Domaine Pattes Loup is one of the most exciting estates to emerge from Chablis in recent years (Pattes Loup means "wolf paws"). Thomas Pico started his tiny estate in Courgis in 2005, just outside of the village of Chablis, under the wings of his friends and fellow organic Chablisiens, Alice and Olivier de Moor. He inherited 2.4 hectares of vines from his family’s estate, which historically produced correct, but uninspiring wines. Motivated to take a qualitative leap in a new direction, and against the wishes of his father, Thomas immediately began a program of strict yield control and a conversion to organic viticulture. This is a rarity in Chablis and a feat of extreme diligence in this often inhospitable vinegrowing region.
Progressively, Pico has taken over more and more of his father's vines. Today, the estate comprises 15 hectares of vineyards, all carefully and organically farmed. Fortunately, most of Pico's vines are selection massale planted by his grandfather on the hillsides near Courgis and Preys, the two highest altitude villages in the appellation, with vineyards up to 300 meters in elevation. He is also experimenting with a rotation of cover crops to both protect against erosion, increase water retention, and increase microorganisms in his soils.
Another distinguishing factor is Pico's commitment to hand-harvesting, followed by hand sorting of any imperfect berries on a vibrating triage table at the winery. He ferments all wines using indigenous yeasts, and is now doing a minimum of a 36 month élévage, and is experimenting with 48 months depending on the cuvées and vintages. He feels that the longer élévage gives the wines an added dimension, texture and complexity, and is unique in the world of Chablis. Of course, all bottling is done here without fining and filtration.
His AC Chablis is from 60+ year old vines and is fermented and aged in a combination of in concrete eggs, neutral barrel and stainless steel. The Premier Crus of Côte de Jouan, Beauregard and Butteaux (from within Montmains) are from hillside vineyards between 30 and 60 years old, and are all raised in older oak for one year, followed by 2 years in either tank or concrete vats.
For a young winemaker, Pico is wise beyond his years. His drive and passion to express the soul and spirit of his land reminds us of icons like Anselme Selosse. These wines are the essence of “Chablis”, but not in a pop-and-pour with oysters kind of way. They are wines to savor and let unfold slowly in the glass or decanter. They have a truly unique character not only in their briny minerality but also in a complex and vinous quality that comes from the natural and slow evolution from vineyard to bottle over many years. Overall, there is a true sense of vitality to the wines, and a textured density that can only come from dedicated work in the vineyards and transparent winemaking.