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24. BUYING TRIP TO FRANCE Part 2 Chablis

Chablis is in the Department of the Yonne, which also includes other wine-growing areas, less famous than Chablis, such as Coulanges-la-Vineuse, and Épineuil, which is a suburb of Tonnerre. I buy a delicious Bourgogne Épineuil from the Leger family. This is made from 100% Pinot Noir, and the style is light, fresh and brambly.

Our first appointment of the day is with the Legers, and they are down in the dumps. They made no wine in 2010. The father is getting on a bit, and the son, an irrepressibly bouncy and bonhomous character, lacerated his hand with a pair of electric secateurs in June; in addition, the weather was lousy, producing barely ripe grapes, and the bank refused to lend them any more money. So they sold the whole crop to a winery that makes crémant (sparkling burgundy). They needed the money. We taste the 2008 and the 2009: the 08 has lively, fresh fruit on the nose, and is still firm in the mouth; the 09 is softer, quite rich, with excellent length.

We leave for our next appointment, with the Pommiers in Poinchy, a village just outside Chablis. On the way we stop in Tonnerre for a cup of coffee and an internet stop to pick up and send e-mails. We get out of the van, and a button comes off my wife’s coat and bounces on the tarmac, when a little Peugeot drives over it and smashes it into a thousand pieces. Amazing how French drivers appear so quickly from seemingly nowhere at all.

We taste the Pommiers’ 2010s out of the tank (they’re not yet bottled). They look very promising. We then move to the little cellar under their house to taste 2008s and 2009s from bottle. The 2008s are spectacularly good, showing brilliant Chablis typicity: lively, mineral, elegant, beautifully balanced. The 2009s are more mixed, but the straight village Chablis is looking good, with full, rich flavour and a full finish; and the Premier Cru Côte de Léchet is also showing lots of promise. We also taste their Bourgogne Rouge 2009 – this red is a new addition to their range (since the 2007 vintage), and is a fine expression of Pinot Noir at a very reasonable price.

Denis and Isabelle Pommier then entertain us to lunch – four courses – and we stagger off to our next appointment with the Naulin family, based in the next village, Beines, where we taste the 2010s in tank (very promising), and the 2009s from bottle, which are delicious. 2009 was a great success here: the village Chablis has a wonderful green-yellow-gold colour, and lots of flavour – lovely! The Premier Cru Beauroy is elegant and citric in the mouth, with a fine, full finish.

We say our good-byes to the Naulins, who give us a case of samples, and motor off to Vézelay, about an hour’s drive from Chablis.