Chablis maker chides trend for chilled, young wine

Tue Mar 23, 2010 2:34pm EDT
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By Marcel Michelson

CHABLIS, France (Reuters Life!) - Daniel-Etienne Defaix still adheres to the motto of the Cistercian monks who planted the vines on the slopes of this northern Burgundy village in the Middle Ages: Wine is only good when it ages well.

Defaix's family has been making Chablis wines for centuries and he deplores the trend for drinking young, white wines at chilly temperatures, which mask the alcohol and acidity.

"It is only with time that you get a harmonious and well-balanced taste," Defaix said.

That means that the "new" wine Defaix will bring to market is from the 2001 harvest for Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys or the Chablis Premier Cru Vaillon -- his largest vineyards. Only the wine from old vines, Vielles Vignes, is sold at a younger age.

To prove his point he served some younger wines which were not mature yet alongside some Chablis Premier Cru Vaillon 1983 and 1981, which were a treat to the palate.

"I should not have let you taste that. Now you prefer that wine above the others but I do not sell it anymore," he laughed after seeing the reaction to the older vintages.

Defaix is a hulk of a figure and a cornerstone of the Chablis community -- presiding over Saint Vincent celebrations in the town every four years and tirelessly promoting Chablis and his own wines with top restaurants, participating in tasting juries and acquiring local real estate.

In the cellar of a block of Medieval houses that had been destined to be razed to make way for a supermarket, Defaix created a tasting room and a fashionable restaurant.   Continued...

<p>An undated handout photo of Daniel-Etienne Defaix. REUTERS/Handout</p>