Domaine Vincent Dauvissat
Organic & biodynamic (not certified)
Vincent Dauvissat is at the very top of the Chablis hierarchy and his wines are considered among the best Chardonnays produced anywhere in the world.
The domaine was established in 1931 by Vincent’s grandfather Robert. His son René expanded the domaine from its original 1 hectare and began building the domaine’s reputation. René was joined by his son Vincent in 1976 and who fully took over in 1989. The vineyards now span 14.5 hectares. In 2013 Vincent was joined by the fourth generation, his daughter Etiennette and son Ghislain.
Biodynamic farming methods have been utilised since 2002, though Vincent has no interest in being certified biodynamic.
Yields here are always low, no more than 50 hectolitres per hectare, achieved by assiduous work in the vineyards rigorous pruning and debudding. The vine is constantly observed and the harvesting is, of course, done by hand.
The wines spend part of the elevage in oak, though the percentage of new oak is minuscule and some of the barrels in the cellar date back more than 40 years. René was very much of the view that Chablis needs oak, as without it the wine is too austere, the oak is needed to soften its hardness.
The purity and intensity of these wines is truly remarkable and the wines have incredible ageing capacity. Vincent always has an old bottle open to taste blind at the end of the tasting – a 1990 Les Clos remains a pivotal moment at which I finally really understood the joys of aged white Burgundy. However they can be enjoyed immensely in their youth. Many producers in Chablis note that their grands crus should be enjoyed in the first 3 years, after that they tighten up and need a good decade or more. The worst time being the 7-10 year bracket when they are often unyielding and awkward, true to their adolescence!
The Domaine has a wonderful collection of vineyards, including two grands crus, Les Preuses and Les Clos:
Dauvissat’s Les Preuses forms part of the amphitheatre of the Vaudésir Valley. The orientation is east-south-east, so the parcel sees the sun very early in the morning. Because of the topography, the concave and relatively steep slope, Vincent, a deeply philosophical man, sees in Preuses a wine that internalises things, it captures a lot of energy which it releases later.
The soils here are very complex; on the surface there is about 50cm of earth, which is light and supple. The sub-soil there are concretions typical of Kimmeridgian soil for around 20cm which is very hard and compact. Then there is an elastic and cool layer of clay of about 40cm, then the very hard parent-rock.
Vincent visualises these images of the soil when he tastes Preuses and feels there is a close relationship between these elements and tactile impressions of the wine. The nose is floral, smoky with mineral tones. Fresh touches, such as chlorophyll, dill and pine also appear. It is all about finesse and delicatesse. The nose is not exuberant, but shows obvious class. On the palate the wine feels soft with lightness, reflecting the upper layer of soil. Then there are more incisive tones, with more character – reflecting the Kimmeridgian section. The wine then regains fullness and suavity, recalling the clay zone. The finish is crisp – thanks to the parent-rock. Preuses ability to store energy really does seem to be true; the wine is discreet at the beginning, introverted and withdrawn but the finish is long and full of energy. The depth is incredible.
Les Clos is situated on a hill which produces a cover effect, the opposite of Preuses. The orientation here ranges from south-east to south-west and the slope is less steep. The subsoil is whiter, the Kimmerdgian here is very intense and relatively homogenous, rich in small oysters (Exogyra Virgula) and the soil is very compact and dense.
Les Clos is characterised by spicy notes: cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, juniper. The nose being more expressive and demonstrative than Preuses. On the palate it is relatively round and full and in the middle a certain firmness appears. This firmness protects Les Clos, existing in youth to act as a buffer and it keeps the wine reserved. With age, this element fades and the wine opens up fully. Reflecting on the observations of the soil: the volume at the start of the wine is provided by the layer of clay and the firmness comes from the Exogyra Virgula in the limestone.
Chablis grand cru Les Clos:
“The 2018 Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru is simply magnificent. In this vintage, all the Clos signatures are kicked up a few notches. Readers will find a dramatic Chablis of grand, sweeping proportions. Lemon confit, white pepper, mint and dried flowers build as this flamboyant, exotic Chablis shows off its curves. The 2018 is simply magnificent. There is not much more I can say than that.” 95-97 pts.Antonio Galloni, Vinous, January 2020.
Though Chardonnay is a neutral grape, it has the power to translate all the subtleties of a terroir, arguably the terroir of Chablis with its Kimmeridgian, fossil rich, limestone soils is one of the most distinct and captivating found anywhere.
|Wine||Blend||Vine age||Soil type||Vineyard area|
|Petit Chablis||Chardonnay||28 years||Portlandian||1.1ha|
|Chablis||Chardonnay||29 years||Limestone & Kimmeridgian clay||4.5ha|
|Chablis 1er cru Séchet||Chardonnay||58 years||Limestone & Kimmeridgian clay||0.8ha|
|Chablis 1er cru Vaillons||Chardonnay||58 years||Limestone & Kimmeridgian clay||1.35ha|
|Chablis 1er cru La Forest||Chardonnay||58 years||Limestone & Kimmeridgian clay||4.5ha|
|Chablis grand cru Les Preuses||Chardonnay||50 years||Limestone & Kimmeridgian clay||1ha|
|Chablis grand cru Les Clos||Chardonnay||58 years||Limestone & Kimmeridgian clay||1.7ha|
Viticulture and Vinification
- Biodynamic, certified
- Wild yeast fermentation
- Grapes fermented in temperature-controlled enamel tanks
- Élevage in old pièces
- No bâtonnage
- No more than 10% new oak
- Two winters in barrel before bottling