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Droin Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2017

Droin Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2017

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"The 2017 Chablis Vaudésir Grand Cru sees around 35% wood maturation (used) and the remainder in stainless steel. It has an intense bouquet with yellow plum, Mirabelle, jasmine and light flint/smoke aromas that are detailed and very well focused. The palate is very harmonious with a smooth texture, perfectly pitched acidity with hints of orange zest, Clementine, Cornice pear and cold flint towards the poised and graceful finish. This is brimming with potential – a stunning Vaudésir. Drinking window: 2022-2040. 94-96 points

People often cite Domaines Raveneau and Vincent Dauvissat as the two greatest exponents of Chablis, however, I would like to add a third – Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin. Over the last five or six years, Benoît Droin has really ratcheted up the quality. I cannot exaggerate how often Droin’s wines end up the best of the flight during the annual “Burgfest” blind tastings. Again and again, they shine against stiff competition. It is time to accept that Droin is now one of the leading producers in Chablis. As usual, I met Benoît Droin at his vat-room to taste his nascent 2017s directly from tank (none marked with the cru – God only knows how he can tell one from another!) and then we repaired back to his tasting room below his parents’ abode for a run through his 2016s in bottle.

“It was easy and difficult,” Droin replied when I enquired about the 2017 growing season. “It was difficult because we had the problem with frost. We lost a lot in the Right Bank, especially Vaulorent and Montée de Tonnerre and in the Grands Crus. We had frost, but we protected the vine. Even in our parcels of Grand Cru, the weather was very cold for two weeks, while the nights were on the limit for frost, which made it difficult for the vines to grow. So with the cold conditions, the grapes didn’t form and we lost a lot of production [known as “vrille”]. Sometimes you would have one bunch instead of two or three. After that, for me it was a perfect vintage with respect to the vegetative cycle. We had good temperatures, never too high or low, not too dry or wet. When it was hot we had rain, but not too much. I don’t like vintages with excessively high temperatures or too much rain, but in 2017 the maturation came naturally and maintained the tartaric acidity. So the grapes were perfect. I remember it was the first time in 20 years that I smelled the juice before pressing and it was so wonderful. We started the harvest on 2 September. In the end, it was such a pity to have such a small crop. That’s the difference with 2016. In 2016 the hail and frost affected Petit Chablis and Chablis. In 2017 it is OK for Petit Chablis and Chablis and not so good for the Premier and Grand Crus. In 2017 we lost around 50%, nearly the same as in 2016.”

Droin’s set of 2016s was one of the strongest I tasted, seemingly shrugging off the difficulties that beset Chablis in the early part of the season. Their Grenouilles must be one of the high points of that year. But the 2017s are incredibly exciting across the board: Chablis as it ought to be – full of tension, steely, poised and intense. The wines continue to represent outstanding value."

Neal Martin, Vinous (08/18)

Benoit, the current winemaker, is the 14th generation of the Droin family to be involved in the wine trade - this lineage goes back to at least 1620! He is putting his stamp on this address by dialling back on his father's (Jean-Paul's) use of new oak and each wine now receives the treatment that its terroir can handle, e.g. the village Chablis is fermented and matured in tank whereas the grand cru Les Clos receives 50% barrel fermentation and maturation. However, please note that the percentage of new oak here is limited to 10%. So, if you enjoy Chardonnay in the hands of a top exponent, not to mention that distinctive minerality which is attributable to Kimmeridgean limestone from the Jurassic period, these great wines of terroir are for you!