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Well, after some fits and starts, summer is finally here in full effect. The days and weeks ahead hold the promise of some first-rate lounging, alternating between lazing beneath the sun like lizards and cooling off in whatever body of water is convenient. High-intensity activity such as this calls for the right beverage. Around these parts that means something crisp, salty and refreshing and inevitably our thoughts tilt towards Burgundy's wonderful northern annex—Chablis. This little corner of the world produces truly inimitable wines from Chardonnay planted in ancient white chalk soil. These wines can be lithe and bright or full-bodied and powerful depending on the vineyard and producer. They are bracing and full of snap in their youth but can also age magnificently.
We have a host of some of our favorite producers all scheduled to hit the shelves here at CSW over the next few weeks, domaines who have consistently delivered at an unbelievably high level over the past several vintages. In most cases, the wines arriving are 2020s and the early word on the vintage is 'classic.' Despite the intense heat in July and some hydric stress, there is less intense concentration than in some 2019s and overall the wines are ripe but balanced. I made a brief stop in the village on a recent Burgundy trip to taste with Etiennette Dauvissat (sadly, wines that are not featured here today) and she was effusive about the vintage, comparing it in the most favorable terms with 2017—wines brimming with charm and energy.
The downside however is that for the second year in a row, yields are down as much as 30% due to a touch of spring frost and a very dry August. And not only is there less wine to begin with, but the spectre of the catastrophic 2021 frost looms large for the appellation's growers, many of whom lost as much as 80%. As a result many of them have held back wine in 2020 to compensate. Thusly, our allocations are smaller than they have been the last few years. What you see, offered here today and next week, is what you get. There will be no second bite at the apple.
The first set of wines offered here today is are the outstanding Petit Chablis and Chablis villages from Domaine Moreau-Naudet. We have been following them here at Chambers Street for several vintages and in my former life as a restaurant wine director they were staples on every lists. Stephane Moreau took over the estate from his father in 1999 and over the next two decades he made a series of changes, converting to organic viticulture, fermenting only with native yeasts and harvesting by hand. The result was a range of truly outstanding Chablis, wines with great texture, precision and sense of place. Stephane passed away suddenly in 2016 and his wife Virginie has taken over the domaine's management. She continues to grow and vinify her wines according to the same principles and the results are no less enchanting.
The second domaine on offer is that of Julien Brocard, a relatively young producer who has quickly risen among the ranks. The Brocard family has deep roots in Chablis and while Julien is to this day involved with the large family domaine, in 2011 he took control of a small percentage of the estate under his own name. Today Julien farm eighteen hectares, all Demeter-certified biodynamic, and he has commited firmly to biodiversity, strategically planting fruit and nut trees throughout the estate. The wines are all aged in large oak vats (with the exception of Petit Chablis) between ten and twenty months. From Petit Chablis all the way up to Grand Cru 'Les Preuses,' these are brilliant wines, incisive and razor-focused.
If you have a predilection for oysters and lobster rolls this summer, or if you just happen to love great White Burgundy, today is your day. And keep your eyes peeled next week for more outstanding 2020s from Eleni and Edouard Vocoret and 2019s (and some fascinating older wines) from Gerard Duplessis!
** This is a PRE-ARRIVAL OFFER. These wines will be in stock next week.**
Despite coming from a 2.5 hectare parcel of young vines, this wine is made with the same level of care that the rest of the wines are. Contrary to the profile of most Petit Chablis, yields are lower than average, fermentation is with indigenous yeast, and it is harvested by hand. The wine is aged for nine months in stainless steel before bottling.
This is sourced from vines between twenty and sixty years old and aged all wood. This is Chablis at its most inviting. It's full of juicy white fruit, peach and pear and feels generally supple and accessible from the moment the cork is pulled. But what is most captivating and engaging is the mineral component here. Chablis is defined by its limestone soils and at its best its character comes through as something I have always identified as "Welch's grape soda." Some people compare it to fennel or licorice, others to something else - it's somewhat nebulous, as tasting stones is not something we do in life. But whatever it is, this wine has it. The finish is stained with this unique expression of limestone, which is what we should ask of it. Outstanding for the price. Sam Ehrlich
From a 1.5 hectare parcel with Portlandian limestone and South / South-East exposure. It's the only wine that is made in temperature controlled stainless steel vats.
La Boissonneuse vineyard makes up the bulk of Julien Brocard's holdings, at 11 of his 18 total hectares. This cuvée is sourced from 30-year-old biodynamically farmed vines, fermented with native yeasts, and aged in large foudre.
Vau de Vey is a 1er Cru vineyard in a valley between the Côte de Léchet and the Vau-Ligneau. Slopes here can get very steep (too steep for horses), and there are lots of large chunks of limestone mixed within the soils. Eastern exposure and the location in the valley makes for a cooler site. 12-13 months in wood.
Côte de Léchet embodies the purest characteristics of Chablis: 38 degree slope right in the sun, very rocky soil, and small yields of deeply mineral wines.
Simultaneously powerful, very fat and very fine, elegant and voluptuous. From 35 year-old vines with southern exposure. Aged for 14 months on lees in a Stockinger barrel.