Chablis Premier Cru by Cru

Chariot de Fromages at Le Bourgogne, Auxerre

Chariot de Fromages at Le Bourgogne, Auxerre

Chablis Premier Cru is a multi-faceted, varied and wondrous thing. The interlocking complexity of its many defined micro-terroir parts weaves a tapestry specific to Burgundy and dares to be easily understood. Trying to get to know Premier Cru Chablis lies somewhere between the iconic and the psychotic. It’s like stabbing at clouds, understanding French by way of Greek from Latin, attesting meteorological inclination, grasping at amorphousness. It’s a slippery, discreet and humble secret. Nobody can get a grip on it. Many have tried and others believe they have succeeded. Only the winemaker in Chablis can really intuit the nuances of climats and cru, but even then, the learning curve is boundless and endless.

Related – Chablis got soil

The relationship between grower, producer and land in Chablis is entirely familial. The master considers and treats the land, vines and grapes with great respect. The farms are totems and the wines amulets, blessed with the power ascribed to protect their owners from danger or harm, but also possessive of poised intelligence. The clarity of this becomes increasingly true with enough time spent with the Premier Cru.

Last week I published 76 notes covering all the Petit Chablis and Chablis AOC wines I have tasted going back to my visit in Burgundy last July. It’s now time to move forward, upwards and deep into the Premier Cru. This appellation is comprised of 40 climats, “a place where vine cultivation is attested for a very long time” and each commune or hamlet within the appellation has one or more main climats, the name of which may be applied to the other Premier Cru climats in that commune. There are 17 main, “flag-bearing” climats. Each are defined by their particular soil, aspect, geological and climatic conditions and the way they are farmed. The communes are located in Beine, Chablis, La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne, Chichée, Courgis, Fleys, Fontenay-près-Chablis, Fyé, Maligny, Milly and Poinchy. In this appellation, the words Premier Cru and/or the name of the climat of origin may be added to the name Chablis for wines grown on Premier Cru plots.

Premier Cru Climats photo (c) http://www.chablis-wines.com/

Premier Cru Climats
photo (c) http://www.chablis-wines.com/

Vins de Bourgognes tells us “no French wine-growing area has pinned its faith more firmly on the facts of geology. The main substrate is Jurassic limestone (specifically, Kimmeridgian limestone) laid down some 150 million years ago. The rock contains deposits of tiny fossilized oyster shells which remind us that Bourgogne once lay beneath a warm ocean. Regarding the Premier Cru, the particularity is that they are produced on either side of the Serein River (left bank and right bank). The most famous climats are those on the right bank, surrounding the Grand Cru.”

Related – Paradox in Chablis

Porc, de la ferme de Clavisy grillé au Bintoyan, sauce acqua pazza (coquillage, tomates, olives, câpres...) Restaurant L'Aspérule, Auxerre

Porc, de la ferme de Clavisy grillé au Bintoyan, sauce acqua pazza (coquillage, tomates, olives, câpres…) Restaurant L’Aspérule, Auxerre

If you are searching for definitive information on the micro-terroirs of Chablis you need look no further than the governing board’s website which may just be the best in the business. Precise, critically-pinpointing information awaits. The pages will tell you all you really need to know. Jean Paul Droin is “a winemaker with a passion for history” and has researched the possible origins of the names of the various Climats of Chablis. His findings are presented here.

Related – Looking for Chablis in Ontario?

The following 92 reviews cover all the Premier Cru tasted in Chablis and Auxerre back in July of 2016 and also those I have assessed in the months since. Thanks to @purechablis  @vinsdechablis  @BourgogneWines and @vinsdebourgogne

chablis-1er-cru-left

Left Bank

Montmains

(Butteaux, Forêts)

Domaine Des Malandes Chablis Premier Cru Montmains Vieilles Vignes 2014, Burgundy, France (SAQ 11094760, $39.25, WineAlign)

This Malandes Montmains from old vines (aged 55-60 years on average) carries the most fruit of any in a flight of Left Bank Premier Cru that is not directly attributed to citrus. Truly amenable chardonnay, juicy, replete in absolute faith to the delicacies of Chablis, as a wine raised healthy and fleshy from enough but not egregious barrel. The kind of Chablis laid ripe and ready to swim alongside the whole fish, preferably off the grill, with citrus and herbs to balance to fullness and the gravity. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016    @TrialtoQC

Domaine Jean Paul Et Benoît Droin Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2014, Burgundy, France (SAQ 11678845, $44.75, WineAlign)

Benoît Droin’s Montmains is a far right expression of a Left Bank terroir out of which other producers often allow fruit to trump mineral. Benoît’s take is less about orchard and stone fruit and more into the flint meets acid and mineral Montmains. The layers of tart and mineral are nothing if not exceptional, pulsating and full of nervous energy. Here we find a son’s departure from a father’s winemaking ways, away from the barrel and into the steely, nearly blinding light, but clearly expressing the singular chardonnay effects off of kimmeridgian terroir. A Montmains to wait for and allow to age. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016

tremblay

Vincent Tremblay

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

The Tremblay presents a real wet and briny oyster shell Montmains plus some favourable generosity, forest aromatics and a solid construct of medium weight and intensity. Of the five Premier Cru poured by Vincent Tremblay this is the calmest Chablis of the crew. A meditative and restorative Montmains of sheer afternoon delight. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2014, Burgundy, France (265090, $32.95, WineAlign)

Montmains from Chablisienne concentrates on the sub-climat of Butteaux, a generally guaranteed Left Bank strength and from a proportion that comes off of argileux soil. Skips over the oily pungency of 2013 and reprises the form and formality of 2012. Ships by bateaux an even more striking Chablis with the leesy sweet nose only Butteaux-Montmains affords, encouraged and developed for richesse. Once again the palate pulses with lemon-lime juiciness, more depth and richness and of course, so bloody piercing. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

From #chablis to #i4c16 see you in #niagara @coolchardonnay @DomaineLaroche

From #chablis to #i4c16 see you in #niagara @coolchardonnay @DomaineLaroche

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 13047641, $38.75, WineAlign)

Montmains from Laroche and winemaker Gregory Viennois comes off of the Left Bank from a great wide open valley of wide open spaces. The soil is heavier in clay than just about any Premier Cru and that sweeping vastness solicits solar vulnerability. Montmains can solarize early, be quick to put on excess wait and difficult to avoid oxidative tendencies. Canopy management and picking time is key. In 2014 Augedond brings fruit in wonderful balance to seek and find such great salinity and tingling briny obfuscation. This is where Montmains heads to a tart that is tense, intense and even a bit terse. And so this is direct strike Chablis with supporting flesh. Such a vital and long elixir. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Montmains Chablis Premier Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (405704, $34.95, WineAlign)

First tasted at the domain with Romain Collet. From 40 year-old vines on mostly white calcaire stony soil and how can you not taste it?! Classic and expected in every way, by Collet, in Montmains, for Chablis. Mostly mineral, somewhat smoky-flinty, by spontaneous fermentation (as with all of Collet’s Chablis) and just a fine thread of fruit clarity. Chablis the way it has to be, leaning back in traditional time but rendered with 21st century clean purity. No surprises and zero waver from the proper and the norm. Well-priced for the specific, direct and always white rock-led Premier Cru. Every Chablis lover should try this at least once. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted July and November 2016  

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (977587, $50.00, WineAlign)

The Montmains Domaine 2014 on Chablis’ Left bank is tethered from three and a half hectares split into three plots, facing southeast. It combines kimmerridgian and marl soils and sees 30 per cent in oak. More richness and full bodied palate to texture compendious behaviour seems inverted or contradictory to 2013, as if the wines were switched at birth. But this is the irony of Montmains, always offering a view to Chablis as a whole and making cause for constant second guessing. Or perhaps it’s the game played by winemaker Didier Séguier, to make use of vintage and wood in ways to subvert and throw fruit-mineral contradictions on its head. Then again, here is Chablis without batonnage so nary a pastille melt, no cream or fat. Lengthens from purity with just a slight bit of almond, without bitter, or butter. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_   @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (977587, $50.00, WineAlign)

Montmains by Fèvre in 2013 is Chablis incarnate, a clear portrait in reveal of a non-obliterated view to the depth of the Premier Cru. Though we are once again discussing and assessing the misunderstood and often questionable vintage, Fèvre-consistency and confidence renders moot the trials. This Montmains is both portal and interior laid bare. Resolved and pourable, chardonnay as it is spoken in this cru is ready before it is born. Here the fruit is handled with Premier Cru poise, protracted beyond its borders so that it represents Chablis as a mechanism larger and axiomatic as a whole. The rocks never lie. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Pascal Bouchard Chablis Premier Cru Montmains Vieilles Vignes 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (374181, $36.95, WineAlign)

This was tasted at #14c16. As with 2011 but in contrast to 2012, the limestone stands chalky and flinty up front because Pascal Bouchard has allowed it to do so. The site is windy, not so steep and a cooler sort of red clay mixed in terroir. Quite typically energetic 2013 with the mineral sharing the stage with thick air whiffing gassy and atmospheric. It’s a tang that comes from cool metals and it pours or rather oozes with a squeeze of preserved lemon. The Montmains is an open-minded Premier Cru and this Bouchard works with the climat’s malleability to be transformed in a vintage like ’13. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016

descending-substratum-dans-la-cave-chablisbrocard-kimmeridgian-portlandian-calcaire

Descending substratum dans la cave @chablisbrocard #kimmeridgian #portlandian #calcaire

Butteaux

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Les Butteaux 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12936615, $67.50, WineAlign)

Butteaux with Patrick Piuze stands apart not just from other readings but also independent and aside from his own separate Premier Cru dealings. This Butteaux feels a bit more boozy which is not a vintage surprise, nor is it when you consider the cru and its ability to deliver both texture and gastronomy. The chunks of limestone and chalky topsoil get in here like mineral syrup emulsified into grape extract with a Piuze variegation that subdues both aromatics and linear acidity. This Montmains sub-divided Chablis instead plays with length and focuses on presence, delivering successes on both ends. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Les Butteaux 2010, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 12936615, $67.50, WineAlign)

After tasting through 18 2015s Patrick Piuze travels back in time and pulls this Butteaux as his choice for 2010, despite no label but identified by its cork. The sub-climat of Montmains is notable for its variegated character, tang upon tang, density folded into density, tart on tart. It is a fascinating look into the rear-view Piuze mirror from a terrific vintage and a time when he couldn’t yet have fully known what this terroir could do. The citrus is pure, intense and still in demand of attention. Though the window is clearly open it would not surprise to see this drink with similar personality for yet another few eye and palate-popping years. Yet another example of Premier Cru Chablis with ambitious aspirations and a seeker of Japanese inspired Bourgogne cuisine. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (294165, $46.95, WineAlign)

Another side by side 2015 to 2014 comparison which is a brilliant play by Mr. Julien Brocard to offer up a sense of relativity which is essential for understanding not just his, but all Chablis. Great freshness and woven salinity, brine and umami, from the lieu-dit within the greater Montmains climat. Butteaux’s western Montmains locale is one of major importance and significance, stratified and magnified in the crazy good 2014 vintage. The fight concentration is quite remarkable and rendered into pure citrus honey in the hands of Brocard. Really fine and tactile Chablis, tapestry textured, dentil frieze entablature of feigning and palpability. Butteaux is a wine of sun, balance and elegance from which ancient geology is the catalyst to make it all happen. Essential Chablis right here. Drink 2017-2027.  Tasted September 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

collet-butteaux

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Collet first began separating Butteaux from the larger Montmains Premier Cru in the 2009 vintage. Élevage in the obscurity of 2013 came with a significant amount of reduction and Collet did more with Butteaux than so many others could not out of almost any climat. The use of five to 10 year-old barrels has rendered a pretty and elegant Chablis, unheard of in ’13 and while it lacks the drive of ’12 or the acidity of ’14 it is more typical and just plain delicious without any tropical meanderings. Classic Chablis character is discernible albeit in lighter and more demurred tones. The acidity elevates fruit into the preserved kind, part lemon, part leek confit and part courgette pickle. Butteaux in 2013 is gastronomic, like bottled condiments and will ramp up a great piece of fish. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  

Forêts

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Forêts 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It would be impossible to discuss Patrick Piuze and Forêts without bringing Vincent Dauvissat into the fray. To Piuze, Vincent is mentor, friend and benefactor. The fruit for Patrick’s ferment comes from Dauvissat’s domain and similarly in new blood’s hands it breathes the way only Forêts can, “with the confidential creak of oak, in the Dauvissat way.” Vincent’s quite politesse in Patrick’s care puts on confident airs, beneath the moon and with parallel lines drawn in a classically sharp but creamy Chablis. The balance struck between grace and tension is a performance only few from this special corner of Montmains learn to craft. Success in 2015 once again, with the best yet to come. Drink 2018-2026.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Forêts 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Patrick Piuze gains a whiff of his ’13 Forêts. “Hmm, like a riesling.” No other winemaker in Chablis is as honest as Piuze when it comes to extolling or denouncing the virtues of the vintage. “Like a virgin,” is what I begin to hum, “touched for the very first time.” And for the first time in 20 Piuze wines I consider chardonnay because this does not resemble it, but in a way that the rest do not. Forêts here is gassy, aerified, unusual, full of strange atmosphere and just plain atypical. Oh, Madonna this ’13 “made it through the wilderness” in spite of the weirdness, with enough citrus and mineral impression because, well, it’s still Chablis. “Cause only love can last.”  Drink 2016-2017. Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Domaine Testut Chablis Premier Cru Forêts 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineryWineAlign)

Forêts is a steely patron of the larger Left Bank Montmains Premier Cru and lies situationally between Butteaux and Montmains proper. Testut treats the mineral-rich fruit pulled from 70 year-old vines by doing it up in demi-muids. Forêts stands alone in its bifid interpretation of Chablis; it forges a hyperbolic relationship with the wisdom and the concentrated intensity of the old vines. The ripeness in the Testut ’15 is echoed while the minerality is amplified. Like climbing a hill by switchbacks and circumventing trails, Cyril Testut’s Forêts cuts angles and elongates the path. This Chablis is linear but with round fruit and presents a fascinating dichotomy. The citrus is different, in a way a form of umami in flavour and the tartness is very frank. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Les Forêts 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Les Forêts offers great contrast to Montmains but it’s not so direct and easy to compare. Perhaps the most enigmatic, mysterious and magical of all the Left Bank terroirs, in Romain Collet’s hands it bleeds less white stone but is conversely more piercing. With 10 per cent having slept in new barriques for 17 months you would think creamy and gossamer textured but then you would also know why Collet does this with Forêts. It both controls and also elevates the acidity onto a higher, astral Premier Cru plane. And so this elects as pure, unadulterated snow-driven Chablis, with a textural addendum thanks to the oak. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

but-these-hosts-with-benjamin-and-stephanie-laroche-lamanufacture

With Benjamin and Stephanie Laroche, La Manufacture

La Manufacture Premier Cru Chablis Forêts 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 13133232, $43.00, WineAlign)

From the sub-climat of Montmains, this second vintage for la Manufacture is harvested earlier than the Beauroy and Vau Ligneau. Laroche’s Forêts is the first 2013 to not display the gaseous, atmospheric Chablis that has come from that vintage. Benjamin convinced his growers to wait, despite the rain, to compromise some quantity for quality. A risk taken but not a grand risk. The barrel took in 25 per cent of the fruit to round out Chablis’ edges while retaining its inherent acidity. Certainly one of the most balanced Premier Cru 2013s it seems, to date. Fuller than many but without blowsy hot air, or density. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Vaillons

(Les Lys, Beugnons, Séchet, Les Minots, Les Roncières)

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

The vintage can’t hide in Barat’s Vaillons, noted first in a warm, boozy run of the nose, wildy floral and willy-nilly as per the flaunting cru perspective. The palate takes the baton and sprints further, deeper into lanes of ancillary luxury, honeyed, nearly tropical territory. This here is the biggest of the Vaillons, athletic, fast, rippling and perspiring from the summer swelter. Note the maple, apple and nectarine. Enjoy this opiate-edged, vintage-deemed Vaillons while the fruit shines with  sun-shining delight. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  

a-preview-of-a-much-needed-friendly-vintage-with-sebastien-dampt-alors-remycharest

A preview of a much needed, friendly vintage with Sébastien Dampt. Alors, @remycharest

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2015, Burgundy, France (Agent, Quebec $40.86, WineAlign)

Tasted with Sébastien Dampt at the domaine, from 60 year-old vines a Vaillons so very early in its development, bottled two weeks ago, reductive and trying with yeoman effort to preserve freshness. The vintage demands such an emperor’s excess of style, to foster the adage of “this is ancient Chablis in new clothing.” Really just that. Very much a rich and creamy washed rind stylistic happening with lemon preserve and a tonic not really yet seen. Vaillons aperitif. There is the semblence vermouth in here. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (650804, $31.95, WineAlign)

L’élevage for Vaillons is 15 months, at first with more stainless steel fermentation (95 per cent) than the other Premier Cru. What follows is one third stainless, foudres and barriques. Examples tasted show that Vaillons has the ability to go big, to acquire added corporeal layers of sweet and creamy. It has been seen to drift into apéritif territory without stimulating the appetite. Even in an acidity-led vintage like 2014. Case in point here, a Vaillons with herbal qualities and one in which the wood is very much a part of the highly sapid personality. Needs a year to integrate. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted at the domain with Romain Collet, July 2016  

Domaine Jean Paul Et Benoît Droin Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, Burgundy, France (SAQ 11678925, $47.75, WineAlign)

Vaillons from Benoît Droin, like that of his Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre receives 25 per cent barrel fermentation and maturation though a negligible amount of new oak is used. For this reason the Vaillons is so very flint and and smoke-driven, intense of aromatic liquor, compression and drama. It is the epitome of Chablis rendered in strength from remarkable drive and line-centric forward movement. Look ahead two years to a point of early evanescence where cantata and flesh collide. The hegira for Droin’s Vaillons begins there. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (330175, $39.95, WineAlign)

Composed from several lieu-dit in the Cru; Les Minots, Roncieres and two parcels each of high solar-powered Chatains and Sécher. A rounder, softer, fuller expression by sun and out of the open-mindedness provided by exposure. Here the house accentuation from stainless steel helps to preserve freshness and keep it at the maximum. A committal success in 2014 for a vintage that demands acidity and freshness, here buoyed by decisions and understanding. Exemplary Vaillons of lemon with a shot of lime injection. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

domaine-long-depaquit

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (19364, $34.95, WineAlign)

Immediacy from the specific stony soil of Vaillons, unmistakable, of tang in impression and such a broad mouthfeel. The presence of Vaillons is nearly always noble, sumptuous, modish and sensual. Extract and tannin are very much a part of the program. Ten per cent of the take saw time in oak, lending an ingrained smack of spice. I would not exactly call it lavish though it is certainly a Vaillons surfeited with fruit, sun and stone. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  

Domaine Testut Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineryWineAlign)

Cyril Testut’s Vaillons 2014 has just been two months in bottle so there is some inhibition, shocky reserve (though miles from reduction) and a certain force field guarding. Try as I might to crack the stony shell I am repeatedly faced with structure taut, tight, rigid and not yet open for business. There is orange blossom and other white florality waiting to bloom and of course so much mineral wanting to burst. Vaillons is yet another tart and wisely mature-directed Testut. It needs a year to open and solicit audience participation. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (991893, $36.95, WineAlign)

In many ways a carbon copy of the superb 2012, herbal, sharp and as predicted, saline and piquant. Vaillons is a special parcel, a climat with such linear reality and basic, factual raison d’être. The Kimmeridgian, calcareous clay and limestone is presented, discussed and celebrated for good reason because it makes for perfect conditions in Vaillons.
The 40-45 year-old Laroche parcel sucks it all in and don’t let anyone evince you away from or de-program you otherwise. Be the mineral. Vaillons of old vines (yes, they too work magic) that is precise, trenchant and miles beyond merely dependable. Treated to some battonage and very minimal oak. Examines the layered intensity of Laroche and the exceptionality of Vaillons. Tasted twice, at Domaine Laroche and at #i4c16. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru Vieilles Vignes Les Vaillons 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (991893, $36.95, WineAlign)

Gorgeous and wealthy Chablis of all that makes this unparalleled style of Chardonnay tick. Flinty, struck stone entry, vineyard hyperbole of mineral and the geology of ancients. Lithe, lifted, lightness of being but always brought back down by the minerality. Some flavour density by way of old vines wisdom and persistence that just won’t stop going. Superb quality. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted January 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Vaillons is drawn from sub-appellative blocks in Les Epinottes and Roncières, with some vines as old as 65 years and yields quite low for where concentration trumps quantity. Very rich and concentrated is indeed the mode here, with good mineral bled from stone and very little in terms of sour or lactic edges. This is amenable Vaillons to be sure. A purity subsists and solicits simple and non-specific pairings, like Dorado, Sea Bass or Magret de Canard. There is this amazing salinity that hints at iodine, lemon and lime, but I would not call it salty. I would call it really refined Chablis. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @MoreauLouis1

a-kimmeridgian-breakfast-williamfevre_-chablis-bivbchablis-woodmanwines

A #kimmeridgian breakfast @williamfevre_ #chablis @BIVBChablis #woodmanwines

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $53.99, WineAlign)

Vaillons lies at the heart of the Domaine stylistic, from an entirely different sort of valley than Montmains but still facing southeast, certainly steeper (25 degrees) and early maturing. The three and a half hectares farmed in the Fèvre holdings are split into 10 plots and in 2014 picking was altered from the past 15 years’ norm, on and around the 20th of September. Adjudication through acumen deals a cooler 2014, of more herbiage, less piercing citrus and mineral but more pure fruit layers and also rounder for Chablis. There is more calm in these here Vaillons hills, despite or perhaps with thanks to the early picking. Later would have resulted in real winter fat. What ponder there is will step aside and the mineral will emerge up to and after five years. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $53.99, WineAlign)

Here Vaillons of breadth to speak on behalf of the whole cru and the cru as a whole. The layering of expected Vaillons flinty-smoky struck stone is toned down, elastic and a bit flat-lined. Texture is the key to a Vaillons heart in 2013, especially considering the automatic nature of the aromatics. Personality is subdued relative to other Fèvre Domaine crus but mineral concentration is still a vital thing. Check the palate and that texture to bring this quiet one to life and to find the nuggets of fruit treasure buried within. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Séchet

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Séchet 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Séchet is a formidable climat at the head of the Vaillons slope near the town of Chablis and needs to be coddled or it can be one tough cookie. Romain Collet employs 30 per cent new oak in 2014, requisite because of and for the humanity of it all. To taste this in the summer of 2016 is to drive south to Beaune, with bits of nuts and pats of butter smearing the flinty fruit like a galette under a rich almond glaze. The mask is painted thick at present but structure makes for length and with acidity vibrant and variegated this Séchet will nigh carry its popcorn and vanilla all the way to the next decade bank. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  

Beugnons

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Beugnons 2015, Burgundy, France (Agent, Quebec $44.78, WineAlign)

From the Beugnons parcel within the Vaillons, raised entirely in concrete egg, the third vintage as such, for micro-oxidation. Gently ushered along with a very light and slow batonnage. Perfumed like lemon in concrete (reminding me of Terra Alta’s Domaine Lafou garnaxta blanca, or vice versa) and luminescent like brilliant gemstone, rich but of such gorgeous control. The round acidity envelopes discernible fruit (it’s 2015 after all) and just a hint of spice. That said it is still found to be a bit closed down and minutely austere at this stage but age will not suffer as a result. Again the vintage is kept at bay with freshness and elongation. There were 2100 bottles made (as per the size of the egg). Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Les Lys

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 10278920, $40.00, WineAlign)

An achievement in the richer style of Vaillons Premier Cru, broad and expansive, not entering the cortex with overarching acidity but rather good host invitation. A Bichot Burgundian stylistic really shows in Les Lys, not so much a wood attack but the lees and fullness is certainly felt. Acidity is late and round, encompassing and caressing. A softer 2014 and a good foil to other, sharper, more piercing brethren. Kept in 100 per cent stainless steel to preserve the acidity and the freshness. Even in 2014 this was necessary, for freshness and elegance. Certainly showing the most lifted and modern of the three Premier Cru on this day. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

La Chablisienne’s Les Lys from within Vaillons is codicillary to north by northwest exposure and later ripening. Flat out a wine of strength, urged linear and forward by high levels of kimmeridgian rock, inspiring and generating power and richness. The citrus here is so concentrated and also developed. Time stops and with great length there is just this. Les Lys. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (76984, $51.00, WineAlign)

Les Lys is perhaps the most particular, focused and pinpointed terroir of the Fèvre Domaine Premier Cru. Located in the Vaillons Valley as a sub-climat of the larger Vaillons, Les Lys is picked, vinified and bottled separately. Northeast facing, in many ways an antithesis and as what can be considered the antithetical Premier Cru, a place which doubles the richness coupled with the occupying, chalky minerality. Old vines of 50-65 years old are harnessed with and for their power, appearing but feigning boozy, thanks to very low yields and deep, concentrated phenolic development. An intense expression that is magnified by the portents of classic and structured 2014. Not quite British psychdelia but here Chablis is intoxicating, tracing circles around my head. “Time will tell if I’ll take the homeward track. Dizziness will make my feet walk back.” Always back to Les Lys. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (76984, $51.00, WineAlign)

Les Lys from within the Vaillons swims with liquid calcaire running through its interpolated climat veins and oozing from its extramural pores. It is a wine possessive of a seamlessness of chalky liquidity secreting in endless oscillations. Warmer than expected or perhaps within well-reasoned sensibility for the odd vintage, compounded by more savour and evergreen sensitivity. The Fèvre treatment of Les Lys in 2013 elevates above most others, then deals in longevity and perpetuity. Its piercing fruit-mineral skewer neither pokes nor scores. It simply permeates with fineness and appeal. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Les Minots

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons “Les Minots” 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Patrick Piuze likes this single-parcel of 75 year-old vines in the warmest spot on Vaillons. He likes it a lot. The way he picks and vinifies turns over, inside and out the highest acidity and alcohol but it’s really a matter of place. This Vaillons is a striking wine, “Le Petit,” as he likes to call it and of the most wondrous mouthfeel. This from what Piuze likens as “the resto vintage,” so imagine the possibilities, the flinty, smoky, steely and cracking results that will come from true-blue, platinum, gemstone and ancient sea creature portended vintages. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted at the domain with Patrick Piuze, July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Les Roncières

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Les Roncières 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Piuze’s first attempt at tendering Les Roncières is here in this first edition ’15 from the single-plot, sub-climat inside Vaillons. You can’t help but sense the Dauvissat approach in Patrick’s take on Roncières with the conscious (or unconscious) allowance for the block within the block specific perfume. The stoic and quiet confidence of fruit submissive to mineral presentation points not to obviousness but to the basic tenets of smoke, flint and shell, Together they hover in the proverbial air. But Piuze’s Roncières walks a more direct line and of all his lieu-dit or Premier Cru ’15’s, it seems more akin to a vintage like ’14. This is because in mouthfeel it comes across as lean, but only in comparison to the rest of ’15. This is the one to really wait on and seek more time-rendered flesh. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

cote-de-lechet

Côte De Léchet

Côte De Léchet

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It suffices to say that Domaine Barat’s prized terroir is this Left Bank Côte De Léchet. Their work with Right Bank plots in Fourneaux and Mont de Milieu is very good but it is here that they truly jibe and harmonize with the mise en scène of the kimmeridgian. A classic climat base wine, you note the pithy-leesy sense of washed rind cheese, the Barat richesse and spiced lemon palate. Concentrated and length-worthy, exceptional as oyster shell brittle speckled in its character. With 2016 qualified by Ludovic Barat as “une année très compliquée,” a once in a generation “catastrophe climatique,” this C de L is made all that much more important. The unprecedented combinative accumulation of hail, rain, frost, more hail and mildew in 2016 is unprecedented. With Barat’s excellent 2015 we’ll be able to say, “we’ll always have Côte De Léchet.” Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at the domain with Angèle and Ludovic Barat, July 2016  

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A special @purechablis je ne sais quoi from #domainebarat #milly #umami #cotedelechet #chablispremiercru

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet L’Umami 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

L’Umami is an extraordinary concept within (or without) the exclusivity of Chablis Premier Cru, a first picked, top of the plot from 90 year-old vines, separately vinified cuvée. It was a difficult harvest up at the helm of the Côte De Léchet and Ludovic Barat took this cogent fruit and laid it down in only stainless steel for 18 months. No oak, old or new, only metal on metal, mineral in mineral, stone vs. stone. You receive the most indeterminate if excellent experience that Chablis can gift but you can and will not be able to put your pointed finger squarely upon it. Thus the moniker, L’Umami. This is indeed a deferential outlook and flavour experience, a new and unreal, yet conversely experiential dive into the savoury and the mineral. The closest analogy I can make is like catching the melted drippings of limoncello granita, slightly boozy, wild and citrus musky. Few Premier Cru tastings come up so singular as this. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2015, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Interestingly enough that like the Beugnons this is also a bit closed at this time so again, despite the forward vintage, age for this Côte De Léchet will be aided. Richer though and fuller than the Beugnons, from a southern exposure but with high kimmeridgian and portlandian minerality. The wood is full on at this stage, not with spice like the Vaillons but with pith, kernel and then, coming up behind, drupe. While Sébastien’s 2014 might have reminded of say, a Jean Boxler (Alsace) sentiment in a chardonnay of precision and clarity, the ’15 can’t help but put a little unction at the junction of saline, mineral Chablis, as is his style and want. His 2014 just exaggerated this and ’15 does so with another shot of Dampt tonic. Really direct, inward vacuum of mouth watering and citrus expressing chardonnay. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

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Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Dampt’s small “parcelle cinquantenaire” fortuitously facing southeast looks to higher pastures and reeks of greatness. From the terroir with the grand lookout and great kimmeridgian rocks comes this Premier Cru secretly blessed with an unknown umami factor specific to the Côte De Léchet. There are things about Chablis you can’t know or consciously discern from this but what you do puts you under spell, hypnotized and alert by fruit digging for mineral, driven into the earth. This C de L is what Sébastien concedes as being “hors normes,” non-standard Chablis concentrated from an ancient place. There is no oak, only Inox, a choice clear and necessary. What a piece of work this take on Côte De Léchet is and under the microscope of a precise and linear vintage. Classique. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2014, Burgundy, France (SAQ 869198, $35.00, WineAlign)

Pleasure is always derived from Chablis off the prized Left Bank terroir with an ideal fan of slope and exposure and a perfect view across the Serein to the Grand Cru. La Chablisienne’s Côte De Léchet offers up a classic mineral nose with a bit of youthful SO2, taking account of its southwest exposure and carefully combing its calcaire-kimmeridgian soils for a very directed expression. Really works the specific climat for what is a cumulative expression of all around success. This is a broad and thoughtful Côte De Léchet, nothing unexpected and yet with everything gained. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at the domaine with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Manufacture Premier Cru Chablis Côte De Léchet 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

In La Manufacture’s 2014 there is a Léchet lightness of Chablis being with lift from the limestone and it’s like an appetizer or apéritif to gain entry into Premier Cru Chablis. Crisp, tart and delicate. Some spice lifts even higher but the youth is really a talking point. Exceptional minerality gained from 2014 is used to explain what that is. A minor youthful reduction will need six to 12 months to dissipate but this will assist in the aging process. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tremblay’s handling tends towards the leesy side and aids in the promotion of that Lechet fromage and its ancient sea-salinity, crustaceous behaviour. In fact this level of marine salty is more intense than most and doubles down with elasticity and stretched length. Far from contemplative, Tremblay’s C de L is indicative of the linear, direct and precise house style. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  

Simonnet Febvre & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (462549, $42.95, WineAlign)

This is a striking Chablis, drawn out of an atypical vintage and from the venerable Côte de Léchet Premier Cru, an angled Left Bank climat of necessitous Kimmerridgian soil. The rocks there may be my most favourite, craggy, ash blond chunks replete with ancient sea creatures embedded in the golden stratum. This teases with the gaseous and aerified aspects of the oxidative-evolved vintage but the picking and the treatment here are spot on and just in time, because just a day or two later and too stark would have been the result. Terrific weight, pitch perfect acidity and a grazing, elongated finish. Top, top quality ’13 not to be missed. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  @SimonnetFebvre  @ImportWineMAFWM

Sylvain Mosnier Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (318139, $35.95, WineAlign)

From the Cru’s unparalleled southeast exposure on a 38 degree slope inlaid with kimmeridgian and white stone, the high salinity quotient and briny fossil/oyster shell is predictably omnipresent. Take a moment and smell the white flowers before giving back in to the stone and direct humming energy. Extreme this Mosier from low yields and tiny grapes, even for Côte De Léchet and covertly striking for 2013. One of the absolute best but and because it’s old school. In other words, not typical 2013. Taut freshness from antediluvian terroir is a beautiful thing.  Last tasted July 2016  

Classic Chablis from a very old vineyard (belonged to the Pontigny’s monk) with southeast exposure west of the town of Chablis and just above the small village of Milly. Mosnier’s parcel gifts delicate fruit, just so fortuitous in quantity and quality of lees overtures on stony lime-driven texture. Chardonnay in hands of terroir so flinty, lacy, organza fine. What more could be asked of for this next to nothing 1er Cru Chablis price? Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted March 2016

Sylvain Mosnier Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (318139, $32.95, WineAlign)

Mosnier’s ’12 is a flinty, mineral, fruit smacked in the face Chablis from the exceptionally sea-fossil shell, stony-kimmeridgian Côte De Léchet. Soil and its tang-rocky impart doesn’t get any more obvious than here with bleeding rusty sea-nail salinity for chardonnay. Carries weight and density with a peach-pit tonic in its citrus-bent flavours. Very long and never relenting in its intensity. Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted February 2015  

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Côte De Léchet 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (181305, $26.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with Julien Brocard at the domaine from a bottle produced under the auspices of the biodynamic range and wondering if this is the cause to view this as so very different than Vau de Vey. Here the exceptional Côte De Léchet kimmeridgian terroir is rendered deeper, almost brooding, but far from humid. There is lemon but it is a preserved and slightly pithy one. Rich and layered, a variegation on liquid stone and density. This really submerges into the sub-strata. The most contemplative Côte De Léchet yet. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Vau De Vey

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru Vau De Vey 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (991893, $36.95, WineAlign)

A compressed chardonnay that strikes as a passion play between herbs and limestone and no surprise that the spoils go to the latter. The citrus is gassy, rising, bathed in atmosphere. The structure is predicated on stone, rock and struck flint. Chablis of metal and essential minerality, discovered and defined. This slow-ripened chardonnay will evolve one year for every month contributed by its growing cycle. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted June 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros

Steak Tartare, Bar Le Quai, Auxerre

Steak Tartare, Bar Le Quai, Auxerre

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Chablis Premier Cru Vau De Vey 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (159012, $29.95, WineAlign)

Brocard’s Vau de Vey is a Left Banker that offers up a unique set of Chablis aromas, hard to pinpoint but recalling something akin to tubers sprinkled with rock salt. Even from the forward and sun-gifted 2015 vintage this is hard to tackle and there is some CO2 still working on the palate. Is expressive of dogged persistence, spirit and vitality. A very fresh Vau de Vey. From a very steep, east facing vineyard (nearly 50 per cent grade in spots), inviting and receptive to morning sun. Distilled down to the bare mineral essentials it is simply a wine that pops. Wait a year and drink it young while the ’14 continues to flesh and in lieu of the absence of ’16. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Chablis Premier Cru Vau De Vey 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (159012, $29.95, WineAlign)

The contrast is quite striking to 2012, two vintages so aligned and so very different. Here actually and surprisingly rich for a 2014 but essentially fresh and vital, as per the Vau de Vey locale, east facing, steep, always ready and sure to pop, like rocks on the gush of a geyser. Now settled past the once twitching phase, this has the surety of minerality from ancient kimmeridgian grants. A platinum VdeV with statuesque musculature. Long from head to toe. Personally speaking I’d wait two years for a further fleshing to ensue. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Vau De Vey 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (159012, $29.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with Julien Brocard from the biodynamic range, this Vaudevey (Brocard spelling, same, same) 2012 really is such an exceptional wine from an even more exceptional vintage. I write this with bias in a tasting that includes the ’14 and ’15 VdVs, so the viewpoint is at least obscured in part to the relative terms my current immersed opinion. Such texture, if only from an aromatic perspective, is estate defining, but it does not stop there. The palate brings such healthy phenolics and drive, purpose and this singular exceptionality of precision. The balance is impeccable and the tannin so fine. This will age for 10 years with love in kind and circumstance of the mind. The length slides in lingerings for miles and miles. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Beauroy

Domaine Hamelin Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (391805, $32.95, WineAlign)

While all the Chablis climats enjoyed an ideal growing season in 2014 I have to say that the Premier Cru Beauroy made full use of its gifts. The parcel lacks the striking mineral underfoot of close neighbours Côte de Léchet and Vaillons but what it does have is roundness and depth of fruit. In 2014 those aspects converge with the Chablis mineral ethos to paint a picture who’s whole is both the sum and the accumulation of its parts. Hamelin makes full advantage of fruit, rock and vintage. The triumvirate is saddled with ideal and ripe acidity an d the extract is second to none. A prime example and just about as good as it gets in the beautiful king’s climat. Drink 2016-2023.  Tasted August 2016    @oenophilia1

La Manufacture Premier Cru Chablis Beauroy 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

It is the deponent exhibition of Premier Cru Beauroy that La Manufacture creates the full-bodied cru, flirtatious, gregarious and giving. From what Benjamin Laroche describes as a “vraiment superb exposition,” Beauroy delivers so much lemon citrus of the preserved and pressed variety. It may not define calm, amenable and paradigmatic Chablis like Vau Ligneau but in other ways it is more than that. Ways that come from a need to flaunt and display. Such an interesting way with Beauroy. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tremblay’s is a Beauroy of salinity and beautiful brine, from a half hectare block, piercing if immediately gratifying Chablis. There are some underlying bitter notes (but good ones, like wasabi) but also necessarily and ultimately tart, smoky, flinty and compressed. Chablis in the mind of Beauroy as it surely once must have been, strayed from and has now made the traditional new once again. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (907733, $52.00, WineAlign)

Beauroy is a south facing Premier Cru harvested earliest than most and also done so to preserve freshness, acidity and the most that can be gained from its subtle terroir. Fevre treats it with 15 per cent oak and the remainder goes into tank. Beauroy’s deference here is acquiescence, its character preserved, like lemon compressed in a jar or a curd slowly concentrated to the point of pure, glossy, silken texture. I find this typical of Fevre for 2014, consistent with the rich house style and yet may be the most elastic and restorative Premier Cru of the eight tasted. Impressive all around. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (907733, $52.00, WineAlign)

A best of both worlds kind of Premier Cru Chablis, this beautiful Beauroy, with a fleur de sel-floral feminine side like Les Lys and a white meat, white heat masculine calcaire drift like Montmains. The barrel begins to show, in as much as whatever the fruit is willing to relent and submit. Charges into another gear, where mineral is spoken as citrus. Not as refined as Les Lys and not as gritty as bigger Montmains (or as deep) but in Beauroy the twain is met. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted April 2015  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

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Vau Ligneau

La Manufacture Premier Cru Chablis Vau Ligneau 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

From the valley through the forest, Vau Ligneau is located parallel to Vau de Vey and is widely considered to possess a more favourable exposition. La Manufacture’s 2014 is all about freshness and elegance. “C’est Chablis,” says Benjamin Laroche with a wise and confident smile, followed by a knowing chuckle. Yes Mr. Laroche, this is Chablis. Direct, fresh, intense but somehow and needfully easy to understand and enjoy. Walks a straight citrus line and is very versatile. Near perfect because it can please just about every palate. Settle in and relish the definitive expression of Premier Cru Chablis and with Vau Ligneau there is no need for social media. Laroche does his very best here as a man of négoce, working with his growers. Now 2016 will be a difficult vintage, with at best 50 per cent of 5,000 hectares available and without any idea of quality or price. “It will be complicated in 2018” shrugs Laroche. Pack away this Vau Ligneau and make great use of its charms through 2018 and beyond. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis Premier Cru Vaulignot 2014, Burgundy, France (525386, $36.95, WineAlign)

Vaulignot was created in 1976, one of the last Premier Crus to gain such status within the association. Note that Moreau’s nomenclature is Vaulignot instead of Vau Ligneau, but the meaning is exactly the same. Really round and rich Chablis with a relative and realistic purity specific to place. This alights as a sun-drenched and lemon waxy chardonnay with enough (thank you very much 2014) tension to keep it rolling right along. What Vaulignot brings to the Chablis table is stick to your tongue, mouth and ribs persistence and vitamin water mineral enhancement. In a way it is caught in the Chablis netherland between up front gregariously fruity and strikingly mineral/acidity piercing. Great length in this vintage. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted October 2016  @MoreauLouis1

Right Bank

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Fourchaume

(Vaulorent)

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

As if handed off like a relay torch or baton from the Petit Chablis, the thread of elegance, purity and clarity continues in the Séguinot Bordet Chablis. Freshness floats in Chablis suspension, a liquid not so much viscous but one that acts as a cradling or a coddling. There is spice up on the aromatic front and it heads straight north to tease and tingle the olfactory senses. Deeper down it’s all inter-metallic compounds and alloys, a dimension that exists in a realm beyond chardonnay. Chablis. A circumambient capacity resistant to wood or nut but steals subtle aspects of both. Tasted with proprietor Jean-François Bordet in Auxerre he concludes, “my story is in memory.” Chablis by wrote. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted July and September 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

“Are you a leftie or a righty” is the first question Jean-François Bordet asks at Niagara’s i4c Cool Chardonnay Chablis masterclass. He does so and then introduces his very own Right Bank, Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014. So I guess we know where he stands. His ’14 is clean, elegant and long. It is a nourishing mouthful of Chablis and markedly layered with tart compressions that really travel back on the the tongue and to the sides of the mouth. Séguinot Bordet’s Fourchaume could be labeled as L’Homme Mort, but it’s not. This top of the Right Bank hill, kimmeridgian limestone lieu-dit is known for classic minerality that somehow and impossibly does not translate as smoky or flinty. In the hands of J-F it most certainly transmits the rock but with flesh on that mineral bone. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014, Burgundy, France (SAQ 11094671, $38.50, WineAlign)

Fourchaume by La Chablisienne stylistically shows how amazing it is that when you taste a Premier Cru that makes full breadth use of fruit from across the climats within a larger climat, you get such a full and rounded expression. This Chablisienne is a poster child for such a cuvée. In a way it so perfectly defines the largest of the Premier Cru because it is a melting pot for so many plots and blocks. It also employs more wood so here Chablis softens into the cream of crème anglaise, pretty, downy, like lemon chiffon. A generous, full and flat out feminine chardonnay of aggregated fruit to woo and court a decidedly English palate. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016     @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Domaine Gautheron Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume “L’homme Mort” 2014, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

L’Homme-Mort is a block at middle slope adjacent to and counted as of the eight lieu-dits that make up the Fourchaume Premier Cru. To many hearts and minds, it is the best of them. The increased limestone presence is palpable on the Gautherons palate, after the latent aroma to atmosphere ubiety relented to that palate confident in retention of lemon and lime. L’Homme Mort is straight to the back of the mind direct, a Chablis recall to arms for the days of great acids. It will live long. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016     @ProfileWineGrp

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Taken specifically from a block in the Vaupulent lieu-dit at the southern end of the larger Fourchaume. The style is rich but with mineral in the air, ethereal and intoxicating. Fourchaume does not always get to such precise and hovering heights. This is typically 2014 and elevated by citrus with extreme prejudicial clarity. Right in the linear wheelhouse. Long floral, waxy citrus finish. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $69.00, WineAlign)

Fèvre from from the largest Premier Cru is Chablis of a double-edged dagger, Domaine versus Domaine, cru within cru. Fourchaume is split into five distinct climats and with Fèvre holding plots in Vaulorent, they bottle both a Fourchaume and a Vaulorent. This particular expression of Vaulorent is from three point six hectares split into eight plots. Located on the Grand Cru hill so texture here mimics (especially Les Preuses) with an extension to the northwest of the same exposure, compressing into marl and cut with kimmeridgian stone impression. This is intense, dramatic, rich and lengthy. The most opulence, perhaps in all of the ’14’s. All drama. Begs to be enjoyed. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Vincent Tremblay’s old vines Fourchaume was planted by his father Gérard’s father in 1951 smack dab in the middle of the Fourchaume. In the realm of Fouchaume this is stiff, right wing, reactionary stuff, bracing and complex. As intense in lemon acidity as any in the largest of the Right Bank Crus and very linear. Needs a couple of years to settle into its tough skin. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  

Vaulorent

Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Patrick Piuze does not offer up any sort of dissertation on the larger Fourchaume in presenting his Vaulorent. He has moved on. “This climat is so focused,” he confirms. “The real Chablis.” In my estimation Vaulorent is the opposite of Fourchaume, of anti-blanketing fruit-mineral amenability, sharp, fixated, honed-in. Though Piuze readily admits this about Fourchaume. “Me, I don’t understand it.” So he traded in his larger Fourchaume fruit for the more parochial Vaulorent. What he’s really saying (or I am thinking) is that he’s relying on instinct and holistic navigation to grace Vaulorent with respect. In 2015 mission accomplished. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2014, Burgundy, France (111666, $41.99, WineAlign)

Perhaps more than any of their Right Bank Premier Cru, the Vaulorent is rich, round, super-sized and yet conversely flinty, all in all a very full expression and so well rounded. The significance of southern exposure must sometimes be minimized for the sake of extolling the virtues of this Cru at the northern end of the Grand Cru vineyards, bordering the Grand Cru climats of Preuses and Bougros. It is so different and singular on its own, from fruit raised by one grower for Chablisienne in the best, west facing exposure. It is a complex and purposed Chablis, perhaps the most distinct of the Premier Crus, really stands out, is more saline (and of a specific salinity) that drives the true mineral of Chablis like no other. And the length is just outstanding. Drink 207-2024.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Domaine Jean Paul Et Benoît Droin Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2014, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Benoît Droin’s Vaulorent is approached with the same precise parenting as his other Chablis but none take a shine to ubiquity as they do from this Right Bank radiant one. This brings all aspects of Chablis exceptionality into play; smoke, flint, acidity and compression. The wood does nothing to detract from the incandescence and the flashing of mineral glare and yet the moments of fullness offer calming junctures of textural relief. It can’t always be piercing and raging acids. Balance is blessed countenance in Droin’s Vaulorent. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016

brocard

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $29.95, WineAlign)

Brocard’s Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent is drawn off of the eastern section of the amphitheatre vineyard next to Les Preuses Grand Cru. Vaulorent is not just any other Right Bank climat and in ’14 graces with an inexorable tapestry of geology and micro-climate in conspiracy for a very special plot. It brings a mille-feuille unction of variegated richness and a level of extract to feign sweetness. Brocard’s Vaulorent expresses the vineyard as it should, to show its strength as one of the most impressive and impressing climats not considered or recognized as Grand Cru. So elegant and so very, very long. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $87.00, WineAlign)

This second Fourchaume/Vaulorent from Fèvre completes the double-edged dagger investigation into a Domaine cru within a cru. Fourchaume the large and formidable Premier Cru is split into five distinct climats and Fèvre’s in Vaulorent provides the fruit for both the Fourchaume and this Vaulorent. The level of kimmerdigian mineral inflection is undeniably greater than in the grander Fourchaume ideal but whenever something is gained, something else is lost. Fruit suffering is a tragedy elsewhere in the chardonnay diaspora but in Chablis it is transformed into power, grace under pressure and ulterior elegance. That is this Vaulorent, especially in 2014. Here the ideals of presence, determination and persistence gather together. This is very adult Chablis, very serious and very young. It ranks with Montée De Tonnerre for sheer mineral guts if only missing just a Chapelot-like layer of richness. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Vaucopins

Domaine Oudin Chablis Premier Cru Vaucoupins 2014, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From Jean-Claude and Christiane and their small vineyard by the village of Chichée, just south of Chablis, their now winemaker daughter Nathalie’s take on Vaucopins is a pressing matter from hilltop, southern exposure and grand old vines (65 years) in the Premier Cru realm. The combination of natural fermentation and a year resting on lees brings a smoothness and a silky clean texture to mineral lacing. Certainly draws from and for more herbiage and a calmer, keener, settled sense of chardonnay. Not as striking as some others but conversely beautiful and serene. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaucopins 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 10845111, $41.25, WineAlign)

Vaucopins is drawn off of five hectares on really steep slopes on the Right Bank. It is neither Les Lys nor Vaillons but somehow an across the river genetic and amalgamated combination of the two. Though there is a wild side to Vaucopins it really streams the vintage. Natural and corporeal because the fruit is untethered but habitual in that it mimics the Grand Cru. Its south-facing cragges and outcrops bring warmth to the kimmeridgian and that is why Matthieu Mangenot treats its élevage like a Grand Cru. The result is a very concentrated Chablis from 15 per cent (older Bichot barrels) oak fermentation. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  

Les Fourneaux

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Les Fourneaux 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Some reduction still persists in this summer of 2016, attributed to the handling and mineral-levitating intent to foil one of the warmest Right Bank Premier Crus of Chablis. And so the salinity is clearly specific to Fourneaux, compressed like bricks of ancient oceanic residue and slag. Makes for an intense expression, of tension and in solicitation of patience. The vintage must be called out for defining such an anti-ambagious line with the words and wisdom of the calcaire-argileux. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  

charly

Domaine Charly Nicolle Chablis Premier Cru Les Fourneaux 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From a Right Bank terroir near Fleys in relative Premier Cru isolation (although close enough to Mont de Milieu), Charly Nicolle’s ’14 cuts like a knife through the “furnace” that is Fourneaux. The laser edge of acidity slices through the rich fruit and only Nicolle’s handling finds this sort of linear work from a climat well-known for its warmth and roundness. Such a pure, distinct, precise and purposed impression is imprinted on a taster’s Chablis brain. Long is the understatement. This is trekking on a road to forever.  Drink 2018-2024. Tasted July 2016  

Mont de Milieu

Garnier & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Mont De Milieu 2014, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From near and dear Premier Cru terroir a hop, skip and a rock slide away from the Grand Cru, the Garnier Mont de Milieu is charmingly larger (600L) barrel suave and soupy, more so and noticeable as deferential to many of its peers. A bit stoic and understated in the aromatic department and then linear, lean, unaggressive yet taut on the palate. Not the most corporeal M de M but then again that’s not necessarily the milieu. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisgarnier

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (373548, $44.95, WineAlign)

Billaud-Simon’s vines are up the hill in front of the forest, with four plots that work their way south and west and of parcels 40-70 years of age. This has such air and pomp in its deep breaths with the most maleficent acidity and tension in its grip. As stirring a Mont de Milieu as you will find built on 40 hL/H yields of solid citrus meets yellow apple fruit. Terrific attraction and length. Superb. Classic unoaked Chablis. Can envision it unchanging for seven years followed by a slow walk into and through the preserved citrus museum. With fruit this clean it will petrify before it spoils. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Mileu 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $69.00, WineAlign)

Mont de Milieu crosses the river to rest in Domaine territory on the right bank, facing south, with 55 year-old plots and crazy low yields (20 hL/L). The vintage was better than many in much of Chablis but winemaker Didier Séguier is not sold on this Mont de Milieu. Though flowering was not top notch it was easily better than ’13. Well, hotter at least, as there were days at 42 degrees. Consider the anti-Chablis like funk in the lemon, some disproportion and oddly-pronounced variegation. Some kind of natural, free-flowing character is exhibited in this M de M and it most certainly is an outlier. Coming back down to earth and digging into the rocks the notes say the finish is direct, piercing and marked by compressed citrus. Very mineral, of course. The early variant personality is chalked up to youth and this is not the first Mont de Milieu that appeals to time and patience. It should be afforded some. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

La Chablisienne Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2014, Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Mont de Milieu’s Right Bank, Grand Cru, Vaucopins and Montée de Tonnérre proximate locale is not lost on the excellence level of Chablisienne’s effort. Further endorsed by the ’14 vintage this M De M is cooler, specing-savoury, briny, crustaceous even. The southern exposure develops rich and ripe fruit and along with some SO2, here the bivalve shell mixed with ripeness means divaricated business. It’s the rock and the ancient, subterranean, mineral flow of the Serein’s Crioux tributary that give the shellac, the lustre, prolongation and appendix. The Mont de Milieu ’14 right here is the oyster wine. Make great use of this purpose for a decade or more. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Domaine Charly Nicolle Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

In 2011 Charly Nicolle reintroduced wood into the family Chablis continuum with 400L first, second and third fill barrels employed for the Premier Cru. Old (55 year-old vines) in the Mont de Milieu produce a leaner wine indicative of the climat with a not so unexpected high mineral direct shot to the back off the brain. An eminent predominance of lemon and lime runs parlous by juice, zest and juice again. This is a laser M de M, even by the cru’s standards, an effect created by incredulous and concentrated calcareous activity. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Mont De Milieu 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

If Les Fourneaux seemed a bit backward and intense then this Mont de Milieu is downright cast against a solid kimmeridgian wall. Yet another dynamite and sharply oblique Chablis from an even more striking mineral plot in the most arresting of vintages. Though the current disposition is a chassis carved in crustaceous stone the rewards will be borne out of perseverance. The sous-vide mineral soak and deep saline rub has brought about slow white caramelization and will eventually morph into stony, ecumenical goodness. Wait for it. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Barat Chablis Premier Cru Mont De Milieu 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

You could not accuse this 2013 as being unprejudiced to vintage or unsectarian to climat. It is in fact typically 2013 with notes of mandarin orange, lychee and a texture more creamy than anything ’14 or ’15 in the Barat portfolio. It is also counter-intuitive to the Mont de Milieu milieu, waxy and honeyed, so more older Beaune meets sémillon than Chablis. The vintage has confused many a Premier Cru and this is not immune. That said there is no shortage of interest and perhaps even enthusiasm in the continuing investigation. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milleu 2006, Ac Burgundy, France (265348, $27.95, WineAlign)

Julien Brocard also pours this Mont de Milleu 2006 from magnum alongside the advanced Les Clos Grand Cru 2007. This only helps to accentuate a sense that the Premier Cru is quite youthful though the aromatics are imaginative of culinary gastronomy. From a warm year with low acidity, though slightly muddled the humidity here is comforting and blessed. A real pleasure to drink and were some scallops served alongside this would offer up a little slice of Brocard heaven. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Montée De Tonnerre

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Montée De Tonnerre 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (325241, $52.00, WineAlign)

Tasted at the domaine, from three parcels, Montée de Tonnerre, Pied d’aloup and Côte de Chapelot, climats up on the hill on the right bank close to the town of Chablis. Rounder (with 10 per cent old oak) than Mont de Milieu but still of terrific 2014 acidity, though noticeable with more orchard fruit to mingle with the stones. The tension increases with some time spent with the M de T and like well-structured Premier Cru Chablis will want to do, it lingers with a combination of tension and amenability. Part gentille Alouette and part Kimmeridgian flinty, this is a terrific example of the co-habitable duality of great Chablis. It is also indicative of the transformative restoration and direction of Billaud-Simon under the auspices of winemaker Olivier Bailly. I will let this bird rest for a couple more years and then a promise. “Je te plumerai.” Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Premier Cru Montée De Tonnerre 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $75.00, WineAlign)

Montée De Tonnerre is deserving of its reputation and Fèvre is a large part of that classification. In the realm of the Domaine Premier Cru this is the most mineral (along with only one other, that being Vaulorent) and one of the most in Chablis. The two point two hectare site is gauged in three plots. The catalyst mineral bringer Pied d’Aloup sits at the top and faces east, Chapelot also faces east and offers up richness while Côte de Bréchain, planted in 1936 faces west and brings the acidity. It is in this amalgamation of prized terroirs where the persistence of ancient stone, pillars of vineyard, vine and Chablis climat are second to none. Incredible presence and ability, cauterized and accentuated by a vintage that ushers the stereotype, hyperbole and essential aspects of what it is to be called Chablis. Looking for a wine to explain why Chablis is not chardonnay? Look no further. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Testut Chablis Premier Cru Montée De Tonnerre 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineryWineAlign)

A profound sense of minerality is not merely felt but understood in Testut’s Montée De Tonnerre. The entire experience with this ’14 is precise, focused and linear. Few Chablis are ever this salty (it really is the most saline) and there is this lovely oyster shell brine. Intense even for what I may have come to expect from Montée De Tonnerre, here the stones, rocks and shells ride in on tides of salinity. And yet there is an underlying ripeness so Testut’s is less sour (and/or tart) then most others in the 2014 range. Great example. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016  

Rouget, bouillabaisse, légumes d'été, Au Fil du Zinc, Chablis

Rouget, bouillabaisse, légumes d’été, Au Fil du Zinc, Chablis

Louis Michel & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Montée Du Tonnerre 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 894253, $43.75, WineAlign)

The giving vintage is most expressive in the hands of Louis Michel, brimming with and pushing the limits of the Cru’s available richness. Montée de Tonnerre is capable of but normally kept shy of such viscous, lemon-lime fleshy Chablis. Will pour this way for another two years before developing some recession and spare tire weight. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru Montée Du Tonnerre 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Montée de Tonnerre is a new négoce cuvée for Laroche, using fruit from some contact growers thus “Domaine” is not on the label. The entire allocation is aged in 55 hL foudres and there is certainly more oak influence in creamy texture than the rest of the Premier Cru, though there is no compromise because the salinity and acidity appear in droves. There is roundness within those contexts but because of the age potential of the vintage and the effect of a Chablis climat of such high esteem, patience is required. It is the passport to the MdeT’s future. A return sip 30 minutes later sees the wine open up a bit, the wood melting and softening, but still, structurally speaking so very tight and so, so long. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros

structured-tightly-wound-contiguous-style-from-domainejeancollet-bivbchablis-jeancolletfils-chablispremiercru-chablisgrandcru-montedetonnerre-montmains-lesforets-vaillons-secher-butteaux

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Montée Du Tonnerre 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (405720, $34.95, WineAlign)

Just amazing pitch and imploding vitality from a climat that demands traditional winemaking (in 100 per cent old wood) so as not to detract from a classic flinty, steely Chablis direction. No bells and whistles, just rocks and stones and straight ahead chardonnay. Takes what the vintage gives and tackles the rest. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted August 2016  

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Montée Du Tonnerre 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (405720, $34.95, WineAlign)

Romain Collet sequesters 100 per cent old wood to gently coax the elegance out of the Montée De Tonnerre fruit, a task not readily or handily achieved in the most atypical and topsy-turvy 2013 vintage. At the few shakes under three year mark the expression acts typically citrus preserve zesty but the mouthfeel, texture and application are substantive, leaning to tropical. There is no breach so the wine remains in the proper sous-vide, subterranean mineral realm, with thanks to an early pick. Tart and tang layer with slow-developed, old wood spice. Quite lovely and emblematic of the storied cru for short term consumption. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted at the domain with Romain Collet, July 2016  

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Premier Cru Montée Du Tonnerre 2011, Ac Burgundy, France (405720, $34.95, WineAlign)

Collet’s Montée De Tonnerre 2011 shifts forward and top heavy with good upfront fruit, namely green apple and a quarried road of verdant, emerald green, gemstone minerality. The middle ground is quite wispy, ethereal, misty and then grounded by the sort of tang only a moderate to generous percentage of Premier Cru rendered barrel can do. Lime peel and a linear extreme of acidity takes this M de T places, into an integrated summons for age ability. Drink 2016-2022.  Tasted February 2015  

The fromages cart at Le Bourgogne, Auxerre

The fromages cart at Le Bourgogne, Auxerre

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

16 mind-blowing wines of 2016

this-may-or-may-not-have-happened-raveneau-memory-monteedetonnerre

This may or may not have happened #raveneau #memory #monteedetonnerre

It has never been this difficult to narrow it down. This frenetic, fast and forward moving blur of a year has blistered the patterns of thought so much so that I seriously considered throwing the whole 16 in 16 down the drain and laying it all out there. “Here are the 42 mind-blowing wines of 2016…” and then this wave of clarity came over me like a cloudless afternoon in Chablis. I mean I tasted 50-plus Grand Cru Chablis this year. They could all be on this list.

I meant this just the way I wrote it. The simplicity of wine is a beautiful thing. A vine grows and produces grapes. That fruit is picked and ferments itself with help from yeast it just happens to carry in its luggage. Time passes and wine is made. No one had to invent it. The most basic example of shit happens.

Related – 15 Mind blowing wines of 2015

As if to presumptuously bookend 2016 before it even began, that first post was apropos. New year, 16 new VINTAGES releases were not mind-blowing by any stretch of the waxing rhapsodic imagination but white space was filled. Like growing grapes in warm climates where just about anything can complete a phenolic journey, the possibilities are endless. So that I may feel comfortable quoting Godello again and again, multeity is the name of the game.

Related – Around the Cape in 50 wines

South Africa continued to occupy Godello for the early part of 2016 and that will never cease and desist. Hosting Andrea Mullineux at Barque Butcher Bar was one of the true highlights of the year. The landscape of South African wine is demarcated by ancient geology and by the geographical diversity of its regions, sub-regions and micro-plots. Varietal placement is the key to success. As I mentioned in previous articles, South African winemakers can grow anything they want, to both their discretion and their whimsy. The choice of what grows best and where will determine the successes of the future.

A new riesling on my radar was released in February. Creekside Estate Riesling Marianne Hill Vineyard 2014, Beamsville Bench, Ontario (443572, $19.95, WineAlign) and it paired beautifully with more foreshadowing than I’d like to admit.

Such a showing of 12 from Langton's does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

Such a showing of 12 from Langton’s does @Wine_Australia proud. Formidable, exemplary #AussieWine #vintagewineconservatory

The Langton’s Classification: Excellent, outstanding, exceptional could have, would have placed 16 wines on this best of list were the rest of the planet not so adept at making wine. Like Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Release 2010, Coonawarra, South Australia (466748, $99.95, WineAlign). Such a gathering of Australian wine delivers the preponderance of form, with the incantatory capacity of narrative to bring truth to light and fulness out of pleasure. The mantra repeated with Savouring the new Australia.

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

The #napavalley mustard is something else @CalifWines_CA #napa #califwine

California stars showed up in droves and like any high quality engrossing preoccupation, the trip to Napa and Sonoma this year changed everything. Whatever I thought I knew or felt about the California wine industry now needs to be rewritten. First, Napa Valley: Where ripeness happens, then Napa Valley two: A question of ageNapa Valley: The next generationChardonnay in the Napa luxurySonoma gaps and single vineyardsSeven Grothic tales and Old vines for the Zin.

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of %22grothiness,%22 or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

Vintage to vintage nuance and the common thread of grothiness, or, @GrothWines in essence @TheVine_RobGroh #suzannegroth #napavalley #oakville #cabernetsauvignon

The most pertinent question now in my mind is this. Can European wine keep up with the fictionality of North American reality? Even these wines could not make this list, however great and exceptional they are. Anakota Helena Montana Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California (181131, $158.95, WineAlign), Forman Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (143925, $160.00, WineAlign) and Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997, Oakville, Napa Valley, California (Agent, $179.95, WineAlign). Sometimes the answer still persists. All in the Primum Familiae Vini. And by the way, The LCBO keeps Kosher.

lunch-champagnelallier-azureau

Much of what I taste is in a lab with no windows. That is because VINTAGES is a mimetic project, which is a few projects too many. We wine trackers and writers are akin to Cricetinae, perpetually running in a wheel or like Sisyphus, forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. We read the bi-weekly catalogue, pre-taste the newest offerings, make our lists and check them twice. In every batch there are 10-15 wines that stand out, as much about bell curve positioning as absence of singularity. That is why attending varietal-centric events like The dawning of the age of Austrian wine and travelling the world is so important. Not too mention in my dining room In the Campania of Vini Alois.

ca-la-bionda

To name a few excursions, I visited California in February, Vinho Verde in March, Chianti Classico in May, Chablis in July and Valpolicella in September. November in Paris I re-connected with Earth and sky. The take aways were extraordinary and flush with the relish of new discoveries and brand new days. Who can forget Ca’ La Bionda Vigneti Di Ravazzol Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 1997? Italy in the fall reminded me that Franciacorta is the best kept sparkling secret on the planet. November is a sublime time to visit the province of Brescia and the cellars of Franciacorta. Meraviglioso! Meanwhile, Champagne has to be on the list, right? Lallier Cuvée Millésime Grand Cru Brut Champagne 2008, Champagne, France (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign) should be but again, space restrictions and there was this old bubble from the New World. Decisions, decisions.

Related – March of the Canadians

Which brings me back to Canadian and more parochioally, Ontario wine. The Canadian wine renaissance is attributed to high-end, artisan winemakers like Norman Hardie and Thomas Bachelder. That’s the cool factor. The truth of the matter is that Canadian winemakers have realized and capitalized on the significance and exceptionality of their terroirs in regions such as Niagara, Prince Edward County and the Okanagan Valley. Journalists and buyers from around the globe know it and have begun to spread the Canadian gospel.

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And now #cuvee2016 @CCOVIBrockU #vqa @winecountryont #scotiabankconventioncentre

And so I asked Where does the taste of Ontario go from here? At Cuvée, where was the Cabernet Franc? Where was the rest of Ontario’s Go Gamay Go arsenal? Varietal lampoonery I tell ya. Over the highway and across the hills, No County for old wines and then, “a celebrated indictment of suburban surrender,” Too late for May Two-Four.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

This 16-strong list has much to do with the beg, Drink now or save it for later? I have spent the last 30 years considering wine in some respect. The last 15 much more so. The tries, trials, errors, tricks, and tribulations have taught me one thing. I prefer and receive much more instant gratification from drinking wines young but nothing compares to the insight and the exhilaration of partaking in older wines.

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

You never forget your first hunk of #kimmeridgian love @BIVBChablis @vinsdebourgogne #chablis #cotedelechet

The year’s greatest distraction came at the hands of Chablis and fair warning, twenty thousand words are coming soon. In 2016 I published three times, Chablis from Dauvissat to VocoretLooking for Chablis in Ontario?Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru and Paradox in Chablis. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay. How could these extraordinary Chablis not make the list? Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots Réserve De L’obédience 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign) and Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Bougros Côte Bouguerots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign). Perhaps because I will soon publish Grand Cru hyperbole next month? That must be it.

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

Mirror to classicism, history and tradition. Purity from @valerialosi #querciavalle @chianticlassico #agricolalosi #sangiovese #granselezione #pontiganello

For the first time, I think ever, I gave some love to Rosé in the Days of wine and Rosés. I also fell for new dessert wines and these two tried hard but came up just a wee bit short for the list. Domaine Cauhapé Jurançon Symphonie De Novembre 2012, Southwest, France (470344, $38.95, WineAlign), Losi Querciavalle Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico 2000, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $95.00, WineAlign).

grahams_port-insanity-via-abnermallity-onceinalifetime-piratesonapicnic-piratesv4point0-sharingiscaring-1948-finestreserve

@grahams_port insanity via @abnermallity #onceinalifetime #piratesonapicnic #piratesv4point0 #sharingiscaring #1948 #finestreserve

Graham’s Vintage Port Finest Reserve 1948 (with thanks to Peter Boyd) granted the year’s moment of providable history. Love in droves. Holiday season for the VINTAGES releases were split and categorized, from December 10th in VINTAGES: Canada through December 10th in VINTAGES: Old World and into December 10th in VINTAGES: New World.

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

Singolarità, qualità, diversità. Grazie di tutto @chianticlassico

In 2016, two words. Chianti Classico. The wines have embarked upon an ascension into their contemporary golden age. Image, perception and finalmente, reality, these are the truths all who feel the soul of Chianti Classico are in search of today. Today and moving forward, explaining to the world that Chianti Classico is not what you thought or think it to be. Colle Bereto Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011, Docg Tuscany, Italy (Agent, $67.50, WineAlign) was a side-revelation, as were so many others in Three days, eight estates, Chianti Classico and Gran Selezione, The most important red wine from Italy. And in a year when CC is all that seems to matter, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 2012, Doc Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (722470, $195.50, WineAlign) and Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy (Agent$100.00WineAlign) are but mere mentions in addendum.

DavidPpelletier, 'Le Sommelier Fou' and friends in Vinho Verde

David Pelletier, ‘Le Sommelier Fou’ and friends in Vinho Verde

It may seem irrelevant now but Changes to VINTAGES release recommendations and notes on Godello will translate to a revolution at WineAlign in 2017. Wait for it. Most of all, 2016 will remind me that I will always raise my glass of Vinho Verde to Le Sommelier Fou. Here are Godello’s 16 mind-blowing wines of 2016.

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200 yr old vines. 1300m above sea level @vignerietna @somesmartsomm #rosato #vinudilice 2008 #tastethelava #volcanic

I Vigneri Di Salvo Foti Vinudilice 2008, Igt Sicilia Rosè, Sicily, Italy (WineAlign)

So much about this introduction to volcanic Rosato falls under the category and melts into the realm of the impossible. Begin with Vigna Bosco planted to 10,000, (up to) 200 year-old bush-trained (Etnean alberello) vines per hectare in Bronte, Northern Etna. Consider the party goers, endemic alicante, grecanico, minnella and other minor if wholly obscure native varietals. Locate the vineyard at 1,300m above sea level. Tell me it’s not the highest in all of Europe. Go on, tell me. Tended by hand with the help of Ciccio the mule. No refrigeration, yeasts or filtration. Decanting and bottling follow the phases of the moon. Blush has never acted like this, suspended as if put into bottle yesterday, beautifully minutia funky, every detail in laser calm focus. There really is no reference point, not in the south of France or anywhere in Italy to prepare for such an intellection. Vinudilice is nestled in a wood filled with holly oak (quercus ilex or in Sicily, ilice) but in respect for its singularity I would hesitate to categorize or compartmentalize. In fact I would not use the term Rosé, or Orange or natural to realize a need for reason. I would simply taste the lava. Thank you SomeSmartSomm. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted April 2016  @ivigneri  @somesmartsomm  @WinesOfSicily

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Not members Blasted Mechanism. With Chris Wilton and Vasco Croft, Aphros Wines, Vinho Verde

Aphros Phanus Pet-Nat 2015, Sub-Região Lima, Doc Vinho Verde, Portugal (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

Loureiro of a fashion so rare for Portugal and this region, from a concrete pétillant-naturel style, vinified in stainless steel with wild yeasts and initially no additional sugar, then bottled with 20 grams of natural residual sugar, to alight the single fermentation conclusion. An 11 per cent contrariety of méthode ancestrale dialectic, like a lime-grapefruit cordial housing a dissolving lemon tablet. A bowie cut, boning and dressing of loureiro. This here the whole new way to take the grape, to send it sky-high and bring it down to the rustic roots of glam, sparkling funk. “Like to take a cement fix, be a standing cinema. Dress my friends up just for show, see them as they really are.” Vasco (Andy) Croft walking and his hunky dory pet-nat spinning an original tale of a time and a place, or perhaps a myth, like the rustic deity of the forest riding shotgun to Dionysus and his native war. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted March 2016    @LeSommelierWine

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Oldest vines #barossavalley textures in #semillon and #grenache @cirillo1850wine @Wine_Australia #southaustralia #marcocirillo

Cirillo 1850 Ancestor Sémillon 2011, Barossa Valley, South Australia (Agent, $36.00, WineAlign)

A sémillon revelation is found in this Barossa Valley ancient, a wine procured from vines dating back more than 150 years. To discount that prodigious bit of calculated fortuity would be wrong on so many levels. The Cirillo family are guardians of what may be the oldest continuously producing grenache and sémillon vineyards in Australia and by logical extension, the world. Here the combination of dry extract, mineral depth and straight-lined (unsalted) salinity is beyond special. While the Hunter Valley garners the most attention for aging immortal sémillon, this Barossan will likewise escape, somehow, to live another more complicated and mysterious life. I would wait three years for some extract meets tannic sweetness to begin its development and then take it slow for another six to 10. Incredible find here in Ontario from Marco Cirillo. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted May 2016  @Cirillo1850wine  @bokkewines  @BarossaDirt

Brash Higgins Nero D’avola Amphorae Project 2015, McLaren Vale, South Australia (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The renegade triumvirate of coagulation denotes the shock and awe of this outlier; McLaren Vale, Nero d’Avola and Amphora. Winemaker Brad Hickey and his nickname have taken the troika and created a beautiful monster. A non-oxidative, crunchy, spicy, toasty, chewy and tannic NdA in versicolour, mottled and florid in flavour. There is black and white pepper, cinnamon, zesty orange spritz and a clay influence (plus amphora) to waft one for the ages. The palate flaunts a tapenade of painfully brilliant chalky black olive. The swirl is chocolate and vanilla, mediterranean and meganesian. There should be zero attention paid to the unusual in its concept. This is both a pleasure to taste now and will evolve into something wholly other given enough time. At least 10 years to be sure. Drink 2016-2025.  Tasted May 2016  @BrashHiggins  @mclaren_vale  @TheLivingVine

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Rockpile Zinfandel Cemetery Vineyard 2013, Rockpile AVA, Sonoma County, California (Winery, US $47, WineAlign)

Look towards the other arm of Lake Sonoma and let your mind’s eye rest 250 feet higher than Jack’s Cabin Vineyard. The Cemetery plantation is a jagged, craggy outcropping with “a face uneven as a river jag and asperous as the mullein’s flannel.”  The Mauritsons are Los Campesinos of Cemetery Vineyard in Rockpile. The rocks below resemble giant headstones along the Rogers Creek fault and you just have to believe all this immensity of geology impacts the vines. It does but don’t ask how or why, just settle into the cimmerian depth of zinfandel touched by black fruit, spice and the akimbo savour of glutamate and amino acid. Three further months in barrel (85 French plus 15 American) accentuates the spice, smoulder and espresso con crema texture. Ripeness of fruit, tannin and acidity are simply stellar out of this dramatic place. “You know us by the way we crawl and you know us by our cemetery gaits.” Drink 2017-2025.  Tasted February 2016  @mauritsonwinery  @sonomavintners

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Domaine Weinbach Gewürztraminer Cuvée Laurence 2013, Alsace, France (581975, $64.00, WineAlign)

Though it may long ago have been considered the quintessential one, there may be no other Alsatian gewürztraminer more important than Weinbach’s Cuvée Laurence. The reasons are manyfold but begin and end with memory and legacy. This was daughter and sister Laurence Faller’s prized wine, the wine she put her name to, that defined her gracious winemaking in echo of the estate she worked. Her family has carried the torch and yet her touch is all over this wine. Calm, composed, balanced and ethereal. Laurence is a clear expression of the marly limestone soil beneath the lieu-dit of Altenbourg, located at the base of the great Grand Cru Furstentum vineyard. Where else do you find gewürztraminer of such delicasse, from which classic aromas (rose petal, creamy to boozy-syrupy tropical fruit) and impossible unction combine without ukase? Nowhere. The acidity does not act with impulse. No, it rings, supports and lingers. The extract is intense but out of mind. Exceptional vintage. Drink 2018-2033.  Tasted October 2016    @AlsaceWines  @drinkAlsace  @ACT_Alsace  @VinsAlsace

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Luiano Chianti Classico 1979, Tuscany, Italy (WineAlign)

Alessandro Palombo is skeptical at first, one eyebrow raised but with the look of possibility on his face. Takes me very little time to acknowledge that this ’79 is very much alive, fruit not predominant (and surely some prune) but neither cooked nor bruised. The brown nose (earth and spice) purports a full concentration of anthocyanins, acidity still full in, dried fraises de bois, black liquorice, dirty leather and worth repeating, still very good acidity. Truffle, forest floor and then black olive tapenade on the palate. This is 70-80 per cent sangiovese with colorino and canaiolo and for 1979 it’s quite incredible. It should not have lasted this long.  Antonio says that up to 10 per cent could have been malvasia blanca and trebbiano because at the time it was a field blend, co-planted with the sangiovese, which could explain some of the variegation in the colour. This is a Chianti Classico to lend credence to the idea of using multiple fruit, vegetal and animale descriptors when assessing an old wine. It’s also the reason why you put them away and open them with friends who’s eyes are wide open. Thank you Alessandro for the opportunity and for the connection to your grandfather Alberto. He was a very good winemaker. Drink 2016.  Tasted May 2016  @LuiLuiano  @chianticlassico

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Château De Béru Chablis Clos Béru Monopole 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $87.95, WineAlign)

In 2012, less density and iodine matchstick is on display in performance for the historic, south facing vineyard beyond the Château’s walls. From this her eighth vintage in the resurrection of the family’s estate wines, Athénaïs de Béru has assembled fruit from Kimmeridgian limestone in rapport with a vintage of portent and intent towards elegance. The acidity is much more linear (than 2013) and the limestone sensations less metallic. Here the feeling is more of a liquid chalk and the balance is much improved. Also less evolved, bright and a much more amenable of a bitter pith, more citrus (lemon and lime) and not as earthy. Longer finish too. What 2013 lacks this ’12 gains and vice versa. The comparative literature and parenthetical study is duly noted as apples to oranges so the wines are exempt of one another. Neither answer all the questions asked and both express their terroir from their time spent on it. This ’12 story will become clearer in another year or two. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2016       

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Granja Remelluri Rioja Gran Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain (Agent, $89.99, WineAlign)

“What is Rioja?” asks Telmo Rodríguez. He notes that Lopez-Heredia still manages small vineyards, Grand Cru and Premier Cru plots, but most Rioja houses are industrial. Their wines age in barrels in 100-150 year old wineries but have no sense of place, of origins, of an amazing vineyard. “I want to be radical. I believe it (Rioja) can be one of the most beautiful places in the world but I told my brothers it needed to go in a very particular direction. My brothers agreed.” So costs went up 35 per cent. They bought no grapes. “If you want to work properly in Spain, you have to be a hero.” You have to work the most difficult vineyards, where production costs are five times that of Grand Vin Bordeaux but the price sells for 10 times less. And so Telmo Rodríguez produces this Gran Reserva, a wine that adheres to a Rioja systematic but does so from a blind-eye turned, high density field-blend planting of tempranillo, garnacha, graciano, muscatel, viura and malvasia. A field blend, unlike Bordeaux but a local village farmed gathering of the best fruit. The 2009 is showing no age but the difference between 2010 Reserva and 2009 Gran Reserva is night and day. This makes the ’10 seem fresh, alive, open, almost simple. Here the variegation is distilled down to laser focus, as if the varieties all become one and most people would simply say tempranillo, but who has ever tasted and been dealt such a tempranillo? This is oozing of a liqueur like no other, rich, viscous, natural and dry-extract sweet. An expression of the best microclimates and their vineyard kin. Wait another five years to allow it to remember and tell its tale. Drink 2022-2034.  Tasted September 2016    @TelmoRodriguez_  @Noble_Estates

dominus

Dominus 1998, Napa Valley, California (212381, $176.95, WineAlign)

When I tasted the 1990 in 2012, hanging on to every thread of oscillation from death to life and back again was exhausting. The 2008 tasted that same year could not have been more life affirming. This ’98 is such a zoetic Dominus beast with an embarrassment of resplendent riches. It is everything 1990 wished it could have been and yet the light-hearted George Hrab geological funk reminds me of that wine. The 1998 trips on a trebuchet and I weep at its aromatic reverie. It is hypnopompic, a state immediately preceding waking up, whiffing the most beautiful Brett there ever was or could ever imagined to be. Volatility in a bubble, circumstantial, lost in a dream. Get lost in the butcher shop, the natural cure here, there, everywhere, curative and comforting. Porcine and rapturous, fruit perfect and entitled, structure supprting every note. If 1998 was both a curious and concerning vintage this wine lays those worries to rest. The fretting may have swayed feelings and been difficult to glide fingers across but the harmonics extend with ease. Finishes with staccato calm, a palpable exhale of breath and silence. Five more years will be like this and five more without threat. Drink 2016-2026.  Tasted October 2016     @rogcowines  

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Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2013, Santa Cruz Mountains, California (405332, $191.95, WineAlign)

From a serious drought vintage, dry, warm and demanding, the 2013 Montebello’s Draper perfume is as heady as ever, to such effect that after one whiff this is where daydreaming takes over consciousness. Montebello gets inside the head, with allegory, radio frequency waves and platonic thought, as if inside a cave. An 80 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot (8), Cabernet Franc (7) and Merlot (5) classic, lithe and restrained blend of sheer, utter exceptionality. The balance in 2013 is impeccable but dont be fooled into thinking this is not a big wine. The acidity is dramatic, the tannins fine and demanding and the amount of pure extract whorled and revelling. All in dark red fruit and a coolness through the mid-palate that threads like silk through fine stainless steel fibre. “This goes beyond me, beyond you.” Drink 2018-2030.  Tasted May 2016  @RidgeVineyards  @rogcowines  @CalifWines_CA

Fino, Don P.X. '86 and '62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Fino, Don P.X. ’86 and ’62 w: @sorgatoBTA @toroalbala @LeSommelierWine Magical, impossible, unchanging. Bucket list to revisit in 150 years #pedroximenez #bodegastoroalbala #montillamoriles #spain

Bodegas Toro Albalá Don P.X. Selección 1967, Do Montilla Moriles, Spain (491647, $199.95, WineAlign)

You know it’s a good month when you are afforded the opportunity to taste two Montilla-Moriles Pedro Ximenez oldies, first the Alvear Solera 1927 in Paris and now this Selección 1967 bottled in November of 2016. The vintage-dated PX are produced from sun-dried grapes fermented for two months to eight or nine per cent alcohol, at which point a distillate made from the same PX pressings is added to bring the wine up to 17 per cent. First in concrete vats and then a transfer into 50-150 year old American oak barrels. Only 630 bottles were filled in a PX of awakening and hope that finished at an indiscernible 17 per cent alcohol. Some dessert wines can be cloying Popskull but Bodegas Toro Albalá delivers yet another impossible and crazy dessert wine of heavy fuel, impeccable balance in the face of Lugduname breaching sweetness and aromas sin fronteras. The gamut glides through roasted nuts and dried fruits, from almonds and Van Gogh Museum memories of their abundant flowers plus pomegranate, apricot, peach, nectarine, damson plum and pistachio. So much pistachio!! In between there is orange marmalade, quince jelly and prune preserve. Plenty of acidity extends and narrows into a sharp, pointed tang. No matter how many times you try to empty the glass there is always more wine. Always another sip. Is it viscosity, a truco del ojo or trampantojo? Is there some kind of wizardry at play? Then finally, well, actually never, a finish with no end, or a pause in a never-ending 49 year-old (and counting) story. So where is the beginning? 1967. Drink 2016-2040.  Tasted November 2016  @toroalbala  @sorgatoBTA  @MontillaMoriles  @LeSommelierWine

schram

Schramsberg Sparkling J. Schram 50th Anniversary Late disgorged 1999, Napa Valley, California (Winery $175 US, WineAlign)

In celebration of Schramsberg’s golden anniversary, 50 years after Jack and Jamie Davies revived the historic Schramsberg estate for the purpose of making the nation’s first chardonnay and pinot noir based, bottle-fermented sparkling wines. A North Coast (57 per cent Napa, 25 Mendocino, 15 Monterey and 13 Sonoma) blend of 74 per cent chardonnay and 26 pinot noir. Seventeen years have come to ginger, cumin, coriander and galangal in laminous, oxidative ingenuity, wholly arid in kicking up the aromatic dust. Flavours of pressed lemon, bitter brioche and then tannin, yes tannin. From a protracted year, picked as late as October 19th, disgorged in August of 2014 at a dosage of (very necessary) 11.5 g/L RS. Blessed with high natural acidity of 9.8 tA. How can I not concur with Hugh Davies. “What we’re really showing here is Napa Valley Chardonnay.” Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted February 2016  @Schramsberg  @TheVine_RobGroh

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Down by the river with #raveneau #grandcru #blanchot #chablis @lafolieauxerre #2009 #francoisraveneau #thankful

Domaine François Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru Blanchot 2009, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It would be misleading to address Raveneau’s Blanchot as chardonnay even as we know it as such because Raveneau produces wines as unique as door keys. They are so inimitable and each will only open the gate to its own unique perception. Blanchot is the southernmost of the seven Chablis Grand Cru climats and blankets the southeastern side of Les Clos. The Raveneau narration does not convey the notion of manifest feeling but instead splits the axiomatic atom of the climat. A sip and you are inside the Blanchot, gliding and passing through rock as if you are the ethereal and the wine is the solid foundation of thought, pathos and avowal. There are aromas that combine citrus and umami with a sweetness that can’t be denied or defined. The wine is just a child, complex, shy and yet unable to express both its meaning and power. But you try to get inside its head, stumbling over kimmeridgian rock replete with the smithereen-crushed shells of ancient fossils. This is a calm young Blanchot and you melt away while under its spell. Three more years should render its hidden meaning. Drink 2019-2034.  Tasted July 2016

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

A great pleasure and exercize in humility to taste with #vincentdauvissat in his cellar @BIVBChablis #humanity #chablis

Domaine René et Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2001, Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle opened five days prior which is nothing really for a wine that can age easily for 30 years. It resides in a perfect state. Vincent concedes “over 20 there is nothing to be gained” and yet the still terrifically raging acidity would suggest this 15 year-old specimen is only halfway there. The texture is nothing if not persuasive. In 1931 Vincent’s father began this journey. Here 70 years later is a wine so perfectly intact, the lemon-waxy aspect almost on the edge of the hive. But not quite because of the taut bracing and tight embracing. There is a chew to this and Dauvissat shrugs. “What’s to say?” Nothing but a great piece of his history and his father’s legacy. If this wine is a sentimental tribute to a childhood village, it is never uncomplicated. Drink 2016-2031.  Tasted July 2016

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Catena Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae Malbec 2011, Mendoza, Argentina (Agent, $325.00, WineAlign)

In this extremely specific malbec from a diagnosed block of the Adrianna Vineyard we are graced with the micro-science of wine. And if you feel that using the name of an aerobic bacteria in the nomenclature is an odd choice, consider the mind of Dr. Laura Catena and her biological approach to viticulture. If we can understand and differentiate the microbes in the soil we can make better wine. It’s as simple as that. When wine is broken down to the biological level it becomes something entirely different and this is the road travelled by the Mundus Bacillus. Catena’s usage of 70 parcel pits per hectare has unearthed this single parcel within the vineyard, again completely different and the pinpointed microbial discussion initiates right here. The soil stakes a claim for this malbec only, certainly not in any way that tends to funk but surely as an impresario of soil. Talk about eugenics in the MBT because that science is compelling and can be related to in this wine. It can offer keys towards improving genetic quality of the vinous population. Here we are faced with rich and dusty, a mean streak of malbec intensity made elegant by earthly microbes. This section draws parallels to the (chardonnay) White Bones soil from which there transfers an excess of dry extract and tannin. Patience please for a malbec that will be long lived. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted November 2016

Good to go!

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

Paradox in Chablis

Mysteries of #climat soil and orientation in #chablis and les #grandcru before the wood

Mysteries of #climat soil and orientation in #chablis and les #grandcru before the wood

There is little about Chablis that is not drawn up in contrasts. It begins with Left Bank versus Right Bank, the Serein River and the village of Chablis acting as the interface between. Petit Chablis giving way to the more important Chablis and then Premier Cru the varied and always impressive interloper separating the villages wines from the Grand Cru. Chablis as a varietal concept, as opposed to and unlike anywhere else in the world, seemingly unrelated to chardonnay.

Related – Looking for Chablis in Ontario?

Antithetical wrangling does not end there. The sequential order of a substantial Chablis tasting is a going concern. The winemaker’s eyes will roll with Bachelderism consternation and concentration into the recesses of his or her head before deciding which Premier Cru should be assessed before the next. The geological contexts of Kimmeridgian and Portlandian soils have to be taken into account, as do slope and exposition of the particular cru. The permutations are endless for a place with one grape variety and four kinds of white wine.

Thon, cocombre, crème d'anchois at the Hôtel du Vieux Moulin in Chablis

Thon, cocombre and crème d’anchois at Au Fil du Zinc in the Hôtel du Vieux Moulin in Chablis

Even the tenets of modern cuisine in Chablis and Auxerre are riddled with mysteries and a clash of cultures. Both Restaurant L’aspérule in Auxerre and Au Fil du Zinc in the Hôtel du Vieux Moulin in Chablis fuse Japanese cuisine with Burgundian gastronomy. As if the average inhabitant did not already enjoy a health advantage over the rest of the world’s population, such a paradigm shift only improves the probability of extolling the virtues of the French paradox.

The contraposition of Chablis is most often discussed in terms of fermentation. Oak or stainless steel? Chablis is repeatedly referenced as steely, invariably flinty and almost without fail in bone of contention annoyance as mineral cliché. The younger Petit Chablis and Chablis fermentations will never see the inside of a barrel (well, maybe a really, really old one) and wood is only employed as they move into Premier Cru, Grand Cru and increasingly, climats of highly regarded lieu-dits. The percentage of barrel ferments these days rarely exceed 25-35 per cent though in some cases 50 per cent is seen. In Chablis the words “new” and “oak” are never uttered together, or aloud.

Related – Chablis from Dauvissat to Vocoret

The greatest paradox of all is written in stone along a few ridges and across the most important set of hills above the river. Deep-rooted, inveterate purlieu of geology in eight names; Les Preuses, Bougros, Vaudésir, Grenouille, Valmur, Les Clos, Blanchot and unofficially (depending on political affiliations), La Moutonne. Les Grand Crus of Chablis are singled out not only for their exceptional terroir and climat but also for the impossibility of what happens when fruit is pulled from their chardonnay vines. The Grand Cru are oracles in complex riddles, transcendent mysteries and the most enigmatic of all Chablis. I suppose it’s because the rich fruit versus exigent stone is the epitome of Chablis paradox. You will read this later on in a tasting note, but it begs repeating.

Domaine Billaud-Simon

I sit down to taste with winemaker Olivier Bailly and he apologizes that he will be pouring from half-bottles. I tell Olivier there is nothing for which to apologize. I wish more producers would pour from half-bottles. Their young wines show better, breath quicker and after they have emptied half of a half into my glass, one more tasting from that bottle and voilà, the bottle is finished. As we begin, Olivier shares a deep, innermost thought. “I have a secret. Inox barrels.” The Chablis paradox. Not only the paradox, but the enigma and the Catch-22. When you taste with 20 producers in just under a week you often see a pattern forming, of reasons how the Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru are considered and in what order. Bailly’s method of linear madness is not revealed until the tasting is completed. Only then is a second paradox considered.

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Between a rock and @Billaud_Simon #kimmeridgian #chablis #chablispremiercru #chablisgrandcru #fourchaume #montdemilieu #montedetonnerre #vaillons #vaudesir #lesclos #lespreuses #lesblanchots

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Taken specifically from a block in the Vaupulent lieu-dit at the southern end of the larger Fourchaume. The style is rich but with mineral in the air, ethereal and intoxicating. Fourchaume does not always get to such precise and hovering heights. This is typically 2014 and elevated by citrus with extreme prejudicial clarity. Right in the linear wheelhouse. Long floral, waxy citrus finish. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016  @Billaud_Simon

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (330175, $39.95, WineAlign)

Composed from several lieu-dit in the Cru; Les Minots, Roncieres and two parcels each of high solar-powered Chatains and Sécher. A rounder, softer, fuller expression by sun and out of the open-mindedness provided by exposure. Here the house accentuation from stainless steel helps to preserve freshness and keep it at the maximum. A committal success in 2014 for a vintage that demands acidity and freshness, here buoyed by decisions and understanding. Exemplary Vaillons of lemon with a shot of lime injection. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (373548, $44.95, WineAlign)

Billaud-Simon’s vines are up the hill in front of the forest, with four plots that work their way south and west and of parcels 40-70 years of age. This has such air and pomp in its deep breaths with the most maleficent acidity and tension in its grip. As stirring a Mont de Milieu as you will find built on 40 hL/H yields of solid citrus meets yellow apple fruit. Terrific attraction and length. Superb. Classic unoaked Chablis. Can envision it unchanging for seven years followed by a slow walk into and through the preserved citrus museum. With fruit this clean it will petrify before it spoils. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Montée De Tonnerre 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (325241, $52.00, WineAlign)

Tasted at the domaine, from three parcels, Montée de Tonnerre, Pied d’aloup and Côte de Chapelot, climats up on the hill on the right bank close to the town of Chablis. Rounder (with 10 per cent old oak) than Mont de Milieu but still of terrific 2014 acidity, though noticeable with more orchard fruit to mingle with the stones. The tension increases with some time spent with the M de T and like well-structured Premier Cru Chablis will want to do, it lingers with a combination of tension and amenability. Part gentille Alouette and part Kimmeridgian flinty, this is a terrific example of the co-habitable duality of great Chablis. It is also indicative of the transformative restoration and direction of Billaud-Simon under the auspices of winemaker Olivier Bailly. I will let this bird rest for a couple more years and then a promise. “Je te plumerai.” Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016

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Restaurant L’aspérule #foiegras

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11482703, $77.00, WineAlign)

For some producers Vaudésir is the pinnacle of their Chablis expression and yet here it seems the entry point as it leads in a tasting of four Grand Crus. From three parcels in the amphitheatre, one right at the top by the wood and two at the mid-way point on the hill. A direct, in your sight lines Vaudésir, so very lemon-lime push-pulled and densely tart. It’s taut but not sour, tight but not cringing from the tightening of the winch. The most masculine of Vaudésir perhaps with few equals though unwavering and unquestionable in its achievement of balance. The Inox secret is discarded (or complicated, depending on your vantage point) in favour of 100 per cent (15-16 years) old oak. This is Grand Cru after all. Drink 2019-2029.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (360834, $99.00, WineAlign)

What separates Chablis from chardonnay begins with these 65 year-old vines, with healthy yields (50 hL/H) that are perfect for the vintage from this stoic and iconic Cru. Here is the essentiality of Les Preuses, “the juice of the stone,” saline, crustaceous, briny and simply, utterly trenchant. This is the vraiment Preuses impression, a fossil entrenched in the chardonnay and subsequently on the brain and the senses. A straight jacket Chablis with length up Les Preuses, back to the river and then straight back up and away into the woods. Inox barrel (sic) and old barrels used. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Here Les Clos is a magnified adaptive narrative of the Grand Cru, rich and full of ripe excess. Riper than most of the others, which is saying something. Magnetic, platinum mineral with very expressive fruit from Billaud-Simon’s take out of the grandaddy of all Chablis climats. The biggest bad boy of the flight and in the eyes of the world, textbook Grand Cru. Salinity, floral blossom airy and briny, though not quite expressive of the fossilized, ancient river trenchancy of Les Preuses. But again, Chablis at it old school, from very little shrouded or spice-driven wood, classic, cool-climate, mineral-driven Chablis. The summation confirms why it is poured after Vaudésir and Les Preuses but ahead of Blanchots. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Grand Cru Blanchots 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (401984, $115.00, WineAlign)

From the top right (eastern) aspect of the white stones Grand Cru, just across the valley from Montée de Tonnerre. This is a fuller, slightly richer Blanchots but still so direct, piercing and impressed stone-dominant. Great lemon zest shaved into juice and an amplitude rendering dollop of curd. The lemon-curated and curative house continues to flex its citrus style. Once again, the enigma of Inox barrel and old barrels used. Why pour this last of the four Grand Crus? I suppose it’s because the rich fruit versus exigent stone is the epitome of Chablis paradox, in retrospect and with further addendum to what seemed obvious at the time. Blanchots is the gate-keeper of Grand Cru middle ground. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2016

Map of Chablis

Domaine Billaud-Simon Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Well of course the difference is felt immediately, in simpler terms, affordably easy, accountable, preferential to commercial success. Acidity is prepared with necessary balance in advance of letting fruit run wild. This is waxy and pleasantly sour. A bit chewy as well. Nicely done. Classic unbaked chardonnay in every correct way. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Nicely crisp Chablis for the vintage, a bit lean and direct but with ripe acidity and balance struck. Straight to the Chablis point, with more lime than lemon and a minor bitter middle, ending with easy leaning angles. Commendable from dependable for 2015. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016

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Domaine Long-Depaquit

Imagine waking up every morning to work in this dreamy place where the cup of pure chablis essence runneth over. The soft-spoken winemaker is the youthful Matthieu Mangenot, a man who seems too young to manage the storied domain without the guidance of a father, grandfather and several generations of Mangenot men behind him. But make no mistake for this is his domain and the wines are in the hands of a traditionalist with a penchant for modern musical Chablis. Matthieu’s Chablis are alternative, ambient, precise rock and roll pop songs and totemic, epic poems. They could be from the early eighties or as current as a Spotify playlist today. The paradigm shift and the paradox of Chablis in 2016 are dutifully represented in Mangenot’s work at Long-Depaquit.

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Matthieu Mangenot, Domaine Long-Depaquit

Domaine Albert Bichot Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (391805, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tasted with winemaker Matthieu Mangenot at the Long-Depaquit domain, this is Chablis raised 100 per cent in stainless steel. Gifts the immediacy of mineral and acidity, from Chichée to the south of Chablis and also the eastern areas of Beru and Viviers. Higher altitudes where snow and then frost at the end of April 2016 will mean a tiny harvest but for 2015 the acidity is top-notch, despite the fat and easy vintage, with more mineral driven into the palate (with some perceived though feigning sweetness) and a real gelid glide down the backside. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @Matth_Mangenot  @Bichotwine  @DionysusWines  

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 10278920, $40.00, WineAlign)

An achievement in the richer style of Vaillons Premier Cru, broad and expansive, not entering the cortex with overarching acidity but rather good host invitation. A Bichot Burgundian stylistic really shows in Les Lys, not so much a wood attack but the lees and fullness is certainly felt. Acidity is late and round, encompassing and caressing. A softer 2014 and a good foil to other, sharper, more piercing brethren. Kept in 100 per cent stainless steel to preserve the acidity and the freshness. Even in 2014 this was necessary, for freshness and elegance. Certainly showing the most lifted and modern of the three Premier Cru on this day. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016

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The barrel cellar at Domaine Long-Depaquit

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (19364, $34.95, WineAlign)

Immediacy from the specific stony soil of Vaillons, unmistakable, of tang in impression and such a broad mouthfeel. The presence of Vaillons is nearly always noble, sumptuous, modish and sensual. Extract and tannin are very much a part of the program. Ten per cent of the take saw time in oak, lending an ingrained smack of spice. I would not exactly call it lavish though it is certainly a Vaillons surfeited with fruit, sun and stone. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaucopins 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 10845111, $41.25, WineAlign)

Vaucopins is drawn off of five hectares on really steep slopes on the Right Bank. It is neither Les Lys nor Vaillons but somehow an across the river genetic and amalgamated combination of the two. Though there is a wild side to Vaucopins it really streams the vintage. Natural and corporeal because the fruit is untethered but habitual in that it mimics the Grand Cru. Its south-facing cragges and outcrops bring warmth to the kimmeridgian and that is why Matthieu Mangenot treats its élevage like a Grand Cru. The result is a very concentrated Chablis from 15 per cent (older Bichot barrels) oak fermentation. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Long-Depaquit

Domaine Long-Depaquit

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Long-Depaquit treatment for Blanchots is with 25 per cent barrel. A real preserved lemon and just a hint of paraffin is replete with such elegance and finesse on the nose. Les Blanchots is at once soft but also of a sexy smoulder, like flint that has been sparked, extinguished and left with a lingering wisp. So beautifully wound and full of demurred grace. But don’t be fooled, there is a punch of acidity and underlying spirit. The house accounts for a meaningful if ponderous part of the Blanchot riddle, its centrism wrapped in a mystery, in a fruit versus stone enigma. Recondite, interwoven Chablis. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2012, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Just because the richest of Grand Cru fruit can handle the added value, Les Clos receives a generous 35 per cent barrel fermentation. As per Les Clos the corpulence and amenability adds up to one grand and inviting Grand Cru Chablis. Always critically evident and full of joie de vivre, there is roundness on les Clos like no other Grand Cru and Long-Depaquit is front and centre to the end of that ideal. What separates this house’s style is the long and slowly evolving finish because and with thanks to the wood adding texture and cream to all aspects of its relationship with the largest Grand Cru. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2016

Domaine Long-Depaquit Chablis Grand Cru Moutonne Monopole 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (46706, $89.95, WineAlign)

The greatest of paradoxical moments is shared in confessional confidence with Moutonne because not just anyone can make a wine with the name and of such a singular distillation from within a venn diagram of places. While some lieu-dit in Chablis share affinities, territorial geography and climats with larger Premier Cru, it is only Moutonne that stands alone in the schematic drawn up for the Grand Crus. Though the Moutonne can’t help but take on the atypical characteristics of the 2013 vintage it also can’t escape from itself. Les deux visages are always relegated into the dichotomous and interconnected realm, of Les Preuses (five per cent) controlled with manifest destiny by Les Blanchots. Les Preuses’ fruit is feisty and must be heard and this is so necessary in the tropical and spicy vintage. There is no lychee here but there breathes some very ripe stone fruit and the great white geology of the Grand Cru. In spite of the vintage this is a beautifully managed Moutonne (fermented in 25 per cent barrel) with trenchant piquancy on the finish. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted July 2016

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