Monday, March 28, 2011

Meeting Matthieu Mangenot, Managing Director of Domaine Long-Depaquit in Chablis, France and Tasting His Wines

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Matthieu Mangenot, the Managing Director of Domaine Long-Depaquit in Chablis

Matthieu Mangenot, the Managing Director of Domaine Long-Depaquit in Chablis - one of the 4 Domaines owned by the Bichot family - came to town to present his new wines. I was thrilled to meet him and taste his wines at Pearson’s in Washington DC.


Chablis is part of the Bourgogne wine region, but wines from Chablis are usually referred to by their own name. The 4 Domaines of the Bichot family are located in different regions of the Bourgogne, while the Bichot headquarters is in Beaune, the main Burgundian winemaking town, located more than 100 km away from Domaine Long-Depaquit.

Picture: The Wine Regions of France

The Bourgogne is one of the most famous wine regions in the world. Chablis is up in the north, a separate wine region. Some way south of Chablis is the Côte d'Or, where Burgundy's most famous wines originate. All Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy (except for Chablis Grand Cru) are here. The Côte d'Or is split into two parts: the Côte de Nuits in the north and the Côte de Beaune in the south. The wine-growing area is just 40 kilometres long, and in most places less than 2 kilometres wide; the area is made up of tiny villages. Further south is the Côte Chalonnaise, where a mix of mostly red and white wines are produced. Below the Côte Chalonnaise is the Mâconnais region, known for producing easy-drinking and more affordable white wine. Further south again is the Beaujolais region. The Bourgogne (including Chablis but excluding Beaujolais) covers a total of 28,000 hectares.

Chablis wines are almost all Chardonnay, bone-dry and fresh, with good acidity. Compared with the whites from the rest of Burgundy, Chablis tends to have much less influence of oak. Typically, Chablis is completely unoaked, vinified in stainless steel tanks, although many Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines receive some maturation in oak barrels. But aging time in the barrel and the share of new wood tends to be much smaller than for white wines of the Cote d’Or. "Chablis has a refreshing style, which the other Chardonnays from Bourgogne do not have. Chablis is not barrel-fermented and the influence of oak is very limited" says Matthieu.

Picture: The 5 Wine Regions of the Bourgogne

The vineyard area totals 4,000 hectares. All of Chablis' Grand Cru vineyards and Premier Cru vineyards are planted on primarily Kimmeridgean soil which is composed of limestone, clay and fossilized oyster shells. Chaptalization is practiced although the riper vintages in recent years have diminished the need to chaptalize.

Burgundy is the most terroir-oriented region in France. Immense attention is paid to the area of origin, as opposed to Bordeaux, where classifications are producer-driven and awarded to individual chateaux. A specific vineyard or region will bear a given classification, regardless of the wine's producer. The main levels in the Chablis classifications, in descending order of quality, are: (1) At the top of the classification are the 7 Grand Cru vineyards, which are all located on a single hillside near the town of Chablis. The Grand Cru vineyards account for around 3% of Chablis’ production. (2) Second in quality are the Premier Cru vineyards, which number 40, covering an area of 750 hectares. (3) Next is the generic AOC Chablis. (4) At the lowest end of the classification is Petit Chablis which comprises the outlying land.

Albert Bichot

Since 1350, the Bichot family has made Burgundy its home. At the end of the 19th century, Albert Bichot brought new impulsion to the business and installed its headquarters in Beaune. The family heritage has been perpetuated from father to son since then. Since 1996, Albéric Bichot represents the 6th generation managing the company. Today, the House owns 100 hectares of vineyards in Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise thanks to four exceptional estates:

- Domaine Long-Depaquit in Chablis (65 ha ; 160 acres)
- Domaine du Clos Frantin in Nuits-Saint-Georges (13 ha ; 32 acres) for the Côte de Nuits
- Domaine du Pavillon in Pommard (17 ha ; 43 acres) for the Côte de Beaune
- Domaine Adélie in Mercurey (4.5 ha ; 10 acres) for Côte Chalonnaise

In addition, the Bichot family is also a traditional négociant house of Burgundy. Monks and monasteries had an important influence on the history of Burgundy wine. As the power of the (Catholic) church decreased, many vineyards which had been in the church's hands, were sold to the bourgeoisie from the 17th century onward. The Napoleonic inheritance laws resulted in the continued subdivision of the most precious vineyard holdings, so that some growers hold only a row or two of vines. Clos Vougeot, for example, which was a single 125 acre run by the monks, today is parceled into plots owned by nearly 80 different owners. This led to the emergence of négociants, who aggregate the fruit of many growers to produce a single wine. Négociants play a vital role in the Bourgogne, ranging from simple labeling and distribution, to carrying out the entire wine-making process. Négociants may supply wines at all quality levels, including Grand Cru.

Domaine Long-Depaquit

The Long-Depaquit estate is Bichot's foothold in Chablis. The wine history of Domaine Long-Depaquit dates back to 1128 when Cistercian monks at the Abbey of Pontigny built a cellar and began cultivating vines around the site of the present day Chateau. In 1790 Jean Depaquit – the former Abbot of Pontigny – and his brother Simon purchased the abbey’s vineyards, including the already famous Moutonne. The 10 hectare domaine remained in the family until 1968 when it was purchased by the Bichot family. The Bichot family has steadily expanded the domaine’s holdings up to now 70 hectares, including 10% of all the Chablis Grand Crus. "We own 10% of the Chablis Grand Cru area in 6 different vineyards" says Matthieu.

"What about exports" I asked. "30% of the our production is sold in France and the rest exported" answered Matthieu.

Pictures: Matthieu Mangenot, Regisseur of Domaine Long Depaquit

After harvest - by hand for the premier and grand cru vineyards - the fruit is transported to the winery near the centre of town Chablis, where it is destemmed and then pressed. After settling for 3-4 days, the juice is then pumped up to the fermentation vessels. Most of the grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks, although a percentage of the premier and grand cru wines is fermented in oak, including some new oak. With a variety of sizes of vats, all thermo-regulated, this is a cool, plot-by-plot fermentation. The first fermentation lasts 15-30 days, after which comes the malolactic fermentation, sometimes the following spring. Once complete, the wine is blended in the Long-Depaquit cellars, before transported to the Bichot facility in Beaune where it is bottled.

Matthieu Mangenot

I enjoyed talking with Matthieu Mangenot, who speaks fluently English. He has been the Regisseur of Domaine Long Depaquit since 2007. I had never heard the term Regisseur before, but this what his card says. Matthieu explained to me that he is the Managing Director of the Domaine.

Since his arrival, important changes have been implemented. More natural yeasts has been used, the premiers and grand crus have been partially aged in oak, and fining and filtration has only been used when necessary. Now, Matthieu said, “as a rule, 15% to 25% of the Grand Crus are done in barrel, but just 2% to 4% new oak is used.”

Matthieu grew up in Paris and studied agriculture in Montepellier in the South of France. He took his first job in the Beaujolais region and then moved on to the Maconnais before joining Domaine Long Depaquit. He is assisted by vineyard manager Olivier Deboudt and winemaker Alain Serveau.

The Wines we Tasted

Domaine Long Depaquit Chablis Villages 2009
Pearson’s Presell Price . . . $21.95
All in stainless steel. No oak.

Domaine Long Depaquit Chablis 1er Cru Les Vaucopins 2008
Pearson’s Sale Price . . . $29.95
There is 20% oak in this cuvée.

Domaine Long Depaquit Chablis 1er Cru Les Vaillons 2008
Pearson’s Presell Price . . . $28.95
Just 10% of the final blend sees some oak here.

Domaine Long Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Blanchots 2005
Pearson’s Presell Price . . . $64.95

Domaine Long Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2007
Pearson’s Presell Price . . . $64.95

Domaine Long Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru La Moutonne 2006
Pearson’s Presell Price . . . $74.95
It is a 2.5 hectare monopole, which has belonged to this domaine since shortly after the revolution. It lies mostly in Vaudesir, but .11 hectares span Les Preuses as well. It lies in a natural amphitheatre, high on the Grand Cru slopes, which provide the minerality and richness for which it is known. Around 25% of the wine is matured in a blend of new and mostly older barrels.

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