Laurent Pinson at Domaine Pinson in Chablis, Burgundy.

he Pinson family has been in Chablis for close to 400 years. Wine has always been part of their life, but it was not until just before World War II that Laurent Pinson’s grandfather decided to focus on the vineyards and let go of the other crops. Since then they have skipped a generation and gone from three to 14 hectares. Domaine Pinson is part of the small minority in Chablis who harvests everything by hand.

– It would be a pity not to harvest by hand when you have put so much time and effort into the work in the vineyards, says Laurent Pinson.

He was just 17 years old when he arrived at the domaine in 1982. His brother Christophe arrived six years later. Their father had decided that wine was not his thing, so their grandfather Louis had stayed on waiting for the new generation to arrive.

Les Clos, Chablis.– We all do a bit of everything here at the domaine, says Laurent Pinson. But my brother mainly takes care of the vineyards, whereas I mainly deal with the vinication and the commercial side. Since 2008 I have also been joined by my daughter Charlène. She helps me with the vinification. Like me she went to wine school in Beaune. After that she worked in various other wine regions in France.

Together the two, Laurent Pinson and his daughter, have created a small négociant business to be able to add some Petit Chablis and Chablis to the portfolio.

– We have no Petit Chablis vineyards at the domaine, explains Laurent Pinson. We buy grapes from a grower who doesn’t vinify his production. Charlène and I have been buying Chablis since 2013 and Petit Chablis since 2014. It’s the same parcels every year. We harvest the grapes. The volumes are quite limited. Around 40-50 hectolitres, less in difficult years.

Chablis, Burgundy.– The Petit Chablis is vinified entirely in tank, mainly in order to preserve the freshness and the fruit. A Petit Chablis should be easy-drinking and pleasant. And it should have the freshness and minerality that you find here in Chablis. That’s my take on the Petit Chablis. If you’re looking for something more you should look at the other Chablis appellations. Already in the village Chablis appellation you have more of Kimmeridgian soil. From village Chablis and up to premier and grand cru you have more personality.

There are two bottlings of village Chablis. One is the négociant version from bought in grapes. The other is the domaine version from the Pinson vineyards.

The church in Chablis, Burgundy.– We have two parcels of village Chablis. You’ll find one just behind the premier cru Montmain. The other is just below the premier cru Mont de Milieu. The first faces northeast, the other south. The average age of the vines is 20 years.

– The left bank parcel, Montmain, is more clay-limestone, white clay, which produces a wine with more minerality. On the right bank side, Mont de Milieu, there is more marl-limestone, still with minerality. The difference in orientation is also important. You have more density and complexity in Mont de Milieu.

The smallest parcel of Domaine Pinson, just 0.20 ha, is the Vaillons, one of the left bank premier crus. It is at the top of the slope, in the part called Les Chatains. The Petit Chablis and the Chablis never see any wood, but for the premier and grand crus oak is used in varying degrees.

Chablis, Burgundy.– Premier and grand crus are wines which have the power, structure and balance to support the oak, says Laurent Pinson. The reason for using oak is not to make it taste of wood, but to add a bit of density and micro-oxidation.

For the Vaillons vinfication is done in tank, while old barrels are used for the élevage. Laurent Pinson describes the wine as fruity, round and charming. The soil is less Kimmeridgian, more Portlandian. In comparison with another left bank premier cru of the domaine, La Forêt, he thinks it has less personality in terms of terroir.

La Forêt is part of the Montmain group of premier crus, which means Laurent Pinson could label it as Montmain if he wanted. But since he has vines in the actual Montmain as well he has decided to make two different cuvées – one La Forêt and one Montmain.

Les Clos, Chablis.– La Forêt and Montmain, geographically the two are very close to each other, about 150 metres. But they are very different as wines. Montmain is clay and limestone. More clay than limestone. This results in a wine with good volume, with the limestone adding the Chablis minerality. In La Forêt on the other hand you are immediately on the limestone rock. This is a very precise wine, very pure with lots of character. It’s the premier cru which has the most personality.

In grand cru Domaine Pinson only has Les Clos. The domaine is one of about 15 owners, but owns two and a half hectares, which is close to ten per cent of the whole clos.

– We make two cuvées from Les Clos, explains Laurent Pinson. One which is similar to the premier crus in terms of vinification and élevage. 20 per cent vinified in barrel, 80 per cent in tank. We blend after the malolactic fermentation and the élevage takes place in one or two year old barrels during twelve months.

Domaine Pinson next to the Serein in Chablis.– The other, the Cuvée Authentique, is vinified in barrel. 100 per cent new oak. The élevage is 20 months in old barrels. We start out with the same juice for both cuvées. We only make three barrels of this cuvée though. It’s an old-fashioned cuvée, with very long élevage. My grandfather often used long élevage, 24 to 30 months. It was very different from today.

Laurent Pinson describes the domaine as not being organic, but not very far from it. No herbicides are used, the vineyards are ploughed. No insecticides are used, instead they work with confusion sexuelle.

Domaine Pinson has always been harvesting all their vineyards by hand.

– We have been experimenting a little bit with harvest machines, but the results have always been better by hand. If you harvest by machine you only harvest the grapes. The stems remain on the vines. When you harvest by hand you cut the whole bunches and bring them to the winery.

– When the grapes go into the press with the stems it means it is more well-drained than without the stems. The juice therefore runs quicker. There is less maceration and the taste is more pure and clean.

© 2018 Ola Bergman