Tomás Clancy reviews La Chablisienne, La Pierrelee AC Chablis 2015 and Bodegas Protos, Reserve Ribera Del Duero 2011
La Chablisienne, La Pierrelee, AC Chablis 2015
Pricing : around €20
Available : Carry Out off licences nationwide
Perhaps due to its huge success from the 1960s onwards, Chablis is happily one of the most underrated great white wines of Burgundy. Being under rated really just means to wine lovers, under-priced for the quality that is available.
Chablis is a very beautiful village situated about an hour and half south of Paris, high up on a plateau which marks the line from which water either flows north to the Atlantic or south to the Mediterranean. It is very cold in the winter, the practice that one agricultural style that so many of people seem to inexplicably remember from their school geography. Transhumance, meaning the put the cows to graze up the hill in summer and down in the valley in the winter.
The valley is where Chablis is located. It sits in a fairly steep sided valley cut in the chalky plateau and this valley is the secret of Chablis, it shelters it from the frorts and cold if winter and spring and it makes this relatively northerly region a sun trap during summer and autumn meaning surprisingly grapes, in this case Chablis can mature well.
Even though it is another hours drive to the heart of Burgundy, Chablis is legally part of Burgundy, but whereas the best Grand Cru Burgundy in the Cote D’Or can be hundreds of euros, Premiere Cru hovering from €40 to €140, in Chablis you buy some of the very best top Chablis for half those prices. Best of all, the AC Chablis can be bought for the prices of much less ambitious or interesting New World Chardonnay, the grape of Chablis.
This wine is from the brilliant La Chablisienne collective, a true grouping of small and family growers who share the cost of machinery, tanks and employ very brilliant specialist wine makers to produce their clean, precise and delightful wines such as this excellent example from great 20 year old vines that have been treated very carefully unspoiled by oak, but softened and made silky by malolactic fermentation and long ageing on fine lees to give a succulent generosity within the pricewise, lip-smacking finish. A superbly priced wine.
Bodegas Protos, Reserve, DO Ribera del Duero 2011
Pricing : around €24.99
Available : from Jus de Vine Portmarnock; Drink Store Manor Street; Redmond’s Ranelagh, Morton’s Ranelagh.
Bodegas Protos is one of the two founders of commercial wine growing in the high mountain region of Ribera del Duero and indeed they chose to name their wines for the river that created their high mountain valley that ultimately became the appellation name for all wines from the region.
They began as a collective, like La Chablisienne and while many changes have taken place, this fraternal idea of working for each other sharing costs and trying to advance everyone together has remained part of their DNA.
This wine is made from the super star red grape of Spain’s Ribera del Duero, Tempranillo, though they will often call it Tinto Fino on the bottle or label, don’t be put off, it’s the same Tempranillo that you may already like as the main grape of Rioja as well.
Indeed Rioja is situated just ah hour to the east of Ribera.
Bodegas Protos sits at the foot of one of Spain’s most iconic castles a sure sign the area has been fought over for centuries. The Protos cellars are actually built into the rocky outcrop on the top of which the turreted castle stands.
The winery wanted to make a statement of its ambition during the early nougties and commissioned a new winery from Sir Richard Rogers of the architect of Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Lloyd’s building in London, the British Museum and hundreds of world famous icon buildings.
The result is that Protos have one f the most iconic and brilliant wineries on the planet. It looks like five buried barrels with half of each stick out of the ground and it is designed to make it one of the most energy efficient wineries on earth.
It is gravity fed and the whole production process starts at the highest point and grapes tumble through their working life leaving the cellars at the lowest point.
All this would be useless however if Protos had not advanced their winemaking to world class to which they have. This is an opulent, overdelivering wine, where they have cellared it until they though it was ready, hand crafted matured beyond the legal requirements from startling good fruit. This is a hand crafted joy rich with dark plum, blackcurrant, leather, touches of silky chocolate and polished tannins to finish. A stunning wine that would be twice this price from Bordeaux or Napa and put much of the New World to shame. Seek it out.