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2013 Chablis, Mont de Milieu, 1er Cru, Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin
The Droins have been producing wines in Chablis for nearly 400 years (their history as vignerons goes back at least to 1620). Benoît represents the14th generation of Droins and is one of the most dynamic winemakers in the region. His father Jean-Paul put the domaine on the map but perhaps went too far down the road of new oak barrels.
The domaine owns 13 hectares of vineyards and produces 14 different wines, including Petit Chablis, Chablis, 7 Premiers Crus and 5 Grands Crus.
Benoît runs a more sophisticated operation from a large modern winery almost in the shadow of the grands crus. He has revised his pruning system and significantly reduced yields. In the cellar the principal change has been away from new oak.
Each wine now gets the treatment which Benoît thinks is suited to its terroir. Thus Petit Chablis, Chablis, premiers crus Vaucoupin and Côte de Lechet, and grand cru Blanchots are all fermented and matured in tank. Vaillons, Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre receive 25 per cent of barrel fermentation and maturation, 35 per cent for Vosgros and Vaudésir, 40 per cent for Montmains and Valmur, peaking at 50 per cent for Fourchaume, Grenouilles and Les Clos. However the age of the oak and the choice of tonnelier may vary according to the cuvée. The maximum new oak is ten per cent in the grands crus.
Droin says "I use less new oak now than I did 10 years ago; my feeling is that you don`t make your best wines in new oak barrels." Although these are rich, full-bodied, buttery wines, they still manage to retain a steeliness, raciness and purity of fruit which are the hallmarks of classic Chablis.
Jasper Morris MW
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
Chablis Premiers Crus are stylish, minerally wines which, typically, are less intense than the Grand Crus but finer and longer-lasting than basic Chablis. They are highly underrated with the better examples outclassing many a good village white Burgundy.
The vineyards cover 750 hectares, scattered across 15 communes on isolated slopes with good exposure. There are 17 principal Premiers Crus but in total 79 vineyards are eligible, with most of the lesser-known ones using a more familiar umbrella name on their label. The best flank the Grands Crus on the north bank of the River Serein, like Montée de Tonnerre (probably the best of all), Fourchaume and Mont de Milieu.
Those just south of Chablis, like Vaillons, Montmains (especially Les Forêts) and Côte de Léchet are also good. With the vineyard area having doubled since the 1970s, quality varies enormously so, as ever, the producer is key.
Styles also vary, with some maturing and fermenting in stainless steel for a purer, more minerally style, while others age and sometimes even ferment their wines in oak for extra complexity. The best examples reach their apogee at eight to 10 years, but are normally enjoyed long before then.
Recommended producers: Jean-Claude Bessin, Billaud-Simon, Séguinot-Bordet, J.-P. & Benoit Droin, Duplessis, Defaix
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