Domaine Laroche Chablis Les Vaillons Premier Cru Vieilles Vignes 2017
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Another of the high points of the range is the 2017 Chablis 1er Cru Les Vaillons Vieilles Vignes, which derives entirely from the Roncières lieu-dit this year, as the domaine's other holdings were frosted. Unfurling in the glass with aromas of sweet yellow orchard fruit, buttered pears, mandarin and white flowers, it's medium to full-bodied, with a textural, enveloping profile, good concentration and lively acids. Rating: 92+
The vineyards of Domaine Laroche are spread out across the entire region of Chablis, located in the northernmost section of Burgundy, 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Paris, between Champagne and the Côte d’Or. Chardonnay is a vigorous variety that therefore requires careful fruit-quantity control. The Domaine Laroche philosophy relies on one-man plots, meaning that one person is wholly responsible for the care of a single vineyard parcel, from the pruning, soil conditioning and control of yields to the sorting of the harvest. Springtime frost, less frequent now with climate change, remains a constant risk that conditions the viticulture. Thus, pruning takes place twice, in order to prevent early budburst that would expose the plants to an April or May frost, as well as to shape the vines and control yields. Domaine Laroche implements a systematic debudding in order to space the branches, ventilate the grapes and control yields. This work is completed by a green harvest if the quantity of grapes is excessive. For five generations, the Laroche family has produced top-quality wines from the Chablis appellation, and today Domaine Laroche ranks among the most prestigious of Burgundy’s wine producers. The origins of the estate date back to 1850, when a vineyard worker names Jean-Victor Laroche bought a small plot of vines. Three generations of modest expansion were followed by a boom in the 1960s when, father and son Henri and Michel Laroche expanded their holdings considerably in the region. The past three decades have seen the domaine flourish under the guidance of Michel, whose commitment to authenticity, purity and typicite has popularized the steely, elegant wine in general – and the Laroche brand in particular – the world over. In April 2011 Greory Viennois joined Laroche as Technical Director, enhancing Laroche distinctive style through all the wines. He is helped by technical teams of all estates to carry out the most recent advances made in viticulture and oenology.
The source of the most racy, light and tactile, yet uniquely complex Chardonnay, Chablis, while considered part of Burgundy, actually reaches far past the most northern stretch of the Côte d’Or proper. Its vineyards cover hillsides surrounding the small village of Chablis about 100 miles north of Dijon, making it actually closer to Champagne than to Burgundy. Champagne and Chablis have a unique soil type in common called Kimmeridgian, which isn’t found anywhere else in the world except southern England. A 180 million year-old geologic formation of decomposed clay and limestone, containing tiny fossilized oyster shells, spans from the Dorset village of Kimmeridge in southern England all the way down through Champagne, and to the soils of Chablis. This soil type produces wines full of structure, austerity, minerality, salinity and finesse.
Chablis Grands Crus vineyards are all located at ideal elevations and exposition on the acclaimed Kimmeridgian soil, an ancient clay-limestone soil that lends intensity and finesse to its wines. The vineyards outside of Grands Crus are Premiers Crus, and outlying from those is Petit Chablis. Chablis Grand Cru, as well as most Premier Cru Chablis, can age for many years.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.