Bernard Defaix Saint Bris Sauvignon 2018
The appellation of Saint Bris is surely an oddball in the Burgundian vineyard, albeit a very welcome one; a white wine crafted from the crisply aromatic Sauvignon Blanc grape rather than its more subtlety complex and distinctly more signature variety, Chardonnay. Saint Bris is a tiny northern French wine-growing zone of barely 250 acres planted on slopes surrounding the eponymous village of Saint-Bris-le-Vineux (itself located just 15 km south-west of the altogether more famous town of Chablis). The reasons for Sauvignon Blanc being planted here are not entirely clear, with the history of this grape tied to place being relatively recent in Burgundian terms, suggesting perhaps a more market driven impetus behind this current synergy. Even though there are significant similarities in terms of climate and soil between Saint Bris and the Loire Valley’s more globally famous Sancerre, the styles of wine produced show marked differences, the former expressing a touch of varietal exuberance and later being a more classical model of restraint.
Saint Bris is a wine that is increasingly seen on labels from well-known winegrowers based in nearby Chablis. Domaine Bernard Defaix is one such a producer, established in 1959 and now under 4th generation family ownership, this estate is increasingly recognized as one of the best in the region (renowned critic Allen Meadows, aka the Burghound, consistently places them in his top ten), yet prices of these brilliant wines from Sylvain and Didier Defaix remain both very affordable and great value across the range. The Defaix’s themselves are staunchly committed to sustainable agriculture - all their vineyards farmed according to organic principles with increasing focus on incorporating biodynamic practices as they progress.
2018 was an outstanding year in Saint Bris and the surrounding area, and this example from Defaix has richness and roundness that reflects the slightly warmer vintage. However, this is a definite plus, as wines from here tend towards the overly lean and angular in cooler years. There is certainly no shortness of varietal definition and the Defaix brothers have deftly coaxed both a complex aromatic array of pungent herbal, grassy and ripe citrus aromas with a line of zesty thirst quenching fruit and minerality driving the palate. Loving this with all the usual suspects – Pad Thai from Kin Kao, a bowl of delicious Congolaise Moules-Frites from Chambar or Ceviche from any one of Vancouver’s top spots. Santé!
Available at Kitsilano Wine Cellars for around $32.00
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