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Under the best of circumstances, organic and biodynamic viticulture is never easy. When you combine that with a marginal climate like that in Chablis the level of difficulty only increases. This is why we have such admiration for father and son vignerons Gérard and Lilian Duplessis. In an area known for industrial farming, the Duplessis family makes a beautiful array of terroir-specific Chablis from well-situated plots in the village, showing respect for the soil and utilizing traditional methods in the cellar.
Lilian, who has succeeded his father Gérard, farms the family’s 9 hectares of village, premier cru and grand cru vines organically (certified since 2013). Cellar work is traditional with native yeast fermentations, long lees aging in stainless steel tanks, followed by 6 to 18 month elévage in neutral oak barrels before bottling. There’s nothing flashy or stylized here, the wines are quietly articulate, communicating the individual terroirs with subtlety and nuance.
Today we are pleased to offer a selection of the brilliant, albeit difficult 2016 vintage along with a smattering of library releases. 2016 is a vintage that was beset by seemingly everything Mother Nature could throw at it—frost, two months of persistent rain, hail, heat—yet the wines' expressiveness and energy belie the troubles of the year. The wines are bright, balanced, detailed and vibrant (if only there was more wine!). The balance of this offer is a selection of 2014s, which are beginning to show their inherent classicism with pure white fruits and a nuanced mineral character.
The 2016 Montmains from Duplessis shows great poise and nuance that belies the struggles of the early portion of the vintage, first with calamitous frost and then with two straight months of rain (and attendant disease pressure). Yet what’s in the bottle is generous and vibrant, if not as flamboyant, as Chablis from other growers such as Fevre, Billaud-Simon, or Dauvissat. The robe is a pale greenish yellow to the rim. The nose offers aromas of stone fruit and golden apple, white flowers, and a touch of brine with some notes of pear skin and mint. The palate is supple on the attack with flavors veering more toward orchard fruits than citrus and a building a sense of minerality on the mid-palate that carries over on the persistent and building finish. This has a rather subtle expression of the left bank of the Serein terroir, that while nuanced becomes more intriguing with each sip. Rather more Chopin than Sousa, but quite agreeable. A fine pairing with pan-roasted scallops, sautéed white corn and braised scallions, and an heirloom tomato salad. Fine texture and breed that would be lovely with crab and pasta or grilled oysters with garlic butter. This should knit beautifully over the next few years in the cellar, but a is sheer joy to drink now. John McIlwain
The Montmains vineyard lies on the left bank of the Serein River a bit south of Vaillons. The soils are comprised of clays over limestone.
2014 Mont de Milieu. Pale green yellow robe. The nose is a bit circumspect on opening, but with air gives way to cool aromas of forest, lime pith, white flowers, and wet stone. The palate is tense and tight and coiled, offering a tension between flavors of citrus peel, russet apple, quinine, and salty minerality. This has great cut, but is beginning to offer some generous fruit and electric brightness—truly delicious and mouthwatering. Clearly in its infancy, but this is one of the more expressive and vibrant bottles of Duplessis I’ve sampled. Dynamite with velvet crab soup with red vinegar and crystal shrimp dumplings. John McIlwain
Located just north of the line of grand crus on the right bank of the Serein river, Fourchaume has a southwest exposure and tends to produce richer expressions of Chablis. Pale green yellow robe. The nose offers fine aromas of stone fruit, white flowers, and spice. The palate is rich, but racy marrying fine drive to supple stone fruit and orange zest flavors to an underlying stoniness. This is lovely juice! John McIlwain