Jean Dauvissat Pere et Fils Chablis 1er Cru ‘Vaillons’ 2014
This Chablis 1er Cru ‘Vaillons’ is remarkable for its limpidity; it catches light and reflects it like a jewel. Vigorous and full, this is a big wine with fat decadent spicy fruit and deep lingering minerality. Balanced and precise from the attack, through the mid-palate to the long finish, this is a very well-made wine.
DOMAINE JEAN DAUVISSAT PERE ET FILS
There’s a new kid on the block. And it’s pretty exciting news for Elden Selections.
Fabien Dauvissat, son of Jean Dauvissat (no, not that Jean Dauvissat) took charge of his father’s considerable Chablis domain, and proceeded to make some radical changes. His father was first and foremost a grape farmer. On nearly 53 acres and 53 different parcels ranging from Petit Chablis to Premier Cru over seven different communes, he produced quality grapes for a big negociant house. But Fabien has different ideas. He is one of a generation that sees the value in producing not just good Chablis, but great Chablis. So he has taken the domain organic, using only copper and sulfur, no weed killers, no chemical fertilizers and no systemics.
Chardonnay is famous for rampant yields, and so the primary job of the vigneron here is to keep those yields at a level that lets the grapes ripen and sugars concentrate. They only viable way to do this is to prune the vine during the winter so that it will only produce a certain number of grape bunches. Sounds easy, but a lot can happen between the winter pruning and the harvest the following autumn. Shoot for 60 hl/ha, and you might get 40.
The best producers will tell you that quality is all about taking risks. And Fabien is fully aware of the gamble. But in the process, by reducing the volume of wine produced on the domain in his father’s days to the levels he targets now, he has made himself a considerable reputation for a winemaker barely into his 30s.
Petit Chablis 0.38 acre
Chablis 42 acres
Chablis 1er Cru ‘Cote de Lechet’ 4.78 acres
Chablis 1er Cru ‘Fourchaumes’ 1.44 acres
Chablis 1er Cru ‘Montmains’ 1.83 acres
Chablis 1er Cru ‘Homme Mort’ 0.36 acre
Chablis 1er Cru ‘Vaillons’ 2 acres
2014 was a year for maxims in Burgundy. One was the ‘don’t count your chickens’ warning. And another, a keystone in Burgundy wine making, was ‘September makes the wine’. Simple truths to heed.
After three very small harvests, Burgundy urgently needed to fill its cellars. And despite some heart-breaking setbacks and a growing season that was jumbled in disorder, a decent amount of wine was produced. Not enough, of course. But ‘correct’, as the French would say.
There was no winter to speak of, followed by a mild and sunny period from February through April that saw some rain, but less than normal. The vine got going early, and talk was of a late August harvest.
But May was cool and rainy, which slowed the development. The vine began to flower in the last week of May in the southern part of the region. So at that point, counting the traditional 100 days from flowering to harvest, picking would start in early September. The weather during the flowering period was sunny and warm with just enough rain for this critical period to unfold and to finish.
And then early June was hot. Summer hot. As June was in 2003, some have said. This speeded things up. The flowering in the northern part of the region, and in those vineyards at higher altitudes, got a kick that would help them to phenolic maturity later.
With these conditions, fruit began to appear soon thereafter, and by the end of June small grapes had formed and clustered. The hot dry conditions however led to both millerandage (unevenly formed bunches made up of normal grapes and thick-skinned seedless berries ) and coulure (buds that never flowered), both of which reduce the overall crop, but which can give concentration to the remaining fruit.
Flowering and fruit set was certainly among the earliest of the past twenty years, with as much as a week head start on what would be considered normal here. And if you compare 2013 to 2014, we were three weeks in advance.
Then disaster struck. At the end of June, a series of violent hail storms ripped through the region. One in the Cote de Nuits, where parts of Nuits and Chambolle-Musigny were hit with 20% crop loss. The other two in the Cote de Beaune: the first, widespread, ranging from Meursault in the south and on up to the Corton Mountain and Savigny les Beaune, caused substantial damage; the other, painfully localized, tore through the premier cru hillsides of Pommard and Volnay. The latter was the newsmaker, with up to 80% crop damage in some sectors, but also because this was the third consecutive year that Pommard and Volnay had been seriously damaged. There have been subsequent financial worries for small producers who were not insured.
Yet, despite these disasters, from Macon to Chablis there was a serious crop on the vines. Weather in July was mixed. Hot and sunny, then cloudy and cool. Constant rumblings of thunder in the distance kept everyone on edge.
Hail damage often leads to mildew, so vigilant vineyard work was crucial as the rains came and August turned cool, wet and gloomy, more like winter than the previous winter had been. Maturity stalled on the vine. And with the ever-present risk of rot cast a pall on the chill August air.
As we reached September, with fingers crossed, Burgundians put their hopes in the maxim that ‘September makes the wine’. Because in 2014, it was make or break. We needed a glorious September, and that’s exactly what we got. Light, warm northerly winds. Warm days, cool nights. Everything needed to salvage the potential mess that August had served up. In the end, we had the best harvest conditions that we have seen in many years.
Picking started on 8 September in the south, around the 15th in the Cote and Chablis, and finished around the 26th in the Hautes Cotes.
The crop came in healthy. There was no rot. And with normal sorting work in the winery (mostly where there had been hail damage) we brought in one of the healthiest harvests in recent years. The whites are balanced and intense. The reds show good ripe fruit. Some say the best vintage since 2009. A miracle!
CHABLIS and the GRAND AUXERROIS
Located near the city of Auxerre in the department of Yonne, the Chablis vineyards lie on slopes above valleys that feed into the Serein river. Vines date of course to the Roman era, but in the 12th century, the Cistercian monks from the abbey of Pontigny developed serious cultivation. The Chablis appellations (Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru) form a qualitative pyramid of which the Grand Cru appellation forms the apex.
Petit Chablis, which is the local equivalent to the regional appellation 'bourgogne', comes from vineyards on either side of the river, usually on the edges of Chablis production or on the plateaus above the valleys. They can vary wildly in quality.
Chablis (or 'tout court' as the locals say) is the local equivalent of the village appellation, and is generally found on the edges of the premier cru production.
Chablis premier cru vineyards are generally situated above the valleys on slope with ideal exposition. They almost always are planted on the chalky kimmeridgian clay. Left bank and the right bank minerality are the most obvious ways to categorize these wines.
Chablis grand cru comes from vineyards to the north-east of the town of Chablis on the right bank of the Serein facing the sun at altitudes of 100-250 meters. The Grand Cru climats form a continuous band along the upper part of the valley from Bougros in the north-west, through Preuses, Vaudésir, Grenouille, Valmur and Les Clos to Blanchot in the south-east.
The appellation Chablis includes a total of 89 premiers crus and 6 grands crus.
Producing communes: Beines, Béru, Chablis, Fyé, Milly, Poinchy, La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne, Chemilly-sur-Serein, Chichée, Collan, Courgis, Fleys, Fontenay-Près-Chablis, Lignorelles, Ligny-le-Châtel, Maligny, Poilly-sur-Serein, Prehy, Villy et Viviers.
Chablis is often pale in color, ranging from white gold to greeny gold, and it should be limpid, brilliant and fat. The nose is often discreet in youth, but is marked by freshness, dusty minerality, grassiness and white floral notes like acacia or honeysuckle. Extremely distinctive chalky minerality (coming from a streak of kimmeridgian clay running through the region) carries the fruit on the palate, making a good Chablis very persistent in length. There are distinct differences between 'left bank' (of the river Serein) and 'right bank', having mostly to do with hours of exposition to the sun. Left bank wines have an almost severe minerality (much loved by the locals) whereas right bank Chablis is rounder, riper. Either however should be easily recognized as unmistakeably Chablis to any discerning taster. The premiers crus and grands crus are set apart because they generally have a higher concentration of the kimmeridgian as well as prime exposition. The grands crus are the best example of this. They are all grouped together in an amphitheater-shaped heat trap and, come harvest time, invariably have that half degree more potential alcohol than other vineyards in the zone.
No French wine-growing area has its reputation more firmly allied to its geology. The main substrata is jurassic limestone (specifically, kimmeridgian clay) laid down some 150 million years ago. The rock contains deposits of tiny fossilized oyster shells which remind us that Burgundy once lay beneath a warm ocean. This is the same rock that much of Champagne is planted upon, and it is the same rock through which the Channel Tunnel is bored, as this geologic vein makes its way into south-east England.
White wines only - Chardonnay (known locally as " Beaunois ")
Production surface area :
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Grand Cru: 104.07 ha
Premier Cru :776.08 ha
Chablis : 3,256.81 ha
Petit Chablis: 843.32 ha
Chablis is aromatically highly complex and very adaptable with food. Good matches include oysters and shellfish, as well as fish, grilled or in sauce. The more mineral versions (left bank) go well with quality poultry or veal. The more open and round variations (right bank) are locally drunk with the traditional dishes like andouillettes (tripe sausages) and of course, the Burgundian specialty par excellence, escargots (snails). Another local specialty is jambon au Chablis, thick-sliced cured ham braised in Chablis and cream. Chablis can also tackle the wine-killer, asparagus. It also goes well with creamy goat cheeses, as well as mountain cheeses like Beaufort, Comté, or Emmental.
On the label, the appellation Chablis 1er Cru may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
These climats are often inclusive. The 17 bigger classified climats have names which the producers opt to use more often:
Mont de Milieu - Vallée de Chigot
Montée de Tonnerre - Chapelot, Les Chapelots, Pied d’Aloup, Sous Pied d’Aloup, Côte de Bréchain
Fourchaume - Vaupulent, Vau Pulan, Les Vaupulans, La Fourchaume, Côte de Fontenay, Dine-Chien, L’Homme Mort, La Grande Côte, Bois Seguin, L’Ardillier, Vaulorent, Les Quatre chemins, La ferme couverte, Les Couvertes
Vaillons - Sur les Vaillons, Chatains, Les Grands Chaumes, Les Chatains, Sécher, Beugnons, Les Beugnons, Les Lys, Champlain, Mélinots, Les Minos, Roncières, Les Epinottes
Montmains - Les Monts Mains, Forêts, Les Forêts, Butteaux, Les Bouts des Butteaux, Vaux Miolot, Le Milieu des Butteaux, Les Ecueillis, Vaugerlains
Côte de Léchet - Le Château
Beauroy - Sous Boroy, Vallée des Vaux, Benfer, Troesmes, Côte de Troesmes, Adroit de Vau Renard, Côte de Savant, Le Cotat-Château, Frouquelin, Le Verger
Vauligneau - Vau de Longue, Vau Girault, La Forêt, Sur la Forêt
Vaudevey - La Grande Chaume, Vaux Ragons, Vignes des Vaux Ragons
Vaucoupin - Adroit de Vaucopins
Vosgros - Adroit de Vosgros, Vaugiraut
Les Fourneaux - Morein, Côte des Près Girots, La Côte, Sur la Côte
Côte de Vaubarousse
Chaume de Talvat
Côte de Jouan
Les Beauregards - Hauts des Chambres du Roi, Côte de Cuissy, Les corvées, Bec d Oiseau, Vallée de Cuissy
On the label the following climats are classified as grand cru: