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2013 Chablis, Vieilles Vignes, Jean-Claude Bessin
Jean-Claude Bessin's wines seem to take on his personality: his range of Chablis wines are among the most highly regarded in the region.
Based in La Chapelle Vaupelteigne, north of Chablis town, Jean-Claude's first vintage was the 1992. Though trained as an architect Jean-Claude Bessin preferred to take over the vineyards of his Tremblay father-in-law who adhered to the co-operative.
From his 12 hectares he produces Chablis vieilles vignes, Chablis Montmains premier cru wines, Chablis Fourchaume premier cru and Chablis Valmur grand cru wines which is partially barrel-fermented. A special cuvée of Fourchaume is labelled as La Pièce au Comte while from 2006 premier cru La Forêt has been bottled separately from the Montmains.
Evolution in recent years has been towards more natural winemaking. The majority of the crop is now harvested by hand, with natural yeasts preferred for fermentation. The wines have a long élévage on fine lees, the crus being bottled after 15 to 18 months, with a proportion of barrel fermentation and maturation for the top wines.
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.
One of the most famous wine names in the world, Chablis has suffered from numerous imitators. Fifty years ago there were just 400ha of vineyards in Chablis, but today there are 4,900ha. Both the generic and Premier Cru vineyards have doubled since the early 1970s, and now include areas of Portlandian as well as traditional Kimmeridgian clay.
Being further north than the rest of Burgundy, and on a different type of limestone (the aforementioned Kimmeridgian, with some Portlandian), the wines are subtly different in style – a touch more austere with a beautiful fresh minerality that makes them so suited to seafood. Purists believe that only the Kimmeridgian soils, with their traces of marine fossils, should be used.
The outlying Portlandian vineyards are designated as Petit Chablis, although the vast majority of production is classified as Chablis, without any vineyard name. Forty vineyards are classified as Premier Cru, however several of these are grouped together to make 11 more commonly-used Premier Cru designations. The seven Grands Crus are clustered together in a group that overlooks the town of Chablis and the River Serein.
- 622 hectares of Petit Chablis.
- 3,780 hectares of Chablis and Chablis premier cru vineyards (40 in all).
The finest vineyards include: Fourchaumes, Montmains, Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonnerre, Vaillons, Vaucoupin.
- 103 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards (seven in all). Blanchots, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, Vaudésir.
- Recommended Producers: Bessin, Billaud Simon, Dauvissat, Defaix, Droin, Fèvre, Picq, Séguinot-Bordet