I'm going to keep today's offer brief. 2016 saw yields greatly reduced in Chablis - April frost and then two hailstorms in May wreaked havoc. The good news is that the growing season after May was very good, and it's conditions from June through September which ultimately dictate quality.
Patrick Piuze sits in a privileged position with the likes of François Raveneau and Vincent Dauvissat. Each vintage I take as much as I'm offered from his limited production, but in 2016 the numbers are obviously tighter than I'd prefer.
The quality of the 2016 vintage in Chablis is very high, combining freshness, great energetic lift, and superb concentration thanks to the reduced quantity of bunches per vine. For me, I see parallels to 2012 with less overt richness and a greater backbone of mineral thrust - just the way I prefer my Chablis.
Piuze is a wizard at working with both stainless steel and oak to craft Chardonnay from this fossilized ancient sea bed that delivers the grandeur expected from these fabled Crus. Like Raveneau and Dauvissat, it's the regal structure and definition married to this grandeur that places Piuze in such rare company.
24x Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir de Chablis
$37 per bottle.
6x Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Butteaux
$67 per bottle.
6x Patrick Piuze Chablis Premier Cru Forêt
$67 per bottle.
3x Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Bougros
$97 per bottle.
3x Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Blanchots
$103 per bottle.
3x Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos
$136 per bottle.
3x Patrick Piuze Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses
$136 per bottle.
I've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 2016 vintage from Domaine Savary. In Chablis, where many consider François Raveneau king, it was his introduction to importer Kermit Lynch that landed this terrific, under-the-radar domaine in the states. At $30 per bottle for Savary's old vine cuvée, this is the greatest value to go deep on from these famed Kimmeridgian slopes.
Savary's old vine bottling from the much anticipated return to the classically styled 2016 vintage captures everything I love about Chablis. Crushed oyster shell, cool-fruited citrus and green apple, with an uncanny texture impossible to resist conjuring the legendary wines of François Raveneau.
Chablis may be part of Burgundy, but its extreme northern setting and soil comprised of fossilized seashells share more in common with parts of Champagne and Sancerre than with the more luscious Chardonnay found 80 miles south-east in the Côte d'Or. The mineral expression matched with the cold climate of Chablis is magical for crafting wines brimming with mouth-watering salinity and faint nutty flavors that reveal themselves with air.
There's still so much of Chablis that's harvested too early, farmed without conviction, resting on the laurels of the iconic appellation printed on the label. Savary is a prime example of what the region can do the very best, pushing ripeness in this frigid northernly climate to the max, while preserving the necessary tension. Fermentation is carried out in 20% neutral wood and 80% stainless steel for their Vielles Vignes cuvée. The wine is then aged in larger, neutral demi-muids barrels.
Olivier Savary follows a long history of vignerons, but due to challenging vintages his parents had chosen not to continue the family domaine. Olivier had to start over when he finished oenology school in Dijon, and since 1984 with his wife Francine, they've slowly built what once was lost. A serendipitious introduction to importer Kermit Lynch by François Raveneau brought these stateside. While pricing of Raveneau will top several hundreds of dollars, today's old vine bottling is a perfect reminder that Chablis is still the bullseye for mineral-driven value Chardonnay.
2016 Savary Chablis Sélection Vieilles Vignes
$30 per bottle.
Sitting with friends at San Francisco's Zuni Cafe with a platter of oysters is one of life's great pleasures. It occurs far less frequently than I'd like, but after returning from a vineyard tour in Mendocino yesterday I found myself here before a late flight back home. Zuni's wine list is one of the best in the city, and it's always a challenge to be decisive before the oysters arrive. A friend wasted no time in choosing the perfect pairing of stainless steel Chablis. There may be several trustworthy options in this group, but none would argue that Louis Michel is tops.And no bottling offers greater value than his famous Premier Cru, Montée de Tonnerre - or as it translates, Thunder Mountain.
Montée de Tonnerre, much like Gevrey's Clos Saint Jacques or Chambolle's Les Amoureuses, is really Premier Cru in name only. The south-west facing slope sits next to the 7 Grand Cru vineyards of Chablis along the right bank of the Serein river. In the northernmost region for still Chardonnay this SW exposure is vital to bring ripeness, one that seriously separates the great from the modest in Chablis.
Louis Michel was an innovator in the 1960's, moving away from barrel aging of Chardonnay. The Kimmeridgian limestone soil here was viewed as so unique that stainless steel was the more ideal vessel to fully unmask the terroir. Steely Chablis and oysters can be a great combo, but the old vines of Montée de Tonnerre bring a sense of grandeur that marches to a different beat.
Michel's Thunder Mountain is always a favorite selection for the cellar, as the wine picks up flesh and deeper color with time. The crushed oyster shell component that is exhibited on day one is met with sweet cream and hazelnut notes that slowly develop.
In the context of great white Burgundy vineyards, Montée de Tonnerre is always part of the elite group. The price tag in banner years like 2014 can start at $230+ from some Chablis domaines. Louis Michel's Chablis lineup has always been synonymous with value, but at $49 per bottle his Thunder Mountain is unquestionably the gem of the estate.
I've gone deep on 2014 white Burgundy, and will continue to as the last of these wines slowly disappear from the market. There's no Premier or Grand Cru bottling in all of Burgundy I've dedicated more space to than Louis Michel's Montée de Tonnerre. Offering immediacy, as well as serious cellar potential, it's the single best choice to go deep on in 2014.
2014 Louis Michel Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre
$49 per bottle.
2012 Louis Michel Chablis 1er Cru Forêts
$39 per bottle.
2014 Louis Michel Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos
$89 per bottle.
Capturing a white Burgundy at the perfect moment in evolution is an unrivaled experience. Fruit and salinity have melded together, while texture has unfolded and edges softened. Vintages that favor freshness over power have showed the greatest promise in aging slowly.
Today we take a close look at two vintages that have given me the most personal pleasure from their era. Highlighted are producers whose wines are built for the cellar. From Vincent Dauvissat in Chablis to Vincent Dancer in Chassagne-Montrachet this collection varies in appellations, but stylistically each producer is after shimmering clarity in their wines.
2004 had been a cool and cloudy vintage throughout the start of the growing season, but in mid July temperatures warmed with August and early September delivering dry and sunny weather. Chardonnay benefitted really well from the conditions that proved to be extremely challenging for Pinot Noir. The whites here have been crisp and mineral-driven from the start. Angular qualities to the wines have dissipated each year and at this point everything has fallen into place perfectly. A vintage that classicists have praised from the start and with time our fondness has only grown.
2007 was a rare case where Chardonnay flowered after Pinot Noir. Like 2004, this was a vintage where whites strived. August winds were a welcomed assist after very damp conditions in June and July. Growers who pushed harvest dates back were rewarded, as sugars needed more time to accumulate, and unlike Pinot Noir rot was not a threat for whites. Harvest took place for Chardonnay throughout cool, dry September days. A vintage that emphasizes purity of fruit, with clarity and site-specificity really pronounced. At 10 years of age this list is full of wines that are now showing their full spectrum of potential, with many years left for the cellar.
2004 Chandon de Briailles Corton Le Charlemagne
$127 per bottle.
2004 Colin-Deléger Chevalier Montrachet
$229 per bottle.
2004 Comtes Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Perrières
$421 per bottle.
2004 Dauvissat, Vincent Chablis
$78 per bottle.
2004 Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes
$149 per bottle.
2004 Leflaive Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Folatieres 1.5L
$499 per bottle.
2004 Matrot Meursault 1er Cru Perrières
$97 per bottle.
2004 Pierre Morey Meursault 1er Cru Perrières
$148 per bottle.
2004 Pierre Yves Colin-Morey Chevalier Montrachet
2004 Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux
$249 per bottle.
2004 Roulot Meursault Les Meix Chavaux
$257 per bottle.
2004 Roulot Meursault Les Tillets
$271 per bottle.
2004 Vincent Dancer Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Tête du Clos
$149 per bottle.
2004 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Les Preuses
$269 per bottle.
2004 Vogüé Bourgogne Blanc
$399 per bottle.
2007 Coche-Dury Bourgogne Blanc
$279 per bottle.
2007 Hubert Lamy Saint Aubin 1er Cru En Remilly
$99 per bottle
2007 Leflaive Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes 1.5L
$499 per bottle.
2007 Pierre Yves Colin-Morey Chevalier Montrachet
$699 per bottle.
2007 Pierre Yves Colin-Morey Corton Charlemagne 1.5L
$674 per bottle.
2007 Pierre Yves Colin-Morey Meursault 1er Cru Goutte d'Or
$159 per bottle.
2007 Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet
$388 per bottle.
2007 Simon Bize Savigny les Beaune Blanc 1er Cru Aux Vergelesses
$86 per bottle.
2007 Vincent Dancer Meursault 1er Cru Perrières
$229 per bottle.
Chablis continues to offer value that's seemingly more and more unmatched. While prices of white Burgundy in the Côte de Beaune climb, Chablis from artisanal producers over-deliver at a more than welcomed price point. Stéphane Moreau's tiny domaine really captures the best of this current state. Quantities may be painfully low, but quality couldn't be higher.
Today, much of Chablis is still harvested by machine, and use of herbicides and pesticides is prevalent. Much of what we've become accustomed to drinking from these famed limestone slopes is a crisp and lean wine that's really just the result of early picking and industrial farming focused on high yields. Stéphane Moreau knew there was an alternative route to take after becoming enchanted with the wines and the more natural approach by the revered Vincent Dauvissat.
Stéphane joined his father, taking control of the family domaine in 1999, and flipped everything on its head. Today the regimen is full organic farming with biodynamic principles, natural yeast ferments, and harvesting 100% by hand. Relentless focus in the vineyard means picking, here in the coldest region in France for still Chardonnay, is pushed as late as possible to ensure maximum ripeness.
The style here is supremely textural and deep Chardonnay, still with an unmistakable Chablisienne oyster-shell mineral component. The wines exemplify that ultimate ideal of density without weight. Moreau-Naudet joins the likes of Thomas Pico (Pattes Loup) and Alice et Olivier De Moor to embody this style perfectly.
Allen Meadows of Burghound was one of the first to highlight the success here,
"I find Moreau to be one of the most exciting young growers in Chablis and his wines are well worth the trouble to get to know if you haven't yet tried them."
Stéphane's Chablis and Petit Chablis are great introductions to the house style, and to the newer wave of exciting producers of the region. Both bottlings thrill in their perfect harmony of bright citrus, orange peel, crushed rocks, and finishing with hints of cream. The Petit Chablis is the more fruit-forward and round of the two. The Chablis shows more salinity and a mineral streak, both of which really soften beautifully with just a few minutes in glass.
2014 has proven to be one of the most exhilarating vintages for white Burgundy in the last several decades. The combination of ripeness, dry extract from thick skins, and bright acids makes them ones for the cellar. Quantities here are extremely limited- We highly suggest taking advantage of the best value in Chablis today.
2014 Moreau-Naudet Petit Chablis
$28 per bottle.
2014 Moreau-Naudet Chablis
$32 per bottle.