Tasted in Maligny with Benjamin Laroche, 27 January 2016.
7, Rue des Maisons Rouges
Tel: +33 6 45 42 30 78
Yesterday, my last visit was with Laurent Tribut, today I’m with Benjamin Laroche – they are two absolute poles of Chablis – the quiet, considered vigneron who makes time to taste with you when it’s too dark to work in the vines, and the urbane, communicative, focused but very friendly marketer of the wines of the region. Yet they have something very-much in common, an eye for detail and the desire always to make always the best decisions and deliver the best possible glass of wine to your hand.
Benjamin started at Domaine Laroche – he was there 10 years – Michel Laroche is his uncle. Benjamin did ‘everything’ before taking up a commercial role; working in cellar, in the vines, working with partner growers, even buying the packaging – et-cetera. Later, Benjamin was responsible for sales in the French market plus the public relations. He chose to move to the Rhone valley for 4 years in the wine trade of-course, in Vacqueras. Coming back to Chablis with the idea, ‘the key’ of working with vignerons that he knew very well for their quality.
For Benjamin, all the process of winemaking is with the vignerons – there may be some discussion of picking dates and the appropriate mix of tank, demi-muids and so-on for elevage, but the elevage is normally decided very early in the process. Whilst there may be some assemblies of parcels, when done, they are all from a single vigneron – wine from different vignerons is never mixed. So Benjamin has quite a wide range of wines, but his personal infrastructure is rather small. “I pay a good price, so my growers are looking to the quality, not that price.”
Benjamin was able to produce 75,000 bottles in his first year – “I would consider that a success” he says with understatement. “The wines are certainly not the cheapest, but in the end, I always want to over-deliver.” This can be seen in his approach to the cuvees; in 2013 his potential Chablis VV cuvée was better than the ‘basic’ Chablis, but by less than he wanted, so there was no separate cuvée.
DIAM5 used for everything now. It wasn’t possible for the first vintage as not all the vigneron(ne)s had the capability.
At this new address, I find elegant wines but also with substance, this seems to me to be the house style. Really super quality across the whole range.
2014 Saint Bris
”In 2014 I find this a little light.”
Fresh attractive, a certain faint pyrazine but really rather attractive. In the mouth a little minty leaf and peach. This is quite tasty.
“I really try to delay getting the pinot into the market – the classic style of this wine benefits from a little time in the cellar. I’m looking for freshness, a little fruit, a tasty and easy wine with no pretension.” Benjamin is only planning to start the commercialisation of the 2013s in a couple of months.
Medium-pale colour. Wide, modest, faintly strawberry nose. Nice texture – a little richness, good weight and a certain luxury to the texture – really tasty wine with no hard edges but a fine depth of flavour too. Really a pleasure – the finish too! This is really super, and way better than expectation from the colour and today’s rather tight nose.
2014 Bourgogne Côte d’Auxerre Chardonnay
A certain herb, a certain almost pyrazine that makes me think to St.Bris, but this is chardonnay. A modest reduction shows itself too. Round, silky, a little mineral – nicely layered impression that has super texture and is more mineral than fruit – very tasty wine. Very nice peak of mid-palate flavour – yum!
A small amount of wood is used in the elvage – maybe 3%.
More ripeness. Also in the mouth there’s a ripeness of fruit at the core. Fine width a lovely subtle width of fine-boned flavour. Elegant Petit Chablis. Very lovely.
6% oak, demi-muids.
A fine width of aromas, faintly salted – the depth is tighter. A richness of texture, super fruit, encrusted with salty references. The feet of this wine are really in the soil with a base of minerality and mouth-watering character. Very tasty wine indeed.
Here also a little wood – 30% – but this time a mix of demi-muids (400 litre) and 228 litre pieces.
Here is a suggestion of oak, silky nose and the oak very quickly fades into the background, adding more structure and interest. Lovely in the mouth, fine layered delivery of flavour – super subtly saline complexity. Wide and really interesting – just lovely – and after the first 5 minutes, there’s really no oak to see – or I’m now immune!
2014 Chablis 1er Vau Ligneau
Here is an extra depth, almost a vibrancy to the nose. More width, more complexity the same very fine texture and complexity – really a house style, even though there’s no actual house! Another final wave of flavour – really lovely…
2014 Chablis 1er Beauroy
Here is a little more width and ripeness of fruit. A riper fruit, but elegant and vivant like the other wines. An extra width and a certain purity here, but maybe because it’s got a less forward salinity. Super wine.
2014 Chablis 1er Les Côte de Lechets
A more fruity but also pure nose, maybe a hint of agrume reduction. Full, almost muscular, fine ripe fruit, lots of energy, a nice complexity – wine panorama of flavour. This tastes great!
Nice… Narrow but deep, a vibrant nose. Super mineral, layered, less overtly wide, clean lemon and lime notes, beautiful clarity – very young – but an absolute honey – bravo – really persistent too!
A little wider nose, subtly suggesting an occasional flash of mint. Also fabulously clean, pure wine – clarity of delivery, very obviously mineral and wide. Super finishing width and persistence. Really super again!
2014 Chablis 1er Vaillons
Here is a little mint on the nose and a modest width of aroma too. Wide and mineral, almost with a reductive feel but not delivered – this is the minerality – a little more melting over the palate, here more salinity. A modest ripeness of citrus fruit – fades very slowly. A lovely wine again…