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2013 Chablis, Mont de Milieu, 1er Cru, Domaine Pinson
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Louis Pinson himself retired in 1983 having made some fabulous old style Chablis wines. His great grand-daughter, Charlène, along with her father, Laurent and her uncle Christophe have now taken over. There is a Rue Pinson in Chablis, dating back to an earlier generation when three Pinson brothers lived in identical houses in the street.
Everything is hand-harvested, with sorting of the grapes both in the vineyard and at the winery. Fermentation is mostly in stainless steel using selected yeasts, then the wines are transferred to barrel for the maturation process. The barrels for Les Clos are one to two years old, for the premiers crus three to six years. The straight Chablis stays in stainless steel.
Having such a large holding of Mont de Milieu, the Pinsons organised a swap of half a hectare with some Fourchaume from Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre, so that each domaine would have an extra appellation. Their holdings comprise 2.20ha Chablis , 0.68ha Chablis 1er Cru Forêt, 0.50ha Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume, 4.76ha Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu, 1.05ha Chablis 1er Cru Montmains , 0.34ha Chablis 1er Cru, 0.50ha Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons and 2.57ha Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos.
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
Chablis Premiers Crus are stylish, minerally wines which, typically, are less intense than the Grand Crus but finer and longer-lasting than basic Chablis. They are highly underrated with the better examples outclassing many a good village white Burgundy.
The vineyards cover 750 hectares, scattered across 15 communes on isolated slopes with good exposure. There are 17 principal Premiers Crus but in total 79 vineyards are eligible, with most of the lesser-known ones using a more familiar umbrella name on their label. The best flank the Grands Crus on the north bank of the River Serein, like Montée de Tonnerre (probably the best of all), Fourchaume and Mont de Milieu.
Those just south of Chablis, like Vaillons, Montmains (especially Les Forêts) and Côte de Léchet are also good. With the vineyard area having doubled since the 1970s, quality varies enormously so, as ever, the producer is key.
Styles also vary, with some maturing and fermenting in stainless steel for a purer, more minerally style, while others age and sometimes even ferment their wines in oak for extra complexity. The best examples reach their apogee at eight to 10 years, but are normally enjoyed long before then.
Recommended producers: Jean-Claude Bessin, Billaud-Simon, Séguinot-Bordet, J.-P. & Benoit Droin, Duplessis, Defaix