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Intro: Chablis

Daniel Dampt is a dynamic, modern domaine whose wines are aged in stainless steel in an elegant, squeaky clean, and very minerally style, accurately reflecting their terroirs. Dampt offers a fine range of 1er crus, including the elegant Les Lys, and the firmer structured Vaillons. 

Sisters Nathalie and Isabelle Oudin’s domaine is one of the hidden gems of Chablis. Fanatical about good viticulture, they are prepared to take a risk with the quantity they produce to ensure quality, rather than reaching for easy chemical solutions. They have eight hectares of well sited vines on Jurassic marls and limestones.

Domaine Garnier, working organically, concentrate on Petit Chablis and Chablis but also offer leading 1er and Grand Cru wines, as they buy micro quantities of grapes which they pick and vinify themselves – all are delicious. Half of their Chablis holdings are on the left bank and half on the right, from the villages of Maligny, Ligny and Villy. Yields are 10% lower than most growers use in the appellation, only indigenous yeasts are used for the fermentation, a patient approach is adopted during the élevage and no wines are rushed into bottle, the élevage of each wine is individual and perfectly suits the structure of each wine, and sulphur levels completely protect each wine but are at significantly lower levels than the norm. 

An over use of chemicals is sadly still the normal rule in Chablis where hitting the maximum permitted yield is the annual aim of most growers. It’s a world apart from Thomas Pico’s five hectares of organically and fastidiously tended vines where you find wild geranium, scarlet pimpernel, groundsel, poppies, vetch, hyacinth and buttercups cohabiting with the vines. There are only a handful of fully organically certified vignerons in Chablis. Thomas vinifies at much lower levels (40hh for his 1er crus when 58hh is the permitted maximum) looking for full ripeness, so harvesting later than most. His wines retain a vibrant tension and are perfectly balanced and remind me in style of fine Jura chardonnays. Sadly such has been the low yields in recent years (with a catastrophic 9hh in 2016), allied to fierce demand, that prices have increased and Thomas has decided to sell half of his 2015 wines this year and half next. Given the dramatic shortage in the 2016 harvest, he is also offering for the first time a brilliant Chardonnay Vin de France that he has sourced from friends in Limoux (Etienne Fort amongst other see wine numbers 29 and 30) working organically at a high 450m altitude. Thomas worked the harvest there and pressed the grapes before transporting the juice up to Chablis for its élevage.

We are also delighted to work with the excellent red Irancy from Thierry Richoux. Irancy is an interesting appellation, which only received its AC status as recently as 1999. Situated 18km south west of Chablis, in colder times the pinot noir here struggled to ripen properly. However the timing of the granting of AC status reflected the warmer vintages of the nineties, which are now more regular, and a quick visit confirms that the vineyards sit on a superb terroir – a very steep, well protected, south, south-west facing hillside based on kimmeridgian limestone. The entire appellation comprises only 160 hectares and there are 40 vignerons. Thierry has 19 hectares (planted on the best mid-slopes) which he works organically with his wife and two sons. Very unusually 80% of the vignerons plough in Irancy, primarily to prevent erosion. In these days of astronomical pricing for wines from the Côte-d’Or, Irancy is not only individual and different and worth a detour on its own merits, it is also terrific value for money.

Organic & Bio-dynamic

See our list of organic and bio-dynamic growers.