Erwan Faiveley, the seventh generation of his family to head Burgundy’s Domaine Faiveley, on the importance of clay for making great Chardonnay and why we should keep an eye on Germany.
What factors in your view make a Chardonnay great?
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Terroir, weather conditions and of course winemaking skills. Chardonnay – just like Merlot and Cabernet – seems to be produced in so many regions, only a few places really outperform. You need clay and moderate temperature for really excellent interpretations.
We are very lucky at Domaine Faiveley to have some wonderful sites that really give the wine so much personality such as Clos Rochette, our distinctive monopole in Mercurey, and of course we are very lucky to have an amazing piece of Corton-Charlemagne, very well situated with old vines.
I think that the people we have here at the winery, especially my cellar master, are very gifted. Corton-Charlemagne is one of the greatest white wines in Burgundy, maybe in the world.
Which regions of the world, other than your own, have the potential to produce high quality and distinctive Chardonnay?
The most interesting regions are those with a cool climate such as Russian River in California and New Zealand. Considering the impressive work that Germany has done with Pinot Noir, which needs more or less the same conditions as Chardonnay, I guess we can expect some good surprises to come from that country too.
What is it about Chardonnay that means it has such lasting global appeal?
I guess Chardonnay has distinctive aromas that appeal to everyone: it’s a fresh blend of a fruity core – peach, apricot, pear, citrus – with hints of spices – vanilla, liquorice – that evolves over time to more nutty characteristics. When it’s not overpowered nor excessive, it can be the most delicious glass of white wine!
Is there a winemaker or wine whose expression of Chardonnay inspires you?
From the Côte de Beaune area, I am very fond of Pierre-Yves Collin’s wines: he is making wines from great (and often underrated) terroirs that are expressive with a hint of reduction. Moving a little more north, I also really appreciate Raveneau’s expression of Chablis, a blend of precision, purity and volume.
In a more modern and New World style, I really enjoy Chardonnay by David Ramey: juicy, big but still elegant with some finesse.
The drinks business Global Chardonnay Masters 2013 takes place in September. Presided over by a panel of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, rather than being judged by country, each Chardonnay is assessed by style and price.
Those interested in entering the competition can do so here. The deadline for entries is 13 September.