A Sunday Glass Of Wine With : Winemaker Julien Brocard, Chablis

  • By Somm360
  • 21 Feb 2021
  • 5 MIN
  • Level 101
Made possible by
Julien Brocard - Credit : Domaine Brocard

Somm360 in conversation with biodynamic winemaker Julien Brocard, owner and managing director of Julien Brocard, Chablis, France. 

Somm360: First things first, where is Chablis located? And how would you describe the climate? 

Julien Brocard: Chablis Is located in the northern part of Burgundy, it’s still a cool climate or a septentrional (read: of the north) climate 

Somm360: Imagine, if you will, a neophyte to the wines of Chablis. How would you describe the wines of the Chablis AOP to them? 

 JB: Chablis is a true wine, no technology. It’s wine reflecting the identity of where it is grown. It’s a very drinkable wine as the structure of the wine is natural. 

Somm360: And how would you explain the Chablis AOP hierarchy to them? From Petit Chablis to Grand Cru? 

JB: The delimitation was made in a time when the areas where grapes could fully ripen (1er and GC) were more evident. But today, with techniques and climate change, good wines can be made all over the Chablis AOP. 

The hierarchy is a good entry point to understand the region’s terroir, but for me it is best to go with your own feeling. Trust your palate! 

Somm360: Soils are, of course, of paramount importance to the wines of Chablis. How would you choose to describe the varied soils of your region?  

JB: The main soil of Chablis consists of chalk and clay layers; the soil is sea floor sediment from 150 millions years ago. 

Chablis is very much impregnated with the sea, and with an old Chablis you can really smell this. 

The Chablis 1er Cru and Grand Cru are on similar sois, an alternation of chalk and clay layers, each plot will have some differences regarding the structure of clay and the size of the stone.  

For the Petit Chablis the soil is more chalky and has less clay layers. It is the clay layer where you can find the small sea shells which can give Chablis an iodine aroma. 

Somm360: And what is your personal take on the often controversial use of the term “minerality”? As if ever a wine was to express a mineral component it would be Chablis! 

JB: I feel that every wine has the capacity to express minerality. For me minerality means all of the components which come from the soil. 

Chablis has a great ability to express its minerality because of the climate, and the soil which is poor and porous, allowing the roots to go down deep. 

And the soil has stories to tell: iodine, saltiness, all of the components that come from particular types of soil. 

Somm360: How important is the concept of clonal selection within the Chablis AOP? 

JB: The process of clonal research has helped a lot for quality. Back in the past it was more difficult to get good clonal material. Now the clones are healthy and so things are looking good for the future... and research is ongoing. 

Somm360: What are the greatest viticultural hazards faced by grape growers in Chablis? 

JB: The greatest hazard is diseases of the vine trunk, like esca, black foot etc. 

Those diseases kill the vines and it takes a lot of work to replant . 

Somm360: And is this something that you have seen change with the advent of climate change? I guess that could be seen as a positive aspect of global warming/heating for your region? 

JB: The perturbations of the climate accentuate the diseases of the wood. 

But with climate change the Chablis vines are suffering less from fungal issues like mildew and oidium. 

Somm360: What kinds of viticulture would one expect to find throughout Chablis? Is organic agriculture a growing trend? 

JB: Organic is the future but we need much research on the very best way to care for the vines. 

We need to change a lot of things, and organic alone is not sufficient. 

Somm360: And when it comes to vinification, we see a lot of tradition alongside some more modern techniques, right? Where do you feel the balance should lie? 

JB: We are seeing a return to more traditional and natural ways. 

For us the vinification is essentially natural. Wine is a luxury beverage and should be completely natural with as little technology as possible! 

Somm360: Some Vignerons see Chablis about being a wholly pure expression of the region’s unique terroir, whereas others have different ideas re: the end result in the glass AKA “Winemaker artifact". What’s your take on this? 

JB: For me the best winemaker artifact is to express the purest expression of the soil and this a big challenge; to make a standard wine with technology is much easier. 

Somm360: Please tell us some of the most traditional and local gastronomic pairings of Chablis? 

The main pairing is usually seafood and fish, and in general the harvest of the sea. 

The local gastronomic pairing would be Jambon à la Chablisienne (ham with Chablis sauce) or a terrine of Jambon Persillé. 

But the creation of food/wine pairing is really dynamic actually and everyone should try their own with Chablis. 

Somm360: How do you feel the wines of Chablis are perceived on the world stage today? And where do you see their future? 

JB: I see that all over the world Chablis is really appreciated. I think it’s mainly because it is not a fashionable wine. It’s a true wine and today the consumer wants to find more wine like this. I see the future of Chablis in the seeker of trueness whatever their nationality. 

Somm360: How have you seen the AOP evolve throughout your lifetime? 

JB: I started during a time when Chablis was rebuilding, and now the main aim is for winemakers to go deep in the expression of the quality of Chablis. 

Somm360: Thank you so much for your time, Julien. It is much appreciated. 

Julien Brocard - Credit : Domaine Brocard