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Etienne Boileau Petite Chablis 2015
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 and tactile, and yet uniquely light and 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 Grand Cru vineyards are all located at ideal elevations and exposition on the acclaimed Kimmeridgian soil while most of the vineyards in the outlying spots are referred to as Petit Chablis. Chablis Grand Cru, as well as some Petit 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’s grown and how it’s made. In Burgundy, Chardonnay produces some of the finest white wines in the world, typically tending towards minimal intervention in the winery and at its best resulting in remarkable longevity. This grape is popular throughout the world, but perhaps its second most important home is in California, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia, South America, South Africa, and New Zealand are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay’s flavors tend towards grapefruit, green apple, minerals, and white stone fruit, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of fig, melon, and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut, and spice (as well as texture), while malolactic fermentation can impart soft, buttery acidity.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with simple seafood, light chicken dishes, and salads. Richer Chardonnays marry well with cream or oil-based 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. These Old-World style wines have been dubbed the “New California Chardonnays,” and anyone who claims they do not like Chardonnay should give them a try.