Tasted with Stéphanie Michelet in Lignorelles, 23 January 2020.
Domaine Jean-Claude Courtault
1 route de Montfort
Tel: +33 3 86 47 50 59
Stephanie on 2019:
“It wasn’t such a big issue with frost here – we prune the vines quite late and this retards their growth. For us it was the dryness that probably brought the main losses in volume. We made 45 hl/ha, a little VCI from 2018 helps, but that means that there’s now no reserve for 2020. There is some succession happening here with my parent’s domaine too – so the financial pressure is almost as bad as the weather pressure!”
Stephanie on 2018:
“Compared to 2019, 2018 was quite an easy year, but there was a lot of rain in the first part of the year, though when I was young it was almost traditional that the streets were flooded in La Chapelle de Vaupelteigne! Flowering was extra-ordinary, virtually all the flowers were converted to fruit – I didn’t pay that much attention when I was young, but I never saw it so good before – and in the end it wasn’t just quantity, it was quality too – there’s not usually a correlation like that! The vines had clearly stored up some energy after the small volume vintages of 2016 and 2017 – we had some parcels that usually produce not so much – they delivered 60 hl/ha. We harvested quite early – 03 September – we didn’t want to lose the freshness, the acidity that was in the grapes and you can lose that quickly in Lignorelles, so we brought in the grapes, starting at not a lot more than 12° but it was three weeks of harvesting when we normally do everything in 2 – the maximum was ‘only’ 14° though.”
Often, the wines here need a little aeration, a carafe, to tease out the aromas and shed what is often a slightly phenolic profile. That’s hardly the case in 2018 – wines with much flavour complexity ripeness of fruit and also quite a bit more salinity than is average for the vintage. There are some excellent wines here.
The two domaines, as always presented together; the wines of the Domaine Jean-Claude Courtault usually being the more fruity, approachable wines than the Domaine Michelets. The last wines represent négoce purchases, and these wear, in most markets, the Jean-Claude Courtault (but a different colour) label, but sometimes, like in Harrods, UK, they wear a Michelet label.
There was an early bottling run in May, the rest were done in July. “It’s taken six months for the wines to wake up, they were tight after bottling.>We still had a few issues with corks in 2017,” says Stéphanie, “So now all is DIAM for the Petit Chablis and Chablis.” I noted that not all the 1ers wear DIAM yet, though.
2018 Jean-Claude Courtault, Petit Chablis
Mainly from Lignorelles, average 20 year-old vines.
A little phenolic but also a floral too – a nice mix. Supple, easy over the palate but not soft, vibrant and again quite floral finishing. Ooh, that’s rather good. Yum!
2018 Michelet, Petit Chablis
Vinified exactly the same. Parcels from Bienes, Maligny and Fye. More like 10 year-old vines.
A green fruit, lime and flowers this time. Fuller, a little more energy, more overt mineral and with a fine mouth-watering intensity if citrus in the finish. Oh, that’s super – today the previous is easier to drink, but this would be my pick – also a little saline kiss in the finish.
2018 Jean-Claude Courtault, Chablis
A blend of Lignorelles and Beines – 30-35 year-old vines. Usually more fruit from Lignorelles, structure and minerality comes more from Beines.
A big freshness, slightly saline, slightly floral. Fuller, a little more richness, a little structure here but no hard edges. Sweet but very citrus finishing – that’s delicious with a slight mineral hardness – ‘that becomes more buttery with 1-2 years age’ – but practically anecdotal. Delicious finishing!
2018 Michelet Chablis
70% old vines – some dating from 1947 – with a young vine in Bienes, the rest over 60 years old in Lignorelles – just one old barrel as part of the overall elevage – maybe 5% of the volume.
A tighter nose to start – there’s depth of aroma but rather a modest top-line. Hmm, the line here is beautiful, not the richness of the last or rather one that’s tempered by a lovely mineral line with a pretty suggestion of salinity. If the nose opens a little more this will be great! Lovely finishing intensity, almost a little roast impression to the finishing fruit flavour.
“1ers are all bought as must – it’s hard to buy grapes… but these are quite long-term purchase from the same producers.” Mont de Milieu uses only tank elevage – like the Fourchaume – Beauroy has a little barrel in the mix. “It was a question of volume that we didn’t use wood at the start, but we liked the wine, its delicacy, and so never looked to change it – we’ve made the wine for 10 years now – always the same seller and parcel.”
2018 Jean-Claude Courtault, Chablis 1er Mont de Milieu
Bought from same producer since 2008. All tank elevage on the fine lees.
The nose has a little more impact, it’s complex, even a little herbal. Concentrated, very silky texture, growing in floral references, faintly saline. A long finish but a small weight of finish compared to many – yum!
2018 Jean-Claude Courtault, Chablis 1er Fourchaume
Less volume of aroma but a lovely width, more mineral than either floral or fruit. Hmm, vibrant, mineral but also sweetly mouth-watering. Love the finishing intensity. Delicious and long. Excellent wine!
2018 Jean-Claude Courtault, Chablis 1er Beauroy
Troesmes and Côte de Savant. A little barrel elevage here looking for openness of aroma – nothing from the wood flavour.
A small nose, rather compact but pure. A good attack from the minerality, width of energetic flavour, certainly a saline side to this wine – plenty like that here this year. An excellent agrume finish, I like the blend of energy and flavour here. Only the nose needs grow into the same stature of the rest of the wine.
It’s the third vintage here with buying any grand crus – “They didn’t really have anything to sell – until 2018!”
2018 Jean-Claude Courtault, Chablis Valmur
Hmm, that’s a more forward and also deeper nose – some oak complexity here – but the spiced variety, not vanilla. Again, saline – deep, complex, layered flavour, that’s excellent – I’d still wait for the modest oak to fade – ‘it was fine in barrel but seemed very oaky after the bottling, now, six months later there is much, much less’ – 2-3 years or-so, but that is simply excellent grand cru!
2016 Jean-Claude Courtault, Chablis 1er Beauroy
Big, round, concentrated, almost waxy, deep too. A slight touch of age, mouth-filling – open and mineral, washing waves of flavour over the palate, long, long, composed and delicious finishing, perhaps shorter finishing than the 2018s – simply delicious.
2018 Bourgogne Epineuil Côte de Grisey
A young plantation – this the second vintage – 1.36 ha – Stéphanie’s father bought the plot many years earlier and planted it with trees to start – not what Stéphanie wanted! “It’s a lovely hillside with a Kimmerigian base, so the trees were pulled out and pinot planted!”
A big punchy and ripe nose, but full of floral freshness, even an impression of tobacco too. Mouth-filling freshness, of energy and line, non-standard fruit aroma and flavour, yet freshly delicious tasty wine of only modest tannin, perhaps a finishing touch of almond sweetness. This is very tasty and currently, I’d rather drink this as it is – young and tasty – as opposed to waiting.