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2019 Chablis from Sébastien Dauvissat

Though technically part of Burgundy, Chablis is adamantly its own place, not only for its colder, grimmer climate, or its entirely different geological origins, but for its distinct traditions of élevage. Chablis oaked like a Meursault loses the ability to articulate its Kimmeridgian intricacies, while a stint in thermoregulated stainless steel often sacrifices texture, resulting in Chablis that feels more like Sancerre—just with slightly different aromatic and flavor signifiers. 

Our longtime partner Sébastien Dauvissat takes the tried-and-true middle path, aging his resoundingly classic Chablis largely in neutral oak barrels of seven to ten years of age. This methodology, employed by many of the most coveted old-school growers in the region, allows for maximal terroir expression without transforming the wines into caricatures of high-acid zip. We at Rosenthal Wine Merchant began working with Sébastien’s father Jean back in 1982, and this family—a branch of one of the oldest families in the area—have provided us with exemplary, age-worthy Chablis from their enviable holdings ever since.

Sébastien, diligent and unassuming in demeanor, cranks out reliably excellent Chablis year after year, but the past few vintages have been particularly dynamic as he has seemed to fully find his stride. We are preparing to receive Sébastien’s 2019s into inventory, supplemented by the villages-level “Saint-Pierre” from 2020, plus a smattering of large-format bottlings from the family’s extensive library. 2019 presented Sébastien with a warm, dry growing season relatively free of disease pressure, and he began harvesting on September 16th under ideal conditions; yields were lower than typical, but the resulting fruit was of excellent quality. Sébastien’s 2019s show the warmth of the vintage in their muscularity and concentration, but they possess terrific balancing verve, and their tight-grained, lifted finishes promise years of positive evolution in bottle.

2020 Chablis “Saint-Pierre”
Dauvissat’s villages-level Chablis is produced from 15- to 20-year-old vines planted in five different parcels: two next to premier cru Montmains, two near premier cru Montée de Tonnerre, and one in the commune of Préhy. In contrast to the premier crus and grand crus, “Saint-Pierre” is vinified and aged entirely in steel tanks, and bottled after one year. This cuvée displays both vivacity and roundness, with classically salt-tinged Kimmeridgian minerality and solid length.

2019 Chablis 1er Cru “Vaillons”
The premier cru Vaillons is actually a climat comprised of a handful of adjoining vineyards, and Sébastien’s bottling comes from 40-year-old vines from the lieux-dits of Minots, Chatains, and Vaillon itself. Aged for one year in steel followed by a second year in seven- to ten-year-old barrels, Vaillons offers impressive power and salinity on the palate, with round, borderline tropical fruit tightening into citrus on the bright finish.

2019 Chablis 1er Cru “Séchet”
Séchet is a vineyard within the larger climat of Vaillons, located just about smack in the center, and Sébastien owns just over a hectare of 35-to-40-year-old vines here. Like the Vaillons above, this spent its first year of élevage in steel and its second in well-used barrels, and it displays a similarly saline character to the Vaillons, but with a greater sense of precision and a sleeker physique.

2019 Chablis 1er Cru “Vaillons – Vieilles Vignes”
The Dauvissats have long bottled their oldest vines in Vaillons separately: 0.7 hectares worth of vines averaging 70 years of age in the Sur Vaillons lieu-dit. The “Vieilles Vignes” constitutes a notable step up in power and intensity from the regular Vaillons bottling, with a more unctuous texture and greater cling and length on the palate. Its élevage inverts the order of the basic bottling, with fermentation as well as the first year of aging taking place in barrels, and the second year spent in steel.

2019 Chablis Grand Cru “Les Preuses”
Sébastien owns three quarters of a hectare in Les Preuses, sandwiched between Bougros and Vaudesir in the northern part of the grand cru zone. Produced mainly from 50- to 60-year-old vines but with a small portion that was replanted a decade ago, this mimics the aging regimen of the old-vines Vaillons above, with fermentation and the first year of élevage in barrels and the second year in steel. While no richer than the old-vines Vaillons above, Les Preuses combines elegance and intensity in a way that speaks to its grand cru status. Its density on the palate, its swelling finish, and its overall sense of brooding power point toward a long and slow evolution in bottle.

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