrated and gives the wine a creamy, smooth texture with flavours of vanilla, pineapple, lime and the steely minerality we all associate with a good Chablis. A beautiful wine. I brought a bottle home.
Pinot Noir 2008 Bourgogne: This wine is not labelled as Chablis, but as a generic Bourgogne. Only Chardonnay can be labelled as Chablis. Lots of red berry flavours, earth, spice, and bergamot. Light bodied and refreshing, this wine shows flavours of red fruit and spice with a pleasant earthiness. A nice, light, very quaffable pinot noir.
Before you ask, I don’t believe these wines are available for purchase in Ontario. I have searched online and have not been able to find anything. If any of you know if the wines of Domaine de la Motte can be found here, please let us know. Unfortunately, many of the wonderful wines I tried in Burgundy cannot be found here.