Pascal & Romain Bouchard (Chablis) talk to Curious Wines
It’s a privilege to introduce one of the most highly respected names in Chablis to the Curious Wine Blog. Pascal Bouchard (the Bouchard range) has managed his own vineyards in Chablis for over thirty years now, and has been producing some of the regions most prized wines. In 2000, he was joined by his son Romain, who’s 2007 vintage ‘Vau de Vey‘ Chablis received a Gold Medal at the ’09 International Wine Challenge.
The “Kings of old style Chablis” help explain what makes Chablis what it is.
1. In comparison to Chardonnay produced elsewhere in the world, what do see as the key difference or strength that Chablis brings to the fore?
Pascal & Romain - Chablis is very much in its own element. The wine style that one finds with Chablis is the purity of fruit, crisp acidity and overall the intense minerality. Chardonnay can be produced in many different styles through the hands of the winemaker, be it oak-aged, old vine, stainless steel which can be delicious from many regions around the globe however, in Chablis the growing conditions (in all aspects) produce grape characteristic that is unique to this specific region – this is why we speak so clearly about the “terroir” that we are blessed with here in Chablis.
2. What is your opinion on the use of oak in Chablis?
Pascal & Romain - Using French oak can be a very interesting part of winemaking for Chablis wine. It offers another dimension to our wine style resulting in a broader, fatter wine which we use for our old vine Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru and mainly with our Grand Crus. How we use oak in our wine making is not a general rule but rather an aid in offering different Chablis’ styles to our range. When oak is over extracted the wine becomes unbalanced and stripes the true identity of the grape. Our use of oak is always a subtle part of the production process. Our wines are matured on fine lees, again adding a particular style to our winemaking.
3. Your 2007 ‘Vau de Vey’ picked up a Gold Medal in last years International Wine Challenge. How important do you think it is to acquire these kinds of accolades, and is it always a mission to do so?
Romain - It’s always exciting to receive awards for the hard work gone into the making my wine. However, I don’t want to rely on medals given to my wines in order to sell them. I understand that the consumer likes to see awards given as many people don’t get to taste the wine before purchase; therefore it gives them a certain reassurance that the wine has a certain standard. As the 2007 was only my second vintage, awards can help build my reputation at this point in my early days of producing my own wine. However, it is my goal to build my name as a serious and rigorous winemaker and that my name becomes a reference point in Chablis.
4. If you couldn’t make wine in Chablis any more, where would you go and what would you grow?
Pascal - I have been making Chablis for over 30 years and love the unique characteristics of the Chardonnay that grows here. However, I’m particularly interested in Viognier that grows in Condrieu. The wines produced are again specific to that very region and unlike any other wines that can be found elsewhere in the world. I also enjoy the reds from the Côte Rotie and would find it most interesting to produce something from the area.
5. The New World producers have really raised the bar in the global wine industry in terms of branding and marketing. What do you think will be the response of Chablis producers in an attempt to hold on to and gain market share in the future?
Pascal & Romain - New World producers need to find their own mark and as the appellation system is different in New World wine growing areas – marketing and brand building is vital to get a message across, hence their energy in packaging. Some producers dismissed the term “terrior” in the early 90s claiming that wine quality comes from the winery. This thought process has made a radical change in the past ten years, as now much of the marketing behind these wines are ironically geared towards viticulture and soil aspects.
Chablis has its own “brand and marketing” in the same way as with other “Grands Crus de France”. With “Chablis” on the label, the consumer already has a good idea of wine style, knowing that Chablis can only be called Chablis when produced from the region. It’s then down to the individual producer to promote their wines. However, there are many tastings around the world and marketing campaigns that promote Chablis as a unique and qualitative entity.
With regards to market share, Chablis has not “lost” market share as such, only wine consumption has increased as now more wines are accessible in the market and drinking trends have moved towards wine. I don’t want to “compete” with New World wines as this has no interest to me. Chablis is unique and getting this message across is paramount.
Thanks to Pascal, Romain and Alistair of Bouchard Wines, Chablis.
Click here to view the range from Bouchard.