2005 Daniel-Etienne Defaix Chablis Premier Cru Vaillon
The short story – DON’T MISS THIS WINE.
There it is, that’s all you need to know.
The slightly longer story is – Premier Cru Chablis, traditionally made, with 14 years of elevage in the producer’s cellar.
Aged Premier Cru Chablis straight from its home, in perfect condition, at a fair price: Daniel Etienne Defaix’s Chablis Premier Cru Vaillon, 2005.
No this isn’t some funky closeout or back-of-the-truck deal; it’s just the way Defaix does business. So here is the long story:
The Defaix family has been producing Chablis since the 1500s. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how they bankroll it, but the domaine releases its wines when they think they are ready. By “ready” they mean when time has done its lovely dance of changing the wine from youthful lemony zestiness to a deep, mellowed sense of humanity, a rich chalkiness and depth of flavor that only comes with maturity.
For them maturity is a carefully thought-out process, too. The wines take two years to complete alcoholic and malolactic fermentation under native yeast. Then the wines are rested in tank, on the lees, until Daniel thinks they are ready, generally 4 to 20 years before bottling. After bottling they are rested for 6 to 12 months before release. The results are stunning:
First off, don’t chill this bottle too far. 55 degrees (cellar temperature) is just fine, no cooler. At that temperature you’re going to find astounding amounts of chalky minerality, seashells and oysters, and amazing depth of body. The wine shows little to know fruit character – and is all the better for that – because the terroir comes through so profoundly. If you want pure Chablis terroir there is simply nothing better than this. I can’t state it more plainly. The results are old school, traditionally made Chablis, that is cellar-direct and perfectly mature.
I’d be perfectly willing to pay $110 for this bottle (and I believe at auction you would). I don’t know how the Defaixs do it, but at this price, it’s a total steal.