Impressions of the 2011 vintage
The 2011 vintage began worryingly with a period of drought; in fact as we left winter, the water reserves were already quite low. Spring then surprised us with temperatures that are normally associated with summer. Naturally the vines took this as the green light for some accelerated growth, the future vintage was thus stamped with a hallmark of early development - it was three weeks ahead compared to the preceding year. Flowering ensued under good auspices and pointed to both quality and quantity.
Despite a brief episode of hot conditions in late June, the summer was generally gloomy with quite heavy rain. On the right bank of the Serein (where we find the Grand Crus) there was even some hail at the end of June, fortunately this had no effect on the quality.
Once again, it was at the start of the harvest, in late August, that Nature bestowed her favour on the wine growers. A period of sunny calm allowed the grapes to reach good ripeness and consequently the establishment of good proportions of sugar and acidity.
Starting on September 1st, the most advanced plots were harvested and we were quickly reassured by the frankness and balance of the juice from the first pressings – a good indication as to the potential of the vintage.
The harvest finally took twenty days to complete, in excellent weather conditions - memorable for some quite hot periods (reaching 30°C on the 10th and 17th of September). This allowed a successful test of our ability to react to different criteria and of our capacity to adapt the crop reception system.
The alcoholic fermentations were also accomplished in good conditions and allowed the first wines to reveal aromas of white-fleshed fruits (especially pear) uplifted by refreshing citrus notes. They also have a lot of promise in the mouth, combining both volume and rectitude.
The earliness of the vintage was demonstrated in the next steps of the winemaking as a large majority of the wines had finished their malolactic fermentation before Christmas.
Following the first racking, the wines began the long maturing process on the lees. The exact methods applied and the duration of this procedure will vary from wine to wine; it may last a few months for a Petit Chablis - with early bottling in order to capture the freshness and fruity character -to 18 months or more for the Grand Crus. These great wines will patiently repose on their lees allowing them to reveal all the depth and complexity of their exceptional terroirs.
The numerous tastings we have made in order to follow and oversee the 2011 vintage allow us to confirm all the positive impressions we had, starting with the harvest. The wines are balanced, expressive (with notes of ripe white-fleshed fruit, citrus and spice) and should be ready to drink soon - thanks to discrete level of acidity. Despite all of this, the famed and characteristic minerality of our Chablis is very much present, thus supporting the soundness of our policy of long maturation; one of the keys to revealing balance and unlocking the tension which is a distinctive quality of our style.
Impressions of the 2007 vintage
Following a very mild winter, then subject to the summer-like conditions of April and May, the vines rapidly underwent vegetal growth of rare intensity. By the month of June, certain plots started showing a stage of the vegetative cycle that is not normally seen until a month later. Precocity, drought and water stress were the catch words of the moment, but also the worries of the moment.
But then the summer, thwarted by cold conditions and perturbed by repeated and often stormy rain, inexorably caused a slowing down of this development. As if this was not enough we even had several hail storms…
The sum of all these conditions was a serious worry about the maturity of the crop and its health. And September arrived. In fact we should really say : the magic of September began to work. We saw magnificent and unrelenting sunshine settle in and, once installed, it didn’t leave the slopes until mid-October. We also saw the arrival of the North wind with its cherished drying properties that are so precious in maintaining a good state of health in the vineyards. The winds of optimism had arrived at last.
Despite that, there was still a daunting task ahead. We had to wait for each plot to be at the optimum ripeness for harvesting, this meant that the harvesting period was spread over a 3-week period, quite a rare event in the annals of La Chablisienne.
At the end of the first fermentations, the olfactory character identified itself with aromas of grapefruit, pineapple and pear. The subsequent malolactic fermentations allowed a softening in the acidic aspect.
The 2007 vintage should incarnate the return of balance, that classic character of the wines of Chablis: the assembly of purity, finesse and a mineral tension. At the same time we can begin the long and patient task of ageing the wine…
The Vintage 2006
The 2006 vintage will remain as the year of extremes due to the overriding climatic variations which, in turns, were both restrictive and excessive.
In real terms, the hot dry weather of the months of June and July stressed the vines, causing some flower abortion and partial crop failure. We are haunted by the spectre of what happened in 2003 (still very fresh in our memory) and there watchfulness in Chablis for a repeat of those conditions. Fortunately the scenario of another drought was quickly avoided when the month of August arrived with its cold wet weather, allowing the situation to readjust. However our worries were not over as the heavy rains started causing other uncertainties. Then finally the clouds rolled away in September leaving the sun in control of the skies…
These very unusual climatic conditions caused an early harvest (starting mid-September). A rare and possibly unique occurrence, as harvesting began in the Chablis region about one week before the Côte d’Or.
Despite its beginnings in such extreme conditions, the sugar/acidity balance for the 2006 vintage is in no way compromised.
The first tastings revealed a crisp fruit character. The 2006 vintage appears tender and enjoyable, particularly so for the Petit Chablis. Chablis wines, Premier and Grand Crus gave pear aromas, slightly spiced, thus heightening and giving more complexity to the already mouth-watering and intricate aromatic palette. The work involved with the maturing was fundamental; it allowed the discovery and capture of the tension and energy within these wines. Furthermore the tender aspect of the 2006 vintage can be appreciated as such - and not perceived as a sensation of flabbiness. So once again, La Chablisienne was able to play one of its strongest cards: its capacity to "assemble". Present in all the Chablis terroirs thanks to its members and exploring every facet of the Chablis region, this capacity to assemble and blend constitutes a unique and coveted advantage... as we have shown once again !
The Vintage 2005
Though it is always very difficult to fix one's first impressions about a year and be certain from the outset about its real nature, straight away 2005 was widely hailed as a great vintage. In fact, it is now shaping up to fulfil that early promise. With the first taste of the grapes and the musts, it was clear that a wonderfully ripe year was in store, especially since some plots showed irregularly small berry size. It thus came as no surprise that the first tastings after fermentation revealed a spectrum of very ripe aromas. Ripe Chardonnay was to the fore, showing sweet aromas of flowers, apricot and vine blossom. The curves for the yeast fermentations showed a relatively slow dynamic but there was no blockage at any time, nor any dubious smells due to a languid process. In fact, quite the opposite: the yeast appeared to take everything in its stride, seemingly happy to follow a leisurely pace which, in certain cases, has made for even greater finesse and innate complexity. These profiles have been maintained as they should be in the wines but thanks to the maturing and then bottle ageing, their complex, subtle character has been enhanced. On the palate they display an even, mouthwatering acidity throughout the tasting.
The Vintage 2004
How fearful and anxious we were for the vintage 2004, especially at the end of August. The bad weather that had persisted for several months would even less help the grapes ripe since the vines were heavily loaded that year. Fortunately, the sun would be very generous in September and keep the rain at bay. In Chablis, September always plays a decisive role in the achievement of a good vintage. And 2004 was no exception to this rule. If in 2001 it had failed to meet our expectations, September provided us this year with favourable clean conditions and a beautiful balance between sweetness and acidity. The harvest began on 29 September. Over 60% of the grapes were picked in October between Saturday 2nd and Thursday 7th. The alcoholic fermentation took place successfully, revealing a rich aromatic range, from citrus to white fruit aromas. The malo-lactic fermentation managed a balance between freshness and acidity, thus developing a very ‘chablisian’ character. Sure of the excellent result of a maturing that took place on thin fine lees, La Chablisienne managed to give birth to a classic and noble vintage.