I have to admit that when we were first asked to taste a Belgium Chardonnay, it caused some laughter and we certainly didn’t expect that we would actively be begging for an allocation. La Falize is a true triumph. It is difficult not to draw comparisons to Burgundy, especially as a Burgundian master is involved with the project. Though we expected it to taste more like Chablis, its closest comparison is a high quality Puligny-Montrachet. We are super-excited to be the first merchant in the UK to offer this wine as the wine is fully allocated in the local market and production is naturally very small. We had to fight for our allocation and are proud to offer it today.
La Falize – The Estate
La Falize is a very special project as it nods to reviving an ancient viticultural history and focuses on creating the very best Chardonnay that can be made. The vines are biodynamically farmed despite the challenges of growing grapes in a cool region and no expense is spared in the winery. The 17th Century castle was bought by Baron de Mevius in 1904, but it is the current owner, Baron Frederic de Mevius, an avid Burgundy collector, who was responsible for planting the vineyard. He has teamed up with Peter Colemont (Belgium’s most famous winemaker) and Sylvain Pellegrinelli (who is also Chef de Culture at Domaine Leflaive) to create a Chardonnay that reflects its terroir. The wines are partly aged in François Frères barrels with a fine grain and medium toast and partly in stainless steel, with little battonage, but extended lees ageing. The slightly cooler climate, reminiscent of Burgundy in the 1980 and 1990s means the alcohol is 12.5%. They often say that the best wines are made on the edge of where the grape can ripen and this is certainly the case for La Falize as the wine is laser-poised.
History of Vine Growing in Belgium
Unknown to most of us, Belgium has a rich viticultural history. The first vines can be traced back to the 7th century and were planted near Liège as well as in the hills of the Meuse Valley (La Falize is situated on the heights of the Sambre & Meuse Valley and the name finds it origin in ‘cliff’, referring to its location at the top of a rocky escarpment overlooking the Hoyoux river). The very first vignerons in Belgium were Monks and vines were omnipresent in this part of Belgium. Historians are not certain what caused the sudden disappearance of Belgium viticulture in the early 19th century. It is thought that Belgian vineyards may have been destroyed by Napoleon following his conquest in the region as he did not want competition of French wines. This, combined with the eruption of the Tambora volcano in 1815, whose ash-cloud lowered global temperatures for two years, may have been the final straw for Wallonian viticulture. It is super-exciting to see Belgian winemakers focusing on top quality wine as they have the terroir, the history and climate to make excellent wine.
2018 The Vintage
2018 was a glorious vintage. If 2018 was too hot in some parts of Europe, it was a perfect vintage in Belgium. Unusually, there was no spring frost and abundant flowering. Summer was warm with exceptional sunshine throughout May and June allowing for optimal development of the vines. In August, “veraison” occurred with hot temperatures and abundant hours of sunshine. The result of these exceptional climatic conditions, was perfect maturation of the grapes culminating in a beautiful harvest in mid-September, a first for the Estate.