Will Chablis always live in the shadow of the big boys down south? Dunno, but I wouldn't complain about obscurity if it helps keep the prices down (though the Dauvissat Grand Crus cost as much as a negociant Corton-Charlemagne, they're still the least expensive Grand Crus in Tomer's catalog). It's a totally different style, though, and you should not expect a Chablis to be a Cote de Beaune. Like all good things, it deserves to be accepted on its own terms.
I've had the hots for Chablis for a couple of years now but I must confess it was ignited by less stellar lights than Dauvissat and Raveneau, who are the big names in Chablis. So, sadly, I'm hooked even harder now and prospects look dim as, like I said, Tomer's stocks are gone. I did manage to get my hands on a few bottles when the new catalog came out so I'm slapping myself on the back congratulating myself now that I've tasted some samples.
A few facts. Durup is one of the biggest producers in volume in Chablis and his wines see absolutely no wood. Nada. Because of the size of his domaine, he machine harvests but at least with Durup, this practice came after a few years of trials, bottling both machine and hand harvested wines and comparing the bottlings. Dauvissat and Raveneau believe very strictly in hand harvesting which their smaller size allows them to do. Their wines are aged in old barrels and judging from this tasting, you can pick up no oak aromas and flavors. Isn't that wonderful?
On to the wines.
De Villaine, Bouzeron, 2005
I already have a note for this one. This time, it was still green and veggie, so closed the impression of alcohol is heightened, but this bottle was somehow friendlier, opening to reveal more complexity than previously. I like a challenge so I liked this wine.
Durup, Chablis Vieilles Vignes, 2005
I've always liked Durup and while his wines were outclassed by Dauvissat and Raveneau, they're still a good choice for weekday drinking, especially the Vieilles Vignes, austere, sharp and crispy. It went very well with the sea food risotto going around the table at that moment and more than the other Chablis that evening, it had the sea water signature that is usually ascribed to Chablis. The only drawback is I'm usually inclined to pay more and get the 1er Cru, but I did have fun with the 2004 last year.
Durup, Chablis 1er Cru, Vau de Vey, 2005
A step up in quality, that is more than worth more the 30% increase in price, compared to the Vieilles Vignes. More body and concentration, without compromising the crispiness. An elegant nose followed by a surprisingly powerful palate, with a less pronounced sea water character. Having followed Durup's 1er Crus for several vintages now, I can vouch that this is no fluke: this is one of the best value whites around.
Durup, Chablis 1er Cru, Vau de Vey, 1995
Ten years older, the same vineyard shows very light oxidation and mildew on the nose, over honey notes with the fruit deep in the background, minding its own business. Very full and long. It's a challenging wine, for me. It's maturity is fascinating but I'm still not sure whether it's enough of an improvement over its younger version to warrant long aging.
And then came the jets...
Dauvissat, Chablis 2000
The first Dauvissat of the evening introduced a whole new set of aromas and flavors over the classic Chablis signature that I'm already familiar with, as well as added complexity. Mildew, cheese, nut oil, minerals, with the fruit playing second fiddle. The nose somehow feels oily but it's not a fat wine. It's very fresh and long, still austere, with a misleading delicacy. It felt dainty but got along well with the sharp cheeses on my plate. I think this seven year old village still has some three to five years left but will I be able to keep away?
Dauvissat, Chablis 1er Cru, Forest, 2001
A wonderful, vibrant nose, with powerful aromas. All the pungent cheese and mildew aromas and flavors I found in the 2000 village are magnified here without overcoming the fruit, which is rather more pronounced here. Very long, rich and nuanced. A "busy" wine, with a lot going on, yet very precise about what it's doing.
Raveneau, Chablis 1er Cru, Butteaux, 2004
Raveneau on the other hand, seems to subscribe to the "less is more school". Very flowery, which Tomer says is due to the high altitude of the vineyard; sharp and powerful, though soft and feminine for all that. Harmonic and elegant. While I'm not sure if the Durup Vau de Vey is worth aging for ten years post vintage, the Butteaux will surely last at least that long, with fresh, mouthwatering acidity.
It's a fascinating comparison between these two producers and metaphors were plentiful. Dauvissat is Meursault and Raveneau is Puligny. Dauvissat is Pfalz and Raveneau is Rheingau. Raveneau is all treble as compared to the bass notes of the Dauvissat. It's a hell of a fun life when you can spend it immersed in deep thoughts like these.
Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault, 2004
Meanwhile, back in the South... Meursault is nuts, right? I picked up cashews and toasted bread with delicate fruitiness that is more noticeable than in any of the Chablis but still not upfront. A very pretty wine that possibly supports Tomer's nomination of Chateau du Puligny-Montrachet as the star of the vintage.