Chablis 2014 vs 2015e
“I am very excited about the Chablis lineup by Gerard Duplessis. The wines are alive and profound – extremely mineral and focused, classic in style and executed with impressive precision. I also love their farming practices (organic) and the fact that they’re still excellent value" - Winemakers to watch by Sommeliers USA
It was only last year that 2014 Chablis exploded into the wine world. It had been too many years since the region was blessed by Mother Nature with a sound growing season. The resulting wines were tense, focused and mineral - Chablis was back!
The recent release of 2015 Chablis brought our curious minds to question the quality of the wines from this year. Vintage reports talked of 2015 as warm where fruit hang-time was shorter than usual, yet near perfect. Then on September 1, moments before harvest, a hailstorm tarnished the reputation of the 2015 vintage in one foul swoop. But how did this affect the quality?
The early arrival of the harvest due to the warm weather of the season meant predictions for the harvest were projected for early September. With the grapes ready to harvest the hail hit, mostly in the Grand Crus of Les Clos and Blanchot, and Premier Cru of Montee de Tonnerre, but much of Chablis was fine. The other point to note is that it was so close to harvest that disease didn’t get a chance to set in and most of the damaged grapes could be dropped by pickers.
Chablis as a region is almost always considered a marginal climate. If it’s not early season frost and hail, it’s late season rain and hail. It’s a challenge, and only the best of producers are consistently good. One such producer is Domaine Duplessis.
Domaine Duplessis is a benchmark Chablis producer for us. They have established themselves as one of the leading sustainable farmers in the region gaining organic certification in 2013 and holding onto it throughout some of the most treacherous and challenging vintages the region has seen.
Established in 1985 by Gerard Duplessis and now run by his unwavering, head-strong son, Lilian, the wines from the Domaine have never looked so good. Their vineyard holdings equate to 9 hectares across 8 different appellations in Chablis.
The Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards are all planted on the classic Kimmeridgian Limestone we’ve come to see expressed in the wines of Chablis. It’s only the Petit Chablis that differs as it’s planted on the lesser known Portlandian Limestone. Kimmeridgian differs from Portlandian in that it is a more “active” soil, meaning its components are more useful to the vine and hence the higher Crus have been planted on it.
The philosophy that takes place in the vineyard is only reiterated in the cellar. It’s minimal. Natural ferments, full malolactic conversion, long elevage and lees ageing, neutral oak maturation, and minimal sulfur dioxide addition at bottling, making this domaine extremely unique in the context of Chablis.
Neal Martin on Domaine Duplessis after a recent visit:
"Visiting Domaine Duplessis is always enjoyable even before entering the winery. Overlooking the somnolent River Serein that cuts through the town of Chablis, Duplessis seems to be shrouded in calmness and tranquillity. Lilian Duplessis was on hand to guide me through his 2014s, having taken the reins from his father Gérard. Along with Thomas Pico, Duplessis is one of the most well-known, biodynamic-practicing wineries, which must be tough in such a challenging growing season as 2016. But like Pico, this winemaker is not for turning. “We started picking on September 20,” he told me. “The wines were austere and closed at first, but are beginning to open up. They were bottled a little later giving around 18 months in maturation. I like a long élevage and it is important to give the wines two winters in barrel, the second to help stabilise the wine.” Duplessis has plenty of thoroughly enjoyable 2014s to offer: a little austere in style, what you might call “classic” Chablis that is very discrete with its use of oak. Duplessis continues to pursue organic vineyard management having gained ECOCERT certification back in 2010. During our exchange, we discussed various improvements in wines. He cited the increased density of vine plantings as one contributory factor – at this address, 8,000 per hectare” - Neal Martin
The wines of Domaine Duplessis are of the highest quality in Chablis. Their commitment to sustainable farming and minimal intervention winemaking is only the beginning of their story. They have so much to offer and we’re super excited to have their wines open this Saturday to kick off the year.