Calamin 2016: A Comprehensive Tasting

Despite its recent elevation to the ranks of Grand Cru, Calamin still has a lot to prove. At sixteen hectares it doesn’t yield much wine and among forty-four producers a lot of that is variable. It’s no wonder Calamin is the least understood of all of the Chasselas crus.

Calamin has been described as “more robust, coarse and powerful than Dézaley” but I find that description only partially true based on this tasting. I actually found most of these samples lighter and less complex than those of its more famous neighbor. While many displayed a fine mineral streak, on average, they lacked the power and concentration demanded of a Grand Cru. The hoped-for advantages of low yields and higher must weights— both required by the Calamin AOC—were not entirely in evidence. In the end, most of these were nice examples of Chasselas but fell short of Grand Cru quality.

Historically Calamin is associated with the village of Epesses. In fact, when declassified it is entitled to the Epesses designation. The vineyard lies between the village and the lake and is composed of a unique jumble of clay and limestone. Unlike Dézaley, which is characterized by its near-to-the-surface pudding stone or poudingue substrate, the rubble of Calamin is the work of an ancient landslide that buried the village over a thousand years ago. Otherwise, Calamin benefits from the same “three suns” as its neighbor and shares many of the same growers but I wonder about the commitment to really explore the potential range of the appellation. I don’t see much self-expression and experimentation save for a few represented by the top five or so in my rankings below.

As an example, I was shocked to hear that some prefer to downplay their Calamin in deference to their Dézaley. If true, this is an amazingly short-sighted use of a valuable asset and displays a distressing lack of confidence in their Dézaley. Friendly rivals usually push each other to bigger and better things. The future belongs to those who dare. Or something like that.

This Calamin horizontal included thirty-five wines from the 2016 vintage. It was conducted blind and presented in seven flights of five wines each. The top sixteen were then re-tasted in four flights of four. They were subsequently awarded points by the judges and ranked 1-16. The final results are presented in the September 2017 issue of Le Guillon (no. 51 2/2017)— the tasting sponsor—but all notes in this post are mine. Please refer to the highlighted article for consensus notes.

Note: Panel results are marked in red. My results are in green. The blue notations represent the point total for each wine.

The Panel

(1)(17.4/20)(AS no. 7) Calamin, Selection, Louis-Philippe Porchet: Pale straw in color. Fresh, lemon, white flowers, mineral and bright. Appetizing with fresh lemon and minerals. Very good Chasselas but not with Grand Cru weight. A bit light.

(2 tie)(17.3/20)(not ranked by AS) Calamin, Famille Maurice Demierre: Straw colored. Musky, green thiols like sauvignon blanc, flat and too sweet.

(2 tie)(not ranked by AS) Calamin, Gaillard: Pale straw in color. Herbal and citrus aromas. Some mushroom. Round, nice length. A bit neutral for a Grand Cru. OK.

(4)(17.1/20)(not ranked by AS) Calamin, L’Arpège, Famille Blondel-Duboux: Medium straw in color. Musky, honey, lemon with some spice on the nose. Ultimately heavy and a bit clumsy.

(5 tie)(17/20)(not ranked by AS) Calamin, Tradition, Louis-Philippe Porchet: Pale gold in color. Notable volatile acidity. Flavors of caramel and soy sauce. Heavy and clumsy.

(5 tie)(AS no. 4) Calamin, La Béguine, J. & M. Dizerens: Pale straw in color. Nice fresh, white flowers and minerals. Lovely nose. Fresh, vigorous and expansive. Lacks only a bit of depth.

(5 tie)(AS no. 12) Calamin, Hegg & Fils: Pale straw in color. More volatility here although it blows off shortly. Miso, butter and lactic aromas. Rich but balanced with Grand Cru weight. Would have been higher without the volatility.

(5 tie)(not ranked by AS) Calamin, Terres de Lavaux: Pale gold in color. Tired, heavy nose. Already advanced and lacking freshness. Not much interest here.

(9)(16.7/20)(not ranked by AS) Calamin, Jean-François, Neyroud-Fonjallaz: Medium straw in color. Sawdust, butter, miso with a short, austere palate. Not that interesting.

(10)(16.6/20)(AS no. 8) Calamin, Didier & Jean-Jacques Rouge: Pale straw in color. Attractive lemon oil nose. Attractive, fresh, lemony palate. Assertive and long. Marred only by a bit of heaviness and lack of balance.

(11 tie)(16.3/20)(AS no. 2) Calamin, Cuvée Vincent, Blaise Duboux: Medium straw in color. Melon, honey and musk. Flavors of butter and honey. Real Grand Cru weight that expands on the palate. This got better with each pass. Real class here.

(11 tie)(not ranked by AS) Calamin, Pascal Fonjallaz-Spycher: Neutral, neutral and still neutral. Finishes acidic and without much interest. Not Grand Cru quality.

(13)(16.1/20)(not ranked by AS) Calamin, Domaine de la Commune de Bourg-en-Lavaux: Medium straw in color. Soy, miso and cream. A bit neutral and a little clumsy. This lacks freshness and punch. Not much behind it.

(14)(16/20)(not ranked by AS) Calamin, Patrick Fonjallaz: Light gold in color. Caramel, candy, herbs and popcorn. Acetic flavors. Seems a bit off.

(15)(15.8/20)(AS no. 14) Calamin, Famille Fonjallaz: Straw gold in color. Ripe, spicy and honeyed on a full nose. Round and honey flavored. Very assertive but held back by a lean, over-acid finish.

(16)(15.5/20)(AS no. 11) Calamin, Mélanie Weber: Pale straw in color. Herbs, lemon and minerals on the nose. Lemon flavors that are fresh and well balanced. Very nice but lacks a bit of Grand Cru weight. Good Epesses though.

Artisanswiss

(1)(not ranked by panel) Calamin, Antoine Bovard: Pale straw in color. Lovely, fluffy citrus and lactic nose. A little tropical too with pineapple. Beautifully balanced mineral finish. This is what I call bursting forth—rising up to meet the palate as it expands. Real Grand Cru class.

(2)(panel no. 11 tie) Calamin, Cuvée Vincent, Blaise Duboux: see notes above.

(3)(not ranked by panel) Calamin, Ilex, Domaine Louis Bovard: Pale straw in color. Really lively nose of white flowers and clean lemon fruit. Fresh, tangy and weighty with confit lemon depth. Exuberant, balanced and stylish. Grand Cru class.

(4)(panel no. 5 tie) Calamin, La Béguine, J. & M. Dizerens: see notes above.

(5)(not ranked by panel) Calamin, Jean-Marc & Sébastien Badoux-Parisod: Pale straw in color. Lovely blend of lactic, lemon and white flowers. Fresh lemon, cream, spice and minerals. Lively and long. Could use a bit more stuffing to justify Grand Cru label. Nice Chasselas though.

(6)(not ranked by panel) Calamin, Union Viticole de Cully: Pale straw in color. Very interesting fresh tarragon and herb nose. Very perfumed. Herbal, spicy flavors. Burgeoning on the palate. Grand Cru weight if a touch flat. Lacks a bit of brightness.

(7)(panel no. 1) Calamin, Selection, Louis-Philippe Porchet: see notes above.

(8)(panel no. 10) Calamin, Didier & Jean-Jacques Rouge: see notes above.

(9)(not ranked by panel) Calamin, La Petite Versailles, Frères Dubois: Pale straw in color. Balanced lemon nose with pretty white flowers. Palate confirms nose. Lemon and spice flavors with nice acids. Very nice Epesses style that lacks a bit of Grand Cru weight.

(10)(not ranked by panel) Calamin, Vertige, Raymond Chappuis: Pale straw in color. Lemon, mushroom, cream and mineral. Fresh and comes up to meet palate. Good Epesses but not Grand Cru.

(11)(panel no. 16) Calamin, Mélanie Weber: see notes above.

(12)(panel no. 5 tie) Calamin, Hegg & Fils: see notes above.

(13)(not ranked by panel) Calamin, Denis Fauquex: Pale straw in color. Fresh sawdust and lactic character. Palate is fresh and bright but a bit neutral. Lively and vigorous though. Nice length. A good Chasselas.

(14)(panel no. 15) Calamin, Famille Fonjallaz: see notes above.

(15)(not ranked by panel) Calamin, Crêt Dessous: Pale straw in color. Lovely lemon peel lift with white flowers. Palate is fresh with some caramel. A bit odd. A little heavy to finish.

(16)(not ranked by panel) Calamin, Albert Strauss: Pale straw in color. Strong lemon aroma with some dirty sock. Cleans up a bit with air. Neutral but lively and expansive with a long finish. Marred a bit by the initial nose and the neutrality.

Not Ranked By Either and Without Comment

Calamin, Réserve du Margis, Jean-François Chevalley

Calamin, Ponnaz & Fils

Calamin, La Ronce, Louis Fonjallaz

Calamin, Michel & Pascal Fonjallaz

Calamin La Puîné, J. & P. Testuz

Calamin, Petit Crêt

Calamin, Pierre Fonjallaz

Calamin, Claude & Alexandre Duboux

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