Tasted with Margaux Laroche in Chablis, 21 January 2019.
Le Domaine d’Henri
Tel: +33 3 86 40 65 17
This is a very young domaine, but one with impressive roots.
The premises are relatively new, standing importantly alone with a few rows of vines* in front of the building. It’s no surprise that the building is new – the first vintage for the team was 2012, and this cuverie was only ready for use in 2014.
I’m tasting with Margaux Laroche, and the ‘Henri’ of the domaine name is her grandfather – pictured with his wife, Madeleine, in the photo behind Margaux, right – and Margaux’s father just happens to be the Michel Laroche who, in 2008, sold the wine-business that still bears his name today. A sign outside the domaine subtitles the name of the domaine to Michel Laroche et ses enfants – the enfants in question being Margaux and her brother Romain.
Margaux explains: “My father sold Laroche in 2008, but kept hold of some personal vines. We began in 2012 with 8 hectares, today we have 23, plus another 5 that are rented.
“We are not labeled but work in an organic fashion – but that was very hard in the beginning, the very wet years were tough, they were problematic in terms of mildew, but now we have a new tractor! Viticulture and yields are practically the same for all the parcels.
“We have a mix of manual and mechanical harvesting. The two quite large presses that we currently have are actually insufficient for what we need in hot vintages as all the grapes seem ready at the same time – so we have another press coming in 2019. I like to do a soft extraction – but for 4 hours. All wild yeast is used, but we start with a ‘pied de cuve’ that’s been strongly sulfured to keep just the most resistant yeast – which we use that for all the tanks – so the onset of fermentation usually takes less than 48 hours. All our fermentations start in tank, and depending on cuvée, some parts might see 228 or 600 litre barrel elevage – coming are 18 hectolitre foudres too. There’s no batonnage and we assemble the barrel and tank components later in their elevage.
“Actually, the major part of our production is for wines made in stainless-steel, though the 1er crus may have anywhere between 15 and 35% barrel elevage. We also do all the bottling and everything ourselves, a lot of our operations, such as racking, are done under nitrogen, this helps us to minimise the use of sulfur – my dad hates oxidation! Not all our 2017s in bottle yet, some parts are having a second winter in tank to see if there’s a difference. We’re working towards being able to offer two or three vintages at the same time, but we’ll need a few more decent volume vintages before we’re in that position!”
*A massale selection from 80 year-old vines – of-course, pre-clone.
There are two different labels from here – Les Allées de Vignoble is 80% domaine but some bought parcels too. Then there’s the domaine label. As all younger domaines, most is exported – about 70% here, much to the UK, US, Canada et-cetera.
Margaux on 2018:
“Well it was important for me! My oenelogue was on maternity leave – so lots to do! Not least because of the volume; we had estimated much less. We had changed our pruning to something much more severe, and were really surprised. But it’s a nice vintage, not very acidic – it might question our notion of Chablis – maybe more Bourguignone than Chablisienne – but I’m even think about harvesting at night to keep some extra freshness. There was no rot, and really great grapes – that also allows us to use very little sulfur. Just two tanks seemed to be very slow fermenting, the rest were quite fast.”
Margaux on 2017:
“We lost 50% versus the 65% that we lost in 2016 – but in 2017 it was all down to frost. We haven’t really the ability to protect the Chablis villages so that’s where most of our losses were. We are very happy with the wines though – and we’re using less sulfur than in previous years. The wines are a little more coloured in 2017, with rounder noses but super drive. We started about 10 September, but 12-12.5° at harvest, nothing more. 2017 is a really nice vintage that is repaying us for all the work done in the vines – to have such elegance in a quite a hot vintage is super.”
What a great ‘find.’ You do not necessarily have bigger wines as you work through the range, but you have finer, more open, more beautifully complex wines!
For the bottling there are some wines with screw-cap, the rest are DIAM5 – some DIAM10 and even some DIAM30 – ‘though maybe the latter is a little too ‘tight’’ says Margaux.
Looking for 55-60 hl – from multiple areas, about half above Valmur and Clos, some more above Bienes but that was mainly frosted – the last part from Maligny. All tank elevage.
A fine nose – citrus – a mix of lemon and lime. Hmm, this is open, fresh, melting with a citrus-inflected minerality. This has a super finishing agrume impression – intense but not with rigour – bravo!
2017 Chablis Les Allées de Vignoble
Mainly from Fleys – all the domaine’s 4 hectares in Maligny were frosted. Again all tank, bottled in July – Made a cold stabilization rather than fining.
Deeper, riper but still with attractive freshness and clarity. Hmm – a little more volume, a faint accent of salinity – beautiful texture – very mineral but not austere, aided by a fine lime citrus. Excellent!
Still finishing sales of 2015 and 2016, so this is not yet being commercialized. Here between 25-30% of barrel elevage ‘which is a little higher than normal due to the low harvest volume.’ Assembled from best parcels, tasted blind so it can vary each vintage, but in 2017 not much choice, from just 2 close-by parcels – hand harvested.
A wider nose, fresh, more a green-yellow citrus blend – quite exciting. Another step up in mineral volume, fineness of texture – again with the accent of citrus cushioning – great finishing – really great finishing – mouth-wateringly great.
2017 Chablis 1er Troesmes
In Beauroy, not easy to sell under this name. ‘Lots of court noué here so a lot of small grapes and therefore concentration – of sugar too – so a challenge to harvest with maturity but still acidity.’ About 25% barrel aged. Bottled in December – so about 1 month.
Not so big in the high tones – still citrus but much deeper and larger below – almost a mix of grapefruit and pineapple here. In the mouth – more transparent and open, less dense but still with plenty of wine! Beautifully juicy finishing again like the St.Pierre – just behind that perhaps – but really excellent all the same!
2017 Chablis 1er Fourchaume
5.5 hectares! In 4 parcels aged between 80 and 30 years old – two cuvées – one of the the two youngest parcels the other the older. Again 25% barrel elevage. Will bottle this at the end of February.
A little more tightness to this nose but still a freshness and very yellow-fruited. Hmm, there’s more direction here, more line of fresh flavour – as we go higher it’s not about more concentration or density it’s about more delicacy and complexity – and these are very beautiful. Modest finishing with a tiny salinity behind – so good!
Only separate this in good vintages, ‘ones with the potential to age’ otherwise it’s blended into Fourchaume – 50 year old vines on a steep slope – about 30% elevage in barrel. Planned for bottling end of February with black-wax-topped bottles for this cuvée
A sweetness that suggests oak – the first – but there’s a fine if tight vibration of minerality below. Silky, again transparent, a faint saline accent – a slowly growing intensity to the citrus which is framing the mineral core. Never any rigour – but another growth of flavour in the finish. Sooooo good – bravo!
200m from the Homme-Mort parcel. Planted in 1937 – 0.8 ha – ‘makes 55 hl/ha easily still’ – a slightly later ripening place in Fourchaume with more exposure to the north wind – 30 cm of clay but then directly onto the limestone. About 35% elevage in barrel, again to be bottled end of February
Another vibrantly mineral nose that’s cushioned by fine citrus fruit – actually despite the extra, I see less oak on the nose than the last. More volume again, more saline, more tiny complexities. Really vibrant finishing. The extra complexity makes this less sweeping and seemingly less pure than some of the previous wines – that’s not a critique – great wine – a little orange-rind style finishing flavour.