2010 CHABLIS GRANDS CRUS

It is now clear that in each of the three years, 2008, 2009 and 2010, Chablis has produced the best of the white wines of the Burgundy region. What is also clear is that in Chablis 2010 is superior to 2008, which is itself better than 2009, but that there are some very lovely wines in each of the three vintages. And that, perhaps unlike 2007, 2006 and 2005, none of them as fine as these last three, they will last well.

Two thousand and ten was a summer of contrasts. After a cold winter and a cool, dry Spring – much lower temperatures than further south – May was broadly similarly grey and miserable. Not until the beginning of June was there any sun, and that soon disappeared, just when the vines were about to flower. This caused wudespread coulure and millerandage which would eventually result in a deficit in the harvest of some 16 percent on 2008 and 2009. In July, thankfully, the weather warmed up. It was the sole month of the year where temperatures were above average. Nevertheless the weather was changeable, hot, dry days alternating with cold, wet ones. August was similar, though sunshine was below average, but better weather prevailed in September and continued right through into late October. The Chablis harvest began during the week of Sepember 20th. In some areas, but not on the slopes of the grands crus, botrytis threatened to be a problem. Triage, both in the vineyard and on arrival in the cellar, was even more crucial than normal.

In retrospect the vintage was 'saved', in the sense that its promising quality was ensured, by the size of the crop. Sixteen percent represents one glass out of the six you will normally get out of a bottle. So the 2010s have, potentially at least, a greater concentration. This gives them a depth and an energy too. And today (global warning?) we no longer get Chablis summers so deficient in warmth that a lack of ripeness becomes a problem (nor do we seem to get frosty Springs). Even in 1996, the coolest summer over the last 20 years, some perfectly good – indeed fine - Chablis were produced.

As in 2008 but not 2009, the malos were slow to complete, but not too slow to generate any inconvenience in the cellars. As usual all but a handful of the 2010 grands crus were in bottle by Christmas 2001 or very shortly thereafter, and so my annual tasting at the beginning of March found the vast majority in good form. The small size of the vintage has helped to give them a concentration and a depth which leads me to rate them higher than the 2008s, with which otherwise they have much in common.

One thing which stood out – rather more than usual – was the difference in quality between what I consider the least good grands crus such as Blanchots and Bougros and those from Valmur, Vaudesir and Les Clos: hardly a fine fine from the first two climats, barely a disappointment from the last three.

Another thing, by the way, which became clear from the fiches techniques which accompanied all the samples supplied to the B.I.V.B. for my tasting was that the only enterprise to freely admit to still picking their grands crus (except for their Grenouilles) by machine was the Co-operative, La Chablisienne. After 30 years the machine is dying out in the quality vineyards of Chablis, and a good thing too.

Nor is the use of new oak the menace it threatened to be ten years ago. At that time, many domaines offered decidedly oaky wines. In not a single example of the wines below, did I notice any undue oak. For that, many thanks.

The majority of the wines below will retail in France for 35 to 45 euros a bottle ($55-$75 in the USA). This is less than the price for a premier cru Meursault. Yet sales, the locals complain, are sluggish. Make a note to put Chablis on your shopping list. The best of these last three excellent vintages are splendid value for money.

By the way of a PS, for those travelling in the region. The Hostellerie Les Clos has always been the place to stay. One (Michelin) star food and simple but perfectly adequate and modestly-priced bedrooms. I dined there twice on my recent visit. The food was even finer than I have found it to be in the past. Bravo to M. Vrignaud and his team. (www.hostellerie-des-clos.fr)

The following wines were sampled in Chablis in March 2012. Those of Vincent Dauvissat and Raveneau were tasted sur place as these two distinguished estates don't deign to join the motley at the B.I.V.B. Sadly the Raveneau cellar was in the process of being racked, so the only grand cru in a fit state to be tasted there was the Valmur.

BOUGROS

Jean-Marc Brocard 16.5

Good style on the nose. Good depth here. Medium-full body. Just a touch four-square but balanced and very good plus.

La Chablisienne 13.0

Somewhat tarty nose. The wine is a bit short on the palate. Ungainly.

Domaine du Colombier 12.0

A lean vegetal touch on the nose. Weak and unstylish on the palate. Even a touch sweet at the end. No.

Bernard Defaix 16.0

Fresh, forward, flowery nose. Quite elegant. Good balance. But very good rather than great. It lacks a little personality.

Joesph Drouhin 16.5

A bit herbal on the nose. Better on the palate. Ripe and balanced. Medium-full body. Stylish finish. Very good plus.

Willam Fèvre 17.5

Nicely flowery on the nose. Composed, balanced, elegant. Long on the palate. Fine.

William Fèvre, Clos Bouguerots 18.0

Clean but slightly neutral nose at first. It's a bit closed in. Better on the plate. Fruity and racy. Long and complex. Very good style. Fine plus.

Laroche 14.0

Soft, ripe, forward nose. Medium body. A pretty wine. But that's it.

Servin 16.5

Good minerally nose. Fullish body. Ripe. Good style. Still youthful. Very good plus.

GRENOUILLES

Jean-Paul et Benoit Droin 14.0

Fresh nose, if not exactly stylish. But some fruit. But only quite good, at best.

La Chablisienne 13.0

Rather old, herbal nose. Watery at the end. Superficial.

Testut 17.0

This has good fruit and grip. Ripe, fresh, positive and attractive. Very good indeed.

LA MOUTONNE

Long-Depaquit 17.0

High-toned, flowery nose. Medium to medium-full weight. Good energy. Ripe and stylish and a long positive finish. Very good indeed.

PREUSES

Billaud-Simon 17.0

Soft, quite ripe nose. But at first it seems a little weak. More personality on the palate than semed on the nose. Long, pure, racy very good indeed.

Jean-Marc Brocard 18.0

Clean, pure and racy on the nose. Medium-full body. Very harmonious. Very stylish. Lovely long finish. Fine plus.

La Chablisienne 18.5

Nicely pure and racy on the nose. This is very lovely. Quite rich. Lots of depth and harmony. Lots of energy. Very fine.

Maison Chanson 16.0

Clean, pure, vigorous nose. Just a little bland on the palate. It lacks a bit of raciness. Ripe, fruity, stylish and forward. Very good.

Vignoble Dampt 16.0

Still a bit closed on the nose. Balanced and agreeable and fruity, if no great distinction. Very good at best.

Maison Faiveley 16.5

Decent fruit on the nose. Ripe, balanced, medium to medium-full body. Positive and energetic. Very good plus.

Nathalie et Gilles Fèvre 16.0

Good flowery fruit on the nose. Still young. Ripe on the palate. But the finish is just a shade sweet. Very good at best.

William Fèvre 17.5

Medium weight. Somewhat herbal on the nose. Nicely racy. Good depth and balance. Long and positive. Fine.

Simmonet-Fèvre 18.5

Nicely poised and balanced on the nose. Fullish body. Lots of energy and depth. Very good fruit. Long and vigorous. Very fine.

Raveneau 18.5

Concentrated. Abundant. Full of fruit. Very good grip. Long and mineral at the end. Austere and voluptuous at the same time. Very fine.

BLANCHOTS

Château de Beru 17.0

Quite a full colour. Round, ripe, good concentration. Plenty of depth. Attractive style. Medium-full body. Very good indeed.

Billard-Simon 14.0

Quite ripe fruit on the nose. But less elegant on the palate.A bit tarty.

Pascal Bouchard 17.5

Nice and fresh and steely on the nose. Medium-full body. Balanced. Good purity. Finishes well. Fine.

Jean-Marc Brocard 14.0

A bit vegetal on the nose. Decent fruit on the palate. But should have been more stylish and more concentrated. Quite good at best.

La Chablisienne 17.5

Ripe and stylish and quite substantial on the nose. Medium-full body. Good depth. Good grip. This will last well. Fine at the end.

Laroche 16.0

Green-gold colour. Racy and ripe. Youthful. Good fruit. A touch of lime blossom. Long. Balanced. Very good.

Laroche, Cuvée de l'Obedience 18.0

Ripe and fresh and stylish on the nose. Medium-full body. Good depth. Balanced and succulent and racy. Fine plus.

Long-Depaquit 12.0

Weedy, almost tired Sauvignon on the nose. Rather watery on the palate.

Louis Moreau 15.5

Attractive, quite forward, flowery nose. A touch raw on the palate. This is good plus at best.

Servin 13.0

A little stewed-appley on the nose. Medium body. Not much style here.

Simonnet-Fèvre 17.0

Round, ripe nose. Medium-full body. Balanced. Nicely racy. Not great, but very good indeed.

VALMUR

Jean Collet et Fils 17.0

Good, quite firm nose. Lovely fruit here. Fullish. Rich. Still youthful. Long. Very good indeed.

Jean-Paul et Benoit Droin 18.0

Lovely fruit here. Very well balanced. This has depth and backbone. Backward. Very classy. Fine plus.

William Fèvre 17.5

Stylish fruit here, though not a blockbuster. Rich and concentrated. Good weight and depth. Long and complex. Fine.

Christian Moreau 17.0

Good, classy, fullish, backward nose. On the palate this is balanced and stylish. But it lacks just a little grip. Very good indeed.

J. Moreau et Fils 17.0

An attractive, flowery wine. But just a bit lightweight. Not short though. The fruit is very attractive. Very good indeed.

Louis Moreau 17.5

Full, nicely rich but austere nose. Classy fruit and very good harmony. Ripe. Complex, Long. Vigorous. Fine.

Moreau-Naudet 17.5

Good, stylish depth and concentration on both nose and palate. Rich and succulent. Good ehergy. Needs time. Fine.

Raveneau 19.0

Firm, backward nose. Rich. But steely. Lovely pure intense fruit. Fullish body. Long. Very fine plus.

VAUDESIR

Billaud-Simon 17.0

Decent fruit on the nose, but a slight lack of backbone. Ripe and flowery on the palate. Medium to medium-full body. Long. Very good indeed.

Maison Damien et Romain Bouchard (DRB) 17.0

Good fruit and grip on the nose. Very ripe on the palate. Fullish body. Abundant and ample. Quite forward. A seductive wine. Very good indeed.

Pascal Bouchard 16.0

Discreet, minerally nose. On the palate the fruit has a touch of sweetness at the end. Fullish. Ample. But very good; not fine.

Jean-Marc Brocard see note

This doesn't show well. A brut sample. The notes didn't say, so I must assume not. Ripe and fruity. Decent grip. To be reviewed.

La Chablisienne 17.5

Attractive minerally nose. Medium-full body. Good style. Racy and balanced. Ripe and long on the palate. Fine.

Bernard Defaix 17.0

Good classy nose. Still youthful. Medium to medium-full body. Ripe and balanced. Good depth. But very good indeed rather than fine.

Jean-Paul et Benoit Droin 18.5

Good firm nose. Plenty of deopth here. Ripe, fullish body. Full of fruit. Backward. Long. Very fine.

Joseph Drouhin 18.5

Good style on the nose. Medium-full body. Rich and ripe and minerally. Very elegant. Long. Very fine.

William Fèvre 18.5

Ripe, full, stylish nose. Medium-full body. Very good fruit. Quite firm on the palate. Good depth and a lovely finish. Will keep very well. Very fine.

Garnier et Fils 17.5

Soft, high-toned nose. Medium to medium-full body. Very good fruit. Racy and flowery. Complex, stylish, long and fine.

Maison Olivier Frères 17.5

A bit neutral on the nose at first. Medium-full body. Ample fruit. Very well balanced. Backward and with good intensity. Fine.

Long-Depaquit 16.5

Good, pure, backward nose. Plenty of elegance here. But less so on the palate. Plump fruit but a bit of a pedestrian finish. Merely very good plus.

Malandes 16.0

Ripe nose. But it lacks a bit of personality and elegance. Better on the palate. Fruity of not very complex. Decent balance. Very good.

Christian Moreau 16.5

Soft nose. Forward, flowery. Medium body. An attractive example but quite forward. Vert good plus.

J. Moreau et Fils 15.5

Somewhat hard on the nose. Fruity but lacks a bit of elegance on the palate. Medium to medium-full body. Good plus.

Louis Moreau 18.0

Nicely ripe and steely on the nose. Laid back. Medium-full body. Mineral. Very good depth. Long. Fine plus.

LES CLOS

Pascal Bouchard 17.5

Ample, round, fruity nose. Medium-full body. Balanced. Plump. Good style. Positive finish. Fine.

Jean-Marc Brochard 15.5

Attractive, nicely minerally nose. On the palate medium body. Not a lot of depth or personality. Good plus.

La Chablisienne 18.0

Good depth and class on the nose. Fullish. Very nicely ripe but dry finish. Very minerally. Balanced. Long. Fine plus.

Maison Chanson see note

Is this a brut sample? The nose is not clean. Medium body. Rather raw. Difficult to judge.

Vincent Dauvissat 19.5

Rich, balanced, full bodied, profound and classy. Very lovely fruit. Very complex. Splendid finish. Excellent.

Jean-Paul et Benoit Droin 18.0

Good, disceet, minerally nose. Full body. Very good fruit. Fine balance. Classic and racy. Lovely finish. Fine plus.

Joseph Drouhin 18.5

Good restained, dry, minerally nose. This is very classy. Medium-full body. Properly austere. Profound. Long. Very fine.

Duplessis 18.5

Very good nose. Steely and discreet. Very good fruit. Plenty of depth. Plenty of energy. Long and complex. Very fine.

Maison Faiveley 14.0

A bit tarty on the nose. Soft and fruity on the palate. Forward. Lacks distinction.

William Fèvre 15.5

Slightly yeasty but fresh and fruity on the nose. Medium to medium-full body. Decent balance but not a lot of class. Good plus.

Garnier et Fils 14.5

Lightweight but pretty nose. Medium body. Decent fruit but no great depth or distinction.

Laroche 18.0

Good nose. Nicely dry and pure. Discreet. Composed. Medium-full body. Lovely fruit. Lots of class. Long and fine plus.

Long-Depaquit 15.0

Soft and fruity but not very classy on the nose. A quite attractive ample wine on the palate. Good balance. Good.

Malandes 17.0

Good classy, minerally nose. Similar on the palate. Quite forward though. It lacks the drive and backbone of the very best. Very good indeed.

Christian Moreau 17.5

A bit closed on the nose. Nicely steely. Medium-full body. Ripe and balanced. Good depth. Fine.

Christian Moreau, Clos des Hospices 16.0

Soft flowery nose. Lacks a bit of style. Ripe and ample on the palate. Good harmony and depth. Very good.

J. Moreau et Fils 16.0

Ample, nicely austere, fruity nose. Medium to medium-full body. Ripe. An attractive wine but it lacks a little depth and class. Very good.

Louis Moreau 18.5

Good nose. Properly minerally. Fullish body. Ripe. Profound. Classic. A lovely wine. Very fine.

Servin 16.5

Round and plump and fruity on the nose. Medium-full body. Decent grip and austerity on the palate. Minerally. Balanced. Long. Very good plus.

Simonnet-Fèvre 19.0

Very good nose. Minerally yet full of fruit. Very good intensity on the palate. Full bodied. Balanced. Lots of energy. Very fine plus.