2019 White Burgundy – Part 3 – Chablis


Part 1: 2019 Mâconnais – Sept 2020
Part 2: 2019 Côte d’Or – Oct 2020
Part 3: 2019 Chablis – Jan 2021

Chablis 6pm 17-January 2019
Chablis 6pm 17-January 2019

“An average yielding vintage – less in the 1ers and grand crus, more in the Chablis and Petit Chablis. Given that the 2019 growing season was drier, hotter and much sunnier than is typical – though since 2017 this is the new normal – the easy to approach but often properly mineral style of the wines, came as a surprise to this taster. I call the wines easy-classical and I’ve bought a bunch of them.”

Of course, the devil is always in the detail:

To the point: All about 2019 Chablis!

  • The style of Chablis 2019, probably because of my surprise, brought a smile to my lips from the first wine that I tasted. Obviously mineral yet remarkably approachable. Sometimes fleshy but obviously less richly flavoured and textured versus the 2018s – except where a little masked by oak elevage the wines have precision and dynamism too. These are largely balanced and delicious wines, with the great finishing persistence to which we have become accustomed in these warmer years.
  • So, the wines have precision and dynamism but when you get the chance to compare, the 2019s are less structural and taut than the 2017s – and certainly less so than 2014 or 2012.
  • The acidity is good – certainly not searing. The structures are usually good too – but not austere. The classic salinity of the region can often be found but it’s far from universal – often replaced, in this warmer vintage, with some floral perfume. Yet, even blind tasted, the better wines could only come from Chablis. That is exactly what I’m looking for.
  • There is, no surprise, less wine than in 2018.
  • There are plenty of ‘great wines’ to be found, and at all levels of the appellation – but more-so from Petit Chablis to Chablis 1er Cru. The ‘quality-disparity’ between the premier crus and grand crus is as low as I’ve ever seen it – you are paying more for extra richness – and if you don’t need that, well lucky for you! There are many great 1ers for €140-180 a case (of 12 – remember those?) to be found at the domaines – and some are now booked and paid for, for my cellar.
  • It is a vintage that is much more classically Chablis than was the case in 2018 – there is minerality. There is some salinity – but not everywhere. The salinity, like in 2018, more a factor ‘by domaine’ than ‘missing’ across the board.
  • Classic is a variable term – perhaps 2/3rds of domaines, I would assess, sitting in my easy-classic ‘style-region,’ and the rest much closer in style to 2018 – ie delicious, but less easy to spot the origin of the wine, blind. I’m sure that picking dates played a role.
  • Some domaines have alcohols of 13.5° or more – almost as high as in southern Burgundy – but most domaines report alcohols of ‘below-13°‘ – again the picking-date was an important factor – many of these latter wines, unsurprisingly show a bit more energy.
  • I would estimate that when tasting blind – I would still guess that the wine came from Chablis more than 2/3rds of the time.
  • Concentration? Oh yes! Whilst most 2018s were fine, despite their high yields, 2019 is often next-level.
  • You need a rule of thumb? Not easy, but I would say that the wines resemble 2017 with a bit more possibility for early gratification – many vignerons suggest 2015 but think that’s damning with faint praise – they are better than that. The wines are largely drinking already – save for those showing their oak elevage. The balance is fine though and these will still be super in 10-15 years for those rare drinkers who still cellar their Chablis
  • In terms of the style of fruit, 2019 is another citrus-fruit vintage though like any year there are certainly some more exotic wines. Most often we are in the yellow (mainly lemon) citrus area, occasionally lime and also occasionally more agrume style, even sometimes grapefruit. Like in 2018 many of the best having a citrus-skin, zesty impression..
  • 2019 Petit Chablis is another very easy vintage, without austerity – it’s very tasty wine – and very easy to drink too.
  • In the 1er crus, and for the third vintage in a row, the Montmains are super – but the great wines are much more evenly spread over the 1ers in this vintage.
  • For the grand crus, like the 1ers, there’s no one cru that excels. There are even great Vaudésirs in 2019!

As noted, there is a diversity of styles in 2019 – from easy-classic to more 2018-esque. It’s better to see the individual reports for the domaines than for me to attempt listing them all. No surprise, the ‘cognoscenti‘ will once again prefer their 2014s and 2012s, but there are wines here that can please just about everyone.

A Market Perspective:

Not easy in the time of confinement – people are drinking more at home, but:

Some domaines are doing fine, others are struggling. Online sales and sales to personal clients and even – for a sub-set of producers – the supermarkets are doing very well. Those who sell to restaurants or have a large market in the wine-fairs of France – well, that’s virtually stopped. Bulk sales are also far from simple.

Symptomatic of that, the larger négociants are largely sitting on their hands, buying only the wine in bulk wine that they are contracted to. They are still offering very low-ball pricing and whilst the official bulk prices haven’t changed much, the reality for anyone accepting offers is quite different.

Because everyone loves lists:

Of-course the relative position of respective domaines in their elevage has an effect on how brilliantly – or not – their wines show. In January, from 66 domaines visited, here are my top 4 domaines – roughly alphabetically:

Domaine Château Béru
Domaine Samuel Billaud
Domaine William Fèvre
Domaine Pattes-Loups

NB – of-course this list is for the white wines of Chablis – but just like in 2018, keep an eye out for Bourgogne Epineuil and Irancy from 2019 – once more a great vintage for the reds of the Auxerrois!

And wines to drink now?

Of-course, if you have 2008-2010 in your cellar, then the 08s and 09s are largely ready and you can wait a little longer for the 2010s but they already taste great. The 11s have (~70%) never been my favourite because so many have an accent of asparagus – which can be linked to pyrazines – but if you have good ones (your mileage will certainly vary) then it’s no shame to start drinking them. And from the 2012-2018 vintages that I’ve reviewed in Burgundy Report, I’m drinking occasional 2012s – the grand crus are much easier than the ‘smaller’ wines just now – the 2013s, 2015s and 2018s with great joy. To-date, despite its youth, I’m yet to be disappointed by any 2017s – though, of course, they are very primary in style.

Enjoy if you have any or all of those!

A little 2019 Vintage Background:

The view from Prehy
The view from Prehy – 14 January 2019

Annual Production Volumes
2019 Chablis Volumes
*VCI of the previous year claimed to fill crop deficits – more info here. Figures courtesy the BIVB, Chablis.

Conversations with vignerons – around the whole of Burgundy – have centred on the word ‘drought’ in recent years, and 2019 is another example of a paucity of rain. The year started with about half the usual average of rainfall. March, April and nearly May experienced something resembling average rainfall but June to September produced less than 25% of the average – July came close to zero in the region – in some places, it was zero. There was significant rainfall after the harvest – October being particularly wet – but it contributed nothing to the 2019 vintage. The concept of annual rainfall in this context offering us little insight.

In terms of the temperatures, it was a mild winter. January saw roughly normal temperatures with many mornings beginning with a little frost. The temperatures of February and March, however, saw people wearing shorts and sunglasses in the vines – the sap was starting to rise in the vines and the first bud-burst was already noted around 25th March – more than a week ahead of the average of the last 20 years. The start of April brought the return of the frost, candles and aspersion were used on a number of nights and the losses were largely modest – indeed anticipated. May was the single month where temperatures failed to reach the average – cold and changeable weather for the first half of May – with sleet and hail on the 8th May! – and simply changeable for the second part of that month. June and July produced temperatures above the average – particularly June, where the temperatures peaked above 40°C. August temperatures were about average. The heat spikes of June and July were pre-veraison so would not have a significant effect on the character of the fruit seen in the wines. The harvests were done in September which, whilst near the average temperature for the month, was particularly hot while harvesting – some domaines choosing to start their harvests in the dead of night and finish before lunch each day – of-course, that’s a luxury enjoyed by those who mainly machine harvest!

So yes the vintage lacked rain, yes it was hotter than average too but the most significant aspect was how much sunshine the vines ‘enjoyed.’ Save for April and May – which were ‘average,’ all the months of the growing season had significantly more sunshine versus the average – in the heat of August, this led to losses of yield through the grilling of grapes – whole bunches of useless raisined, completely dry grapes – in some cases a single afternoon was enough to do the damage, though in some cases this was exacerbated with the use of sulfur treatments that first burnt the skins and aided desiccation of the grapes.

Essentially, the 2019 growing season was drier, hotter and much sunnier than is typical…

Agree? Disagree? Anything you'd like to add?

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