How can i4c the future through cool chardonnay?

Every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one man band, but #i4c Sunday @ravinevineyard is always #homewardbound

It’s #i4c, the coolest of chardonnay celebrations. It’s a pilgrimage to a local mecca attracting thousands, arriving to praise chardonnay in all its glory. It’s chanted with incantatory connotation by patrons cantilevered like alluvial fans across the Niagara Peninsula. It teaches us about more than chardonnay because the rapidity of climate change is real and the desire for fresh is yet unquenched. This transcends chardonnay. It’s about growing grapes and making wines in places we all previously discounted. Recently scoffed at. It concerns farming higher, further and edgier. This conference and this grape together let us know that we must change.

Few ideals or notions are hotter these days than those relating to cool climate viticulture and the selvage regions from where such wines are produced. That is why each summer for the past seven Niagara has attracted a world-class global presence for its most important annual congress. The seventh installation of the International Cool Chardonnay Celebration made an ironic and apropos choice in California’s Karen MacNeil to act as keynote speaker at The School of Cool. Ironic for obvious reasons because MacNeil spends most of her time talking about and educating on matters pertaining to growing areas generously gifting maximum sunshine to its grapes. Apropos because like any top quality orator she chose to speak about a rapidly changing world and a paradigm shift for wine growing, producing and ultimately consuming being led down an extreme, on the fringe and ultra cool path.

@KMacwine on @coolchardonnay Refrigerated sunlight, conscious marginality, sophisticated choreography. #i4c17

Cool, as in temperature and slowly developed phenolic ripeness. Cool, as in places like Champagne, Nova Scotia, Austria, Uruguay, northern Chile and Ontario. But MacNeil was quick to point out that the greatest terroirs may yet to be known, despite the proverbial Canadian wine cognoscenti already in the possession of harnessed and usable power through information, knowledge that tells us that five of the 15 (also known as one-third) coldest wine regions growing quality grapes, are found in Canada. “Elegance is directly connected to coolness, the slow dance, refrigerated sunlight,” waxes the poetic and rhapsodic MacNeil, “from couch potato chardonnay to lift, spirit and class.” She admits to pitting the world versus “us,” as a challenge against “them,” the overwrought, overblown and over-produced. She asks the question, “why are they not over it already, these cream puff of chardonnays?” and then “oak is like a tattoo, it doesn’t always look good with age.”

If all these warmed by the hot, hotter and hottest sun and fashioned to express this in hyperbole wines all taste so similar, is this really something reassuring and knowable? Apparently it still is, this persistent overloaded ice cream sundae style of chardonnay that will just not go away. But wake up and smell the altitude and the stone-based, craggy outlooks of  “marginal” vineyard locations. “All of the world’s greatest grapes are only great if they exist on the edge,” said the great Willamette Valley Oregonian David Lett. “Complexity is only achieved, paramount to success, by a slow dance or heartbeat. A great wine revels itself sequentially, over time,” insists KMac, as opposed to mindless and soulless. With acidity at the crux of cool climate wines she talks of “conscious marginality” and “sophisticated choreography.” This is how we should see the future, not only in chardonnay, but in all wines subjected and connected to global climate change.

Says @johnszabo apparently winemakers matter too. #i4c17 @coolchardonnay I do it my way #schoolofcool

Related – A link to the School of Cool presentation download

In the first of three Friday School of Cool sessions at White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa it is MC Master Sommelier and WineAlign Partner/Critic John Szabo who introduces the “soil smackdown.” The question “is there a best soil type for chardonnay” is meant to instigate a healthy discourse but like every #i4c that came before it quickly turns to a dissing of the “m” word. Paul Anamosa of Vineyard Soil Technologies, the main man down in California, is the first to speak. He rambles on about trace minerals, nematicides, oils and clay minerals – kaolinite is the smallest and yet still a very big molecule. “I don’t know too many winemakers with deflated ego problems,” is interjected. “Minerality is a metaphor, not a simile (like what it shown on the aroma wheel). It does not get up and impart flavour into the wine. It’s a romantic notion. Limestone doesn’t give up its water readily or easily.” Here we go again.

Anamosa will give up the idea that poor soil structure allows for a low and slow hydration transfer, with no spikes up or down and this uptake certainly affects vine growth, nutrient transfer and ultimately flavour, but its the elements found in the water that effect these impressions. Not “minerality.” Must be hard to go through life with such a scientifically nihilist approach. It sounds exhausting.

I don’t know too many winemakers with deflated ego problems. Paul Anamosa @coolchardonnay #soilsmackdown #i4c17

Three winemakers go pro on the mineral ideal. Paul Berger of Berger-Rive has been making his wine since he was four-years old and unsulphured Rosé no less. He talks of clay over limestone, places where “the ground is in love.”  Thomas Bachelder monkifies the soil plant matrix made to transmit minerality. “It’s as much about photosynthesis in the new world but minerality is still apart of it. Jory soils in Oregon bring a salty tang, a savour. It’s true.” Shiraz Mottiar notes that calcareous soils that start wet and sticky eventually turn to concrete. “They don’t crumble, there is no soil tilt, they are angular, evolving and difficult, self-compacting and that hard-pan deals with high mineral content. So we use cover crops for developing soil tilt and friable structure.” There points for the mineral team. Szabo concludes with “anyone getting the sense that this is pure crap? We’re going to continue with the program anyway. Monkeys in a parallel universe are doing this and doing it better.”

In the second session, “Chardonnay, I do it my way,” Szabo told several hundred #i4c junkies “apparently winemakers matter too.” I thought Invivo Wines’ Mark Boardman said it best. “Rob (winemaker “Crusher” Cameron) is not trying to make a $100 Burgundy here folks,” but rather chardonnay can be so happy in so many places, in so many ways. Here it’s from one of the warmest parts of New Zealand, with high rainfall, on Pacific coast of the South Island. It’s about pleasing the customers, being approachable and “nice” on the palate. “Respect, not patronize the consumer.”

François Morissette, vigneron of Pearl Morissette talked technique. “Whatever we press, we oxidize. We do not oxidize wine, we oxidize must.” There’s a big difference. The stabilization of these wines are attributed to this idea of getting rid of all oxidizable compounds before they enter into the next stages of the winemaking process. Pleasing aromas, flavours, textures and ultimately the sum of the above elevates the cool chardonnay game and speaks to the future. Ravine Vineyard’s Marty Werner remarked on the high degree of heat units but also the cool nights in 2014 so his chardonnay received no cooling, some sulphur for a night, straight to barrel and left a bit empty. Why? “Because it’s different in Niagara, you need to get some oxygen in there, so that we develop some more fruit characteristic.”

Dr. Jamie Goode

Heidi Noble, Owner & Winemaker of B.C.’s Joie Farm coined the term “juiceidity.” She told the crowd, “when (cellarmaster) Karl speaks it’s incredibly important and poignant,” he knows the truth about location, from the most northerly tip of the Sonoran desert but in a zone of what Karen MacNeil called “conscious marginality,” a micro climate of cool within a hot zone.

And finally, le grand ami himself Norman Hardie. “Solids matter to me,” he explains. “We pump out the separated clear juice until the point where I feel like we are getting to the danger zone.” They make use of horizontal tanks, “so the ratio of solids to juice is much higher.” Solids are critical to expressing terroir but too many solids and it’s too reductive. “I’ve gotten braver and braver as time’s gone on.” Mackenzie Brisbois talked about the 2015 vintage, her first full one at Trail Estate. Her methods include hyper-oxidized, cold-settled, natural ferments in stainless steel, put to barrel towards the end, 4o per cent new, 60 neutral, full malo, 10 more months, sulphured, racked out of barrel and a coarse filtration so it’s called unfiltered. “Hopefully my lack of filtration helps you to hear the music in my wine.”

The third School of Cool session looked at dosage in bubbles. “The Sugar Trials,” or as moderator John Szabo M.S. told us “sparkling wines are wines of process and one of the most important events happens right at the end of the trail and that’s called dosage.” Essentially, the crux of what it is, the sugar trials define how much, if any, should be added.

A Sunday #i4c @coolchardonnay morning at the P & P and Josh Ritter covering Modest Mouse. Johnny Cash next.

Dr. Belinda Kemp led the panel discussion and her research at Brock University’s CCOVI lies at the heart of the Ontario wine industry’s investigations. Tawse winemaker Paul Pender had this to say. “Balance is something I strive for but rarely achieve.” He noted that it’s about pleasure, hedonism sometimes, ultimately something that makes you smile, and tastes good. It’s always a moving target, so many things effect how it tastes and more so your perception of sugar and acidity, even what you had for breakfast this morning. “Sugar kind of takes away terroir.” Dr. Jamie Goode added, “it turns out we all live in different taste worlds. Because we model touch, taste, smell and all the sensory perceptions into an unconscionable, alt-reality which bears no real resemblance to how a wine actually tastes. It’s highly personal.”

The i4c weekend takes winemakers, journalists and consumers from White Oaks’ School of Cool and over to Niagara Airport’s hangar for a grand, cool affair. It shuttles past lunch tastings scattered across and throughout the Niagara Peninsula and Escarpment locations and lands at Ridley College for the worlds most grand chardonnay event. It culminates on Sunday at Ravine and Redstone wineries for brunch and if you’ve not had your fill, more chardonnay. Most of all it brings people together but not without an army of volunteers to make it happen. It functions seamlessly because of people like the Cellar Sisters, Angie Jewell and MJ Macdonald, Paul Dearborn and Kari-and Macknight Dearborn. The Cool Chardonnay weekend delivers year after year with thanks to VQA Wines of Ontario, Dorian Anderson and Trisha Molokach and the chefs of Niagara. The media are treated (better than we deserve) because of Wine Country Ontario’s Magdalena Kaiser, Joanna Muratori and Ryan Zanette.

I was not able to taste and review every chardonnay on hand at #i4c17 but I did get to a better percentage than I actually thought I had at the time. Many of these wines are available in small quantities through the VINTAGES Online platform through August 3rd so you have exactly three more days to act. Here are 69 reviews. If you are thinking about injecting some cool chardonnay into the rest of your summer plans then read on and make your picks. I hope I’ve been of some assistance.

Are you ready for an #i4c17 @coolchardonnay Saturday night?

Invivo Chardonnay 2016, Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand (499855, Agent, $16.95, WineAlign)

A nicely green and cool Gisborne composed chardonnay is just the ticket for warm nights, frâche-inflected appetizers and a good chill. This is quite fleshy, creamy and tangy, just stopping short of citrus-sour piercing and intense. It’s that creamy sherbet and tangy gelato character that balances it out. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted June and July 2017  invivowines  nicholaspearcewines  @InvivoWines   @Nicholaspearce_  @InvivoWines  Nicholas Pearce

Maycas del Limarí Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2015, Limarí Valley, Chile (143768, $18.95, WineAlign)

Lovely vintage and cool-climate conditioning with A-plus exemplary effort from the Limarí specialist. The ripe and bright fruit is buoyed by classically rendered acidity that never relents. I really like the elegance and the way the wood is just a spice accent, not a cream churning machine. Not to be missed. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted May and July 2017  maycasdellimari  #thevineagency  wines_of_chile_canada  @Maycasdellimari  @TheVine_RobGroh  @WinesofChile  @maycasdellimari  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency  @WinesOfChile

Cheesecake Bar by Chef Frand Dodd, Trius Winery and Restaurant

Trius Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (346064, Winery, $19.95, WineAlign)

Quite flinty and mineral smoky, even for Trius and Niagara chardonnay so it would seem that winemaker Craig McDonald prepared this larger batch with a friendly reductive environment. The aim, goal and result adds up to locked in freshness and a decoding of oak to relegate the label as secondary to the post-modern future of this bottling. It’s crisp, crunchy, spoken of and for place with edging cut with spice. The creamy centre is present and delivers texture, not weight. Really fine effort. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Esterházy Chardonnay Leithaberg DAC 2015, Burgenland, Austria (511386, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Tangibly full and rich style of chardonnay with a flinty, smoky limestone foundation edge, a pierce running through the barrel spiced mid-palate and quite generous length. Really fleshy, lemon-citrus sparked, clean, precise and stony good. Of markedly fine compression, layers woven of tart and stone. A highly composed and forged composition, in action and temperament, so kudos to the great work out of a warm vintage. It’s a complete wine all the way through, perhaps restrained at first but structure is the key to its success. An Austro-pure, appellative finessed chardonnay if ever there was from a place where the grape thrives unencumbered and blessedly expressive. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted twice, with Stefan Tscheppe, July 2017  #esterhazy @esterhazywein  austrianwine  Esterhazy Wein  @NaturalVines  @oesterreichwein  @AustrianWine  @BirgittaSamavar  Marzia Gallo  @austrianwine

Pierre Sparr Le Clos Sainte Odile Brut Crémant D’alsace, Traditional Method, Ac, Alsace, France (457788, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

Sparr’s site specific Crémant would seem counterintuitive to the free and easy-going genre which prides itself on the purpose of wide-ranging food matching but the divergence here in minimal. Le Clos Sainte Odile is equally proportioned though it carries a marked increase in lees and texture. Smells more like Champagne and acts this way too, so in that sense the quality improves and food will benefit several fold. The length is exceptional. Still creamy Crémant but with more layers and fine complex stills. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted June and July 2017  #pierresparr  profilewinegroup  vinsalsace  drinkalsace  #PierreSparr  @ProfileWineGrp  @AlsaceWines @VinsAlsace  Pierre Sparr  Bernard Sparr  Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs  Profile Wine Group  @AlsaceWinesOfficial  @vinsalsace

Pierre Sparr Crémant D’alsace Chardonnay Brut Méthode Traditionnelle, Ac Alsace, France (416040, Agent, $20.00, WineAlign)

In Sparr’s eponymous Crémant bottling the dosage is evident in every facet of fizz being to balance out the sour acidity and formidable tension. The most Champagne like of the flight is contextual, textural, elevated and serious. It is a bit on the sweet side (at 8 g/L of RS) as compared to (3.7 TA and pH of 3.29) with 18 months minimum on the lees and aging in oak casks. There is no shortage of fruit and that acidity is surprisingly lively. Tasted with Bernard Sparr who says quite simply, it’s “easy to drink.” Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  #pierresparr  profilewinegroup  vinsalsace  drinkalsace  #PierreSparr  @ProfileWineGrp  @AlsaceWines @VinsAlsace  Pierre Sparr  Bernard Sparr  Maison Pierre Sparr Successeurs  Profile Wine Group  @AlsaceWinesOfficial  @vinsalsace

Marcel Cabelier Crémant De Jura Organic 2014, Jura, France (738641, Agent, $19.95, WineAlign)

A most engrossing and provocative Crémant, at first aromatically onion skin sweaty and sweetly caramelized. No citrus to really speak of and then lemon sweetness to taste. Sapid to be sure, leaner, crisp, on the path to a searing style. Fascinating when you consider the dosage number is upwards to 12.3 RS while the actual acidity is 5.26 TA. An elevated 3.37 pH and a ripeness from the warm vintage really helps to hide its sugar, incredibly so. Texture never hurts as well as this spent 24 months on the lees. Will age nicely into secondary waxy territory. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted with winemaker Nicolas Haeffelin at i4c, July 2017  #marcelcabelier  #andrewpellerimportagency  #jurawine  #marcelcabelier  @APImportAgency  @JuraWine   #marcelcabelier  @APImportAgency  @JuraWine

Cremaschi Furlotti Chardonnay Single Vineyard 2015, Do Loncomillo, Maule Valley, Chile (511097, Agent, $22.00, WineAlign)

DO Loncomilla lies at the heart of the Maule Valley, a place of serious Chilean history. The Battle of Loncomilla was the decisive campaign of the 1851 Chilean Revolution between conservative government and liberal rebel forces. It’s also apparently a terrific place to grow chardonnay. Winemaker Gonzalo Perez’ 2015 is a fuller expression, with green apple piquancy to nose, a wealth of fruit, tart done so right and a true barrel-blessed chardonnay bite. It reeks of stone, acts restrained enough to seem (at times) unsure but in its quietude there is a mineral sway to say this must be the way. It solicits a follow me down the stone road, up to a very orchard palate with gregarious flavours and compressed acidity. Serious, almost brooding chardonnay but very new world. Chewy and very long. The soils are volcanic and alluvial, aiding and assisting to gather into this highly complex, 100 per cent malolactic, reductive, tart and biting chardonnay. The most surprising and intriguing find at #14c17. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  cremaschi_furlotti  @winecremaschi  @cremaschifurlotti

Coteau Rougemont Chardonnay La Côte 2015, Quebec, Canada (Winery, $24.00, WineAlign)

From La Famille Robert and the latest, newest, impressionable cool climate frontier in Rougemont Quebec, climate change delivers another stellar chardonnay attack, here with something quite supple, almost creamy, acid-driven but surprisingly far from scathing and eminently drinkable. These vines are planted on sun-drawing south facing slopes with more than ample pebble and schist in the soil, enough no less to streak a wire of balance through the softened, downy fruit. Well done. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  coteaurougemont  #CoteauRougement  @VinsduQuebec  Vignoble Coteau Rougemont

Creekside Chardonnay Queenston Road Vineyard 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Comes barreling out replete with the highest of chard tones mixed with plenty of richness lifting and layering oak. Quite ambitious, full malo felt, of waves more than dollops of vanilla. The acidity comes later because nothing can get in the way of the creamy texture and voluptuousness. Cool but secondary to these flavours and mouthfeel are incendiary savoury tendencies. Adding things up all being equal the Queenston Road, St. David’s Bench vineyard, with its clay-loam and the eventuality of full-malo effect well, it’s really a thing of richesse. “I wouldn’t say this wine is a whole lot about minerality,” says winemaker Yvonne Irvine, “but it’s there in the bite on the finish.” Fair enough. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  creeksidewine  @CreeksideWine  @CreeksideWine

Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (586347Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

If you have had the opportunity to taste the Montague Vineyard chardonnay from Niagara’s Four-Mile Creek sub-appellation in at least four consecutive vintages you will know that its style is only exceeded by its consistency. Little has changed; the same warm, barrel-kissed style comforts generously pressed and extracted fruit. It’s not that I don’t deduce soft, downy and buttery fruit from Montague. I do, but this vineyard always offers a counter-point with some firmness and compression, as it does with pinot noir. This 2014 is smoky and faintly smouldering, even a touch flinty. Even if it is a bit baked, spiced or toasted it is also a more mineral vintage for chardonnay. On one hand it offers or gives up too much of itself (and too early), with creamy vanilla, ripe melon and sappy, stone-fruit. On the other it finds balance amongst the dense layering of bigger, harder and more productive moving parts. You are going to want to match this with some protein and a good reduction sauce. I’d look to pulled pork, zesty kohlrabi slaw and a tangy BBQ sauce, duck confit with a savoury-spiked demi-glacé or coq au vin, just to name a few. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted January 2017  inniskillinwines  cbrandscareers  @InniskillinWine  @CBrandsCareers  Inniskillin Vineyards  

Vasse Felix Filius Chardonnay 2016, Margaret River, Western Australia (416511, $24.95,  WineAlign)

Same price and highly credible follow-up is what we can all hope to taste and make comment to the great winemakers of this world so kudos to Virginia Willcocks of Vasse Felix for doling out another eminently drinkable Filius. Still holds the Australian cool-climate chardonnay candle from the Margaret River though it’s a touch fleshier, riper and creamier in 2016. The combination of salt and stony-mineral adds up to grip and the tightness means some air is needed. A mess of grilled langoustines would also work. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted June and July 2017  vassefelixwines  margaretriver  @vassefelix  @MargaretRiver  @MargaretRiverWi  @vassefelixwines  @MargaretRiverWineRegion  @margaretriverwines1

Château Des Charmes Paul Bosc Estate Chardonnay 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (511345, Winery, $24.95, WineAlign)

Here is fine example of a winery showing off their rockstar barrel program in a starman of a chardonnay. The dreaminess on the nose and the early 1970’s ambient and textured guitar unction on the palate just get you stoned. “Didn’t know what time it was and the lights were low…Some cat was layin’ down some rock ‘n’ roll, ‘lotta soul.” Tart, lots of wood, bite, so much structure. Is it too much? Not when it’s the kind of chardonnay and music that can stand the test of time. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and at #14c, July 2017  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $25.25, WineAlign)

The vintage is a ripe, accessible and easy to love one so this marks a 90 degree turn for the Saint Martin. This is Laroche’s most important cuvée, sold in 80 countries and collected from select plots across 60 hectares of vines. Structure will always direct this cuvée and so long as Gregory Viennois is winemaker you can be sure that a taut entry will be joined by some subtle oak richness (in 2015, eight per cent in large, 25 year-old, 55 hL foudres). It’s just an aromatic hint but look forward with eyes closed and inculcate the texture addendum. Acids are soft and caressing. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted July 2016 and 2017  laroche_wines  selectwinemoments  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines  @SelectWinesCanada

Southbrook Chardonnay Triomphe 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (172338, Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

The fruit for Ann Sperling’s chardonnay Triomphe ’15 is sourced primarily from Saunders (Beamsville Bench) with auxiliary support out of Heather Laundry’s old vine Lincoln Lakeshore vineyard. There are older, non-clonal blocks with perhaps some Musqué mixed in so the aromatics fly, with no restraint applied by the wild ferment and (mostly 300L) neutral oak. This Triomphe is anything but reductive, a no stress chardonnay from such a far from sluggish, clean ferment. The simplicity and complicity explain how beauty is curated, from a vintage where reduction did not happen or beg to happen so why try to force it. The copacetic re-quiescence bears witness to classic Ann Sperling in such a vintage. Chardonnay of mellow smoulder, of old barrel spice and one to define a certain kind on a line of disparate and unique, cool climate, i4c selections. There are 800 cases made. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted January and July 2017  southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @TheLivingVine  @SouthbrookWine   @SouthbrookWine  The Living Vine inc.

Bachelder Chardonnay Niagara 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (302083, Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Thomas Bachelder’s ’15 chardonnay is a story of what happens ’round here, a chardonnay counting the years of peninsula life. It’s so representative, a comfortable stroll through the echelons and stages of a man’s history, in and out of Niagara eponymy and how it relates to a monk’s personal journey. It also traces the stages of vineyard life and for the winemaker, of fruit “slipping through my hands.” Out of 2015 chardonnay can be forgotten, with weather nothing to remember and on the heels of two most excellent seasons. It could easily pass “into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white.” Here is the time, place and harvest for Thomas Bachelder to interject and explain, to send a grape into a recognizable future, as far as the crow flies. He uses the barrel to pique the fruit into life, to inject French cream with the very intent in demand of its intention. Flavours are therefore sapid, piquant and variegated. In the end, you can drink this in August and into complexity, everything after. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Joie Farm Unoaked Chardonnay 2016, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511261Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

Terpenes up front, orchard fruit and high acidity in ways that mimic riesling but the broad apple juice swirl and bite on the palate is all chardonnay. Shows sugar tempered by acidity in what is ostensibly fresh and simple, unoaked Okanagan juice. This is made in the vineyard, picked three times, from straightforward winemaking, making use of lots of solids,”lots of liquid aromatics,” as Heidi Noble notes. Champagne yeasts are employed to celebrate place. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  joie farm  liffordgram  #JoieFarm  @LiffordON  @joiefarm  @liffordwineandspirits

Willamette dammit! @bachelder_wines @coolchardonnay #i4c17

Bachelder Chardonnay Willamette 2014, Oregon (273334, Agent, $25.00, WineAlign)

The richest Bachelder Oregon to date for reasons explained by the indubitable and unwavering Thomas is no doubt in leading part a result of one of the earliest vintages on record for Oregon Pinot Noir. His Willamette is a veritable intertwine of mineral, fruit and energy like there is no tomorrow. Also welcome to the lengthy one. The barrel is a caramel pillow, a downy wooden bench, a soft French cream dream. Drinkable is the understatement, pleasure the song. Willamette Dammit. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2016, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (427484, Winery, $25.95, WineAlign)

This is one of the first near-premium chardonnays to hit the market from 2016 and so a decision needs to be quickly made if the style is more vintage or house in origin. There really isn’t any estate precedence for this superabundance of fruit on the “normale,” like Christmas coming early or Niagara peaches appearing in June. The ripeness goes beyond freestone fruit and into the tropical realms occupied by mango and pineapple. There is no denying the nectarous and appetizing nature so I’d like to think it’s really a seasonal somewhereness that drives the druthers. Drink this young and with some poached seafood. It will satisfy the pairing. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Domaine Berger Rive Manoir De Mercey Bourgogne Hautes Côtes De Beaune Clos Des Dames 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $26.95, WineAlign)

A restrained, faux-sugary, hautes Bourgogne, spirited near but so far from a Reuilly-like nose. You think it’s thin but know it’s not while the fruit struggles to steal the spotlight from the rocks. Very cool chardonnay with crazy natural sweetness and sneaky length. The warm vintage plus the limestone calcareous soil grows on you for sure and so that length shows off the best of its world and the talents of winemaker Paul Berger. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  @FWMCan  #BergerRive  fwmcan  @FWMCan

Traversa Viña Salort Chardonnay Reserve 2016, Canelones, Uruguay (511550, Agent, $29.00, WineAlign)

Chardonnay from Canelones needs to discovered and Traversa’s Reserve is a fine high-end place top start. The name is derived from a species of cinnamon called “canelón, growing along the banks of the homonymous river. This new fringe frontier for chardonnay is found here 50 kms or so north of Uruguay’s capital Montevideo. A specific sort of freshness is locked in tight, reductive in a gassing up the truck sort of way, subduing fruit and inviting mineral meanderings. It’s on the palate where things get very interesting, upon which the spice, buttered toast and brûlee of pears lay. There is a few percentage points too much wood on this next South terroir-Americanific frontier chardonnay but the substantial mid-palate fruit can handle the accents. A fine example in many respects. Drink 2017-2018. Tasted July 2017  familiatraversa  @TraversaUSA

Malivoire Chardonnay Mottiar 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

This is classic Mottiar chardonnay, lean, sharp, quivering and yet somehow so knowable and comfortable. As time goes by this generates the confidence to represent the Beamsville Bench as its prodigal son, the handsome one, of pulchritude and with the promise of great memories ahead. If it’s a bit reductive, taut and aerified chardonnay, so be it, but it’s also so very Niagara, essential, the essence of what happens on dolomitic limestone. The low (3.15) pH factor at go time caused a force picked at high acidity to maintain the lean style and a partial (not much) malo assists in effecting this high-level bench factor. Shiraz Mottiar’s eponymous chardonnay is the shit, for Beamsville and for what he does best. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  malivoire  shirazmottiar  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @MalivoireWine  

Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2014, Sonoma Coast, California (465724, $29.95, WineAlign)

The first appearance of the Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast bottling is an auspicious one, announced with ripe and delicious clarity. Though the nose is a bit reserved there is no reductive quality and the orchard is but a mere stone’s throw away from really standing out. The wood shows up on the vanilla, caramel tangy and further, deeper into the apple tree’s palate. The finish brings a pie from out of the warm oven. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted October 2016 and July 2017  rsvineyards  markanthonyon  california.wines  @rsvineyards  @ImportWineMAFWM  @CalifWines_CA  @Rodney.Strong.Vineyards  @MarkAnthonyWine  @CaliforniaWinesCanada

13th Street Sandstone Reserve Chardonnay 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $29.95, WineAlign)

No surprise the vintage is a major plus for the Sandstone and the natural funk it owns. And I mean owns. Only Sandstone has such geological drive, not unlike chardonnay from South Africa’s Hemel-En-Aarde Valley. In 2013 there is a sweetness to the fruit mixed with a misty humidity and finally that falling over backwards with feet stuck in the clay and the calcaire. Wildness from J. P. Colas here and with attentiveness to place and time. Drink 2016-2021. Tasted at #i4c16, July 2016 and #14c17, July 2017  13thstreetwinery  @13thStreetWines  @13thStreetWines

Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, (68817, $29.95, WineAlign)

Exemplary follow up to a terrific 2013 with more emerald gemstone, green apple bite and fine textured lees running through. Tart and yet not at the same time, seemingly sweet but only in the way that flavourful salts with added umami can collect, pool and co-exist. Just great focus, precision, fineness and balance. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted June 2017 and #14c, July 2017  hidden bench  @HiddenBench  @Hidden.Bench

Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

The nose on this chardonnay is pretty, alive, vibrant and pure. The palate is exceptional, fleshy and full. There is intensity and precision, class and seamless integration of fruit, acidity and texture. Really longDrink 2018-2024. Tasted blind at #NWAC17, June 2017 and at #14c, July 2017  thirty bench  @ThirtyBench  @ThirtyBench

Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $30.00, WineAlign)

Ravine’s is one of those chardonnay blessed with uncanny ability to amalgamate the sumptuousness of fruit warmed by sun and kissed repeatedly by barrel. The equation renders delicacy and texture, so obviously and vehemently spoken in the 2015 Peninsula language. It really is all about texture with a plus-minus spice note codicil and cool unction drawn like butter in suspended animation, a pool into which all parts have melted. Needs a year to finalize the deal and sweeten the pot. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  ravinevineyard  marty_werner  benminaker23  @RavineVineyard  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker

Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay 2014, Monterey, California (220343, Agent, $31.00, WineAlign)

Chardonnay sans wood doesn’t get more premium than this (save for some Chablis) so the use of unlined concrete tanks (a third to a half) allows the sort of micro-oxegynation that elevates the complexity game. Despite the hard-goings of working this way, the delivery is a crisp, crunchy and slightly edgy (and eggy) ’14 with addendum by the confluence of fog, sun and sea. Mer Soleil. More pear than green apple, the character speaks a Monterey note. The packaging has left ceramic behind in favour of electrostatic painted (second-purposed) glass, made to look like (and celebrate) concrete. This is surprisingly creamy so the solids get their say and the conclusion is of a chardonnay made this way that rarely achieves such a level of texture and piquancy. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  mersoleilwine  #andrewpellerimportagency  @MerSoleilChard  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  Andrew Peller (Andrew Peller Import)

House of Chards #i4c Lunch at Trius

Artesa Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, Napa Valley, California (657585, Agent, $31.00, WineAlign)

The differing and contrastive style in Artesa’s ordinario is literally chardonnay night in comparison to the estate’s reserve day. Absent is the mineral alloy streak, the temper and the level of fruit quality and density so that here the buttery and creamy oak is felt on top and down below. Acidity, tension and posit tugs of intensity are relegated and softened to the mild mannered and middle palate personality. This is 70 per cent estate fruit, simple, rich, soft and mildly spicy chardonnay, antithetical for completion recognition of the basic to reserve paradigm. Drink 2017-2018.  Tasted July 2017  artesawinery  #andrewpellerimportagency  @Artesa  @APImportAgency  @Artesa

Adamo Oaked Chardonnay Willms’ Vineyard 2014, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

This is the second vintage of the Willms, a rich and viscous chardonnay with green apple bite. More barrel (15 months, 30 per cent new) on this than others in an #i4c School of Cool flight and also Beaune-styled, ambitious otherwise but certainly the structured and gregarious one. Chardonnay as many would recognize, could be nothing other, some terpenic moments but the cool, sharp and spirited are mixed into the clay. Last tasted July 2017.

Adamo sources from the same vineyard that provides fruit for 13th Street’s Sandstone Reserve in the Four Mile Creek sub-appellation of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Planted in 1983, it is owned and farmed by Erv, Esther and Eric Willms. In its early stages the fruit acted and reacted as a lean, taut and tension fuelled chardonnay with party a sign of letting up. Eight months later the juicy flesh of orchard fruit pushes past the vintage’s grip and lets tis wine breath a sigh of relief. Chalk one up to yet another cool-climate, calcareous clay stuck moment in time. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted twice, at #i4c16, July 2016 and Taste Ontario, March 2017  adamoestatewinery  @AdamoEstateWine  @adamoestatewinery

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.00, WineAlign)

A blend of vineyards, from Ed Hughes and (Wismer) Foxcroft, perhaps with some influence under the lingering auspices of the Norman Hardie school, here in the playful and progressive hands of Mack Brisbois. Mackenzie employs no sulphur at processing, allowing for chardonnay efficacious and liberally oxidized, settled, cold stabilized, non bentonite-affected, chilled and racked. Not lost is the ever-commented process of going at it with wild ferment, but also caution thrown to the wind via no temperature control (but yes on the Hughes fruit), with the final end game in search of and wanting a fruity Chablis side. Done up in half stainless plus 50 old 500L and two 225L barrels. The sulphur was added in October, the full malo achieved and then bottled in November. All of this technical mumbo-jumbo to say there is still quite a creamy, leesy, oaky feeling but like some others in Niagara (Robyn’s Block, Oliveira and Aberdeen) it totes great palate texture and a “fruitiness,” but it’s not fruity. It may not recreate the Chablis fruit to mineral purity but it is a righteous, proper and Niagara purity fashioned in PEC. There are 266 Cases. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted December 2016 and July 2017  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  @TrailEstateWinery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Westcott Vineyards Chardonnay Lenko Old Vine 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $32.95, WineAlign)

The iconic vineyard, the wise old vines, the chance to make some magic; these are all a part of the mystery and the mystique of Lenko placed in the hands of one winemaker at a time, fruit put to bottle in his or her own special way. It’s simple isn’t it? “Go far enough and you will reach, a place where the sea runs underneath,” take up the grapes and do what they need. In terms of chardonnay the vineyard is ground zero, the genesis, the oldest Chardonnay planting in Canada. In Arthur Harder’s hands the fruit reaches you with apposite if ambient sparks while its chords are strummed with 12 strings so that it never loses touch with its structure. A very expressive chardonnay from a benevolent vintage, Westcott’s breaks free from traditional Niagara with this tart and that tart. There is wind, wuthering and it has the uncanny ability “of turning the world so it’s facing the way that I’m going.” Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted July 2017  westcottvineyards  @WestcottWines  @westcottwines

Chateau Des Charmes Blanc De Blanc Sparkling Méthode Traditionelle 2014, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (511352, $32.95, WineAlign)

A different sort this one, with lots of barrel spice, liquid splinter creaminess, a heavier dosage to be sure, creamy lemon and almond skin, but also pith. Complex if commercially sweeter, rich and fatter, something School of Cool 2017 Sugar Trials panelist Rhys Pender MW agrees with. Making sparkling wine from the warmish Niagara-on-the-Lake regional-appellation (which includes the warm St. David’s Bench) has its pros and cons, the positives mostly tending to richness and the negatives the compromise to energy and verve. Winemaker Amélie Boury manages the dosage of 10 g/L RS with natural acidity (5.5 g/L TA), a forthcoming low pH of 3.16 and a late September pick. “For richer fruit” she notes and then a coupling texture by fermenting in barrels. Look for it on the ambit of tertiary personality after a few years of age. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  chateaudescharmes  @MBosc  Château des Charmes

Domaine De Mauperthuis Chablis Vieilles Vignes Les Malantes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (511063, $33.95, WineAlign)

From a new family (relatively speaking) to Chablis, the estate belongs to Marie-Noëlle & Laurent Ternynck. The old vines Chablis saw 12 months in foudres, on the lees, with fruit gathered from vineyards in Fleys. The cool spot comes with a higher altitude, on a windswept plateau and so harvest is generally five to six days later. And so their Chablis is cool, direct, taut and sapid stuff, as Chablis will go, from such a climat and handled so. Acidity runs rampant and travels quickly up and down and into parts of the mouth that stand up to take notice. Sharp and focused Chablis. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017  #mauperthuis  vinsdechablis  vinsdebourgogne  nicholaspearcewines  #Mauperthuis  @vinsdechablis  @VinsdeBourgogne  @Nicholaspearce_  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines  Nicholas Pearce

Mer Soleil Chardonnay “SLH” 2015, Santa Lucia Highlands, California (958975, Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

The sun always shines upon Mer Soleil’s “SLH,” a chardonnay equipped with exceptional fruit purity that welcomes but could go it so much more confidently alone without the mask-caking make-up. It needs a fraction of the wood it receives. A tour de force of ocean and sun (tied together by fog) delivers acidity, sapidity and the fruit is raised to keep things moving swimmingly along. So it’s got that going for it. Which is nice. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  mersoleilwine  #andrewpellerimportagency  @MerSoleilChard  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  Andrew Peller (Andrew Peller Import)

Good man this man. Great winemaker this winemaker #i4c @coolchardonnay

Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (111989, $35.80, WineAlign)

When I tasted Quarry Road 2013 out of four barrels three years ago the purpose was to take in the nuances and see only the trees. I for one could not help seeing the forest through the trees and imagining percentages of each combining for the final blend. Neutral Mercurey wood looked over infant three year-old vines spoken here with surprising density, tang and tropical melon in both aroma and flavour. This sits on the front palate right now. The mineral Ceres qualifies older fruit as the pretty and the gemstone, essential for Quarry Road, the most like (Meursault) in Burgundy. This fruit transferred to stainless on the lees from September to March before going into bottle now renders to make Quarry the purest expression from the best vineyard. The CLL toast delivers the taut, not yet reductive wood tightening, then and again now, mainly on the finish. Compressed citrus notes are late arriving and even if it is splitting hairs, the oak really impacts the finish. The larger CLL toast Mercurey barrel reveals a fresher, more reductive, less oaky feel. All together we now have one of Paul Pender’s most accomplished to date and all chardonnays considered, one of the finest higher end values around. I think he would agree. Drink 2017-2024.  Tasted May and July 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Maycas del Limarí Chardonnay Quebrada Seca 2013, Limarí Valley, Chile (331520, $36.00, WineAlign)

Maycas de Limarí’s Quebrada Seca or “dry-cracked” makes reference to the fragmented soils, a place of low-fertility and chardonnay loving terroir. This spent 14 months in (30 per cent new) but it’s not just the extended barrel time that separates it from the estate’s Reserva. Vintage plays a significant role in conjunction with the soil and it teaches so much about the virtues of patience and time. No malo but high sapidity, lots of bite and the verdant, healthy life are borne out of poor fertility. This is life affirming chardonnay from harsh climes. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  maycasdellimari  #thevineagency  wines_of_chile_canada  @Maycasdellimari  @TheVine_RobGroh  @WinesofChile  @maycasdellimari  The Vine – Robert Groh Agency  @WinesOfChile

Joie Farm Chardonnay “En Famille” 2015, BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511113Agent, $36.00, WineAlign)

The developed layers of fruit are well integrated and interwoven into the mildness of both barrel and tannin. The sweetness of that sun-kissed fruit leaves a lasting impression from what has been brought into being by a warm and impressionable vintage. Exemplary three or four year Okanagan chardonnay that shows off its charming sucrosity. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2017  joie farm  liffordgram  #JoieFarm  @LiffordON  @joiefarm  @liffordwineandspirits

Sneak peak in the @TriusWines Meunier with Craig McDonald and a true Niagara Grand Cru @coolchardonnay site #lincolnlakeshore #oliveiravineyards #vqa #wildferment

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment Oliveira Vineyard 2015, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (199273, $36.20, WineAlign)

When you consider the level of quality provided by the Wild Ferment 2014 it would be hard to imagine raising the bar any further but this is what winemaker Craig McDonald has managed with his exceptional 2015. The accomplishment is purely based on one year older, wiser and complexities developed Oliveira Farm vineyard fruit, the holy chardonnay grail, Lincoln Lakeshore playground. The site sits along the QEW below the escarpment’s Twenty Mile and Beamsville benches, a recipient of glacial till and rocks left behind by an ancient river running from a lake. It’s a chardonnay wonderland. Intensity of fruit purity, fleshy and real, remarkably juicy and notably crunchy has increased, upping the pleasure game and turning the impression knob up to 11. The windmill generates more power while always maintaining a classic Trius level of finesse. Then you think on the wood integration, equally impressionable because acidity is sweet and refined. Dry extract is also impressive, not to mention a fineness of grape tannin. The site’s unofficial designation as a Niagara Grand Cru should be upgraded with status. There is no better time than the present and the Wild Ferment’s 2015 ability is proof enough. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Exquisite dish by Frank Dodd @TriusWines #houseofchards #i4c lunch . . . Lake Huron Whitefish, lobster and scallop sausage, crab croquettes, asparagus, sweet peas, celeriac slaw, seabuck

Trius Showcase Chardonnay Wild Ferment Oliveira Vineyard 2014, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (199273, $36.20, WineAlign)

With fruit from the Niagara chardonnay mecca Oliveira Vineyard and the addendum of yet another stellar varietal vintage it is this Craig McDonald speciality that helps to steal the show. Striking out with near-raging acidity (pushing and possibly exceeding the 8 g/L mark) the Wild Ferment is one of the most formidable expressions of 2014, if not ever. All the moving parts work fervently and impressively as if the motor is running and the machine careening around the speedway. To keep composure it is texture that brings about grounding, balance and cadence, from obvious lees perfection and 30 per cent new wood plus the rest forged by two to five year old barrels. This is creamy, energetic and tannic chardonnay, all conspiring to express itself with both weight and poise. From a maker who’s been around the block a few times, the ’14 WF will go the distance. And you can start now. Drink 2017-2024. Tasted at Cuvée, March 2017 an #i4c July 2017  triuswines  @TriusWines  @triuswines

Esterházy Il Magnifico Blanc de Blancs Brut 2013, Burgenland, Austria (511378, Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Esterházy was a Hungarian noble family with origins in the Middle Ages, generally bilingual, in Hungarian (as a result of their ethnicity) and German (as they were aristocrats of the Austrian Empire). The family was intrinsically tied to the Austrian composer Joseph Haydn (master to Beethoven) and the estate today shares the same desire; to epitomize the aims and achievements of the Classical era, Hadyn for music and today, Esterházy for contemporary Austrian wine. General Manager Stefan Tscheppe spins a tale of Nikolaus II, the wealthy late 18th and early 19th century prince who lived a charmed life, nicknamed by his sisters as “Il Magnifico.” The namesake sparkler is done in a Brut Nature style, 18 months on the lees and is possessive of a distinctive grapefruit liqueur. The vines grown on limestone-based soil and this is clearly picked on acidity, in the first to second week of September. Il Maginifico may not carry the weight or tone of Hadyn’s The Creation but it is a most excellent Blanc de Blancs composition. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2017  #esterhazy @esterhazywein  austrianwine  Esterhazy Wein  @NaturalVines  @oesterreichwein  @AustrianWine  @BirgittaSamavar  Marzia Gallo  @austrianwine

Pearl Morissette Chardonnay Cuvée Dix Neuvième 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (303602Winery, $38.20, WineAlign)

It’s never easy to follow up greatness, even for this top quality Niagara chardonnay and yet I am almost ready to believe that this Dix-Neuvième delivers more richness of fruit than its predecessor. The stoicism lost from 2013 is woven texture gained, here in a tapestry of pure chardonnay fruit, beeswaxy, faint honey and an almost imperceptible reductive environment. Francois Morissette and Brent Rowland clearly had texture earmarked as the raison d’être for this ’14, almost to a fault but the result is bloody delicious. No Pearl Morissette wine ever gave of itself so young, so fast. Immediate gratification be darned there will be five blessed textured years ahead. And then the honey will set in. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June and July 2017  pearlmorissette  @PearlMorissette  @lassvet  Pearl Morissette

Domaine Laroche Les Vaudevey Chablis Premier Cru 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (416057, Agent, $38.95, 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 and July 2017  #domainelaroche  selectwinemoments  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines  Domaine Laroche, Chablis 

Mackenzie Brisbois, Trail Estate Winery

Trail Estate Chardonnay Unfiltered 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

Auspicious beginnings transcend the customary for Trail’s winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois, case in point exhibit A with her first fledged County chardonnay, a whole cluster pressed, native yeasts and full malolactic beauty. Only a single barrel was made of this really tight, taut and youthfully vituperative one but it will mature, self-reflect and turn into a respectful and generous wine. There is a toasty note that currently smoulders in the glass but that too will gently peel away. The terrific render of acidity couples at present and will melt with the rest of the intensities. This is the estate’s first kick at this County cru, “things are going great, and they’re only getting better.” The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  @TrailEstateWinery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, (276261, $39.20, WineAlign)

Unction and creaminess, lost in a chardonnay dream because to nose it’s a sweet, floral, demure thing. Lees apparent so you can smell the work in progress and feel the texture. But it’s wound loosely tight with just enough give to make it so readily available. Beautiful little wine though I can’t help but imagine there’s more single-focus structure than a blind taste wants to give. Hope to come across this hard to get beauty again someday soon. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC17, June 2017 and #14c, July 2017  hidden bench  @HiddenBench  @Hidden.Bench

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Niagara Unfiltered 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (184432, $39.20, WineAlign)

Norman Hardie’s 2015 Niagara is a reductive yellow goddess dressed chardonnay, connected to the fullest of its fruit, (slowly developed) creamy malolactic, touchstone acidity and grape tannic ability. There is this understated feeling in the throes of richness that the winemaker and the place always seem to agree upon. The display window celebrates and proudly promotes the somewhereness of this ’15 chardonnay. It is never a matter of Niagara versus County, there is little substance to be found, nor is it a necessary point of discussion worth investigating. It’s just highway that separates the two. Both are children of the Norm, both deserving of estate credibility and here, with this next excellent Niagara, taking the Hardie progression one step further. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  normhardie  Norman Hardie  @NormanHardieWinery

Domaine De Mauperthuis Chablis Premier Cru Montmains 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (511071, $39.95, WineAlign)

Winemaker Stéphane Saillet’s is a highly compressed, pure and precise Montmains. No wood was used because of the vintage, a season from which the ripe and developed fruit could clearly defend and take care of itself. Carries the essential tenets of texture and chew. Stéphane notes that the challenged ’16 will have some barrel (foudres) because “in the beginning there was nothing,” an important omen with which to help reflect on the fantasy and fantastic effort found in his 2015. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  #mauperthuis  vinsdechablis  vinsdebourgogne  nicholaspearcewines  #Mauperthuis  @vinsdechablis  @VinsdeBourgogne  @Nicholaspearce_  Vins de Bourgogne / Burgundy wines  Nicholas Pearce

Malivoire Chardonnay Moira 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $39.95, WineAlign)

Moira delves much further into the spice with a wood feel into texture, piquancy, savour, sapidity and on repeat in all of the above. The length stretches further as a deeper, more intense expression of Beamsville Bench terroir. It will need to settle and integrate with another year in bottle. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  malivoire  shirazmottiar  @MalivoireWine  @ShirazMottiar  @MalivoireWine 

Lightfoot And Wolfville Chardonnay Ancienne 2014, Nova Scotia (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

The name Ancienne and the proximate irony appraised is not lost for its translation as endemic or indigenous for wines made from Burgundian grape varieties raised on Nova Scotia soil. The sophomore chardonnay speaks in a vernacular a year to the wiser but at the expense of excitement, which is actually a good thing. A step back taken will result in two going forward, as I shall explain. The same regime exercised mimics the ’13, of 20 per cent new, 18 months in barrel, but a slight course altered with some reductive play in ’14, as an experiment but also as a plan. There seems to be more lees richness and spice notes that flit like direct darts on the palate. Different clones are harvested at different times, so now the vinifications are staggered and layered, which really shows on the stratified and almost germinating palate. Another year older allows these vines to bring diversified variegation, more Nova Scotia and as a consequence, less winemaking. The growth here is fascinating and enlightening. In the interim it may compromise the flavour profile and the wow factor but in the long run it is structure, longevity and impressibility that will give the green light to estate grown, Minas Basin success. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted June 2017   lwwines  jhortonns  rachelhopelightfoot  winesofns  @lwwines  @rachel_hope  @WinesofNS  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  @winesofns

Bachelder Wismer Vineyard #2 “Foxcroft Block” Chardonnay 2013, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (512178, Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Deeper and deeper into the micro terroir we go, with thanks to the monk himself so strike me down as a cool climate instigator if you must but Thomas Bachelder takes on the challenge, fresh and new as ever. This Wismer Block dubbed #2 is purely and expressly Foxcroft, a divided up for purchase and worked by many vineyard. Few do it justice like the unstressed symbiotic relationship between Bachelder and grower Craig Wismer. From the ideal session of 2013 we have creamy and cracked, fragmented mineral intensity in opposite attitude to Wismer-Parke but more on the fleshy and structured side. The wood is bigger and more integrated, the flesh ripping and of the sort of musculature that shows no aggression nor needs any explanation. It’s just big and beautiful, not to mention an ambassador for cool. Hello world. Drink 2018-2025.  Tasted June and July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Blanc De Blanc ‘Carte Blanche’ 2012, Short Hills Bench, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

Reserved for Ontario sparkling but indicative of a bench-steppe foothills style because it just has that spark. Very much a ball of tart and compressed energy and so intense. A middle of the norm dosage at 8 g/L RS is managed in perfect oscillate with equal and opposing acidity at 7.3 TA. Such precision, ease and high quality serviceability is the equanimity quotient delivered by the estimable work ethic of winemaker Sandrine Bourcier. It boils down to recognition. The benchmark for Niagara Peninsula year-dated sparkling wine juices ripeness out of this warm vintage to perpetuate Cuvée Catharine’s unparalleled fizz consistency. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  henryofpelham  @HenryofPelham @SpeckBros  Henry Pelham

Lightfoot & Wolfville Blanc De Blanc Extra Brut 2013, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

Josh Horton and Rachel Lightfoot presented an early, less leesy glimpse of their 100 per cent estate chardonnay at i4c in July of 2016. It was a different animal than this recently disgorged (late February/early March) sparkling wine. The Extra Brut lives up to its designation, from fruit grown on the shores of the Minas Basin under the auspices of a markedly warm year with exceptional phenolic ripeness and 25 per cent malolactic gain. The time relative to texture lees accumulation is approximately 40 months and it’s an accurate representation of Nova Scotia low and slow. The flavours are wisely developed ripe and spicy, leaning into a moment or two of oxygenation, but seemingly richer than the amount of lees time that was given. Now emerging from the shell of not just a warm but a great chardonnay year (as previously proven by the Ancienne released two years ago). The notion here is of a sparkling wine that has been brought home, a B de B that you need to get to know. There are layers and layers of character that fold and unfold. The precision, focus and rendering is citrus tamed, mouthfeel in perpetual expansion and contraction, length linear and elastic. And it’s just the beginning. Drink 2017-2023.  Tasted June and July 2017  lwwines  jhortonns  rachelhopelightfoot  winesofns  @lwwines  @rachel_hope  @WinesofNS  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  @winesofns

Bachelder Chardonnay Johnson Vineyard 2013, Yamhill Carlton District, Oregon (416644, Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

The best of the barrels, always remember the soil, the soil Johnson Vineyard chardonnay will send you spiralling deep into thought, like it or not. It’s origins in Jory, sedimentary soils draw energy from a source unseen, dug down into where the ancients dwell. Thomas Bachelder monkifies the soil plant matrix made to transmit minerality. “It’s as much about photosynthesis in the new world but minerality is still apart of it. Jory soils in Oregon bring a salty tang, a savour. It’s true.” Bachelder speaks of a wisdom once revered, now questioned and he’s fine with needing to work for a living. The Johnson chardonnay is beautifully tart, rich and complex, biting, full of energy, so cool, taut, structured and even still a bit reductive. But it really is pressed, juiced and spirited with lime, for success and to linger, for a decade post harvest, perhaps for even longer a quality length of time. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  bachelder_wines  liffordgram  @Bachelder_wines  @LiffordON  @BachelderWines  @liffordwineandspirits

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Sans Soufre 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $45.00, WineAlign)

Says Norm with matter of factness, as he always does, “it’s the regular Niagara chardonnay, but without sulphur.” So you ask the question up front? Is the unsulphured so different than the other? To the naked senses, no. The charm, power and generosity are all there. It took a full year to pass malolactic inspection. So why do it? Because it reminds of 2012, same slow malo, same deferential and determined kind of wine and the answer comes from something Norm says. “I didn’t have the guts in those days.” But he has them now and yet the decisions imparted this Sans Soufre will be different, with more guts and glory, say in 2022. Perhaps there is a softness about this naked one, something cotton candy about its aromatics and its texture. It’s fine-spun, ethereal and dissipating. It does not argue but you sense it’s possessive of an organized, controlled tension. But don’t be thinking this isn’t a planned piece of parenthood. Did I mention the tannic presence on the palate? How about the wind-up, into tart and the stiff breeze that blows through as if it’s already turning to fall. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted Twice, June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  @normhardie  Norman Hardie

Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2013, VQA Vinemount Ridge, Ontario (Winery, $45.95, WineAlign)

The temptation and the desire to compare Robyn’s Block and the other Tawse chardonnays is unavoidable but in 2013 it’s a fruitless exercise. Neither warmth, tropical fruit, cold, rain, terpenes or high acidity are hallmark traits of Robyn’s Block 2013. So what is? When I tasted through Robyn’s barrels with winemaker Paul Pender back in April of 2014, the Mercurey (one year-old, CLL toast) from the oldest (32 years) vines off of the richest site worked wonders in tandem with new oak. Very primary, fermenting notes foretold of a reigned in, restrained Robyn. The Mercurey (new) barrel gifted tang and girth into which the barrel disappears, with sappy toast on the back end. It too was quite young in its evolution but was rich, thick and dense. The Céres (Mineral) barrel brought exclamatory fruit and was ready to drink. All together and three years later these barrels have conspired for all of the above but if I had to sum it up in five words or less I’d say Robyn is “full of energy, texture and beans.” She will turn out creamy notes as the decade turns but always maintain her sense of restraint, running sap and fleshy tone. The wine is nothing if not a fascinating introspection into the history and the future of this block.  Drink 2017-2023. Tasted April and July 2017  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Sperling Vineyards Blanc De Blancs Brut Nature 2013, VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (511329, Agent, $47.00, WineAlign)

There is no dosage in this directly motivational Blanc de Blancs and plenty of potential palate weight with thanks to 30 months spent on the lees. There is something top single-vineyard cru Alsatian about the savoury and searing coolness in this style, as if it were more than just the sum of chardonnay parts, like some hypothetical pinot blanc and perhaps auxerrois. There is some reductiveness, a lovely washed rind cheese, lemon scrape melted into curd and fine bitters. The flavours are really quite lemony tart. Striking really. School of Cool moderator Karen MacNeil described this like “a nun in catholic school, severe and a bit starched. I’d like to try it a bit sweeter, to mollify the tension.” Though the consensus is one that sees it under-dosed, you have to admire Ann Sperling’s “decision based on lees contact time.” To make it longer. The sharp, angular edges are a by-product of its aggressive nature but like sémillon in its lean and gaunt youth this B de B will develop some faux honey and petrol with age. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted twice, July 2017  @SperlingVyds  @AnnSperling  @CRUOntario  sperlingvineyards  cruwine  Sperling Vineyards  Ann Sperling

Stratus Chardonnay 2014, VQA Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario (307645, Agent, $48.20, WineAlign)

The Stratus 2014 is more reductive than usual, in its case more of a vintage-related affair than others. The “Burgundy method” is employed, but in a “Niagara style” notes winemaker J-L Groux,  that is with native yeasts and a pick that can’t be too early. The wine saw nine months in (25-50 per cent new) oak. This ’14 is Groux’s last of the chardonnay mohicans because in 2015 it will be bottled with lees. This ’14 is nothing if not bloody delicious, ripe orchard fruit swelling, of mild acidity and seamless texture. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted May and July 2017  stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2013, VQA Four Mile Creek, Ontario (366500, Agent, $49.95, WineAlign)

Always Ontario’s outlier, eccentric and non-conformist chardonnay and I say this with complimentary, best of intention flattery. The 2013 vintage is simply chivalrous to chardonnay and in Poetica’s corner, a perfect calm case of preux meets elegante. Here is a chardonnay of inherent oxidative wisdom, from cloud cover, cool, long breaths of Niagara air well into the elongated autumn and the address for what I refer to as “the age apparent one.” The iconoclast Poetica ideal conforms because it is matched with equal breadth by richness of fruit and confirms the way Ann Sperling makes her signature wine. Tasted blind my first guess would put this at five years old because of the exuding warmth so 2010 might just be the order. A 2012 Bench chardonnay might have also been the answer. But with Poetica the promise is like Meursault with uptown fruit, honey, vanilla, caramel, a Niagara vapour and ethanol. Such a telling display that only Poetica can play. Drink 2016-2024.  Tasted October 2016 and July 2017  southbrookvineyards  thelivingvine  @TheLivingVine  @SouthbrookWine   @SouthbrookWine  The Living Vine inc.

Viñas Ventisquero Tara Chardonnay 2014, Atacamas, Casablanca Valley, Chile (511337, Agent, $53.00, WineAlign)

Chile’s Atacama Valley frontier is one of the world’s great terroir expansions, a limestone soil-based flat, even further north than the Limari valley. Ventisquero’s winemaker Felipe Tosso has said that Atacama “breaks all the paradigms of what has been produced in the central-southern valleys of Chile.” The salinity in the land translates to notes in chardonnay of almost no precedence, like salty cotton candy and a fineness of acidity singular in chemical design and how it feels in the mouth. It’s like sucking on a stone lozenge that never dissolves. It’s relentless in its pursuit of fruit. Flavours coagulate liquid almond joy and transparent bitters but there is also a sweetness without definition, a simple limestone syrup that melts into the saltiness of the wine. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  vventisquero  univinscanada  wines_of_chile_canada  @vventisquero  @UNIVINS  @WinesofChile  @VentisqueroWines  @UnivinsCanada  @WinesOfChile

Charline Drappier

Champagne Drappier Blanc De Blancs NV, Champagne, France (599860, Agent, $54.95, WineAlign)

Made with five per cent pinot blanc this faintly oxidatively-styled Blanc de Blancs is gingery-leathery and felt as if by extended skin contact. It’s both tannic and orange pith spritzy, also mixed in with grapefruit and lemon. Twenty-four lees-affected months bring body that is fleshy, corporeal and with acidity in charge on the palate. Quite a full fizz with some preserved fruit attentiveness. The dosage is healthy but simply flavour gifting at 7.1 RS because the sugar is a combination of beet and cane aged in oak for 10-15 years. It’s a special Drappier liquor dosage developed at the winery. What it brings is not just sweetness but a complex sweetener that has evolved and developed over time while it has aged. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted twice with Charline Drappier at #14c, July 2017 #ChampagneDrappier  @FWMCan  champagne_drappier  champagnedrappier  fwmcan  Champagne Drappier  Charline Dppr  @FWMCan

Ravine Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2014, VQA St. David’s Bench, Ontario (Winery, $55.00, WineAlign)

The Reserve is 100 per cent estate fruit that spent 18 months in (50 per cent new) barrel. As it’s both barrel fermented and aged the variegation locks the fruit in so bloody tight so even now it’s reductive, smoky and flinty. A mineral chardonnay needs balance from over the top fruit and so track record, acumen and love will have it so. Marty Werner and Ben Minaker’s is a big, summery and gold platinum expression, very expressive, the two-lb steamed in seaweed lobster chardonnay, seemingly Meursault but just as likely from California. But as Ravine’s Reserve on the St. David’s Bench it is purely Niagara Peninsula. Fruit intensity, extract and controlled oxygenation shows off the best of what these men can do. It speaks to their efforts, knowledge accumulation, trials and finally to the culmination of their stamina. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  ravinevineyard  marty_werner  benminaker23  @RavineVineyard  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker

Adam Mariani, Scribe Winery

Scribe Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, California (511139, Agent, $55.00, WineAlign)

Adam Mariani raised his 2014 in concrete and though we are distracted and of course fully willing to think about the fruit (especially in contrast to his Skin Contact chardonnay) it is the texture that grabs most attention. That this solicits older world comparisons is hard to avoid, but it’s not a Burgundian thematic. Like the garnatxa by Ramon Roqueta Segalés of Domaine Lafou, Scribe’s is a wine that has succeeded in mastering the oxidation process and the scents are of ripe peach, fresh, without overdeveloped sugars but instead a sprinkling of ocean salt. Finishes with a savoury mix of lime, tonic and the liquor of distilled flowers. Drink 2018-2023.  Tasted July 2017  scribe winery  nicholaspearcewines  @scribewinery  @Nicholaspearce_  Scribe Winery  Nicholas Pearce

Familia Torres Chardonnay Milmanda 2014, Catalunya, Spain (332171, Agent, $59.95, WineAlign)

Miguel Torres Jr. tells us his wine comes from a great white wine vintage; cool and rainy, though not great for reds. “I don’t believe in miracles from the vineyard. You have to do some things in the winery,” he adds, like the use of bigger (300L) barrels and a 50 per cent malolactic goal. His chardonnay is a juicy, terpenic, honorary cool climate Canadian. That’s not to say it isn’t barrel rich, but it too speaks a language of the lively, crisp, crunchy and bloody delicious. This is full, satisfying, spicy and buttery teasing chardonnay out of Catalunya and few gallop along with such equine gait and grace, at least not from Spain, without either softening like butter or hardening like stone. Here the twain is met. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2017  torreswines  @FWMCan  @TorresWines  fwmcan  @bodegastorres  @FWMCan

Scribe Skin Fermented Chardonnay 2015, Carneros, California (511147, Agent, $63.00, WineAlign)

Scribe Winery’s Adam Mariani introduces his antithetical Californian from the Sonoma side of cooler Carneros up on Arrowhead Mountain in the northern part of the region, planted in 2007 abutting the Mayacamas range on volcanic soils. The grapes are skin-fermented cold (in the farenheit 50’s) with native yeasts for five to six weeks until mid-December but over the past several vintages they (the winemaking team) have slowly gained the confidence to get them above 100 days. One bottle (served too warm) is amiss and oxidative and this really accentuates the skin-settling tannins on the palate. A second is beautifully lively, tannins a bit tamed, acidity in tact and fruit concerned and even obsessed with all things lemon. The aging is done in concrete egg and with a correct bottle this is not oxidized, nor is it an orange wine but it most certainly is a Carneros expression of great interest. It should be dealt with young. Drink 2017-2019.  Tasted July 2017  scribe winery  nicholaspearcewines  @scribewinery  @Nicholaspearce_  Scribe Winery  Nicholas Pearce

Artesa Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2014, Carneros, Napa Valley, California (457143, Agent, $67.00, WineAlign)

Artesa or artisan, from the Catalan, an affirmation of style gifted in name from the Barcelona family Raventos. This chardonnay from the base of Mt. Veeder is 100 per cent estate fruit, adjacent Hyde Vineyards, all hillside sits of elevation, sun and under cover of omniscent fog blowing in from San Pablo Bay. The character is unmistakable French (50 per cent new) cream barrel warm and buttered, yet young and still a bit closed for business. The 16 months in wood requires double that to integrate but a fine mineral streak cuts through the caramel. Nothing shocking mind you, grace meets weight and toasted chestnut melds into sweet marzipan. The quality of fruit is unquestionably high and the seamlessness a given. The style can be yours. Drink 2018-2022. Tasted July 2017  artesawinery  #andrewpellerimportagency  @Artesa  @APImportAgency  @MerSoleilVineyard  @Artesa

Chamisal Vineyards Chardonnay Chamise 2014, Edna Valley, California (511212, Agent, $86.00, WineAlign)

The aromatics are slow to reveal but if at first they are mildly mired in solder there is this sweet basil-herbal and lemon-balmy calmness on the entry. Takes some moments and then opens to a creamy, barrel-sweetened, tart and layered chardonnay. Looked at blind I’d certainly peg this as warmer climate, New Zealand perhaps but more likely and gracefully California. Indeed the Chamisal-Chamise of Edna Valley origins completes the picture. The first vineyard planted in the Edna Valley in 1973 near the Pacific and a long temperate growing season adds up to low and slow phenolic developed chardonnay. The warm vintage plus calcareous, clay-rich soil develops further flavour. Shy no more, the namesake flowering plant Adenostoma fasciculatum (chamise or greasewood) native to California bounds away with complex flavours. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted July 2017  chamisalvyd  #andrewpellerimportagency  @ChamisalVyd  @APImportAgency  @Chamisal.Vineyards  @APImportAgency

Vasse Felix Chardonnay Heytesbury 2015, Margaret River, Western Australia (674648, $91.00,  WineAlign)

Heytesbury is Virginia Willcock’s top chardonnay and while it is one of Australia’s most iconic wines, it may never be made the same way twice. In 2015 the élèvage is in French oak for nine months (57 per cent new and 43, one to two years old) but no malolactic was encouraged. That’s a non-committal way of saying (and Virginia did in fact say) there was no malo in 2015 simply because it was not a vintage in which the acidity needed to be tamed. So with fruit so pure, strong and expressive, what else is there to say? Simply that you would be an idiot to tire of a fresh herb garden, blue slate shoes, ripe pomelo, a wedge of smoked cheddar, fresh scones and a crunch of mellifluous honeycomb. Heytesbury will gift all of this and more. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2017  vassefelixwines  margaretriver  @vassefelix  @MargaretRiver  @MargaretRiverWi  @vassefelixwines  @MargaretRiverWineRegion  @margaretriverwines1

Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Estate Blanc De Blancs 2013, Nova Scotia, (Winery$119.50, WineAlign)

Tasted from a bottle disgorged in May 2017, there alights a plugged-in, three-pronged, dazed, charged and enchanted energy about the Bridge’s ’13 Blanc de Blancs. The history of go it alone pure chardonnay is a relatively short one for the estate so this quickly makes up for lost time or rather with haste sets the timer and heads out at first light. “Like sittin’ on pins and needles, things fall apart, it’s scientific.” Wild, of talking heads temper and yeasts, done up in demi-muids, with a wilder secondary fermentative push riding on the coattails of the primary fermentation. Everything in this wine is a productive child of the vineyard, of no third party sugars or consultations. “How do you do that without making a Pétillant Naturel,” I wonder aloud. It’s a second ferment, non-contiguous is the reason, even if the former is both influencer and mentor to the latter. It certainly falls under the category of “micro-cuvée. Like its cousin and predecessor (Blanc de Noirs 2011), this ’13 BdeB is mired intensely inward within its own specificity and is not so much a sparkling wine with competitive soul. It is a pure representative of chardonnay grown in Nova Scotia for one purpose. So let’s talk about true stories and wild, wild life. “You get on board anytime you like.” Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2017  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones   winesofn  @Benjamin_Bridge  @benjaminbridgevineyards  @WinesofNS  @benjaminbridgevineyards  @winesofns

Cuvée des Amis in grand format from le grand ami @normhardie at an #i4c @coolchardonnay grand tasting dances and trips the light fantastic with unconscionable concentration.

Norman Hardie Chardonnay Cuvée Des Amis 2014, Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $150.00, 1500ml, WineAlign)

As exceptional as chardonnay may have seemed from out of the 2013 Ontario vintage you haven’t lived or loved until you get a taste of (only in magnum format) Norm Hardie’s 2014 Cuvées des Amis. This chardonnay attacks and ascends, recalibrating the inner workings of the brain and how it develops conceptualization. It is a state of the art and all-knowing elixir to remind that ’13 was a vintage with profitable yields and a generously stretched canvas on which to practice on, for when things begin to get real. The CdeA spent 18 months in barrel, the first 12 (in 35 per cent new), the next six in neutral and the last six in stainless steel on the fine lees. The spin class in the mouth manages agility, dextrous, furtive movement and completes many pirouettes. The dance is pure joy but the intensity is equally to disturbingly intrusive, suggesting more settling time is necessary. The flavour pearls are delicate and come straight from the oyster so they carry salinity, power and brine. Pure lemon essence is received by intravenous injection. Sumptuous is translated from Hardie-speak as a four-letter, Prince Edward County word. It doesn’t get more real than right here, with the best fruit, the tripping of the light fantastic, previously unheard and unseen unconscionable concentration. Drink 2019-2025.  Tasted twice, June and July 2017  normanhardiewinery  @normhardie  Norman Hardie

Took all night but it was so worth it. Welcome to #i4c17 @coolchardonnay #ilivechardonnay

Good to go!

Godello

Twitter: @mgodello

Instagram: mgodello

WineAlign

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

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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

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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  

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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  

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Chablis got soil

Les Terroirs de Chablis, Domain Jean-Marc Brocard

Les Terroirs de Chablis, Domain Jean-Marc Brocard

When you look at it in the most base and simple way Chablis is one thing. Like having a surname taken from the family’s ancestral village. The name connotes the surrounding wine-growing area and the town at its epicentre. It speaks to a community as a sub-regional district of Burgundy and it lends nomenclature to the all-in, mono-varietal entity. Though divided into four sub-appellations; Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis is chardonnay and it is a place of one terroir.

Is it really? Chablis is chardonnay for varietal purposes but only that links it to other chardonnay. Chablis is more than chardonnay, not existential as chardonnay and if you ask wiser men than me, is not chardonnay. So what ties it together? What commonality beyond grape variety is shared by the quaternate appellations of Chablis? Soil.

Soil in Chablis is defined by a widely accepted generalization. “The Kimmeridgian is a geological age in the Upper Jurassic epoch, around 150 million years ago. In Chablis, one finds subsoils of gray marl which alternate with bands of limestone, sometimes very rich in fossils of Exogyra virgula, a small, comma-shaped oyster that is characteristic of the marl from the Middle and Upper Kimmeridgian.” The eminence and éclat of terroir rises through the increasingly beneficial levels of Oxfordian, Portlandian and into Kimmeridgian. Petite Chablis, Chablis, Cru/Climat.

Related – Looking for Chablis in Ontario?

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 – Paradox in Chablis

My first piece centred on the history and future of greatness in Chablis. I made this bold statement about (seventh generation Chablis winemaker) Edouard Vocoret and (Greek-German) Eleni Theodoropoulos. “I have met and tasted the future of Chablis and its name is Edouard Vocoret and Eleni Theodoropoulos.” They carry a torch lit by producers like Vincent Dauvissat. The musicality of his wines are self-conscious without being self-regarding. Their aromas, flavours and textures tend to themselves, to Chablis and to the world at large. Please welcome Edouard and Eleni to this stage.

Related – Chablis from Dauvissat to Vocoret

While in Chablis I came face to grace with the monopole ideal from one grower who glides ethereal in her freedom from appellative constraints. The rows outside the 11th-12th century monk’s wall demarcate Le Clos de Béru Vineyard. All of Athénaïs de Béru’s wines are single-vineyard Chablis save for the Terroir de Beru, a wine that gathers all the vineyards to express the all-encompassing Béru terroir. Béru. The Left Bank domaine farmed by Athénaïs de Béru, organically, biodynamically and spiritually. Chablis from the tree of life.

Related – Enlightened Chablis of Château De Béru

Last week I wrote a Chablis piece that focused on the wines of Quebec native Patrick Piuze. It was in July of 2008 that Piuze made the decision to go solo and start his own winery. While he may not be a wine grower, he is an accomplished and respected winemaker. He may not own his vineyards but it took him little time to forge cultivated and solicitous relationships with farmers in Chablis. The twenty-five tasting notes were posted to open a window into the portal of Patrick Piuze in Chablis.

Related – A Canadian in Chablis

Map of Chablis

My reviews for Premier Cru and Grand Cru will follow this post. Including the week I spent tasting in Chablis and in the six months since I have written 73 tasting notes for wines that do not fall under the auspices of the (47 Premier and Grand Cru) climats; 20 for Petit Chablis, 47 on Chablis and nine dug into more depth in Chablis Vieilles Vignes. It should be noted that many of these wines are in fact a product of specific lieu-dits, “an area of land whose name recalls a particularity that is usually topographical or historical.” While these wines are not considered to be first or second tier Chablis, they are great and specific expressions of Chablis terroir. And so it took 6,000-plus words to get these reviews finished. Please enjoy the brevity of the overall account.

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Petit #chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru, Grand Cru. Right at it with 26 @BIVBChablis #ericszablowski #aucoeurduvin

Petit Chablis

Domaine Alexandre Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 13135781, $21.30, WineAlign)

In warmer draw and major tones the plot of La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne provides balm and herbiage and a minor more towards weight and oxidation. In spite of this unction and embrocation there remains and persists the necessary citrus and smoky flint. What this Petit Chablis from Guy et Olivier surrenders to creamy, micro-oxygenated texture it proffers and scraps in the name of complexity. Petit Chablis in a singular class. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @lesvinsdupre

domaine-du-barat

Tasting cave at Domaine Barat

Domaine Barat Petit Chablis ‘Le Padabu’ 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Angèle Barat says this about making Petit Chablis. “You don’t abuse.” From calcareous soil on the Beine plateau, the Barat Padabu is what you might call a perfect gougeres white. It is Petit Chablis as it is meant to be; pure, basic, unctuous, unadulterated juice with the slightest mineral hint. Nothing more. nothing less. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016   

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  @Billaud_Simon

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Les Plantes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

He waits until we have traveled through a full tasting of Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru, but then Julien Brocard is more than pleased to introduce his biodynamic range. It begins with Petit Chablis Les Plantes 2014, the stepping stone into how and why we are to understand why Julien brought this approach to the estate. “His witchcraft,” as he puts it, for healthy vines, wines and lifestyle. What it brings to Petit Chablis is a true purpose, in aridity, from mineral salinity and for affinity to wine sustaining infinity. It is too early to know how biodynamics will lead to commercial successes and here the best is not yet avowed, even in the great vintage because the maker knows not yet what it is he’s got. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

La Chablisienne Petit Chablis Pas si Petit 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Pas si Petit translates to “not so small,” as much a request to not take things so literally as it is a service of notice as to the style of Chablisienne’s Petit Chablis. It is in fact quite a rounded PC, an all-encompassing, tie in multi-soil aspects in one big cuveé. It’s not so petite, something easily attributed to five to six months aging on the lees, all in tank. The simple and highly effective entry point teaches and receives with the Pas si Petit. Petit Chablis for all and for everyone to enter the omniscient domain of Chablis. Curiosity, legwork, hooked. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted at the domaine with Vincent Bartement, July 2016.   @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From estate vineyards and the entry point into the time-honoured Collet style, the Petit Chablis is seamless, steely, 100 per cent stainless steel raised bottled vigour. The sprite and tart are appetite whetting with balm and backbite, without strings. A chill $15 white, simple, crushable.  Drink 2016-2017  

sebastien-dampt

Sébastien Dampt

Sébastien Dampt Petit Chablis ‘Terrois de Milly’ 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $27.56, WineAlign)

Sébastien Dampt’s is in fact comunicado to the Milly terroir, a Petit Chablis of a singular matter that clearly speaks of its home connection. Comparisons escape me what with such physically held by force, dire straits, desperate compression of tang, mineral and variegation, virtually unheard of for the genre. From plots between four and five hectares in breadth, T de M holds the kind of citrus that is like a slice of dense cake yet somehow airy and filled with delight. “Communication, Communiqué, Communiqué.” A huge success for the vintage. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted at the domain with Sébastien Dampt, July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

Domaine Jean Dauvissat Père Et Fils Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

From a single portlandian (0.16 hectare) plot of Petit Chablis at Milly, on the plateau of the Chappelle Vaupelteigne. Chablis of the sort of portandia to enhearten and portend extreme unction, brighten and embolden as flinty as any calcaire can. In a five PC flight strike me down if he isn’t the most intense and straight up citrus example. Young Chablis of la concentration extraordinaire. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @JeanDauvissat

William Fèvre Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Fèvre’s Petit Chablis is fashioned from very old grower’s contracts, established once upon a time by William, still concurrent and contiguous into the present tense accumulation of 200,000 bottles. Classic PC, fresh, elegant, inwardly tart and specifically mineral. Be still its crunchy texture with a soft organza underlay in the guise of a bed of herbs. The farmer’s commitments have been kept specificaly for this purpose, to build the bridge and create a gateway to Chablis. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016 @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Alain Geoffroy Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (470393, $19.95,  WineAlign)

Somewhat rich and unexpectedly expressive for Petit Chablis with a juniper and tonic note at the finish. Getable as per the vintage and no surprise at that while at the same time offering up quite a bit of texture and richness for the category. Nettles at the end are hard to forget. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted January 2017  

Domaine Hamelin Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Hamelin’s Petit Chablis hails from the clay soil plateau on the domain’s situation at Lignorelles, co-mingling in soil with distinct out-country lying kimmeridgian. Hamelin’s is quite a fuller expression with more mineral and that green glade sort of brightness. It climbs into a lime and metal feel though there is not as much acidity or at least a very different kind than some others in a large flight. Very representative of the modern oeuvre. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016    @oenophilia1

laroche-pc

Benjamin Laroche L’Atelier Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

At the age of 40 Benjamin Laroche decided to got it alone. The native of Chablis and his family have farmed vineyards here since 1663 and Laroche now produces solely as a négoce, working with eight growers. 2013 for Petit Chablis and Chablis and 2012 for Premier Cru and Grand Cru were his first vintages. L’Atelier Petit Chablis is drawn from near the village of Beine, a place “tres solaire.” His rendition of the portal opening chardonnay is an aperitif of a Petit Chablis, crisp but rich and broad, able to serve one and all. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

La Manufacture Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

La Manufacture’s Petit Chablis is an entirely separate entity from L’atelier, as the two lines each only come from one estate. There is no blending. Here the vintage speaks in the way 2015 is simply unable to, with a salinity in and out of mineral, with and without weight and strings. Very precise, straight to the point and for Petit Chablis, quite laser dramatic. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine Louis Moreau Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11035479, $22.95, WineAlign)

You can put your money down on a Moreau Petit Chablis, never taken for granted and from some of the best PC-designate spots around Chablis. Moreau’s vineyards are located in the village of Beine on the Left Bank. The fruit and acidity from fresh, juicy and rich 2015 are nicely delineated, all moving parts forwardly aromatic led with white flower essence and the texture is free and easy on the palate. Very clean and pure Petite Chablis from the most consumer-friendly vintage. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domaine with Frédérique Chamoy, July 2016  @MoreauLouis1

chablis-as-it-was-should-be-and-where-it-will-go-lucie-thieblemont-and-charly-nicolle-vigneron-negociant-fleys-chablis-attention-nicholaspearcewines-just-sayin

Chablis as it was, should be and where it will go. Lucie Thieblemont and Charly Nicolle #vigneron & #negociant #fleys #chablis Attention @nicholaspearcewines just sayin’

Domaine Charly Nicolle Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Charly Nicolle from Fleys is the sister property to the Nicolle-Laroche family’s Domaine de la Mandelière. In a good year Charly produces 75,000 bottles per year. His ’15 Petit Chablis is crisp and bound of full compages, tightly wound and textured. There is certainly some lees felt swimming in the vintage-generated saporous acidity. A ripe example of sun expressive Petit Chablis. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine De Pisse Loup Petit Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From the area of Beine comes this clean, fresh and lemon striking Petit Chablis. So very lemon specific within a broader citrus spectrum but no flint. Its freshness is of white flowers in the hawthorne to acacia field, a saline note of iodine and plenty of round acidity. So very lemon squeezed. Less multi-dimensional on account of that specific replay. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016

Patrick Piuze

Patrick Piuze

Patrick Piuze Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11463182, $26.40, WineAlign)

From the “restaurant vintage,” like 2009 notes Patrick Piuze and a Petit Chablis more specific and focused than most, if perhaps all. A single-vineyard, lieu-dit PC, “Le Petit Preuses,” right banked and rubbing shoulders with the Grand Cru. Always on the plateau of Portlandia soil. Fine spark of Petit Chablis, like a lime cordial spiked by salinity and welling in concentration. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

L & C Poitout Petit Chablis Sycomore 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

La Cuvée Sycomore comes from “Sur les Clos,” a warm and windy 1.4 hectare plot on a well exposed plateau of pebble infested, lean and infertile soil. The 2014 challenges the most typical of vintages with pure driven citrus and acidity through the roof. A direct, defined, determined expression of chardonnay.  Drink 2016-2018  

le-bourgogne

Eric Gallet’s Le Bourgogne, Auxerre

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Four hundred and twenty five years later the family produces their 2015 Petite Chablis, as with the rest of the region, as an archway into the domain and for all else to follow. It isn’t the most riveting vintage but this is made in the pure, elegant style that carries easy alcohol and essential extract in the vein of any or all mineral-driven whites. A worldwide list that includes chenin blanc, assyrtiko and trebbiano, among others. Here the fat of ’15 is staved off, with freshness and Portlandian salinity, like a syrup mixed into clay that dissolves and resolves.  Drink 2016-2018. Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Petit Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

From trenchant vines on Portlandian soil, Tremblay’s is really rich and textured Petit Chablis reading a parable of aromatic mineral density. The providence of the salinity means that it aspires and then resides in a rare card-carrying category of weight and structure. Way more structure for PC than most others. Chablis here directs the idea of the commercial vintage, again, rich, broad and even a bit spicy. At the end of the day it will always correctly offer up broad appeal. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Tremblay, July 2016  

chablis

Chablis

Domaine Barat Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

The first Chablis of hundreds tasted in the first week of July with a perfume of acacia flowers and the honey they might invade, the generosity and gregariousness in Barat’s Chablis is really something other. Extreme ripeness from the commercially viable vintage sits with quite the spice on the phenolic ripe end of the wide-ranging spectrum. Chablis at the meridian of texture and jolie. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Beaufumé Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

From the area of Lignorelles, Beaufumé’s Chablis is creamier on the nose than many counterparts and then thins with direct tart, ripe and ripping acidity. Wow acidity, tight and bracing. Though the spectrum of orchard, stone and even tropical white and yellow fleshed fruits are hinted at they collectively succumb to the nicely smoked stick, flint, kernel and nut. A broader if at times confusing expression of Chablis that is more than fun to taste. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016

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 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  @Billaud_Simon

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Abbaye de Sainte Claire #prehy @chablisbrocard

Jean Marc Brocard Domaine Sainte Claire Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (356634, $23.95, WineAlign)

The nearing on 1000 year-old abbey of Saint Claire rests a stone’s throw from Brocard’s front doors and blends into the vast plane of the landscape with a whisper. The Chablis in its (or his) honour also rests, but in large foudres, lending a rich edging to fruit from a knowingly fat year, but the welcome salinity is the balancer. Really high salty-mineral content perpetuates the importance of this cuveé from vintage to vintage, from organic vineyards, in the typical Brocard style, fleshy and generous. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

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Jean Marc Brocard Domaine Sainte Claire Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (356634, $23.95, WineAlign)

In a year for acidity and total, utter freshness the Saint Claire rushes and wells with excitement. Beautifully green apple tart and crunchy. The saline temperature is measured in an ooze running through and with the lees. Cracker vintage keeps the deep salinity intense, vital, searing and so naked to the world. Pure Chablis with length that stretches away from richness and into a lean lingering. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted twice, July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard 7eme Nature Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Due to its ulterior and antithetical Chablis nature it just seems right to refer to this non-sulphured wine as chardonnay. From Julien Brocard’s recently formulated biodynamic range it is full of poise as are all of his biodynamic wines that seem to have found such confidence in their distinct natural niche. This is raised in ovoid Austrian foudres and what gains is a density of supple, sour tang, noted mostly in texture. The hyperbole is of saline meets brine for Chablis. There is certainly a Fino, green olive liqueur sensation about it, which is just dry and admittedly, quite beautiful. As a result this oxidative take on Chablis should age for an extra year or two. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

Jean Marc Brocard Domaine De La Boissonneuse Chablis 2013, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

This is from what Julien Brocard considers an atypical vintage, ripe, but “not a Chablis style year and so you must take what the vintage gives.” Brocard does feel the biodynamic approach has presented a more balanced year for the vineyard and I note a certainly affinity with the 13’s tasted with Patrick Piuze, from which aromatics airy and atmospheric in their confused moments recall riesling and here, chenin blanc. Quite a tropical, atypical Chablis nose, with mango and apricot, but also a deep soil tang. The most mineral-tropical fruit dichotomy of all, from 2013, unique and deferential to the last decade plus of Chablis. Drink 2016-2018. Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

La Chablisienne

La Chablisienne

La Chablisienne Chablis La Pierrelee 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (BCLDB 359844, $27.99, WineAlign)

La Pierrelee is one of three Chablisienne Chablis cuveés, subjected to 14 months élevage and carries more than a strong sense of perceived leesy sweetness in surround of a good mineral core. It may be the house’s fullest, roundest and most well-rounded expression. The fruit is gathered from all over Chablis, off of 20 communes and so is a true assemblage. The length is preeminently good. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted at the domaine with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Chablisienne Chablis La Sereine 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 565598, $22.80, WineAlign)

La Sereine is a cuvée that follows the river, finds a river, mimics the ebb and flow of the river. A cuvée “of river poet search naïveté,” as important as Les Vénérables and the one that sparks a twinkle in Vincent Bartement’s eye. Same élevage as Vénérables and Pierrelee so the aromatic sweetness repeats albeit with leaner structure. Here more classically Chablis mineral, a direct deposit tip of liquid platinum calcaire into the glass. La Sereine snaps crisp with some bite and of savoury piquancy as well. It’s the lean and mean, rapid eye movement fighting machine of local and exotic perfume, “of ginger, lemon, indigo, coriander stem and rows of hay.” In La Sereine we find a river, constant, in which “strength and courage overrides.” Drink 2016-2021.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

La Chablisienne Chablis Dame Nature 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Dame Nature is drawn off organic vineyards, mostly from southerly Courgis with some fruit near Fleys. Same faux sugary aromatic vein, lees affected and yet here, so flirtatious, pretty, feminine. Soft, downy, French cream Chablis. A bit of a Brie fromage note but then lemon piercing on the palate. The palate is all Chablis mineral tart and direct. Interesting mix of style in the Dame Nature, “like I wouldn’t know it’s you. At your most beautiful. Chablis of “a way to make you smile.” Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

Sébastien Dampt Chablis Villages 2015, Burgundy, France (Agent, $29.85, WineAlign)

Dampt’s Chablis Villages is consistently formulated as the same blend, but this is a second bottling post 12 leesy months. Young vines 10 years of age planted by Sébastien are encouraged and mentored by some old vines (40-45 years) blended in. All the fruit hails from the commune of Milly. Here again, rich and with some wood influence, in the vein of other like-minded progressive Chablis producers (Charly Nicolle comes to mind), but still very Chablis, expressive without bâtonnage. Still the acidity and minerality but the dry extract leads to unction. This is the young, new generation changing Chablis without forgetting where it comes from. With thanks to a golden terroir. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted at the domain with Sébastien Dampt, July 2016  @SebastienDampt  @LesVieuxGarcons

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

The Collet Chablis is a 15 hectare blend from Villy (coming from Romain Collet’s mother’s side of the family) located between Vaillons and Montmains, plus fruit from near Courgis and Préhy. Classically 100 per cent stainless steel styled for sharp, pointed, piquant and straight ahead Chablis. A purchase at 10 euros right off the shelves at the winery shop in Chablis is a perfect bit of thievery. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  

Agnès Et Didier Dauvissat Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

It was 30 years ago that Agnès et Didier Dauvissat planted their vines in Beine and today they make but three cuvées; this Petit Chablis, Chablis and Premier Cru Beauroy. This telescoped sense of purpose has obviously served the two well. Here in the cracker 2014 vintage they have arguably produced one of the finest (basic) Chablis. The concentrated lemon preserve, firm structure and rapt calcaire tart collation is eye-popping and mind-opening. Prescient from exceptional length, agreeably and markedly purposed. Top, top Chablis. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @DauvissatBeine

William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (46164, $23.95, WineAlign)

The Champs Royaux is Chablis drawn from a selection of Fèvre’s better grower contracts and five to 10 per cent is aged in old oak, the rest in stainless steel. It is a generalized but oh too important expression from kimmeridgian soil, hedged and qualified from all over Chablis. Takes all the hills, valleys, les clos and slope/aspect dimensions into account. It is textbook Chablis, a guarantee of quality, especially out of the cracker 2014 vintage. The fruit is ripe and the acidity a study in Chablis exactitude. The balance may be the best this cuvée has ever shown. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

William Fèvre Chablis Estate 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11094701, $29.60, WineAlign)

The Domaine (estate) Chablis are vineyards located next to the Premier and Grand Cru, organically-farmed since 2006 (though not certified) and hand-harvested. Some vines date back 50-60 years and perhaps it is this wisdom and tree-rings concentration that gives this Chablis its hidden quality, dormant gem of mineral, quietness, stoicism, and reserve. Seemingly lean but ready to burst. An elegance that is a step up from the Champs Royaux though not as fully blanketed in obvious expression as the Premier Cru. And yet the bridge is built, ready to cross over, from one bank to another. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016  @williamfevre_  @WoodmanWS

Domaine Céline & Frédéric Gueguen Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Domaine Céline & Frédéric Gueguen is located in Prehy between les Vallées des Joeges et Plantes. The terroir is one of the furthest south in Chablis (and not far from Jean-Marc Brocard). This bottle is the first to be marked by some dusty and musty notes with little citrus on the nose. Acts as the leanest, most direct expression thus far. Really lean though with acidity not as pronounced. Seems to come off of an austere, aggressive terroir. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted July 2016  @ChablisGueguen

Louis Jadot Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (468751, $28.95, WineAlign)

Straight ahead and 2014 focused Chablis from Jadot, tight and stony at first but then shimmies up to reveal richer fruit than some and equanimity in acidity-mineral undertones. A wide and all-encompassing no doubter of a wine that succeeds no matter the breadth of its fruit sourcing. Classy all the way. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted September 2016  @ljadot  @HalpernWine

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Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $23.20, WineAlign)

The vintage is a ripe, accessible and easy to love one so this marks a 90 degree turn for the Saint Martin. This is Laroche’s most important cuvée, sold in 80 countries and collected from select plots across 60 hectares of vines. Structure will always direct this cuvée and so long as Gregory Viennois is winemaker you can be sure that a taut entry will be joined by some subtle oak richness (in 2015, eight per cent in large, 25 year-old, 55 hL foudres). It’s just an aromatic hint but look forward with eyes closed and inculcate the texture addendum. Acids are soft and caressing. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint Martin 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (289124, $23.20, WineAlign)

An all plots combed, 60 hectare extrapolative, best choices made cuvée in ode to the generous and convivial Roman officer and the monks who took his name and brought his relics to Chablis. Structure is at the heart and soul of the Saint Martin so it is a bit of hard to get at but highly recommended for slow, meditative assessment. Great compressed tart, all in terroir, soil and climate multi-interfaced chardonnay. Few ‘Chablis’ not specific of Premier or Grand Cru terroir can match its poise and precision. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted July 2016  @DomaineLaroche  @SelectWinePros  @Select_Wines

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Lunch with Benjamin and Stephanie Laroche at La Manufacture

Benjamin Laroche L’atelier Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

More than the Petit Chablis, as it should, the Chablis improves on fruit, ideal and expression, but also because of the cleaving and jaunty vintage. In ’14 Chablis is really precise, of an expansive mouthfeel, a lemon concern, condensed sweet bitters and all in all, really textural. Flat out delicious and full. So full, but ready to delight and divine for two more years. Drink 2016-2019.   Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

La Manufacture Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $29.99, WineAlign)

La Manufacture takes Chablis to a brazen level in and out of 2014 and whatever precision was shown by L’Atelier is elevated in focus with La Manufacture. The vernacular learned and utterances expressed are from precision in choice of fruit and how the vintage is left to speak with this poignant, direct attack. I actually find this a bit closed in its extended youth, perhaps a cause of nature over nurture from its combination, or accumulation of fruit. The locations of Beine, Maligny and Lignorelles are its sources. This ’14 will really shine in 2017, a high-water mark up to a wave’s peak at the point where ancient sea fossils and geological rock progression distill into settled salinity, melded into the piquant and the trenchant. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

J. Moreau & Fils Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (466144, $21.95, WineAlign)

Typically flinty and stony Chablis from Moreau of Portlandian influence and typically easy to get to know, as per the forward vintage. All good berries and the ease of ripening is here on display. Chablis never had it so good, easy and lazy. Drink up. Drink 2016-2017.  Tasted August 2016

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Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (124305, $25.95, WineAlign)

The vineyards for Moreau’s Chablis gathering are located in the village of Beine on the Left Bank and interestingly enough are older than the Premier Cru. So here the fruit is pulled from vines 35-40 years of age. As much mineral layering as you are likely to find in a Chablis-designate cuvée and so well-rounded for 2015, with grace and style. The broadest of Chablis definition, reliable to tell the whole truth, for the copacetic vintage, the hills all around and the classic flinty, borne straight out of stone chardonnay. Some citrus of course and fine acidity if not the most striking of better than good Chablis vintages. Good terroir breeds good Chablis and with a touch of flint this brings it all together. Perfect, textbook, dictionary Chablis in a ripe and forthright style. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted twice, July and September 2016  @MoreauLouis1

Domaine Louis Moreau Domaine De Biéville Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (106161, $21.95, WineAlign)

On the far opposite side of Chablis’ right bank, at the village of Viviers where it is a colder, morning sun terroir. An estate created by Louis’ father in 1965. A cooler and slightly herbal Chablis with a leaner profile. A good comparative to the Beine Chablis, where the shadows are not as long and the terroir does not make as many demands on your palate. Last tasted July 2016.

A flint foot forward and step back balm of a Chablis with a settled raft of lees knick-knack and some willy-nilly resonance. Gains stature with citrus and spice as it fleshes in glass and mouth. Perhaps a stave or two of wood is making the play. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted January 2016  @MoreauLouis1

Domaine Charly Nicolle Chablis Ancestrum 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Ancestral pays hommage to a long legacy of Chablis in the Laroche-Nicolle families, to ancient earth folds, the shells and fossils left behind by oceans. Takes up where Petit Chablis left off in the giving vintage to press on with roundness and richesse. Optimum phenolic fruit and 500L barrels deem “a combination of Charly’s will and mother nature’s season” into this ripe Chablis. In 2015, with fully realized malo this morphs into a happier, slightly magical dichotomy. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Charly Nicolle Chablis Ancestrum 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Ancestrum is an old vines (approximately 55 years) Chablis cuveé and here from a vintage driven by crisp, pure and clean acidity. An extraordinary level of dry extract conspires to elevate both the luxury and the perceived sweetness but every sip returns into territories occupied by that ’14 acidity. Ancestrum is Chablis specific to Charly Nicolle, to ploughing, tilling, hoeing, pruning and harvesting his golden grapes. It is a pure reminder of how basic and pleasurable Chablis can be. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted July 2016  

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir De Chichée 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Terroir De Chichée is tasted first in a line-up of seven lieu-dit produced by Patrick Piuze, a Right Bank limestone plateau Chablis that “always takes the wind of the vintage.” The smoothest of entries transitions seamlessly to Chablis in which acidity runs up, down, across and in diagonal streaks across the palate. Done up in natural yeasts, like all the Piuze wines because “there’s no (other) point. It’s on the grape.” Clean, dry, clear and concise. Straight to the Chichée point. Acidity, even in the context of Chablis, must be your thing for Chichée to be your friend. I’d recommend seeking out Burgundian cuisine in the hands of a Japanese chef. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir Découverte 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, $34.95, WineAlign)

This second in Puize’s series of seven lieu-dits tastes at first draws more linear and then branches its lines for a broader approach to Chablis. From the cooler “des Couverts” parcel abutting the Vaulorent Premier Cru on the north-facing section of the Grand Cru hill, it is from here in a northerly locale beyond the borders of Grand Cru climats Preuses and Bougros where flint, richness and ancient shells intercede. If only because this was made in 2015, the near-Vaulorent cumulative effect is almost too easy to access. Bloody delicious and drink now Chablis. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir de Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11180334, $33.25, WineAlign)

In the pantheon of the seven lieu-dits Piuze Chablis this is likely the great terroir despite its moniker that suggests a broader, cumulative expression. Terroirs is plucked and indeed speaks a Forêts language, its fruit native to the north facing hill occupied by the steely patron of the larger Left Bank Montmains Premier Cru. The reserve and quietude of Patrick’s ’15 is quite surprising but the circumvention of palate acidity is exhilarating and nearly frightening. Lemon meets much lime, texture wraps and ramps, precision leads to density. Striking but with the knowledge that ’14 was and will be more so. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir de Chablis 2008, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11180334, $33.25, WineAlign)

The twenty-fifth wine we taste and Patrick’s choice to remember 2008 is this Terroirs de Chablis, a micro-specific lieu-dit spoken of Forêts vernacular formed on the northern exposition of the Montmains Premier Cru hill. Piuze loves this vintage, noting that “any appellation passes (the ’08 test).” The freshness here astounds. Were this served blind I would certainly guess 2014. Lime is everywhere, limestone everywhere else. Acidity rings in and out of every crevice and pore. If this T de C does not look back and show what Patrick Piuze will be capable of in Chablis then you won’t find a wine that will. And you won’t need to. Drink 2016-2018.  Tasted at the domain with Patrick Piuze, July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Courgis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Courgis was touched by some hail in 2015 on the first of September, a day Patrick Piuze says “I will always remember.” That was the day Piuze had to gather up seven years of go it alone fortitude to make the best of a difficult situation. He had to make a wine with some reduction, more upfront acidity and a different sort of citrus. Resist the temptation to make what he wanted and listen instead to the weather and the vintage. There is major fruit in this Courgis, a Chablis “wherever he laid his hat was his home.” Sly, in the lieu-dit family, Courgis “was a rollin’ stone.” Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir De Fyé 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Fyé comes fourth in a horizontal set of seven lieu-dits, a terroir across the tractor road from the “cape” Chapelot at the base of the fan-like shaped Montée de Tonnerre climat. The herbology and savour in Fyé is almost certainly magnified because of ’15 but so is the texture. The mouthfeel is fuller and wonderfully critical to balance and redemption. Drink 2017-2020. Tasted at the domain with Patrick Piuze, July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis La Grand Vallée 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

La Grand Vallée is the Piuze rendering of the lieu-dit Les Pargues, a Left Bank single-vineyard flanked by the Premier crus Butteaux and Forêts. The exposure is the same just one hill over. Affinities are shared with Terroirs de Chablis though the lemon-lime, layering and persistence run deeper. This also steps up in length, with really old barrels stretching the fruit to an elastic density in a smoky Chablis forged from precision. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

Patrick Piuze Chablis La Grand Vallée 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Tasted side-by-side with La Grand Vallée 2015, the Piuze ’14 from the lieu-dit Les Pargues “shows off the good acidity of the vintage.” With Premier crus Butteaux and Forêts acting as bookends, the Pargues enjoys a one-off hill same exposure and the citrus intensity here is palpable. It’s that lemon-lime, Terroirs de Chablis thing run deeper and in ’14, to the depths of possibility. This plays multi-fret grapefruit notes without capo, bends and holds them forever. Drink 2017-2022.  Tasted July 2016  @patrickpiuze  @LaCelesteLevure  @LiffordON

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Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (289371, $23.95, WineAlign)

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 Testut Chablis Rive-Droit 2015, Ac Burgundy (Winery, WineAlign)

Rive Droite is pulled off of a southern slope exposure on the right bank facing from Montée de Tonnerre and the Grand Cru Blanchots. It is a fine and delicate Chablis, golden from ripeness and typically 2015 but certainly very mineral because it can’t help but be on this side of the Chablis tracks. Wisdom and what comes natural from yields at 50 hL/L off 45 year-old vines seek and find a balance struck between minerality and maturity, but this is certainly on the ripe side. “It’s not complicated,” notes Cyril Testut. He picks on berry and seed. “You must have phenolic ripeness or the grapes will immediately begin to start oxidizing after picking. If they are ripe they will not seek it out. ” May as well be Premier Cru but it needs not be. Very good length. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Testut Chablis Rive-Droit 2014, Ac Burgundy (Winery, WineAlign)

Right Bank Rive Droite faces south on its poignant slope en face de Montée de Tonnerre and Blanchot Grand Cru. As good as ’15 is, in ’14 there flexes and strains much more vitality and with fruit not as obviously ripe. While the lack of self-regulation might cause some suffering (at least in a commercially appealing sense) it causes no compromise to balance (at least in terms of classic Chablis personality). The complexity of place really rises because the fruit is not ahead and even lagging just behind the acidity and the intense mineral. Rive Droit is right side of town top cru, white stone blessed all the way. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Cuvée Hélène, Grand Vin De Bourgogne 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

Labeled Grand Vin De Bourgogne to elevate its Chablis status from a (2000 bottle) cuvée (named for Gérard’s wife Hélène) that draws one third of its fruit from 10 Premier Cru hectares. Aged in 100 per cent barriques blended with a small portion from stainless steel. This is not so typical of Tremblay or Chablis, from primarily 40-plus year-old vines, of a luxuriance that separates it from the Premier Cru. The palate and texture are flooded by a serious creaminess from oak but the lemon is so intense and the acidity runs extremely wild. Chablis at its lavish best, in bed with Beaune. Drink 2017-2021. Tasted at the domain with Vincent Tremblay, July 2016  

Domaine Le Verger Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (181289, $19.75, WineAlign)

From Beine, here a more reserved, classic, stoic, orchard fruit-led Chablis. Exceeds itself and its emollient aromatics on the palate with good fleshy spirit and then steps into grounded, almost earthy territory for Chablis. More clay than calcaire and not fully accepting of the vintage. Will please most in the short term. Drink 2016-2017. Tasted July 2016

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Chablis Vieilles Vignes 

Jean Marc Brocard Domine Sainte Claire Vieilles Vignes Chablis 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (SAQ 11589658, $29.95, WineAlign)

The abbey and the saint’s namesake vineyard’s vines are approximately 60 years-old and reduced output is in the vicinity of 30-35 hL/L yields. As always and nurtured with expectation you immediately whiff the old vine charm, lift, ethereal density and a pesto, this kind of herbal salinity that old vines bring. A brine that younger vines do not, with roots here burrowing six plus feet down into the kimmeridgian, far past the flora up top, seeking secondary and tertiary character. It takes little mindful and acquiescent effort to concur on the notification that double the length is perceived as compared to the younger Sainte Claire. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  @chablisbrocard  @LiffordON

La Chablisienne Chablis Les Vénérables Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (215525, $24.95, WineAlign)

Les Vénérables is the old vines cuvée that sees the same 14 months élevage as the other two, La Pierrelee and La Sereine. The lees effect continues but with Vénérables the running thread of aromatic sweetness is at first accessed and then subjugated to heavy layering, structure, compression and richness. Very citrus, first curd and then zest, coupled upon and adding on top of itself and nearly piercing. Pith joins on the palate. Classic Chablis. Crunchy and tart, like a bite into an acidulated green apple. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted at the domaine with Vincent Bartement, July 2016    @vbartement  @Vinexxperts

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Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (WineAlign)

Planted in 1932 near Villy by Romain Collet’s maternal grandfather, these (nearing 75 year-old) vines bring the baller brilliance to Chablis, not in compression or density but for Collet, just the opposite. They gift ethereally, from 40 hL/L yields, a number pretty solid for such old vines. This 2014 impresses understanding about a vineyard with real mirondage, holding up a mirror to the past and paying it forward. Small grapes of vivid concentration breathe acidity, at first and then finesse. Precise Chablis is a great thing, especially when that inclination lingers for a very long time. Drink 2017-2021.  Tasted at the domain with Romain Collet, July 2016  

Domaine Hamelin Vieilles Vignes Chablis 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

The Lignorelles old vines on Portlandia limestone are at least 70 years-old, obviously the philanthropist of rich Chablis though here with sidetracks through verdant greens and herbal fields in balmy weather. This in 2014 and surprisingly approachable. Ripeness, sapidity and savour converge. The flavours zig-zag from lime to green apple and more bitters than many are seen in bright light aspects that remind of in country kin aligoté and auxerrois. Drink 2016-2019. Tasted July 2016    @oenophilia1

La Manufacture Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

Once again it is the elegance that old vines bring to Chablis that is so counterintuitive to what they do almost anywhere else in the world. In La Manufacture’s case the reflexive fineness and haute innervation that is derived from these old vines is both calming and tangible. The consciousness is latent to a slope upon which the drive of direct acidity and salinity cling, angling in the particular way of the exceptional 2014 vintage. Laroche’s Chablis VV makes peace with tension, finds harmony before the sister Chablis and yet will live a longer life. Drink 2016-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @BenjaminLAROCHE  @StemWineGroup

Domaine de La Motte Chablis Cuvée Vieilles Vignes 2014, Ac Burgundy, France (334490, $19.95, WineAlign)

Located in Beine, Domaine de la Motte from the Famille Michaud fashions Chablis of nerve, tension and high on the floral scale. The old vines are 40-plus in age, doling out the proverbial excess of concentration and here with malolactic fully noticed from the start, for the first time in principal Chablis. Though almost certainly (and entirely) Inox barrel fermented, the malo is rendered in buttered popcorn and lemon. Still too young for the components to come together so put it in the three to five year conversation. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @gmlechablis

Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (AgentWineAlign)

What is it that old vines bring to Chablis? Elegance, temperament or calm? All of the above. Jean-François Bordet’s grandfather planted these vines, 78 years ago. He’s 93 and drinks Chablis every day. So wisdom seems to be the key, that and a cordial-conjugal relationship between this every day wine and a consumer. The purity is predicated on lime and predicts many a cordial connection. This delicate Vieilles Vignes is also practical for every special occasion and it is possessive of surprising strength. It’s what you need, if necessary, every day. Drink 2017-2020.  Tasted July 2016  @BordetJean  @TheCaseForWine

Domaine Testut Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015, Ac Burgundy (Winery, WineAlign)

The vines are 50 years-old and from the same (right) bank as the (Rive Droit) so here the stylistic is replicated albeit with a deeper sense of the locale, but so much furtherer elegance and balance. The lees melding into texture replicates upon itself, recreating a cloning that interweaves minerality upon fruit in mille-feuille layers. Very mature, grown-up winemaking. Concentrated and clean. Still, very ’15. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted July 2016  

Domaine Gérard Tremblay Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015, Ac Burgundy, France (Agent, WineAlign)

The wines of the Tremblay family exemplify the vignoble de Chablis and with this old vines you can’t help but repeat the house mantra, “c’est ce qui donne cette…arrière goût minéral qui semble avoir été extrait des entrailles de la terre!” Extracted from the kimmeridgian, from Exogyra virgula, from 25 million years of formed marno-calcaire. “Goût minéral,” the taste of mineral, from the bowels of the earth. It matters not that this Chablis is from the forward, fruit first, commercial vintage. With a selection made from Tremblay’s 40-plus year-old vineyards the high density of dry extraction from fruit does indeed lead to more weight and body. Mineral yes, but you will all like it too. Drink 2016-2019.  Tasted at the domain with Vincent Tremblay, July 2016  

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