DOMAINE PATTES LOUP (THOMAS PICO)
THE WOLF PAW
We don’t drink much Chablis at home though we sure would love to. The problem for us is that Chablis is a tale of two cities – two cities which are themselves divided. Unfortunately, only one of those divisions really allows for the price-to-quality ratio that makes for a wine we buy to cellar and buy to drink.
THE FIRST CITY OF CHABLIS
The producers of Chablis are split into two cities. In the first, there is a huge population, many players and many marketing angles. These wines sell very well and hold a lot of market share. Some are better than most but as large firms, they have a (middle) market to keep happy and a scale to maintain. Unfortunately, scale, especially in a terroir-driven/marginal climate wine region, can really lead to mediocrity (machine harvesting, high yields do not a terroir translate) while prices remain strong due to strong branding/AOC recognition. The other tale of this city is just bad wine, poorly farmed, hanging on and racing to the bottom.
THE SECOND CITY
In the other city, there are mostly small producers, some of which hand harvest and work well in the vineyard and have far less marketing hooey. Some make bad wine. Some make amazing/transcendent wine. The greats have been around for a while and are living legends with extreme cult followings. The only problem is they are unavailable/extremely expensive.
Enter Thomas Pico. Thomas is a third-generation winegrower in Chablis. His grandfather planted and pioneered amazing terroir with massal selection vineyards back in the 1940s. His father took over in the ’70s, grew the business and has done very ‘well’. The family estate arguably moved to the larger city. But Thomas has a different path. In 2005 Thomas took 5 acres in 4 lieu dits from his father and converted them to biodynamics in the hopes of launching his own winery while taking back the land. He lost nearly all of the fruit due to rot in his first year. His father said I told you so.
For years Thomas had worked for his father in the winery but he really honed his wine-making skills at de Moor (buy and drink these if you can find them) where handpicking and hands off winemaking on a small scale were the norm. He stuck with bio-farming and hand harvesting at extremely low yields. Many consider him the best young producer in Chablis and a serious contender. The best part? His prices still live in the city of his father. The wines of Thomas Pico are priced squarely with (if not somewhat below) those of the large-scaled producers yet his quality and scarcity are that of the un-obtainables.