Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This Is Hip - Jean Paul et Benoit Droin Tasting at Giaconda (Jan. 19, 2010)


Like a lot of my friends, sensible people all, I love Chablis! I own a fair amount of bottles, yet this is the first time I've had five Grand Crus in one sitting. Much thanks to Anat Sela and Rafaella Ronen of Giaconda for that.

As the subject of this tasting is the venerable Droin winery, four centuries in Chablis, I suppose I am required to say a few words about the domaine, but I won't, as I'm not very good at that sort of thing. Here instead is a link to the winery's site and you can probably Google the great reviews the wines get. My own two cents is this: the 2007's are lovely wines that won't let you down. 2GrandCru's honor!

Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume, 2006

Something of a disappointment. Whether time and cellaring will change my mind remains to be seen, but let's just say that, with so many great 2007's to choose from, it's a financial no-brainer to pass this by. Having said that, the nose is a knockout, easily blending apples and citrus with a dash of ripe pears and intense notes of flint. Alas, although the nose is just about everything I look for in a white Bourgogne, the palate, while fairly crisp, is rough and laden with oak (having been aged in 50% barrels) and while it will probably soak it all in, the 2007's are so gorgeous straight from bottle, that I will, as I said, walk on by. But my respect for Droin is such that I will probably look back. 171 NIS.

Chablis, 2007

This is where the fun starts. The acidity is so juicy, yet integrated, that it blows me away (and it appears in each of the 2007's), and is well balanced by citrus fruits and a saline finish. How many village wines have a palate that over-shadows the nose? It does usually work the other way around. Anyway, the nose is also a killer for this level of quality, as it weaves an elegant, if monochromatic, tapestry of flint and citrus fruit in a very precious and reserved fashion. This should well be a new house wine for me and is probably the best straight Chablis I've ever tasted. 126 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Cote de Lechet, 2007

As we climb up the quality ladder, these 2007's become more powerful yet more elegant at the same time. This is even more reserved than the village in a way, more subtle, even as the aromatics and palate turn out to be more complex and nuanced, displaying a veil of chalk and sea shells. All the bottles were opened on the spot, thus the Cote de Lechet's easy drinkability makes it very useful, yet there is a bitter, almost tannic sensation on the finish which suggests cellar potential. Lovely. This, like the village, sees no barrels. 171 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Montee de Tonnerre, 2007

There are similarities with the Cote de Lechet, yet they work together almost like counter melodies in the same key. Am I making sense? They do make for difficulties in comparative note-taking, being too similar in their very good-plus level of complexity and in the balance of fruit and mineral, both cut from the same reserved, almost austere, cloth, their differences more a matter of a different note here and there. With its 20% oak seamlessly tucked away, this has the edge in balance, although I'd recommend buying both. 171 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Blanchots, 2007

The introduction of the first Grand Cru territory is not an easy one to adjust to, as a certain femininity about the Blanchots calls for a re-calibration of the palate. It is certainly more closed than previous wines, albeit showing greater aromatic complexity once it opens, with notes of brioche and flowers, the greater ripeness somehow suggesting a warm spring afternoon. This oak-free Grand Cru is very minerally, without a minerally texture per se; Anat Sela called it liquid rock, which nails it so well I just had to plagiarize. 320 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Valmur

This is such a clear break with the previous wines, it's almost a shock as the wine loudly declaims, "look at me, I'm a Grand Cru!" It's a bigger, wider wine, yet never at the cost of elegant or complexity, just as saline as any wine we'd tasted, yet its greater ripeness allows it to support this salinity with gorgeous fruit that complements the acidity with letter-perfect balance. The whole package easily sustains its 50% oak. Highly recommended. 320 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Vaudesir, 2007

If the Valmur was a stylistic break away from the Premier Crus, the Vaudesir takes everything the Premiers had to offer but gives more of the same. Much more. There aromatics present the same mineral core but subtly twist it around creating a whole new picture. The oak here clocks in at 40% but it only shows as brioche on the nose, if at all. The balance of acidity and fruit is, again, gorgeous. Another winner. 320 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Grenouille, 2007

I really don't know quite what to make of this apparent oddball among the other Grand Crus. It's balanced for sure, with plenty of racy acidity, and while I would prefer more minerals, the flowery sweetness of the nose is fine in its own right. But somehow, the whole package is just too round and obsequious and is the least impressive of the lot, including the Fourchaumes. This has the most oak of all the wines of the night (60%) and I can't help but suspect it was there to mask something. 350 NIS.

Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2007

Hats off to the wine that has it all, from nuanced complexity to impressive, mineral-tinged power. Yet, for all its power, it is still delicate, which gives it another notch in my book. Having said that, there is something a bit too straight-forward about it right now, as though it is almost too transparent and clear to read. I still very much recommend it, mind, it just has less mystique than the Valmur right now. 50% oak, 350 NIS.

Chablis Premier Cru, Monte de Milieu, 2004

A surprise addition to the lineup, the nose is a triple "wow" with fruit and minerals embraced by terrific stink that seems like reduction at first, but, as it never blows away and as it melts so well into the rest of the aromatics, I'm quite content with not analyzing it. The fruit is cool and lean at first but fills out nicely. The 2007's seemed to be all about citrus fruit but this leans towards apples. I'd go for it but it's not for sale.


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