Profile: Guillaume Vrignaud


Tasted with Guillaume Vrignaud in Fontenay-près-Chablis, 09 January 2019.

Domaine Guillaume Vrignaud
10 Rue de Beauvoir
89800 Fontenay-près-Chablis
Tel: +33 3 86 42 15 69

Guillaume Vrignaud is the 4th generation of his family working the vines of Chablis, but originally the exploitation was mainly cereal and cows – it was his father who developed the vines.

Guillaume joined his father at the domaine in 1999, when, like many others, the decision was made to cut their ties to the coop – the Chablisienne. At this time they had 12 hectares of vines – their cuverie was completed in time for their first solo harvest in 1999, it was populated with stainless-steel tanks of multiple sizes to fit their various parcels so that all could have separate elevage. Now the domaine has 28 hectares so that’s a lot of tanks!

The domaine has 6 hectares of 1er crus, 14 hectares of Chablis and 8 of Petit Chablis – a lot was planted by Guillaume’s father in 1978 but there are also some sections of massale plantings dating from 1955 in the 1er crus – cuttings from here are used for replenishing the rest of the vineyards. The grapes are currently machine harvested but Guillaume has plans to hand-harvest the domaine’s 1er crus.

Moves towards organic viticulture were begun in 2009, starting in 2012 with the 3-year process for certification – so the domaine was certified Agriculture Biologique (AB) in 2015, but like many growers in Chablis, Guillaume decided to abandon the constraints of certification in the difficult 2016 growing season. He’s, once again, in the middle of the three-year conversion period to recover the piece of paper for his wall – he will have it back in 2019.

Today the domaine still mainly uses stainless-steel for elevage, but there are now some barrels too – a mix of 228 and 500 litres for some parcels – for the oxygenation – Guillaume is also now more comfortable to ferment with the natural yeast populations.

About 70% of the domaine’s production is exported.

Guillaume on 2018:
I worried about frost, but in the end there was none – but the growth started very fast after as the spring had been very wet. Right up to June we had to worry about mildew, but then it was dry – by 14 July practically all the work was completed in the vines. I started harvesting about the 4 september with up to 13.2° for villages Chablis! Practically all was ready at the same time – in more normal vintages it’s the 1ers that are usually ready first.

Guillaume on 2017:
The harvest started about 5-6 days later than in 2018. Frost! Almost all the Fourchaume was lost – there was almost no wine after this winter frost, it wasn’t a spring frost with -7°C, but later not much treatment needed as everything was dry – though clearly with not many grapes. The fruit we did have was clean and looked great, but I had to wait a little to harvest as there were some second generation grapes in the mix too. It’s a vintage with lots of concentration but the acidity was better than in 2016 so there was a nice balance. In the end I lost 2/3rd – almost the same as in 2016 – I had not much more than half a harvest in 2 years – so you can imagine that 2018 brought some happiness!

The wines…

A good domaine with very good wines. None from 2017 made me shout ‘eureka’ but there’s also nothing here that I wouldn’t enjoy spending an evening, or two, with.

Guillaume explains “I use DIAM, it’s allowed me to reduce the amount of SO2 that I use, and of-course I don’t have problems with corked wine. I’m testing some DIAM Origine too.

2017 Petit Chablis
Bottled in April 2018 – all the bottling dates are engraved on the bottles. On the Portlandian Plateau des Clos
Not a big nose but one with a little perfume and a depth of concentration – ripe citrus here. Round, nice, easy depth to the texture but mineral and almost with a suggestion of rigour. Nice bright, intense finishing – long and powerful finishing for such a label.

2017 Chablis
13 different parcels – all separate elevage. Average age is about 30 years old.
Cold, but swirling brings an attractive clarity and minerality to the fore. More volume but like the nose more clarity – transparency – open, complex and faintly saline, cleanly and fine flavoured. This is soft on the finish but very attractively so – indeed deliciously so. Excellent.

2017 Chablis Les Champreaux
One parcel which contains about 30% barrel elevage. Bottled October 2018 – Guillaume wants to do longer elevage, but needs a bit more volume to recover first.
An open nose, more vibrant but also a bit of oak presenting itself. Big, fresh, clean, driving, sleek shape – lovely line and energy, oaked but not terribly so, vibrantly finishing – it’s a super, saline finish that narrows quickly before holding long. Super.

2017 Chablis 1er Fourchaume
October 2018 Bottling
Ooh – that’s good! Fresh, vibrantly mineral with an agrume fruit in the mix. Lovely in the mouth with the energy and agrumes, a softness to the wine, but also much mouth-watering, attractive flavour. Long, delicious wine – great finishing – almost a phenolic lick at the end. Super again.

2017 Chablis 1er Les Vaupulans
Here 10% barrel elevage, 500 litre barrels – norally 30% but there was a very small yield in 2017.
A much more forward oak on the otherwise nicely fresh and forward nose. Like the last this is still fresh and sleek – beautifully textured and certainly mineral – the oak flavours dominate for my taste though – lots of finishing salinity here – I wouldn’t touch one for 5 years…

2017 Chablis 1er Mont de Milieu
0.28 hectares worth, here only tank elevage. It’s an exchange for Fourchaume grapes – in this case not an organic vineyard.
Fresh and wide, saline too – faintly spiced too – very attractive if a little timid. In the mouth too, the flavour is faintly spiced. Lots of mineral volume – beautifully textured again, layers of great flavour – this is simply excellent wine. Ooh that’s good!

2016 Chablis 1er Fourchaume
On the Côte de Fontenay – bottled in 2018 – old vines from 1955
Ooh that’s deep and complex – vibrant, almost a roast late harvest type fruit. Complex, concentrated, weight of flavour – also a similar fruit profile to the nose. That VT/late harvest style, long mineral, almost creamy in the length. Particular, but also very tasty wine.

2016 Chablis Blanchots
Bought in juice and vinified here – one barrel and a little more in tank that is blended. Made since 2012 – a long elevage, not long bottled. Also an old vine with lots of millerande grapes.
Ooh that’s a great nose, it’s both deeply mineral and vibrant, freshness of ripe fruit above. Oily, silkily textured. Depth of flavour, slowly ingraining the palate – layered but lithe and mobile too. Lots of finishing salinity – not yet giving up lots of complexity, but that will come – this is clearly very fine wine indeed – bravo!

2015 Chablis 1er Fourchaume Côte de Fontenay
July 2017 bottling. All tank elevage.
A little reduction at the base of this wine – tight but fresh ripe fruit – cleaner and cleaner is the reduction fades. The reduction has gone from the nose but there’s still a little on the palate – there is volume and concentration here – ripe but interesting fruit. There’s not an overt acidity but there’s a balance to this richness, deep, mineral and extra saline in the finish. Concentrated – such a baby wine – wait at least another 3 years – better 5!

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