Etienne Boileau Chablis 2013
Domaine du Etienne Boileau is situated in the small town of Chablis at the northern extremes of viable viticulture in the northernmost wine district of the Burgundy region of France. Subscribing to the belief that tradition combined with terroir and climate are essential to making a great wine, viticulture at the estate is dominated by the belief that a winegrower should allow the natural environment where his grapes are grown to be reflected directly in the glass. Etienne Bolieau credits the Kimmeridgean clay soil of the hilly slopes of the Serein Valley — a clay-based soil that dates back to the Upper Jurassic age over 180 million years ago, and includes a particular soil type known as argilo-calcaire (a composition of limestone, clay and fossilized oyster shells) — with imbuing their wines with their superior character and structure.
In 1987, three growers joined forces to create a larger domaine called Domaine du Chardonnay that would have access to more manpower and an impressive collection of vineyards. Etienne Boileau, the overall director of the domaine and manager of both work in the cellar and general sales, works side by side with partners William Nahan and Christian Simon, who oversee all operations in their 37 total hectares of vineyards. Every harvest is vinified and matured in their cellars in Chablis. Through every stage from harvest to bottling, the wines are handled with the utmost of care. Recently a new bottling line was chosen and installed as the finishing touch to their commitment to high-quality vinification and bottling. Combined, they have 9 hectares of Petit Chablis, 18.5 hectares of Chablis, and 9 hectares in Chablis Premier Cru vineyards, including Montmains, Montée de Tonnerre, Vaugiraut, Vosgros, Vaillons and Mont de Milieu, with total annual production of under 30,000 cases. All wines are vinified in stainless-steel tanks, with a handful of the Premier Cru bottlings seeing a brief period in oak. Filtration is minimal and mostly achieved through low-impact cold precipitation.
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 practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.