Back in June we took a trip to Chablis and were lucky enough to visit some of our top drawer producers. The list of fantastic wines we sampled is too long to mention, but it is safe to say there are some real stunners in the 2013 vintage that I am very much looking forward to tasting again upon release and way beyond. I wanted to share some of my personal highlights from the trip.
Domaine François Raveneau
Our first stop in Chablis really was a treat; ducking into the Raveneau cellar from the glorious sunshine was definitely the highlight of the trip for me. Bernard, accompanied by his dynamic daughter Isabelle, who is increasingly taking on more responsiblies in the vineyard and cellar, took us through their elegant wines that really epitomize the terroir of Chablis. The Raveneau family have got some of the top selections of Chablis vineyards, but with tiny plots, most of which are under a hectare in size, Chapelot being the smallest at just 0.2 hectares. The wines are made in tiny quantities with very small releases. We were tasting the 2013s directly from the small oak barrels called feuillettes, which at around eight years in age, don't contribute new oak aromas and flavors, but serve to gently open the wine during the élevage. These give these wines a trademark creaminess and perfume which develops with age.
For me the stand outs of the vintage were the Vaillons 1er Cru, which was full of ripe pears and had a wonderful elderflower perfume, giving great equilibrium in a more classic style . The Montée de Tonnerre 1er Cru was fabulous, very expressive with an exciting energy on the palate, delicate white fruits and touches of honey. Les Clos Grand Cru was possibly my favourite, with wonderful length and body, it had more fleshiness to it, with white peach and melon, balanced with a salinity from the minerality of the terroir.
Armit Wines have now been working with Sébastien Dampt, an exciting young winemaker, for the last two years and he is ever improving his range of Chablis. He set up his own domaine in 2007 after working closely with his father Daniel and brother Vincent for many years, and has built up an interesting portfolio of wine, which he has recently added to with the creation of Chablis Premier Cru "Les Beugnons". He is particularly excited about this wine, as these 60 year old vines are producing great fruit with lots of mineral expression. This is also being vinified in a new clay cement 'egg', Sebastién's new pride and joy.
It was the first time I had seen one of these egg tanks, which literally look like an oversized duck's egg, and it seems they are gaining popularity among wine makers. As concrete is pourous, the eggs are designed to act in the same way as barrels by being 'breathable', and maintaining the freshness of the grape, adding roundness of body (that is not gained from stainless steel tanks) but without imparting oaked flavours, such as vanilla and toast. The concrete also regulates the temperature during fermentation, and the shape plays a role too. Their curved shape and internal grooves along the bottom of the oval, create slow but constant movement during fermentation, simulating a stirring motion over the lees, and contributing to a more complex mouth-feel. I am not sure how convinced I am about the obvious difference this makes from the rest of Sebastien's wines, but Les Beugnons 2013, his first vintage, was a lively and attractive wine, with lots of lemon zest but also ripe exotic fruits. It did show greater body than the more conservative yet directional "Les Vaillons 2013" and the silkiness of the "Lys 2013". I think it will be interesting to see the progression of this wine, once the 'eggcellent' novelty has worn off, in future vintages!