Monday, August 23, 2010

A Facelift for Fabrice Gasnier

When last I wrote about the Chinons of Fabrice Gasnier at any length, it was at such length (three long posts — not quite King Lear but close enough) that I've not returned, at least not in writing, at any significant length since. Fabrice's wines, nonetheless, have remained stalwart on my home table, finding a spot in regular, relaxed rotation, much akin to wines like those I wrote up last week: familiar, enjoyable and solid, even if not the most remarkable of their kind. Given that some subtle but meaningful changes have been afoot at the estate over the last year or two, I figured it's about time for an update, something I've been meaning to do for some time now.

In the years since Fabrice's father, Jacky, gradually but surely began to step back from his roles in the farming and wine making practices, the estate has seen two corresponding facelifts. First was the Vignoble Gasnier label (at left, above), from the years when I originally got to know the Gasniers' wines in the 90s, followed by the switch to the Fabrice Gasnier label of the early Naughties. Both earlier versions, if you take note of the fine print, gave credit to Jacky and Fabrice.

More recently, as of last year (vintages '06 - '08 depending on the bottling), it seems that Fabrice decided to take primacy, reincorporating as Domaine Fabrice Gasnier and replacing his père's name with that of his wife, Sandrine. The label above is from the 2008 vintage of Fabrice and Sandrine's Chinon "Vieilles Vignes" bottling, number two in their four-level hierarchy of red bottlings. Supple, ripe and forward, well-balanced and expressive, the wine's drinking easily right now, delivering warm red fruit, delicate tannins and gentle acidity across the palate, but should continue to age gracefully for some years to come.

Along with the new front label came an updated rear etiquette, displaying the realization of ambitions that Fabrice had hinted at when I last saw him back in 2004. He and his father had already farmed organically for many years, and Fabrice had begun conversion to biodynamic farming practices just a year or two prior to our visit. As you'll see, he's now gone whole hog, taking on the onus of bureaucratic responsibilities necessary to obtain and maintain both organic and biodynamic (Demeter) certification. It matters not to me — what's important is what's in the bottle, not what's on it — but I hope the step proves beneficial to the reception of his wines on his home and away markets.


Rick Ostrand said...

Tasted the 2009 Les Graves this week and loved it. Rich and harmonious, no vegetal notes with good balance, this should age gracefully!

David McDuff said...

Welcome. I agree wholeheartedly as to the balance and harmoniousness of the '09 "Les Graves" and am glad to hear you're enjoying it (and bringing it in to your shop?)

While in my experience it does indeed hold up well for a few years, the real keepers from Gasnier's lineup tend to be the Vieilles Vignes and Cuvée l'Ancienne, the latter of which rarely makes it over here and both of which tend to 10-15 year wines (if not more) in good vintages.

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