2020 Burgundy | Part 1 – Chablis

by Charles Lea

Vineyard of Chablis Chablis – arriving in Fleys on the road from Tonnerre

Towards the end of October I planned to set off from Kent to start a trip to Chablis and Champagne, and was told, when I began to make appointments for the Monday, that the Sunday was by chance the rather local event, the ‘Fête des vins de Chablis‘ – a chance for the local vignerons to show their wares in a street closed for the day, and a good opportunity to try the wines of quite a number of different domaines – so I set off rather earlier than I’d originally intended to get there in time.

The weather was remarkable most of the week – as though a promise, like a rainbow, of something better to come after all the tribulations of the difficult 2021 vintage The mood of the event was suitably relaxed, good-humoured and fun. After that easy interlude there was a lot to pack in on the Monday, with the intention of spending the night in Épernay.

Domaine Agnès, Didier & Florent Dauvissat

Florent Dauvissat

Florent Dauvissat

The first appointment, at the rather ungodly hour of 8:30 am (always a struggle when you’ve started on UK time the morning before) was to a new supplier to us, young Florent Dauvissat of Domaine Agnès, Didier & Florent Dauvissat. As I drove down the road to the village of Beine I wanted to stop and get a picture of the early-morning mist curling in little twists off the lake below the Dauvissat’s holding in Côte de Savant (the eastern end of the large Premier Cru Beauroy), but as I was inevitably late, it had to wait until I was on the way back, by which time the sun was on it.

Chablis - Côte de Savant

Chablis – Côte de Savant

Florent is in the fortunate position of joining his parents’ domaine at a time when the vines, all of which they planted themselves, are reaching full maturity, but he’s also clearly a talented winemaker, and the two coming together means that this domaine looks a great prospect now and for the future. Their Chablis and Petit Chablis are from the village of Fyé, on the other side of the river, up above the Grand Cru Blanchots.

The next appointment of the morning, at 9.30, will remain shrouded in secrecy for now – it is my hope that this very talented vigneron may agree to sell us some of his remarkable wines in the near future.

Domaine Vincent Dauvissat

It’s always a huge privilege to taste with Vincent, and this year was no exception, as he took me through the whole range from the Petit Chablis (a sample which had been open 15 days, but which showed no sign of it – and which we don’t normally get), to the Grands Crus. Lots of drama in these wines already, much more to come with age, so keep and treasure them for special occasions with your most intimate friends if you are one of the lucky few to get any. Vincent likes the balance here – ‘not like the high alcohols of 2018 and 2019’.

Domaine Moreau-Naudet

Virginie (Mimi) Moreau was in fine form as usual, the wines quite rich and deep on colour, palate-filling. 30% of the Premiers Crus and the Grand Cru are aged in barrel, but we were tasting the tank component only. (The Chablis and Petit Chablis only go into barrel if there’s a small volume that won’t fit in a tank). This an early stage for these wines, as only the Chablis and Petit Chablis are bottled early January or February, the rest not until June or July, so when Mimi says that ‘I prefer the  Montmains and the Forets to the Vaillons and Montée de Tonnerre at the moment, as the other two are on on the back foot (sur leur reserve)’, that does not mean this will still be the case when they are bottled. A lovely range of serious wines also capable of long aging. I was kindly invited to lunch and there seemed miraculously to be time for something quite quick, so with Nell, Mimi’s twenty-year-old daughter, we had a bistrot bite in the centre.

Domaine Isabelle & Denis Pommier

Isabelle & Denis Pommier

Isabelle & Denis Pommier

With four more visits to cover, the afternoon began with a quick run north to Poinchy to see the Pommiers, who seem to have bottled sunshine this year, the wines all fresh and precise, including the Troësmes, their wine from the very western end of Beauroy, which is exposed due south and steeply-sloped so that in hot years it can be quite a big wine. You can taste the sun in it, but it’s still taut.

Domaine Laurent Tribut & Domaine Solange Tribut

Solange Tribut

Solange Tribut

The next appointment is in the same village, so I’m nearly back on time. Laurent’s daughter Solange is now in charge of the cellar here, but everyone else is not not far away, it’s a real family affair. There was qualified good news here in that, while 2021 is another small harvest, it’s not catastrophic. Solange told me that the Léchet and Montmains had good ripeness – the Chablis got a bit of rot before it finally ripened so that it was hard work picking and sorting it, but she seems happy with the result – we will see next year. As usual here the 2020s are finely bright and delicately mineral, the Beauroy in particular showing intensity and a lovely thread of salinity.

Domaine Adhémar & Francis Boudin

Another very short hop to the Boudins at La Chapelle Vaupelteigne, where I am greeted by Francis and his daughter Angélique. The regularity of this domaine is something amazing – their wines so easy to pick out, perhaps not quite ‘quintessence of Chablis’ enough for some purists, as their vines are all on well-exposed slopes, but they have a generosity which gives them wide appeal as long as you are not expecting the sharp blade of the leanest versions. Even so, their Fourchaume and Homme Mort, renowned as warm sites, have a fine minerality this year – and Francis is firm in saying he much prefers the 2020s to the 2019s.

Domaine des Hâtes

Pierrick Laroche, alerted that I might be running late, had agreed to a 5:30 appointment but warned that he had to be gone by 6:30. In the end this turned out to be fine, we had time for quite a relaxed tasting. Pierrick told me ‘it’s a vintage I like a lot, it’s ripe because it was hot but there’s good acidity and minerality. 2019 and 2020 are pretty much in the same frame’. We tasted the whole range including another look at his 2019 Grand Cru Bougros – and the favourites were the already-bottled straight Chablis and the Premier Cru Butteaux, even if the latter was a little challenging to taste as it is entirely aged in barrel (no new wood, all 3-5 years old), and had only just been moved to tank, still on its lees and gassy – it’s a very classical style, glittering precision and driven power.

… and with that, on to dinner in Épernay, a couple of hours away.

Register Burgundy En Primeur Read on in Part 2, Beaune to Mâcon.