Story by Manos Angelakis
Maison Joseph Drouhin Chablis
California’s cheap wine producers have practically single-handed ruined the reputation of a great white wine, Chablis, by loading gallon jugs with insipid, flabby wines made from Chardonnay grapes and calling them Chablis.
The real Chablis is a white wine made from Chardonnay grapes in a French region almost 100 miles southeast of Paris. Chablis is almost as far north as wine-grapes will successfully grow. The only other great wine producing areas at a higher latitude (about 2 degree higher), are the Rhine valley, famous for its Riesling wines, Alsace and Champagne.
Chablis wines come in four categories. Grand cru, Premier cru, Chablis, and petit Chablis. These designations are based on how far the vineyard is from the village of Chablis, and the orientation of the vineyard to the sun, with the best plots having a southwestern exposure.
White wines are normally not created for aging, but grand cru and premier cru Chablis will gracefully age for 10 years or more, becoming richer and far more complex.
Good-quality Chablis are pure, lean, and less fruity than other white wines. Most have a steely or mineral character, since these wines are fermented mostly in steel vats and see minimal time in oak barrels.
At a recent Maison Joseph Drouhin tasting, I had the chance to sample 3 premier, and 3 grand cru 2008 Chablis. It seems that the 2008 weather was optimum in Burgundy, allowing harvesting under ideal conditions. All the wines showed great concentration, richness, freshness and minerality. Aromas were more intense than usual. The premier cru wines will be at peak from 4 to 6 years from bottling but with aging potential up to 8 or 9 years; the grand cru wines should be delicious from 2012 and sould remain at peak for at least another 10 years. These were exceptional wines, well worth their suggested retail price.
The Drouhin Vaudon Chablis Premier Cru, is from a blend of Chardonnays sourced from various Premier Cru parcels owned by the Joseph Drouhin Domain in Chablis, as well as other select partners. The vines grow on clay and limestone vineyards, in an organic environment. At harvest time the parcels are harvested separately. The grapes are hand picked and gently pressed, then the must is brought to cellars in Beaune and transferred to carefully selected barrels for fermentation. Each parcel is vinified separately, none in new oak. After 7 to 9 months, the wines from the different parcels are assembled and then bottled. The nose has aromatic hints of orange zest, lemon, coriander and spices. The body is full with a round, refreshing finish. SRP of $36.00
Chablis Premier Cru Montmains: An intensely flinty wine. Very elegant, lively, with melon, lemon, white peach and mineral flavors balanced by the smooth texture. Good aging potential. Best as an aperitif, or with shellfish. SRP $38.25
Chablis Premier Cru Sécher: This wine has a feminine character, rather soft and round. On the nose a floral quality, citrusy with zero oak, and great acidity that was refreshing but not sour. SRP $38.25
Chablis Grand Cru Bougros: A classic Chablis, clear, pale straw core with a transparent rim. Round bodied, lemony and flinty, with hints of fresh almonds. Very bright with a long crisp finish. SRP $68.75
Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir: Another very feminine wine; I consider it the most feminine of the grand crus. Slightly yellow/green hue. Lemony with coriander and woodlands on the nose. Big-bodied flavors, yet this remains a wine of finesse and elegance crafted in an understated style. SRP $68.75
Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos: This is a very small production wine; only 155 cases on average are shipped to the US. A finely balanced wine, creamy, with notes of spice and lilies on the nose. Full, rounded palate. Vibrant and zesty. Powerful but elegant. SRP $80.00
Á votre santé.
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