Ivy Ng
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Bourgogne comes to Hong Kong

The seventh instalment of the Bourgogne Wines Club, hosted by the BIVB in Hong Kong earlier this week, saw a group of sommeliers blind taste 8 Chablis Premier Cru wines and assign Left or Right Bank to each.

The Chablis Premier Cru workshop

The Chablis Premier Cru workshop

The aftermath of the two world wars and a severe frost left Chablis with just 550 hectares of vines in the 1950’s. This most northern region of Bourgogne now has 5,400 hectares planted within a delimited zone of 6,500 hectares. 2014 saw 40 million bottles produced, accounting for 20% of Bourgogne’s production, with 65% exported.

In 1978, a few climats were promoted to Premier Cru status, joining the ranks of world-famous Premier Cru climats such as Fourchaume, Montée de Tonnerre, Mont de Milieu, Vaillons and Montmains. The former 3 in particular have long been admired for their locations beside the Grand Cru hillside, aka ‘Right Bank’ of the River Serein.

Climats, a word uniquely employed in Bourgogne, are precisely delineated plots of land that enjoy specific geological and climatic conditions in Bourgogne. They confer unique organoleptic qualities onto the wines and form the backbone of the appellation hierarchy. Climats were inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage list on 4 July 2015.

Currently there are 40 Premier Cru climats across the two sides of the river, with 17 ‘flagship’ climats and the remainder being sub-climats, illustrated by the climat L’Homme Mort within Fourchaume.

According to BIVB, Chablis Premier Cru production represented 14% of total Chablis production, statistically dwarfed by the 66% accounted for by Chablis village production. Grand Cru production accounted for a mere 1% of total Chablis production.

Françoise Roure, marketing and communication Manager at BIVB Chablis, explained to the trade audience the importance of sun exposure for the Right Bank flagship climats, giving greater ripeness and firmer structure to the wines. Some of the Left Bank climats situated in narrow side valleys such as Vau Ligneau and Vau de Vey see less sun, compared with the more exposed Left Bank counterparts Vaillons and Montmains, resulting in greater freshness, more delicacy and a different fruit character to the wines. Vau Ligneau and Vau de Vey were amongst those elevated to Premier Cru status in 1978.

Roure admitted that blind tasting of Chablis wines was never easy and was very impressed that 8 out of the group of 13 sommeliers correctly guessed the ‘bank’ for 6 out of 8 wines. All the 8 wines were from the 2013 vintage.

Varied opinions were offered for food pairing. Leo Au, Chief Sommelier of the Swire Hotels Group, commented that he would favour Right Bank Chablis Premier Cru to pair with the dishes at the Group’s restaurants. Despite the extensive use of steaming techniques in Chinese cuisine, William Chan, Chief Sommelier of Cuisine Cuisine at The Mira, also favoured Right Bank for pairing with the Cantonese dishes at his restaurant, citing the intense flavours of the sauces requiring more structure and fruit ripeness to balance. A Vietnamese restaurant sommelier however voted in favour of Left Bank to pair with the delicacy in terms of texture and flavours of Vietnamese food.

After the brief Hong Kong stop, Roure was whisked off to embark on a week-long visit of Mainland Chinese cities, including Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, to promote Chablis.

The 8 wines presented were (all from the 2013 vintage):

Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Jouan, Domaine Anne & Arnaud Goisot

Chablis 1er Cru Vau Ligneau, Domaine de La Motte

Chablis 1er Cru Montmains, Pascal Bouchard

Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons, William Fèvre

Chablis 1er Cru L’Homme Mort, Jean Durup Père et Fils

Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaumes, Lamblin et Fils

Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu, Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin

Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre, La Chablisienne

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