Aligoté's rehabilitation continues.
2018 from €12.40, 19.50 Swiss francs, 139.95 Danish kroner, $23, £20, 407 rand, 190 Brazilian reais
2019 from €12.40, $18.97, 19.50 Swiss francs, £17
This could be your last chance to enjoy this wine.
2019 was the last harvest of the 60-year-old Aligoté vines in the Petits Poiriers vineyard on the plain of Puligny-Montrachet before they were pulled up, to be replaced by Chardonnay.
You'll still be able to find a Chavy-Chouet Aligoté because Romaric Chavy (pictured above), seventh generation of the Chavy wine-growing family in Burgundy, has bought another parcel of this often-underrated variety. It's in Meursault where the domaine is based thanks to his late father Hubert marrying a Chouet. (His grandfather Albert married a Ropiteau.)
There are, by the way, plenty of Chavys in Puligny: brothers Alain and Jean-Louis, sons of Gérard, and Philippe, son of Albert (Gérard's cousin) and therefore Romaric's uncle. I think. Even if domaines get smaller via inheritance laws, they can also be enlarged by matrimony. Domaine Chavet-Chouet has 15 ha (37 acres) of vines, quite large for Burgundy. (For more on the Chavy family, see Jasper Morris MW's Inside Burgundy, second edition published by Berry Bros this week.)
I asked Romaric why they had replanted the vines. He took the time to reply just before the start of harvest, the busiest time of the year, and explained that the old vines were producing very little but also that the vineyard is within the 400-ha (990-acre) area that qualifies for the regional appellation Bourgogne Côte d'Or, mainly for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, for which he can certainly charge more than the price of this wine. The Bourgogne Aligoté generic appellation covers a much bigger area of around 1,600 ha (3,954 acres).
Romaric took over the estate from his late father Hubert in 2006 at the age of 22 but he was hardly inexperienced, having started wine school at the age of 12 while also learning the life of a winegrower from his godfather François Mikulski. He's also worked in South Africa, Spain, Greece and the Languedoc.
I bought a bottle of the 2018 Les Petits Poiriers over a year ago and came across it last weekend when I was looking for something to drink with the first meal (fish and chips) back in our house after building work. The work is not complete, there was dust everywhere, we sat in camping chairs, and it might not have been the perfect match (fish and chips is particularly good with champagne), but as so often, it is the combination of environment, occasion and company that raises the wine to another level. I tasted it again later, however, without the emotion of the moment, and decided it was definitely very good.
That extra year in bottle had added further richness to an Aligoté that is already relatively rich in style, even though the alcohol is a very modest 11.5%. Tasting the 2019, which is slightly more austere at the moment, even though the alcohol is a little higher at 12.5% (assuming the label is accurate), I would recommend keeping the 2019 at least another six months, if you have somewhere not too warm to keep it and the patience to do so.
The 2018 has a lovely aroma of ripe yellow and citrus fruit, more opulent than is typical for Aligoté. As it opened up in the glass, there was more nuance to the aroma, something that reminded me of jasmine but was more subtle than that. On the palate, it is pure and yet gently creamy but still had a stony quality often described as minerality. There's terrific freshness and clarity of flavour, the purity but not the austerity of some Aligoté wines. The time in bottle has given this complexity as well as a fullness in the mouth that you might not expect from a wine with such moderate alcohol. There's a zesty citrus finish to the wine to wake up your taste buds and shear through the rich scent (and the fish and chips).
The 2019 is, unsurprisingly, less open than the 2018, more clearly citrus-fruited and a touch herbal, with the mineral/stone-dust character more marked. It is very young and will benefit from your patience. There is certainly no hurry to drink either vintage as both should keep well for a few more years.
Both wines were made in the same simple way. No herbicides or pesticides are used in the vineyard though the domaine is not certified organic. The wine is fermented in a stainless-steel tank and then aged 10 months in a mix of barrels and bigger oak vats, with no new oak.
The 2019 is available in the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The 2018 is available in the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, South Africa and Brazil.
There's a list of distributors of various Chavy-Chouet wines on their website. Their US importers are Veritas (California), Village Wine (NYC), Kysela (several states) and Somm Selection (Miami). Roberson are their UK importers and also sell the 2019 on their retail website, with a 10% saving if you buy a case.