Domaine Pattes Loup is one of the most exciting estates to emerge from Chablis in recent years (Pattes Loup means “wolf’s paws”). Thomas Pico started his tiny estate in Courgis in 2005, just outside of the village of Chablis, under the wing 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 has historically produced correct, but uninspiring wines. Motivated to take a qualitative leap in a new direction, and against the wishes of his father, he 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 HA 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 within the appellation, with vineyards up to 300 meters. He is also experimenting with a rotation of cover crops to both protect against erosion and to help build a balanced nutrient profile 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, does a minimum 14-16 month élévage on the wines, sometimes longer on certain cuvees and vintages, and bottles without fining and filtration. His AC Chablis from 55+ year old vines is fermented in about 30-40% in concrete egg-shaped fermenters with the balance in stainless steel. The Premier Crus of Côte de Jouan, Beauregard and Montmains (from the lieu-dit “Butteaux”) are from hillside vineyards between 30 and 55 years old, and are all raised in older oak.
For a young winemaker in his 30s, he 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 all scream “Chablis”, but not just in their briny minerality. There is a sense of vitality to the wines, and a textured density that can only come from dedicated work in the vineyards and transparent winemaking.