years ago this was a small domaine with only a handful of hectares under vines. Like many other growers in the Chablis area at the time wine was not the only occupation. Fighting frost was difficult, which meant they had to diversify. Today the cows are gone and Domaine Gérard Tremblay covers a total of 35 hectares.
– Chablis suffered a lot from frost, explains Vincent Tremblay. You could not be sure to have grapes every year. On one occasion my grandfather even went to the Beaujolais for the harvest, because there were not anything to harvest here.
Vincent Tremblay is the third generation in Poinchy, a small village just outside Chablis. His grandparents moved here in 1950 from La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne a couple of kilometers further north.
– My father was one when they arrived here. He was actually born in the Hostellerie des Clos, the well-known restaurant in Chablis. At the time it was not a restaurant, but a chapel. Just a few months later they closed it and people had to go to Auxerre to give birth.
It was not until 20 years later, in 1970, that the domaine moved away from polyculture and focus on wine. In addition to the vineyards they already had they bought ten hectares in Beine, further west along the road to Auxerre.
– My grandfather sold all grapes to a négociant, says Vincent Tremblay. My parents decided to start making wine themselves. They started selling at the cellar door. Initially it was only 3000 to 4000 bottles per year. Today we bottle and sell everything we produce.
Roughly one third of the domaine today is premier cru land – in Fourchaume, Côte de Lechet, Montmain and Beauroy. There is a small parcel of Chablis grand cru in Vaudesír. The rest is village Chablis and Petit Chablis, 19,5 hectares and 5.5 hectares respectively.
– Most of the Petit Chablis vines you’ll find right here in Poinchy, on the plains. About one quarter is in Lignorelles. The soil is pretty much the same.
– The ten hectares of village Chablis my parents bought in 1970 are located just below the premier cru Vau-Ligneau. At the time it was very cheap to buy. Then we have three hectares in front of Côte de Lechet. We have one hectare next to Fourchaume. One in Villy, two in La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne and one in Maligny. In terms of soil these parcels are very different and that is the reason why we blend.
Most of it is used for the standard cuvée of village Chablis. A small part, a hectare and a half, is used for an old vines cuvée where the vines are 40 years or older. Since much was planted in 1970 the number of vines qualifying as old is growing. There is also the peculiarity of the Cuvée Hélène, an old vines cuvée named after Vincent Tremblay’s mother. The annual production is just 1800 bottles.
– It is the same wine as the other old vines cuvée, explains Vincent Tremblay. But it is 100 per cent new oak. Before I did my internship in Australia we used to buy second hand barrels for our premier and grand crus, barrels which had been used for one wine. But the problem with buying used barrels is that you don’t know how they have been used and if they have been cleaned properly. So we decided to buy new barrels and put some Chablis in them. When we would blend that wine with the wine from tanks it would only be one per cent new oak, so it would not be noticed. But when I came back from Australia I thought, why not bottle it separately?
– It has found its market, he continues. Most people prefer the traditional cuvée, but we have some people coming for the Cuvée Hélène. We don’t want to make oak juice or a new world chardonnay. It has to be old vines. Otherwise the wine doesn’t enough body to support the oak.
Vincent Tremblay arrived at the domaine in 1999. Before that he had not given winemaking much thought. He went to university with other things in mind than wine.
– My parents never pushed me, he says. After university they asked if I would be interested in taking a course focusing on the commercial side of the wine business. I gave it a try and there was a little bit of oenology included. And that was when I realised what I wanted to do.
Ironically, that first oenology class was all about making red wine. And despite coming from a Chablis family it was red wine that dominated wine school and the internships that followed – Nuits-Saint-Georges, the Rhône valley, Australia and South Africa.
– I really liked the Barossa valley in Australia, he says. I went back there on holiday in 2003 and for our honey moon in 2007.
For three of the premier crus at Domaine Gérard Tremblay some barrels are used; between ten and 15 per cent for the Côte de Lechet, the Montmain and the Beauroy. The Fourchaume is all stainless steel tanks. The Vaudesír, the grand cru, gets 30 per cent
– I don’t want any oak flavour, says Vincent Tremblay. We taste all the time. If we discover any oak taste, we rack and blend with the tank and start over.
The Fourchaume vines cover five hectares. This is the only right bank premier cru at the domaine. The seven parcels, vines planted in 1951, are mainly located in Fourchaume proper, but there is also half a hectare in l'Homme Mort.
– The vines were planted in 1951 by my grandfather. Not only are the vines old, they are also located in the best parts of Fourchaume. It’s 100 per cent stainless steel and what you get is rich and delicate, all you are looking for in a Chablis.
© 2014 Ola Bergman