Gilbert Picq et ses Fils, Chichée
|Country & Region||France, Burgundy|
|Producer||Didier and Pascal Picq|
|Founded||A family domain that the brothers Picq took over from their father in 1976.|
Careful readers know that I have been beating the drum for the quality that Picq consistently achieves and for the prices, they offer almost unbeatable value.
–Allen Meadows in Burghound, 4th Quarter 2017
Brothers Didier and Pascal Picq quickly established themselves as rigorous growers after taking over this 32-acre domain from their father in 1976. They prune severely in winter and de-bud twice in spring for low yields. They farm according to the pragmatic, sustainable principles of lutte raisonnée, or reasoned fight. They do alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in steel, and age the wine in steel. For a while, their Japanese importer demanded that they make a cuvée in barrel for him, but eventually he saw the light and gave it up. They look for elegance, depth, purity of fruit, length and minerality in their wines, while aiming for age-worthiness and moderate levels of alcohol. These brothers have been around the block and there’s no pretense here, just fabulous, true Chablis.
Didier Picq is passionate about horses and wine. He loves riding his horse all over the appellation of Chablis, and he’s attended trade shows in the Loire just to taste up on Chenin Blanc. He’s also a nut about Champagne, and he visits domains along the Côte d’Or on a regular basis. Pascal is passionate about tractors and wine. He heads up the vineyard work (Didier heads up the cellar work), and this guy knows tractors like Vince Lombardi knew football. When he’s not in the vines, he’s often with Didier tasting wine.
The domain and its vineyards are in the commune of Chichée, upstream from the town of Chablis and the grand crus in the Serein River Valley. The hills are steep here and are graced with two noble premier crus on either side of the river: Vosgros and Vaucoupin. Vosgros tends to have more weight and fat, while Vaucoupin typically has a lean, mineral profile. Vaucoupin is, with Montée de Tonnerre and Fourchaume, one of the more highly regarded premier crus of the appellation.
The fundamental change here happened with the 2006 vintage, when the brothers got a sorting table. This enabled them to control their grape selections to the point where they elected to forgo yeast inoculations. Didier admitted to a number of sleepless nights because the fermentations were consequently much slower than normal, but this resulted in better breadth and textures, and subsequently working with spontaneous yeast fermentations has become the norm chez Picq. No fining, only a light filtration.
The photograph above is of grandfather Picq’s military service record from 1873. Profession: “vigneron.”
Thanks to Jeff Bramwell for shot of nursery vines destined for spring 2017 planting following the frost of 2016.
|Chablis||Chardonnay||Normally this comes from 12 parcels and is invariably chock full of flinty seashell essence, making it a quintessential Chablis.|
|Chablis Dessus la Carrière||Chardonnay||The name translates as "over the quarry," for the two parcels that are reserved for this wine grow above an old quarry in a bed of pure Kimmeridgian limestone, essentially one mammoth roche mère, or mother rock. Both parcels were planted in the 1970s, one with a clone, the other with a sélection massale, and the two cover just under five acres of ground. The layer of top soil is so thin here that there is a dead zone where nothing grows in the center of the parcels. These two parcels are always the first to be harvested by the Picqs, and the last to be bottled.|
|Chablis Vaudécorse||Chardonnay||One parcel of just over two acres planted in 1980 high on the hills above the Serein River. If a year is both productive and good, then this lieu-dit is bottled separately; otherwise, it goes into the straight Chablis blend.|
|Chablis Vieilles Vignes||Chardonnay||This comes primarily from two hand-harvested parcels (occasionally part of a third is added) of 70+ year-old-vines totaling 0.77 acres. These vines grow on the high plateau across the ravine from Vaucoupin, and just down a short distance from the Vaudécorse parcel.|
|Chablis 1er cru Vosgros||Chardonnay||The Picqs have two parcels here totaling 3.5 acres. The larger of the two was planted in the 1960s; the smaller (half the size) was planted in the early 1980s, and both parcels face southwest. Vosgros is on the left bank. Its soil is brown marl limestone, and its wine, young, has a textured plumpness overlying its racy acidity.
As an historical aside, the spelling of Vosgros was only codified in 1938 when the appellation of Chablis was created. Before that, there were various spellings and pronunciations, but a common one, from an old map in Didier’s cellar, was Vaussegros, pronounced vauss-gross, with both s's being hard. This is how their father’s generation referred to the vineyard. These days the s's are silent.
|Chablis 1er cru Vaucoupin||Chardonnay||The domain’s 1.5 acre parcel was planted on the right bank in 1989 on a terrifically steep, south-facing hillside where the winter snow is always first to melt. The soil here is pure Kimmeridgian limestone, white and layered, and the wine brims with Chablis’s classic steely cut and minerality.|