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France - Burgundy

Featuring Chablis Grand Cru and Chablis wine touring; Côte d'Auxerre; Pouilly-Fuissé, St-Véran & Macon; Pinot Noir & Chardonnay: Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Crémant de Bourgogne; organic wine estates; Côte Chalonnaise: Rully, Mercurey, Montagny; Beaujolais...

Focus on 2013 Domaine Marguerite Dupasquier Rully blanc...

Le Clos des Guettes
From www.hdv.fr

Henri de Villamont, Discover the Origin, more Chablis... (December 2014): "This estate winery and broker owns 10 hectares in the Savigny les Beaune area... and they also produce wines from across the entire region from Chablis to Pouilly-Fuissé and Beaujolais... Plus a special 'Discover the Origin' tasting from St-Véran to Corton Grand Cru..." And La Chablisienne Chablis 'vertical': Les Vénérables vieilles vignes 2008 to 2012..."

Chablis: special focus report now available
You can now get a handy e-magazine featuring all three parts of my Chablis wine touring mini-series (updated December 2014), plus bonus pieces on a Chablis Grand Cru tasting and spotlight on M&S Chablis penned last year. Buy it HERE.
Chablis part 3: Geoffroy, Moreau, Séguinot-Bordet and more (July 2013)
Chablis on foot part 2: Droin, Chablisienne, Long-Depaquit, Fèvre (June 2013)
Chablis on foot part 1: Chablis Wine Awards (April 2013)

Les Champs de l'Abbaye Côte Chalonnaise (March 2013)
More Chablis & Burgundy on this site:
More Chablis: Bichot Vaillons 2009 (July 2012)
Posh Chablis @ M&S (Dec 2011)
Pinot Noir: Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand (Oct 2011)
Belfast Wine Festival (Sept 2011)
Chablis/Crémant de Bourgogne: Maison Simonnet-Febvre (Apr 2009)
Organic Burgundy: Boyer, Giboulot, Goisot, de Suremain, Tripoz (Jan 2009).

Grand Cru Chablis tasting London 2012

Or "more posh Chablis" if you prefer an alternative title (that link subtly goes to a piece reviewing a few tasty M&S Chablis back in December). I've selected my two or three favourites below from each of the 14 producers who aired their wares at the Union des Grands Crus de Chablis showcase a few weeks ago (conjures up images of heated members' meetings and not-so-secret ballots: "...Those in favour of a one-day strike in protest against the inclement weather, raise your hands..."). This tasting was a launchpad for their 2010 vintage wines with each winery also cracking open an older vintage or two ranging from 2009 and 2008 back to a remarkable 1999, as was the case for one estate (Domaine Servin), which provided a useful comparison benchmark.

2010 appears to be a very accomplished vintage, even if sometimes giving variable results: some wines will be towards brilliant while others seemed to lack real structure and bite to their generally very attractive fruit and seductive richness. I should add though that most of these teens on tasting were just bottled or cask/tank samples, so will obviously benefit from spending a little time in bottle. 2009 was a nice ripe year too with more 'full-on' wines that are more charming now, although I found some of them a little 'clunky'. I'd say it's bordering on interesting that I didn't select any 2009s among "my favourites." There were some good ones at this event for sure but, for the sake of limiting the amount of recommendations I've included, they were eclipsed by other vintages plus most of the GC Chablis on the tables were 2010s anyway. But I did pick a fair few 2008s, which from memory was tasting like a rather austere vintage initially; many of these are now really blossoming and showing their class. And out of the handful of 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004 and 2003 wines on show; well, they all had their attractions although the 04s and one 05 stood out (read on for enlightenment).

A smidgen of fascinating insight into these lofty Grand Cru sites. The official blurb says: "Only 7 named vineyards (a mere 2% of the total Chablis appellation) have the status of Chablis Grand Cru: (Les) Blanchot(s), Bougros, Les Clos (the largest at 26 ha or 65 acres), Grenouilles (the smallest = 9 ha), Valmur, Les Preuses and Vaudésir (plus the slightly mysterious Moutonne, a small plot straddling the latter two). They constitute the historical core of Chablis and all lie on a Kimmeridgian soil base." For non-geologists, that trips-off-the-tongue adjective comes from the Dorset village of Kimmeridge, found to the south of Poole not far from the coast, which apparently lies on the same kind of soil base as much of southern England and northern France stretching as far as Chablis even. This is largely made up of clay and limestone in particular including myriad minuscule fossilized shells. Anyway, just as important, if not more so, is the lie of the land here with those famously well-exposed slopes, all south or southwest facing, which roll up to about 200 metres altitude. Not exactly high but noticeably so in contrast to the surrounding area. Mind you, parts of some of these vineyards are on the lower side too.
These revered sites, all nestling side by side northeast of Chablis town just across the river, date back to the 9th Century, so they say, when monks first planted vines here (not the Romans at least) "on the best exposed slopes." When it came to 'recreating' this top level sub-appellation in the first half of the 20th Century, a consensus was reached based on, well, quite a period of history watching these vineyards and the quality of wines they've produced over the years! Members of the UGCC group represent a shade over half of the total 100 ha (250 acres) of vineyard holdings in these seven cru sites. They have to abide by a relatively strict quality charter detailing certain vineyard practices etc. (I'm not going to get drawn in to commenting on 'yield limits' and other dubious arguments like that, which are lower in other supposedly lesser white wine areas of France, by the way, if it really matters per se...) More @ grandscrusdechablis.com.

François Servin
from servin.fr

Domaine Servin
2010 Blanchots (no oak, 13% alcohol) - nice aromatic fruit with buttery vs citrus notes, mouthful of fresh fruit with rich concentration then subtle steely bite; lovely Chablis style, quite open already actually.
2010 Les Clos (cask fermentation and ageing in 3 to 4 year-old barrels, 13%) - fatter richer and more buttery, concentrated too with creamy hazelnut flavours; quite weighty vs a bit of 'cut', again lush and forward although has elegant finish and length.
1999 Les Preuses (fermented in tank, aged in cask as above) - 'toasted' edges vs almost 'reductive'/herbal at least, developing lovely mature nutty and buttery flavours with oxidising notes vs dry bite and still steely; rounded and tasty finish, delicious now.
See web link under photo for details of their London area and Dublin distributors. Majestic Wine Warehouses (UK) also sell their ‘normal’ Chablis 2010 for £11.99.

Domaine Pascal Bouchard (organic)
2010 Vaudésir (vines replanted in 1989, cask-fermented and -aged in 3 to 6 year-old barrels for 10 months, 13%) - quite tight and closed up to start, moving on to a richer palate showing creamy hazelnut flavours, tightens up on its towards ‘salty’ finish with nice balance and style. Very good.
2010 Les Clos (vines planted in 1964, same winemaking as above, 13%) - slightly exotic and buttery aromas vs greener fruits, complex and concentrated with long tight and steely finish. Lovely.
2008 Les Clos (ditto) - delicious maturing buttery notes vs complex greener fruit nuances, toasty vs steely mouth-feel, great balance and style with long finish, still fresh vs attractive savoury/oxidising tones. On the superb side.

Château Grenouilles

La Chablisienne
2010 Château Grenouilles (15 months in oak, unbottled sample) - aromatic citrus and green fruits, crisp tight palate vs subtle creamy concentration to finish with. Good, needs a few months to open up.
2008 Château Grenouilles (same ageing) - delicious complex herbal/green vs buttery and nutty notes, developing tasty hazelnut flavours vs still crisp and tight. Classier vintage, very good wine.

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils
2010 Valmur (barrel-fermentation and -ageing for 18 months, not bottled then) - rich buttered toast on the nose vs pretty classic Chablis fruit and style, lush and quite upfront mouth-feel then a touch steelier on the finish. A little more ‘full-on’ but good stuff with it.
2007 Valmur (same winemaking) - mature and very buttery fruit, rounded palate with a hint of bite and crispness, tasty although lacks a bit of excitement perhaps.
As their site is viewable in French, English, Chinese, Russian and Japanese; it's safe to say they export a few bottles!

The Collet family

Domaine Drouhin Vaudon (organic/biodynamic)
2010 Les Clos (old vines, barrel-fermented in 1 to 5 year-old large casks and aged for up to 12 months) - similar to their Vaudésir although less rich and toasty in some ways, creamier though with more roasted hazelnut characters, nice bite vs weight with intense long finish. Promising.
2010 Bougros (ditto) - quite lush and full-bodied vs attractive underlying 'salty' touches, toasted hazelnut flavours vs crisp steely finish. Very good.
2006 Bougros (ditto) - maturing savoury aromas with toffee-d nut tones, has a bit of oomph too with slightly clunky alcohol/acid combo; nice developing fruit though vs underlying 'cut'. Hits the spot in some ways although is perhaps fading.
For UK distribution, contact Pol Roger Ltd. (Hereford) or Classic Wine (Belfast); Gilbeys of Ireland (Dublin); USA: Dreyfus Ashby (New York), and click here for Canada or the rest of Europe.

Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre
2010 Les Preuses (50 year-old vines, part barrel-fermented and -aged for 16 months) - rather classic nose with buttery vs citrus and green fruit mix, elegant concentration with steely side / tighter finish vs fruit-forward as well; has a touch of class.
2008 Les Preuses (similar winemaking) - intricate yeast-lees and toasty notes vs lovely creamy mouth-feel vs steelier green fruit flavour/texture, delicious wine again showing real class.

From nathalieetgillesfevre.com

Domaine William Fèvre
2010 Les Preuses (fermented and matured in French oak for up to 15 months) - awkward nose at the moment, quite buttery on the palate vs enticing green fruit edges; livelier and classier than some of their other Grand Cru wines, crisp mineral mouth-feel vs fairly rich and forward; stylish wine needing a few months in bottle to come together.
2010 Bougros 'Cote Bouguerots' (same winemaking) - slightly toastier nose, fuller palate weight vs attractive fresh acidity and length. Less obvious although still very good.
2010 Les Clos (ditto) - again it's quite lush with buttered toast aromas/flavours and ripe vs greener fruit profile, then tighter steelier finish with lovely length and style.
Full marks, by the way, for actually featuring the word 'Chardonnay' at the beginning of their 'Flash' web intro (a word often strangely omitted from Chablis labels!). Imported by John E Fells into the UK, where Berry Bros & Rudd lists a few of their 2009, 2008 and 2007 GCs for £66-£69. 

Domaine Laroche (converting to organics, bottled with screwcaps)
2010 Les Clos (20% aged in oak / 80% in stainless steel for 9 months, 12.5% alc.) - a touch richer than their (also very good) 'regular' Blanchots with subtle green fruit edges too, nice concentration vs bite and great length.
2010 Les Blanchots Réserve de l'Obédience (30% oak for 9 months, 12.5%) - elegant yet fairly rich nose, quite closed up to start with though; slowly builds up to more buttery and toasted hazelnut palate profile vs that 'saltier cut', rounder and sweeter fruit/oak vs intense bite and length. Wow.
2004 Les Blanchots (40% oak for 9 months, 13%) - complex herbal green fruits vs nutty and buttery, maturing savoury flavours with toasty notes, intricate tasty wine still showing freshness and life vs softening savoury nutty fruit. Delicious.
These wines sell for about €42/€54/€82 a bottle cellar-door (based on the 2007 price), and Laroche is distributed widely around the world including Liberty Wines in London. They also have a hotel and restaurant in Chablis (pic. below): more info @ larochewines.com

Domaine Long Depaquit / Albert Bichot
2010 Les Blanchots (75% stainless / 25% 2 to 5 year-old barrels) - closed on the nose, riper richer palate showing good balance of concentration and steely structure, tight fine finish. Will be very good.
2010 Les Clos (65% stainless / 35% 2 to 5 year-old barrels) - a touch creamier and more exotic flaunting its buttery vs greener side, again has attractive fresh bite with weight and length. Also very good.
2010 Bougros (100% 3 to 5 year-old barrels) - toastier and bigger start but still has enticing nutty buttery flavours with fair power vs 'salty' bite, subtle and elegant in the end. Lovely wine actually.
I also liked their 2006 Moutonne with its developing butterscotch fruit, even if it was ageing rather quickly when I tried it. These guys own 10% of total GC Chablis vineyards apparently: more @ bourgogne-bichot.com where you'll find stockists in Europe and Asia.

Château de Viviers
2010 Les Blanchots (85% stainless / 15% French oak) - subtle and less up-front than some of the others, buttery hints on the palate with a lighter steely finish. Nice style.
2004 Les Blanchots (15% in 3 year-old barrels for 8 months) - complex herby green fruit tones vs lush buttery and tasty hazelnut flavours, showing mature edges vs still tight and quite fine in fact.
One of several Burgundy properties owned by: lupecholet.com.

Domaine des Malandes
2010 Les Clos (50 year-old vines, 100% barrel-fermented then into stainless from spring to bottling, 13%) - more 'mineral' than their Vaudésir yet still quite rich with ripe buttery and roasted hazelnut flavours, juicy crisp mouth-feel with nice weight too; pretty classic style. €32 cellar-door.
2003 Vaudésir (40 year-old vines, 50-50 barrel / stainless, 13%) - maturing toasty/burnt nose with lees edges, rich developing fruit with toffee/pecan flavours; still fairly balanced though despite its lush mature characters, lots of flavours and drinking now as it probably won't improve much.
Available from Charles Hawkins & Partners in the UK (Rutland): domainedesmalandes.com.

The team @ Louis Moreau: louismoreau.com 

Domaine Louis Moreau
2010 Les Clos (50-50 barrel / stainless, blended and aged further 3 months in oak; 13%) - complex nose with toastier richer fruit developing, livelier and punchier mouth-feel than their Valmur, concentrated vs refreshing long finish. Stylish in the end.
2010 Clos des Hospices (parcel within Les Clos: 100% barrel-fermented/aged, 13%) - aromatic vs ripe rich nose / palate, buttery and concentrated with rounder texture and more mouth weight vs again that lovely 'salty' tang, fine long finish.
2005 Blanchot (100% stainless steel, 13%) - intricate developed nose with buttered toast and toffee tones, nice weight and richness vs dry bite, delicious complex maturing fruit yet still very much alive. Excellent.
Widely available in Europe, Canada and the Far East. See web link above.

Domaine Simonnet-Febvre
2010 Les Preuses (50 year-old vines, tank fermented and aged on lees for 20 months, 13%) - enticing pure fruit showing classic creamy vs crisp Chablis profile, elegant bite and length with subtle concentration and panache. Quite forward already. Very good.
2008 Les Preuses (50 year-old vines, tank fermented and on lees for 20 months, 13%) - aromatic nose developing buttery edges, lovely creamy fruit vs classy steely side, long crisp dry finish vs concentrated and maturing. Delicious wine.
Distributed by Louis Latour London and California, Gilbeys in Dublin: simonnet-febvre.com
See bottom of page for link to other wines tasted previously.

Domaine Gérard Tremblay chablis-tremblay.com
2010 Vaudésir (35 year-old vines, tank-fermented and 30% aged in oak for 6-8 months) - nice buttery hazelnutty nose with restrained toasty notes and lees-y edges, quite rich and concentrated with lightly steely bite; again fairly forward now with tasty finish.
2003 Vaudésir - exotic ripe peachy touches with attractive maturing creamy fruit, quite textured with oxidizing hazelnut flavours, although still has a bit of structure too; nice now.

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.