2014 – Chablis


DSC06378You will see many times, in many of the winemakers’ commentaries spread through this report, 2014 is a vintage of ‘classic Chablis’

Unlike the wines of 2013, it’s easy to find ‘REAL’ Chablis in this vintage.

This quick summary of the wines seems to me, extra-quick for this vintage, in a way that 2013 and certainly the 2015s to come, could never be. At its magnificent best, I still have a preference for the top wines of 2012, but looking at the appellations as a whole – from Petit Chablis to Grand Cru Chablis – there is more consistent quality to be found in 2014.

Producers share most of the same reference points for the 2014 vintage; clean, classic wines of fine concentration – they evoke 2012, 2010, 2008 – nobody mentioned earlier vintages to me…

2014 has fine concentration, and surprisingly some of the most obviously rich wines (in their context) are the wines of Petit Chablis. The character of the wines reflects the rest of white burgundy in 2014 (I’ve never seen such consistency before) in that these are wines of lovely texture and more often than not, waves of layered flavour rather than of direct attack. Minerality is almost ever-present, as is a fine backbone of refreshing acidity – these are delicious wines! It’s worth reflecting on the acidity, as some wines, a relative minority, have an acid intensity that might make you wince – I hope that I manage to convey that for those cuvées. Acidity does seem to soften with time, but it’s a balance, because in-tandem, the fruit usually becomes less rich too. Still, better to wait 3-5 years for these wines. Talking of aging, I find the 2009/2010 village Chablis super right now!

The market for Chablis remains very strong, not really a surprise when you consider its relative value compared to other parts of ‘Burgundy.’

So, so summarise:

A summary of the 2014 vintage:

A rather chaotic growing season – precocious and really a little too hot during the main weekend during the flowering period. The flowers looked fine, but in the next days, many fell to the floor – so some lower yields and some millerande bunches too. Move out from the centre of Chablis into valleys such as Bienes, where the flowering is usually a couple of days later – and here the flowering was virtually problem free.

The post-flowering and mid-summer time was ever-changing – certainly far from stable – good stable weather returning from mid-August and right through into a relatively stress-free harvest. Until the August improvement of the ‘meteo’ several growers pointed to the fact that 2014 could have gone ‘in the wrong direction.’

Some growers pointed to the heat of flowering being good for avoiding botrytis – which was a massive problem in 2013 – but given the ‘botrytis shock’ of that vintage, many producers went ‘a little’ early into the vines to harvest.

Fermentations, both alcoholic and malolactic went without trouble, the final wines having quite a high acidity – analytically – but not particularly in the glass.

My view of the most recent vintages:

2015 – whilst it’s obviously too early to be judging, many of the wines may be redolent of 2005/2009 – and to everyone except diehard Chablis-istes, these have been drinking great for a long time now. There was hail through the centre of the appellation but adjoining valleys (Chablis is a theme-park of discreet valleys) were left untouched. But the hail was important as it affected at least 500 hectares of vines, including many grand crus – had it arrived 1 week earlier it would have been a disaster, but it was only 3-5 days before most had planned to harvest and most teams were ready and waiting – let’s remain clear, everyone wanted to wait another week to harvest – so it remains sub-optimal. Let’s see, though many Petit Chablis will already be ‘commercial’ by the early summer.

2014 – What a lovely vintage. Classic in the best tradition of that word; wines that are fresh, mineral and differentiated. Like ‘southern Burgundy’ the textures and waves of flavour are really engaging – it’s the vernacular for the white vintage in the whole of Burgundy, Mâcon to Chablis. 2014 is a vintage where you can buy all you wish and at all levels – the very definition of a great vintage – yet – the top wines, fine as they are, when comparing today, are very often behind the magnificent 2012s, for my palate anyway. Of-course you need to be more ‘picky’ when buying lower appellation 12s.

2013 – these generally tasted very well in January 2015; there was ripeness but freshness and no lack of intensity – not achieving the greatness of 2012 but certainly more interesting than 2011. As the wines have progressed in bottle, it’s clear that there is a tighter intensity of ripe fruit versus the wide-open panoramas of the 2014s – I think much of that can be laid at the door of the botrytis explosion before the harvest. The wines remain balanced by nice acidity and have great concentration, but you can clearly see the development of a more exotic fruit character when compared to either 2012 or 2014. I still find them very likeable, but would be concerned how this character might develop further. For that reason I’d definitely be drinking my 2013s before my 2012s, and 2014s…

2012 – Chablis was really the pinnacle of concentration but still fine balancing acidity in the whole of Burgundy. The minerality and clarity remain palpable today, indeed the best grand crus can only be described as downright magnificent. Right from the start I felt that buying even the best basic Chablis in magnum would be amply rewarded – I’m even more convinced today that this remains the case. My Christmas lunch in the last years would not have been complete without a magnum of Chablis (09 grand crus being super consumer-friendly in the last years), but despite the penury of a wine-writer, I’m actually buying magnums of grand crus for future special lunches – only trust a wine-writer who puts their money where their mouth is 😉

2011 – in general has never been a favourite of mine. Even ignoring a flavour and aroma that at many addresses gives an asparagus, almost pyrazine impression, the wines are a little flat and lacking distinction. As always, there are exceptions, as always the great names, but you need to work hard to locate them!

Older vintages: I cannot claim to have a massive depth of tasting experience, but basically I find a nice classic style from 2010, a more textured riper style from 2009 which neophytes simply adore. The 2008s are described as classic in Chablis, and in shape and intensity I agree, but I’ve never really been a fan of the dense green fruit aromas that they offer. 2007s I have almost invariably loved from correct bottles, despite it being a vintage of high yields…

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

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