Tasted in Chablis with Marie-Ange Robin, 24 January 2019.
Domaine Guy Robin et fils
13 Rue Marcelin Berthelot
Tel: +33 3 86 42 12 63
Although the first parcels of land had been in the family for much longer, it was the parent of Marie-Ange Robin who truly created a wine domaine in the 1960s. The paternal side had some parcels – though few had vines on them – and the maternal side was selling flowers and fruit et-cetera from other parcels, but also had a nursery that was selling vines for planting to other owners – so there was already more than one connection to producing wine. The pair discussed with their parents if they should buy – it would have to be on credit – initially parcels that were not planted as they were easy to acquire – if the bank said yes. This would be back-breaking work in the areas left unplanted: Marie-Ange recalls “An old gentleman would take them to the ‘fields’ in the morning and then bring them back, his payment was a meal – there were no cars. Eventually my parents could afford a mobilette, both aboard, to take them to and from their vines.”
The fear of frost was always present – but they took a risk. They soon had some export markets too. “Today we are not a big domaine,” says Marie-Ange, “But we have 20 hectares with some Petit Chablis on the plateau, Chablis in the valley of Valvent and towards Prehy, 1er crus on both banks plus five grand crus. We even had the chance to buy some Grenouilles from the Testut family, who were close friends of my parents, but they had to decline as they couldn’t finance it at the time.”
The domaine doesn’t have any real marketing – ‘all is by word of mouth’ – but they have a strong base-market in France; much is private sales, with some relatively modest sales to restaurants. But there are also exports to Europe and Asia – “It was not easy in Taiwan 30 years ago, as they only knew red wine at that time, but now it works very well – as it should with their complimentary local cuisine. My parents had a strong relationship with a US client but one year they said ‘No – the critics don’t like the vintage. 6 months later he returned wanting the wine but wasn’t happy as it had already been sold. It was a while before we re-established sales in the region.”
It’s a longer elevage here, the barrel part – the barrel cellar under the house that the parents bought only because of its cellar – stays until about June, untouched, no battonage, before being racked into tank for later assembly – some of the grand crus and 1er wont be bottled here until the Spring or even a little later.
Marie-Ange on 2018:
“It was mad! Surprised – agreeably surprised. We never for a moment expected such a volume as we thought we lacked rain and that the grapes were drying on the vines. We do everything by hand normally – but given the quantity we had to arrange for some to be machine picked as we couldn’t cope. Nature gave us something back in 2018 – as it had certainly taken in the last few vintages.”
Marie-Ange on 2017:
2017 was a vintage of roughly similar size to 2016 – of-course every area was different plus or minus versus 2016. But practically we ended up with half a harvest.
Wines that will only get better over the next couple of years – some lovely stuff!
Four bottled wines from 2017 were available to taste on the day of my visit, but first:
7 hectares worth of Chablis in the domaine, and this represents about 6 of those. A mix of manual and machine harvesting.
Some weight of citrus aroma with a good freshness too. Full, concentrated, but cut with fine acidity and minerality – here is a touch of rigour but only modestly so – concentrated and lemony in the finish. A lovely finish, strong but attractively mineral. Not a rich wine but one of important weight – great balance all the same.
This and the next bottled with a sugar-derived recyclable cork
Quite a tight nose, very faintly mineral and lemony. More open, everything more accessible. Labile, complex, gregarious – sharing and delicious. Ooh that’s so good – bravo!
2017 Chablis Vieilles-Vignes Cuvée Marie Ange Robin
All barrel elevage and all manual in the vines. I like the label very much – preferring this to the more standard label of the domaine.
A narrower nose, but deep and interesting – more composed citrus – very inviting. In the mouth more composed too – a little roundness, and fine layers of flavour. The oak is very well done here – bringing a little texture and sweetness but nothing overt in the flavour. More contemplative, delicious…
2017 Chablis 1er Montmains
Actually mainly Butteaux but there’s also some Montmains in here! All barrel elevage for this. Was bottled in October.
A much tighter nose. Bright, fresh, lovely direction and energy – there’s clarity here – a little more emphasis from the barrel today – but sweetly done. Delicious complex and citrus in the finish, even with a little touch of phenolic texture – long – really a great second part to this wine – excellent!
2017 Chablis 1er Montée de Tonnerre
Older vines – as most here – approximately 50-60 years old.
A wide but not so deep nose – yellow citrus in here but also some oak impression. Halfway between the shape of the previous two – there’s direction but also quite some width – more accessible flavour, easy in style but with an obvious extra level of complexity. Like the last but more alive and complex in the finishing flavour – a touch more oak here, for that I prefer the finale of the Montmains today, but this is really excellent.