Tasted in Chablis with Damien and Romain Bouchard, 03 January 2018.
Domaine de l’Enclos
1 rue du Puits
Tel: +33 3 86 48 29 17
I suppose that it was fitting that my first visit of this new year would be with a new domaine. We have, of-course, met brothers Damien and Romain Bouchard before, to taste 2012s and 2013s from their ‘Pascal Bouchard’ operation, but due to difficulties they had to sell their négoce business and their (semi) out-of-town cuverie in 2015 – Albert Bichot was the buyer.
What the family didn’t sell, was their considerable 38 hectares of domaine vines – though without a place to make wine, they have sold the fruit of their labours to Albert Bichot – and still do – but now that they have their own property again, the amount that they sell in bulk will reduce year-on-year – not that there is/was much to sell from either 2016 or 2017 – that can’t be a great start to a new operation! Interestingly, it turns out that the brothers are cousins to team at Domaine des Malandes, so where there are references in the notes to vines planted by the Bouchards’ grandfather, similar references are to the same grandfather in the notes from that domaine too – André Tremblay.
The new place is in the old part of Chablis town – a fine location that’s set in the old, large, walled garden of an impressive house – and, at least, when I arrived before any signs were in place, it takes a little finding.
The location was bought in 2015, the cuverie is totally new and was ‘just about‘ finished in time for the 2016 harvest – lucky for the brothers that it was a late harvest! Still, it needed some working through the night to get everything done as they would wish. There is plenty of space for the domaine’s reception of grapes and triage tables – onward to three large pneumatic presses. Then the juice is run by gravity to cellar. The grapes of the domaine being a mix of machine and hand harvesting. There is no fining or filtering and “Only low sulfur – actually we don’t do very much” jokes Damien, “The fermentations for the 2016s were long, maybe it was the profile of the juice, maybe because it was a new cuverie with lower yeast populations, but the 2017s were much faster. We make a ‘pied de cuve’ which is done two days before the main harvest. The 206s had a little porriture at the end, so some were frosted, some were hailed – but at least the vintage was ripe – 12.5°-13.5° – and 2016 was our fastest harvest ever, probably no surprise given that one-third of the domaine had no grapes! But with a little triage we are happy with the wines, they are gourmand, not enormous acidity but easy to drink – really we had some fear the way the year, our first year, started but there is recompense in the wines. We think there’s a more important acidity in the 2017s despite also quite some ripeness.”
A majority of the cuvées – if only a minor part of the volume – see wood elevage. Damien explains “Yes our first vintage was very hard from the perspective of wood, because we like 5 year-old barrels, but in this vintage we started from nothing. Fortunately we were lucky to find some good barrels in the Côte d’Or.”
I like the labels very much, the image is a plan of the house and gardens with the new cuverie set in the garden – and the name? Romain explains “Well, it wasn’t easy to find a new name, and there are lots of Bouchards! We had some time discussing with local historian Jean-Paul Droin and together we found some old papers referring the name Enclos to the house and gardens – it’s not ‘official’ – but it was a link with old Chablis that we liked very much.”
All the 2016s – the first vintage – are reserved. There were only 23,000 bottles produced, “So it’s not possible to supply the demand” says Romain. Current sales are about half to France, much of the rest into Europe plus the US, Canada and Japan. There is also the not inconsiderable factor that 10 hectares also produced nothing in 2017, a vintage about the same size as in 2016 with roughly a 25% yield, so lots of tanks remain empty – the brothers have their fingers crossed for a good 2018 harvest!
To finish, the brothers explain their vision: “Everyone has their vision, we to start with looking for a good maturity, but of course it has to have proper, natural, Chablis balance.”
All the wines were bottled in October, and the first thing to say is ‘bravo’ from the perspective of wood – save for (perhaps) a fleeting spice note, the wood is transparent here – nothing to see – so well-done for that! 2009 with more freshness? Certainly some of the wines here, but delicious all the same, and becoming ever-more classic as you move higher up the hierarchy.
There was a small amount of Petit Chablis harvested in 2016, but sold in bulk, so no cuvée this year.
All tank elevage, mainly grapes from La Chapelle and Bienes. This is the domaine’s biggest cuvee with 12,000 bottles in 2016 – still some is sent to Bichot, but the amount will reduce each year.
A wide nose – a nose of richness and a ripe fruit below – nice clarity. Supple, a modest bead of gas, yes a little richness of flavour but wide and deliciously mouth-watering. A nice finish too.
The domaine has 5 premier crus:
2016 Chablis 1er Beauroy
The domaine’s 2nd Largest parcel with 2.40 ha on the steepest part of the vineyard – looking towards the lake of Bienes, which is only 100m away. Here with aspersion so there’s some protection.
A different nose, still supported by ripe fruit but more direct and freshly herbed above. Again, a very modest accent of gas, very silky palate – lots of herby complexity here. Rich but alive – Very tasty wine.
2016 Chablis 1er Vau de Vey
The domaine’s largest parcel with 2.80 ha, in Bio since 2007 – not far from Beauroy. This a cooler valley and also very steep. Planted in 1979 and usually the last harvested – 8 days after the Beauroy
A fine and complex nose, less overtly herbed, more overtly complex. Hmm more open, slowly melting richness of flavour but with more than enough energy to balance. Delicious! A really elegant and subtle finishing character…
All the wines that follow saw 100% elevage in barrel:
2016 Chablis 1er Montmains
Older vines, planted by grandfather in 1971, 0.55 hectares, but still the healthiest vines of the domine. Montmains-Montmains but close to Forêts. ‘We have a lot of hillside vines so this is a pleasure to work as its much flatter!’
Weight of aroma, very faintly spiced but no overt oak characteristics. Supple, transparent, mouth-watering, classic and such delicious Chablis – except for the endearing hint of cushioning – which isn’t to be sniffed at as I get older. Excellent!
2016 Chablis 1er Mont de Milieu
The domaine’s youngest vines, planted in the 1990s, from the west of the aoc, high on the hillside, plain south-facing looking towards Chablis.
Ooh – mineral, crystalline, but still with a 2016 weight of aroma. Extra-wide, extra mouth-watering – this is the most classic yet – there is a little cushioning to the texture, but a super, mouth-watering flavour too. 2009 style but with a little more freshness. A little more closed finishing but really delicious stuff.
2016 Chablis 1er La Fourchaume
‘Fourchaume is large, but in Vaupelteigne the classic core of the aoc is La Fourchaume – call it a little local fetish!’ Three parcels, one from the 1950s, and two from the 1980s – there was an older part too, but its being replanted as there were virtually no grapes.
A fine width over a tight depth of aroma. Wide, mineral but with a slowly mouth-watering, perfect balance. A wine to wait for but the melting flavour hints at the deliciousness to come – and it’s not bad today too! Quite the longest wine so far – a mineral and very attractive length. Excellent again!
The domaine has 3 grand crus:
2016 Chablis Vaudesir
Plain south-facing, the hottest part of Vaudesir, close to the centre of the valley from bottom to top. Replanted at the start of the 1990s. Just 2 barrels from 0.57 ha.
Many similarities to the last wine, but the minerality here is a little more overt than the last. Extra mouth-watering, mineral width, cushioned, delicious but correct flavours. It’s really the richness and cushioning that is defining this wine but not to any detriment as the balance is excellent. Small waves of fine finishing flavour. Really a super wine!
This and Les Clos have only 1 barrel of each – we don’t open them every day… 0.22 ha on the steeps, worked by hand and by horse ‘You can’t work with a tractor here.’ Planted in 1982 by their father.
A little less aromatic width, but really a fine depth, adding pure fresh, but ripe fruit top notes. Ooh, a vibration across the palate, really something extra in this wine. Mineral but delicious, sucrosity, but essentially the vibration of minerality – bravo.
2016 Chablis Les Clos
‘Working in Blanchots you see nothing, but here you look directly across to Chablis’ – planted in the 1960s by our grandfather.
Similar to the last wines but with a a little more energy and a little more clarity. Ooh, this is like the last but with a little more of everything, more mouth-wateing and more insistent flavour-profile. This is another great wine. Almost a little too easy in the sweetness of its starting flavours, but there is fine mid and finishing rigour. You could certainly drink this already. Wide, and very, very faintly saline in the finish. Super wine.