Wine Offerings: Post

Bloomsday Commemoration (June 16) – Jurassic Odyssey: Chablis Elevates Terroir to Its Most Precise Expression. Exploring Grand Crus and Premier Crus Over Three Vintages, in Three Sampling Packages.

2024 marks the hundred-and-second anniversary of the release of James Joyce’s modernist masterpiece ‘Ulysses,’ and a few venerable souls who purchased a copy on the day it came out are still trying to wade through it. Not everyone agrees on the genius of the work—a florid, stream-of-consciousness ramble through Ireland’s capital city over the course of a single day (June 16, 1904) featuring Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly and would-be-writer Stephen Daedalus—but everyone can appreciate the remarkable image Joyce painted of Dublin at the turn of the century; the people, the streets, the offices, the brothels and above all, Davy Byrne’s pub:

“Nice wine it is. Taste it better because I’m not thirsty …. Mild fire of wine kindled his veins. I wanted that badly …. Glowing wine on his palate lingered swallowed. Crushing in the winepress grapes of Burgundy. Sun’s heat it is.”

June 16 is known as ‘Bloomsday’ and is commemorated by Joyce fans across the globe. At Elie’s, we prefer to take our own literary license and use the occasion to celebrate Bloom’s passion, ‘the winepress grapes of Burgundy’ with our own amble through Burgundy’s unparalleled countryside.


Chablis: Burgundy’s Golden Gate

James Joyce appreciated France (he studied at the Sainte-Geneviève Library) and France appreciated him back—‘Ulysses’ was first published at Sylvia Beach’s Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Company and printed in Dijon by Maurice Darantieres.

A hundred miles below the 6th Arrondissement (the location of the bookstore) and about the same north of Dijon, the valleys and wooded hilltops of Chablis begin, with vineyards festooning the slopes that run alongside the pretty River Serein—aptly translated to ‘the serene river.’ Spanning approximately 10,000 acres and encompassing 27 communes, there are 47 vineyards classified as Premier Crus and seven Grand Crus.

In terms of terroir fanaticism, Chablis is first among equals in France. The key divide in quality levels lies between vineyards planted on Kimmeridgian soils and those with Portlandian soils. Kimmeridgian is more highly regarded; it contains greater levels of mineral-rich clay, as well as the essential marine fossils which are responsible for its significant lime content. Kimmeridgian soils are the source of the trademark ‘goût de pierre à fusil’, or gunflint, which can be preserved in the best wines for decades.

The wines of Chablis, at whatever level (Chablis Grand Cru, Chablis Premier Cru, Chablis and Petit Chablis) are Chardonnay and nothing but; all but the most heralded are vinified and aged without oak, giving them the greenish gold hue that exemplifies the appellation as well as the classic minerality of the nose.

Elaborating Chardonnay: Back to The Origins

All Chablis is Chardonnay, but not all Chardonnay is Chablis. That deceptively simple fact belies the multiple faces that this variety adopts in the relatively small confines of Burgundy—incarnations based equally on terroir and tradition. The Côte Chalonnaise and Mâconnais tend to produce balanced, approachable, subtly-oaked Chardonnays that Americans may know best from the 1990s craze of wines from the village of Pouilly-Fuissé.

The Côte d’Or, on the other hand, turbo-charges the concept by producing oaky, complex and long-lived wine. Only the most intensely-flavored fruit can stand up to this style of oak-barrel maturation, but the resulting wines are at the pinnacle of the world’s great whites.

The third style features in this week’s packages, where a cooler climate and northerly latitude barely allows the grapes to ripen, thus ensuring that Chablis makes a leaner style with higher acidity that does not lend itself to intensive oak-aging. As such, these wines are pristine, rarely seeing new oak at all, and only occasionally seeing milder, seasoned barrels to soften some of the electricity.

Chardonnay in Chablis: Acid Trip

Acidity in wine must be handled with the same circumspection as in the laboratory—make a wrong move and you end up with a wincing sting; in either case, it’s a fail. Balance is the key in all things wine, but clearly, wines from more northerly regions face a bigger struggle in balancing ripeness with sharpness, and Chardonnay is the poster-child varietal for ‘If life hands you lemons, make Chablis.’

The line between refreshing tension and acid-reflux may be fine, and one reason that aging Chablis has always been a requirement in Cru versions is that time softens acids and allows the briny, saline-driven savoriness to blossom. Nearly all Chablis undergoes a secondary malolactic fermentation prior to bottling, a technique that transforms malic acid into softer lactic acid and provides a more stable environment. Most Premier and Grand Cru Chablis also see time in neutral oak to further the mellowing process before facing the catwalk of consumption.

Jurassic Odyssey: What Lies Beneath

“The vineyards of Chablis have a single religion,” writes Jacques Fanet in his book ‘Les Terroirs du Vin’: “Kimmeridgian.”

Kimmeridgian limestone marl – courtesy of The Source

Soil in Chablis; big chunks of Portlandian limestone on top with soft Kimmeridian limestone marls underneath.

In the middle of the 18th century, a French geologist working in the south of England identified and named two distinct types of limestone from the Jurassic Era; Portlandian, which he found in Dorset with a layer of dark marl just below it, subsequently named after the nearby village of Kimmeridge. These strata also run across the Channel and through the north of France, where they become a part of the ‘Paris Basin’ and play an indispensable role in creating the soils. A slow geological tilting of this basin allowed the Seine, Aube, Yonne, and Loire rivers to cut through the rising ridges and form an archipelago of wine areas in Champagne, the Loire Valley and ultimately, Burgundy.

Chablis remains the biggest island in the Kimmeridgian chain and it is home to some of the finest Chardonnay terroirs found on earth. The defined region ‘Chablis’ was recognized in 1923 by the Wine Tribunals as requiring a sub-soil of Kimmeridgian limestone while wine grown anywhere else in Chablis would be classed Petit Chablis. The Grand Cru mid-slope in Chablis maps almost perfectly to the Kimmeridgian outcrop, with the soft, carbonate-rich mud rock capped by Portlandian Barrios limestone and supported by Calcares à Astarte, yet another type of limestone.

And now for the interesting part: As vital as Kimmeridgian soil is to the top Cru classifications in Chablis, it is not the primary consideration. Geologic conditions identical to those experienced by the Grand Cru slope extend both northeast and southwest, but the vineyards on those sites are classed as Premier Crus. As a matter of fact, the reference to Kimmeridgian limestone in the definition of Chablis was discontinued in 1976, a tacit admission that slope and orientation are of even greater importance to wine quality.


Rive-Droite vs. Rive-Gauche Premier Crus: Six-Bottle Package Sampler ($339)

When wine people become involved in right bank/left bank imbroglios, they’re usually arguing Bordeaux. Not today, where the banks are along a different river and within a different appellation and most assuredly showcase a different style: Chablis.

The River Serein runs through the Chablis valley, bisecting a series of Crus and Climats. As a quick refresher course, a Burgundian climat is a specific area that, due to superior physical and weather patterns, has been identified and named for producing wine with unique organoleptic qualities—appearance, aromas, taste and mouthfeel. ‘Climat’ is often used interchangeably with ‘lieu-dit,’ so for the record, here is the difference: A lieu-dit is a plot of land whose name refers to something precise in either historical or topographical terms; it is purely geographical and corresponds to a clearly defined area. A Climat can refer to a lieu-dit, to just a part of a lieu-dit, or even several lieux-dits grouped together. It is a statement of quality first, geography second.

Chablis, split down the spine by the Serein, contains 47 Climats that can be mentioned on the wine label; 40 of them produce Chablis Premier Cru and the remaining 7 make Chablis Grand Cru. The Chablis Grand Cru Climats are all found on the right bank of the River Serein, while Chablis Premier Cru Climats are found on both sides of the river, with 24 on the left bank and 16 on the right.

Decide for yourself in this week’s six-bottle package which of Louis Michel’s interpretations you prefer; we’ll offer a profile of each wine individually, of course, but as a general rule, wines from the left bank are more mineral and fresh while wines from the right bank are rounder and opulent.

The 2022 Vintage: Superb Harvest with Outstanding Lasting Potential

The worst reviews of Chablis 2022 call it ‘very good’, and from there, depending on producer, the sky is the limit. On top of being the sunniest summer on record, the preceding winter was mild and dry, with under five inches of precipitation over four months. Budbreak started at the end of March, and perhaps 30% were lost by a subsequent frost. But a second generation of buds proved productive, leading to good yields. June, July and August were hot and generally dry, though with enough rain to stave off drought. Maturity was early and quick, and harvest began toward the end of August and lasted into the second week of September.

Louis Michel & Fils
“Chablis des Amateurs”

Folks who say ‘yes’ to the magic of Chablis will appreciate the things to which winemakers Jean-Loup Michel and his partner/nephew Guillaume Gicqueau-Michel say ‘no’: Oak, bâtonnage and added yeast. Since 1970, fermentation has taken place entirely in stainless steel to preserve the essence of the Chardonnay grape—Michel & Fils is perhaps the best-known proponent of entirely oak-free wines, even in his three Grand Cru offerings. Bâtonnage—the stirring of the lees to make the wine fatter and richer—is atypical in Chablis, and at Michel & Fils, unheard of.

Guillaume Gicqueau-Michel

The Michel family has been a presence in Chablis since 1850. Situated in the heart of the village, the estate covers 60 acres that spread across over the very first slopes that were discovered by Cistercian monks in the 11th century and include three Grand Crus (Grenouilles, Les Clos, and Vaudésir), seven Premier Crus (Montmain, Forêts, Butteaux, Butteaux “Vieilles Vignes”, Vaillons, Séchets, Fourchaume and Montée de Tonnèrre).

The domain also produces village-level Chablis from twenty named communes and a Petit Chablis; offering wines from all four sub-appellations make Louis Michel a rarity among local producers.

Rive Droite Premier Crus

Not only is longevity is a hallmark of palate sensation in Chablis: more than half of the Climats entitled to wear the ‘Premier Cru’ label had their present-day names by 1429. Chablis Premier Cru represents about 14% of Chablis production, with sites scattered on either side of the Serein River and covering around 2000 acres. As in Bordeaux, where the location of the vineyard compared to the Dordogne and the Garonne determines the style and quality of the wine, the case is similar in Chablis. Again, as in Bordeaux, this is the result of soil, topography and exposure to the sun: On the right bank, close to the village, many of the well-known Premiers Crus share similar geology, exposition and characteristics with the Grand Crus.

Marc-Emmanuel Cyrot of Domaine Millet describes wine from the right bank this way: “The right bank provides complex, well-balanced wines, with a maximum of minerality and vivacity. These vines face south or southwest, getting warmer afternoon sun, making more opulent, fruit-driven wines, that can be steely and powerful.”

•1• Louis Michel & Fils, 2022 Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent ($60)
The Fourchaume vineyard, massive in both size and reputation, extends for nearly two miles … with the exception of one enclave which is found in the Grand Cru valley. Vaulorent comes from this enclave. The wine is fermented on native yeast in stainless steel tanks over at least 12 months with as little handling as possible, then bottled with slight fining.

The wine shows an arresting, gunflint-scented bouquet with focus and delineation that emphasizes shellfish, mineral reduction and floral, white-fleshed fruit flavors.

 

 


•2• Louis Michel & Fils, 2022 Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre ($60)
Set slightly back from the Grand Crus vineyards, Montée de Tonnèrre abuts Blanchot, where its moderate slopes, exposed to the west, welcome the sun in the afternoon. The grapes are protected from the east winds and ripen without much effort while the shallow soil, underlain with Kimmeridgean marly limestone, reveals veins of blue clay to gives the wines both minerality and energy.

The wine is intense and powerful, with nutty, honeyed accents, and in this outstanding vintage from an outstanding producer, it is every bit as good as many a Grand Cru.

 

 


Rive Gauche Premier Crus

There’s no genuine ‘left and right,’ of course: The so-called lefties lie on the Serein’s west side, where vineyards tend to face southeast and get morning sunlight. This results in lighter, more restrained wines with floral and green apple notes.

•3• Louis Michel & Fils, 2022 Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons ($54)
Vaillons is one of the largest Premier Cru vineyards in Chablis, sitting southwest of the town itself. As in all left bank climats, it gets an abundance of early sunlight to make fresh, slightly floral wines with intense minerality. The Climats Séchets and Les Lys can use Vaillons on their labels but often opt for their own names.

The lieux-dits of Chatains, Roncières, Mélinots—tiny parcels in the Valvan valley—are blended during vinification to produce aromas of toasted hazelnuts mingle with sweet white peach, soft spice notes and mild tobacco.

 

 


•4• 2022 Louis Michel & Fils Chablis, 2022 Premier Cru Montmains ($51)
Montmains lies southeast of Vaillons, separated only by a small valley. It has particularly stony soils, making a lighter, leaner style of wine. Butteaux and Les Forêts lie within Montmains and are often seen on labels. Louis Michel’s four Montmain vineyards extend along a clay slope known for being sensitive to spring frosts, requiring extra care in the field.

The wine shows ripe, candied flavors with notes of saline behind spicy floral aromas, toasted almonds, candied lemon and apple and a lively, chalky finish.

 

 


•5• Louis Michel & Fils, 2022 Chablis Premier Cru Forêts ($60)
Forêts is one of the three Climats included under the ‘flag-bearing’ Montmains, often overlooked. Typical of the left bank, Forêts’ south and east exposure provides exceptional sunlight, and the grapes can take all the time they need to ripen. Rather flat at the bottom, Forêts turns into a steep slope towards the top of the hill. Like many climats of Chablis, Forêts has a marly Kimmeridgian subsoil.

The wine displays classic gunflint along with earthier elements of fern and forest bracken mixed with ripe apricot, cocoa and pepper.

 

 


•6• Louis Michel & Fils, 2022 Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux ($54)
Proudly perched on a hilltop (or ‘butte’—hence, the name), Butteaux is a high-altitude climat that overlooks its neighbor Forêts. Butteaux south-facing slopes where too ventilation provides the grapes with the perfect terroir for easy ripening. In the subsoil, the Kimmeridgian marls are quite shallow and characterize in places by large blocks, while on the surface, white and blue clay with large stones facilitate drainage.

The wine originates in four parcels spread over the Butteaux slopes, the most distant acres from the Louis Michel winery.  It shows caramelized baked-apple aromas with toasted nuts, wet stone made more complex by the earthy spice of forest undergrowth.

 

 


Right-Bank vs. Left-Bank Premier Crus Sampler: Two-Bottle Package ($145)

This is a winner-take-all package, two bottles, one each of right bank vs. left bank, both vying for palate supremacy.

The 2019 Vintage: Concentration and Complexity

A relatively mild winter, with few prolonged cold spells, got a bit antsy in the early spring with a couple of serious frosts, which cut into yields quite drastically. By the end of June, the temperatures reversed themselves in intensity and a long heat wave moved in. July was cooler, with August heating up again; overall the balance led to grapes in which acids concentrated along with sugars at the end of the season. The low-yielding 2019 vintage Chablis in Chablis produced wines that are simultaneously atypically concentrated but very incisive and structured, although aromatically, quite classically Chablisienne.

Domaine Billaud-Simon

Credit Napoléon’s loss at Waterloo for the establishment of Domaine Billaud-Simon; Charles Louis Noël Billaud returned home from the war to plant vines on the family holdings in Chablis. A century later, the estate expanded with the marriage of his descendent Jean Billaud to Renée Simon.

Winemaker Olivier Bailly, Domaine Billaud-Simon

Owned by Erwan Faiveley since 2014, the 42-acre site produces wine from four Grand Cru vineyards, including single-acre plots in Les Clos and Les Preuses. The Domaine also owns four Premier Cru vineyards, including Montée de Tonnèrre, Mont-de-Milieu, Fourchaume and Vaillons.

 1  Domaine Billaud-Simon, 2019 Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre ($81)
Montée de Tonnerre is a hundred acre umbrella vineyard sitting on a southwestern spur, with Blanchot and the Grand Cru sites just over the Bréchain valley to the north, and Mont de Milieu on the next hillside south. Billaud-Simon has plots within the three sectors of Montée de Tonnerre with the oldest plots in the Pied d’Aloup climat which are nearly 90 years old. Olivier Bailly normally only uses tank for this climat but this year has 6% in barrel.

The wine is mineral and intense, with nutty, honeyed characters beginning to emerge with age.

 

 


 2  Domaine Billaud-Simon, 2019 Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons ($64)
The 318 acre Vaillons vineyard is made up of eight, smaller climats, all Premier Crus in their own right, but also able to be blended together to produce, or just simply labeled Vaillons. Billaud-Simon’s Vaillons is a blend of six of them.

The wine shows electrifying acidity that has begun to mature with the sweet peach and green apple notes.

 

 

 

 


Left-Bank Premier Crus: Six-Bottle Sampler Package ($399)

This package focuses on the left bank alone (with one exception, L’Homme Mort), with all the unique site-specific glories contained within.

The 2020 Vintage: An Early Yet Classic Vintage

In 2020, the problem for Chablis was not reining in grape acid, but retaining it. Like much of Western Europe, Chablis experienced the warmest 12 months on record, warmer even than 2003. This meant an early start to the 2020 growing season and, while there were outbreaks of frost, the damage remained minor, particularly when compared to 2021.

According to Domaine Long-Depaquit’s Matthieu Mangenot, “2020 was a very easy vintage to manage. With a 40% reduction in rainfall and over 300 hours more sunshine than average, there were next to no disease issues in the vineyard. The dry weather even retarded weed outbreaks and this meant little to no spraying was required.”

One of the surprises that has emerged from persistent summer heatwaves brought about by a changing climate is a somewhat unique ability for Chardonnay to adapt without losing its sense of place. 2020 is a case in point, according to Mangenot: “Despite the heat and dryness, the alcohol levels are normal, the acidity levels are exceptional and the overall balance on the palate means the wines are representative of an excellent vintage for the region.”

Domaine Laroche

As one of Chablis’ most respected holders of Grand Cru vineyard land, Domaine Laroche is in many ways synonymous with the appellation. Shored up by a thousand years of history, the first Laroche to own land was Jean Victor who bought his first parcels of vines in the village of Maligny, a short distance from the village of Chablis. Passed along from father to son, the Laroche vineyards continued to expand gradually and by the mid-1960s totaled fifteen acres. In 1967, when Henri Laroche inherited this land, he had witnessed three years in the 1950s and 1960s in which there was no production at all; his vines yielded very little, and it was impossible to make a living from vine-growing alone—local farmers had turned to cereal crops and animal rearing to survive. Winemaking became something of a Chablisean afterthought, and so plagued was the region with spring frosts that Henri managed to save a section using rudimentary techniques such as burning straw and old tires.

Grégory Viennois, Domaine Laroche

With his son Michel joining the team, Laroche expanded into the best Crus in Chablis, for a current total of 222 acres, including 15 acres of Grand Crus, 52 acres of Premier Crus, and 156 acres of Chablis AOP. Only Chardonnay grapes are grown, of course, and the best vineyards are planted primarily on the region’s unique Kimmeridgian soil—a mixture of clay, chalk and fossilized oyster shells, renowned for producing crisp, mineral-driven, precise and elegant wines prized throughout the world.

1•  Domaine Laroche, 2020 Chablis Premier Cru L’Homme Mort ($82)
L’Homme Mort is one of the most northerly Premier Crus in Chablis, located within the larger Fourchaume Premier Cru (Right Bank) just south of the town of Maligny. Wines made in this oddly-named (The Dead Man), 17-acre Climat share the softer, more rounded characters that are synonymous with Fourchaume while also possessing a distinctive zingy minerality.

The nose shows classic notes of minerals, citrus, brioche and stone fruits with a textured and balanced mouthfeel with saline tinges and bracing acidity.

 

 


•2• Domaine Laroche, 2020 Chablis Premier Cru Les Beauroys ($69)
Les Beauroys lies on the left bank of the Serein, and produces wines that are most often described as ‘charming’. It is among the earliest vineyards in Chablis to ripen and is known for being delightfully accessible in its youth.

The wine shows a delicate nose that combines anise with candied orange peel and leads to a pithy palate driven by citrus and salinity.

 

 

 


•3• Domaine Laroche, 2020 Chablis Premier Cru Côte de Léchet ($72)
The Côte de Lechet vineyard lies just above the small village of Milly on the western side of the river. A southeasterly aspect gives it exposure to the less intense morning sun, in contrast to the more sunset-facing slopes on the other side of the valley. This encourages slower ripening in an already cool climate, and ensures that the acidity that typifies the region’s wines flourishes.

Elegant and floral with spicy undertones, the wine demonstrates a profound minerality that lingers through to the finish and adds complexity to the gentle acidity.

 

 


Domaine Long-Depaquit
Enviable Holdings

At more than 150 acres, Long-Depaquit is one of the largest domains in Chablis, renowned and respected not only for its sprawling terroir but for a commitment to low-intervention, organic farming. In 2014, upon completion of a new winery, the estate has focused on quality improvements centered on earth-friendly approach; in 2019, the property was awarded the highest Level 3 Haute Valeur Environmentale certification.

Beaune-based négociant Albert Bichot has managed Long-Depaquit since 1967, and the current winemaker, Matthieu Mangenot, joined in 2007 after dual training as an agronomist and an oenologist in South Africa, Lebanon, Bordeaux and especially, Mâconnais  and Beaujolais. He has spearheaded the domain’s comprehensive approach to authenticity and sustainability.

Matthieu Mangenot, Domaine Long-Depaquit

Long-Depaquit produces around 180,000 bottles of Chablis each year, and like most large estates in the region, the lion’s share is village wine fermented and aged in 100% stainless-steel tanks. Wine from their six Premier Cru sites and six Grand Cru sites wines see a small percentage fermented and aged in barrels between two and five years old; Grand Cru Les Clos typically sees a higher percentage (25 to 35%) of oak.

Their flagship cuvée is Grand Cru La Moutonne, drawn from a 5.8 acre monopole vineyard that straddles two Grand Crus (95% in Vaudésir and 5% in Les Preuses) in a steep amphitheater capable of producing some of the richest, most complex wines in Chablis.

•4• Domaine Long-Depaquit, 2020 Chablis Premier Cru Les Lys ($64)
Les Lys is a Premier Cru climat within the larger, umbrella Premier Cru vineyard of Vaillons. While contiguous with the latter, Les Lys has a unique aspect, bordering Séchets but facing northeast over the town of Chablis towards the Chablis Grand Cru vineyards; the rest of the Vaillons climats face generally southeast.

A textbook example of how brightly Premier Cru Chablis can shine; grilled pineapple and yellow apple on the nose with a palate of salt-preserved lemon, crushed hazelnut and fruitcake spices.

 

 


•5• Domaine Long-Depaquit, 2020 Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons ($55)
Found in a valley to the southwest of Chablis on the western side of the Serein River, a southeasterly face and high-quality Kimmeridgian soils below meld to make this large climat a sought-after location. At 318 acres, the Vaillons vineyard is made up of eight, smaller Climats, all Premier Crus in their own right, one is Les Vaillons.

Tensile and incisive, the wine displays classic aromas of crisp green apple, citrus zest, white flowers and oyster shell with racy acids and loads of depth at the core.

 

 


•6• Domaine Long-Depaquit, 2020 Chablis Premier Cru Les Beugnons ($59)
Les Beugnons is located at the western extremity of the Valvan valley on the left bank of the Serein River, where the favorable exposure is very favorable for creating expressive and charming wines.

The wine shows rich aromatics of pear peel, slight smoke, yeasty lees and candied lemon following through with a juicy palate reminisicent of ripe Mirabelle and a touch of honey.

 

 

 


Keeping Potential: The Grand Crus – Six-Bottle Sampler Package ($724)

In Chablis, the Grand Cru appellation comprises seven climats—Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur and Vaudésir. It is mainly produced in the village of Chablis, but also at Fyé and Poinchy. At elevations between around 300 to 800 feet, and exclusively on the right bank of the Serein, Grand Cru vineyards enjoy the ideal combination of sunshine, exposure and soil, formed in the Upper Jurassic era, 150 million years ago, are composed of limestone and marl with Exogyra virgula, tiny oyster fossils.

The jewel in the crown of Chablis, this is a wine for keeping, for 10 to 15 years, sometimes more. One the nose, the mineral aromas of flint are intense, giving way to linden, nuts, a hint of honey and almond. In an ideal vintage, the balance is perfect between liveliness and body, encapsulating the charm of an inimitable and authentic wine.

 1  Domaine Long-Depaquit, 2020 Chablis Grand Cru Bougros ($108)
Bougros is located at the northwestern edge of the Grand Cru hillside; it covers nearly 39 acres of slop on the Right Bank of the Serein and tends to produce wines that are rounded and less austere in youth than those from the other Grand Cru climats.

Silky and expressive, the wine offers brioche, toast and ripe green apple with petrol, dried peach and shellfish nuances.
 

 


 2  Domaine Long-Depaquit, 2020 Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses ($117)
The 29-acre Preuses slopes continue from those of the Bougros climat at the bottom of the hill, becoming increasingly steep toward the top. At the northern end of the Grand Cru slope, the Kimmeridgian soils and a sunny aspect make for an excellent terroir, but the wines tend to be rich and elegant, if less aromatic than other Chablis Grand Cru wines.

The wine is steely and rich with a gunflint character behind softer floral tones and hazelnut notes.

 

 


 3  Domaine Long-Depaquit, 2020 Chablis Grand Cru Les Vaudésirs ($135)
At the heart of the Grand Cru area, the Vallée des Vaudésirs is a perfect example of the geology and history of Chablis, bearing witness to the erosion that followed the last ice age. Long-Depaquit’s vineyard is more than forty years old, planted in the ‘endroit des Vaudésirs’, where, beneath steady sunshine, Kimmeridgian outcrops are the most numerous.

The wine’s bouquet is redolent of citrus fruit and delicate lily and chamomile notes while the palate offers green apple notes, hint of white peach and a hint of coastal herbs.

 

 


 4  Domaine Long-Depaquit, 2020 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos ($135)
At 65 acres, Les Clos is by far the biggest Grand Cru climat in Chablis. Its southwest exposure, offering perfect sun, combines with a relatively steep slope to provide optimal ripening conditions. Because of its size, Les Clos’ soil is multi-faceted: towards the top, stones and limestone become more prevalent, whereas towards the bottom, on the contrary, it gets deeper with more clay.

 

 

 

 


The wine blends two plots and reflects the specificity—the bouquet combines floral notes from the higher of the two plots with almond and hazelnut notes from the mid-slope vineyard.

 5  Domaine Long-Depaquit, 2020 Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots ($117)
Blanchots provides a unique soil composition, combining typical Chablis Kimmeridgian limestone with ammonites and a layer of white clay. Blanchots takes its name from this white clay, which retains moisture and protects the vines from hydric stress.

The wine shows a floral nose dominated by lilies and white roses; the ample mouth is generous with citrus and stone fruit, leading to mineral fish with hints of flint and graphite.

 

 


 6  Louis Michel & Fils, 2020 Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles ($112)
At under 25 acres, Grenouilles is the smallest of the Chablis Grand Cru appellations. Because it lies next to the Serein, a beneficial moderating effect comes into play and when combined with its exceptional south and southwest exposure guarantees an excellent opportunity for long, slow ripening. The poor and stony clay soil sits on a bed of Kimmeridgian limestone and marl, adding to the superior draining of this low-lying climat.

The wine shows notes of fresh meadow flowers, white stone fruit and kiwi with a chalky and slightly saline backbone.

 

 


Chablis’ Pinnacle

Gilding the Lily 101: We know what to do when life hands us lemons, but when the vineyard hands us Grand Cru crop, the options are interesting. Technical director Grégory Viennois explains the steps involved in creating the Domaine Laroche pinnacle, ‘La Réserve de l’Obédience’:

Laroche owns 11 acres, or just over one-third of Grand Cru Les Blanchots, and maintains that is their favorite plot of earth in Burgundy. This is in part due to Blanchots’ unique soil composition, combining typical Chablis Kimmeridgian limestone with ammonites and a layer of white clay. Blanchots takes its name from this white clay which retains moisture and protects the vines from hydric stress.

With eastern and southern exposures on a steep slope where elevations range from 500 to700 feet, these old (70+ years) Blanchots vines ripen with a matchless minerality and aromatic richness due to soil, orientation and intensive viticulture: More than 30 people are dedicated to caring for Domaine Laroche vineyards, with each person responsible for only one plot. Domaine Laroche practices ‘lutte raisonnée, or ‘reasoned protection’, using chemical intervention only when required. The vineyard is plowed to aerate the soil and encourage development of the root system, as well as the organic life in the soil; vines are pruned and trained by hand, with a strict pruning and debudding regimen.

“The grapes are hand-harvested in Grand Cru Les Blanchots and collected in small crates to go to the winery, where they are sorted. Then, each parcel is kept apart in order to do the entire winemaking process separately. Blending of the best wines from Grand Cru Les Blanchots takes place at the beginning of the summer every year—samples are taken from each vat, cask and barrel and are then tasted and selected for their delicacy and silky outlines. The aim is to express in the glass the typicity of the terroir as faithfully as possible. We try to get nearer to the perfect wine if it exists: refined, intense, mineral and capable of maturing for at least twenty years.”

Domaine Laroche ‘La Réserve de l’Obédience’, 2020 Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchots ($234)
Up front, notes of elderflower, vanilla and apple aromas and flavors converge. There is gobs of mid-palate richness above vivid acidity. Within a few years, look for the emergence of exotic aromas of petrol, quinine and pear scents to precede the appealing and concentrated minerality.

 

 

 

 


Domaine Laroche ‘La Réserve de l’Obédience’, 2019 Chablis Grand Cru Les Blanchot ($193)
Regardless of vintage La Réserve de l’Obédience is a delicate and subtle wine that showcases a markedly different style in its youth than in its maturity. Up to five years, the white fruit aromas, the mineral-driven finish and the extraordinary freshness remain front and center. With a few more cellar years, the inherent richness of terroir is expressed at its best and the soft spices and acacia honey notes, still supported by the freshness, emerge to center stage.

 

 


A note …

About Joyce and Bloom

In the Roaring Twenties, such literary eroticism had its price: ‘Ulysses’ was banned in the United States from 1922 (the year it was published) to 1933, a period of time that roughly mirrors Prohibition. James Joyce’s iconic novel follows—in minute and exhilarating detail—three Dubliners as they meander through the course of a single day, June 16, 1904, and is today considered one of the most important works of literature ever composed.

Much of the action in ‘Ulysses’ takes place in pubs, where Leopold Bloom—the novel’s main protagonist—shows a particular penchant for Burgundy. In a passage that made the very real ‘Davy Byrne’s Pub’ famous, Bloom orders a Gorgonzola sandwich along with his customary glass of Burgundy.

“Glowing wine on his palate lingered swallowed. Crushing in the winepress grapes of Burgundy. Sun’s heat it is. Seems to a secret touch telling me memory. Touched his sense moistened remembered. Hidden under wild ferns on Howth below us bay sleeping: sky. No sound. The sky… O wonder! Coolsoft with ointments her hand touched me, caressed: her eyes upon me did not turn away. Ravished over her I lay, full lips full open, kissed her mouth. Yum…. She kissed me. I was kissed. All yielding she tossed my hair. Kissed, she kissed me.”

James Joyce, ‘Ulysses’

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Posted on 2024.06.15 in Chablis, France, Wine-Aid Packages

 

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