Last month I recommended some exceptional values in village and premier cru Chablis from the outstanding 2012 vintage. Today I spotlight the top rung of the Burgundy hierarchy, the region’s grand cru vineyards. Planted on a single continuous, essentially southwest-facing hillside, the grand crus of Chablis benefit from maximum sun exposure. These wines typically turn up the volume on premier crus, offering more of everything—greater complexity and intensity of aromas and flavors, more concentration and depth, firmer structure, and a longer aging curve—while demonstrating greater finesse. They are also considerably more expensive. But while grand cru white Burgundies from the Cote de Beaune are among the priciest white wines in the world—routinely $200 a bottle or more, and sometimes much more—their counterparts from Chablis are generally priced at least 50% lower. They are far better value.
Although the grand crus of Chablis are made from the region’s classic Kimmeridgian soil (calcareous clay and limestone rich in fossilized sea shells), I don’t think of them as the most typical versions of Chablis. Although they are minerally, sharply delineated and elegant, they’re unusually rich for these northerly wines, with weight and structure more akin to the grand crus of the Cote de Beaune. It’s the racy, leaner village wines and premier crus of Chablis that I prefer to pair with raw oysters. I prefer to use Chablis’s grand crus as I would the top crus of the Cote de Beaune, alongside chicken, fish (try them with poached salmon) and seafood dishes, even with veal sweetbreads.
You can easily spend a hundred bucks or more for grand cru Chablis but I have applied an $80 price ceiling to the wines I’ve selected from my coverage of Chablis in the current issue of the International Wine Cellar. These special-occasion wines can mostly be enjoyed soon owing to the fleshiness and ripeness of the 2012 vintage, but they should also evolve gracefully for many years in a cool cellar.
The Jean Collet et Fils 2012 Chablis Valmur ($68; David Vincent Selection) boasts classic aromas of underripe pineapple, mint and wet stone. At once large-scaled and fine-grained, it delivers terrific intensity to its crunchy citrus and saline flavors, conveying an impression of density without weight thanks to its outstanding energy. This very pliant grand cru finishes elegant, seamless and long, with a vibrant crushed-stone character.
The 2012 Chablis Vaudésir from Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin ($62; Eric Solomon Selections) leads off with restrained aromas of grapefruit and pineapple, plus a hint of resiny oak. In the mouth it’s large-scaled, creamy and broad, beginning with a very rich pineapple flavor but with strong crushed rock, pepper and menthol notes clamping down on the wine’s fruit on the back end. This distinctly masculine, extract-rich grand cru is still a baby.
Domaine William Fèvre has made a number of knockout wines from the 2012 vintage. Their Chablis Bougros ($80; Henriot Inc.) entices with its pale, green-tinged yellow color and delicate aromas of lime, fresh herbs and white pepper. At once large-scaled and gripping, it boasts superb depth and vinosity to its flavors of lemon, lime and medicinal herbs, along with a hint of eucalyptus. This wonderfully suave, seamless wine, from vines averaging 45 years of age, spreads out on the back end to saturate the palate. I also loved the highly concentrated 2012 Chablis Vaudésir ($80), which shows very ripe aromas of apple, white peach, minerals and oyster shell. Suave, dry and backward, even austere, it’s showing less personality today than the Bougros. I would not want to pull the cork on this wine anytime soon but with its superb concentration and verve, it’s structured for a graceful evolution in bottle.
Another grand cru in a classic style is the Domaine Long-Dépaquit 2012 Chablis Les Blanchots ($65; Albert Bichot USA), which leads off with strong oyster shell and crushed stone aromas. Densely packed but light on its feet, it boasts vibrant intensity to its youthfully austere citrus, white peach and dusty stone flavors. This sharply chiseled, tightly wound wine is hiding its volume today, finishing very fresh, a bit youthfully bitter and impressively long. It will benefit from at least another five or six years of cellaring.
Patrick Piuze, who offers a wide range of distinctive bottlings under his négociant label, has made an outstanding 2012 Chablis Blanchots ($74; David Bowler Wine). Its knockout nose combines yellow peach, ripe pear, honey, white flowers and spices. This supple, sweet grand cru is given welcome clarity and grip by strong lemon-limey citric character and powerful chalky minerality. At once juicy, pliant and palate-saturating, this wine is easy to read today but also has significant cellaring potential.
Finally, the Domaine Servin 2012 Chablis Les Clos ($70; Weygandt-Metzler Importing) is an excellent example of Chablis’s finest grand cru vineyard at a surprisingly reasonable price. This pale-yellow wine, weighing in at barely 12.4% alcohol, offers reticent aromas of fresh apricot, soft citrus fruits, spearmint and spicy oak. It’s supple, suave and quite dry, with ripe acidity nicely framing the intense flavors of lemon, lime and crushed stone. And it boasts captivating sweetness for a wine that is technically bone-dry.