As a young man, Canadian-born Patrick Piuze roamed the world working the land on four continents. He loved wine, had met the famous winemaker Marc Chapoutier, and went roving from Australia to Israel in search of authentic knowledge. He landed years later in Burgundy, France, where with uncanny speed he found competence and gained the trust of Olivier Leflaive and later Jean-Marc Brocard of Verget. He worked vineyards with famous names, made wines adorned by famous labels. His reputation grew. In 2008, Patrick struck out on his own and set up shop in Chablis, where he sources grapes from an assortment of the best vineyards in the region. From the beginning, his wines have been celebrated for their purity and their power. It doesn't hurt that his neighbors include the Dauvissats and François Raveneau. Patrick says he's learned much from these masters and that they have been supportive of his endeavor from the start. "I get together with those guys and we drink beer. Mostly Belgian beer." In fact, Patrick trades his wines for cases of ale, which he shares liberally. Seems he's learned a thing or two about making friends as well as wine.
Today he produces two brands: Val de Mer, an approachable set made from younger vines, and his eponymous Patrick Piuze wines which include single vineyard Grands Crus, Premieres Crus and village-level wines from Chablis. His approach to winemaking is simple: buy the highest quality grapes he can find under long-term contracts, work directly with the growers all year to tease out the best possible expression of terroir, add nothing to them and take nothing away.
"I don't want to put on any makeup," Patrick says. "I want to show the density of the wine, but I don't want to hide the minerality. The first thing new wood will do is hide the minerality. That is our personality. Why would we hide it?" To accentuate that density he picks his grapes in the morning when the skins are tighter (in the afternoon the grapes slacken under the sun). He also harvests everything by hand, even at the village level. To preserve the terroir he uses mostly stainless steel with occasional neutral oak for aging.
Lately, Patrick has ventured more and more into sparkling wines. With Val de Mer he has produced two Cremants de Bourgogne, a white and a rosé. He points out that sparkling wine, unlike still wine, is largely made in the bottle. "Once it's in bottle, you cannot intervene, unlike a barrel. If something goes wrong there is nothing you can do." To get it right, as with everything else he's done to this point, he went straight to the source, ingratiating himself with some of Champagne's most notable grower-producers after being turned away from several others. The man is persistent. So are his wines. And he continues to evolve.
Between his 2011 and 2012 vintages he changed from tall and narrow tanks to wide and shallow, allowing more lees contact without having to stir. And last year he changed from a pneumatic to a mechanical press in order to increase the extraction of his wines. These experimentations with shape and form allow him to strive for purer wines without resorting to heavy-handed manipulations.
It's a quest for authenticity, purity and power. And M. Piuze is stationed squarely at the intersection of all three.
Patrick Piuze Petit Chablis - $25 Val de Mer Bourgogne - $20 Val de Mer Bourgogne rosé - $20 Val de Mer Cremant de Bourgogne non dosé - $20 Val de Mer Cremant de Bourgogne rosé - $20