The 2009 and 2010 vintages in Chablis present
readers with two dramatically different sets of wines. In general, the 2009s
are supple and approachable upon release. The 2010s, most of which I tasted
from barrel and/or tank, are much more structured and potentially long-lived.
The sheer breadth and diversity of the wines across the top properties in
Chablis is quite striking. Readers willing to look beyond the region’s top two
names will find a remarkable array of wines made in a variety of styles. Best
of all, Chablis remains one of the most fairly priced, pedigreed wines in the
world. Chablis is a great wine for the dinner table, and is quite versatile
with a wide variety of foods, perhaps the best reason to always keep at least a
few bottles on hand.
Chablis experienced a warm, sunny year in
2009, as was the case throughout the rest of Burgundy. Most growers began
harvesting in mid-September, quite early by Chablis standards. Other than the
advanced maturation of the grapes, there were no widespread issues during
flowering, summer or harvest, and most growers reported bringing in healthy
fruit. To be sure, the acidities were lower in 2009 than in most years, but
that is not necessarily a bad thing for wines that can sometimes be on the lean
and austere side. In the 2009s, readers will find unusually fleshy, radiant
wines, many of which will require minimum cellaring. The concern with a warm
vintage is always a loss of site specificity, and while some of that exists in
2009, the best wines have plenty of vineyard character. It is an excellent
vintage for readers who want to approach the wines for the first time, and will
likely also be quite successful in restaurants.
Readers who are familiar with Chablis or who
generally favor more typical, cooler years and wines with significant structure
will likely gravitate to the 2010s. The vintage did not start well.
Cold, damp weather in the spring caused an
irregular flowering with high amounts of shatter and shot berries. Yields were
impacted significantly. Growers reported losses of anywhere from 15- 50%,
depending on the estate and vineyard. The summer was generally cool and the
harvest took place in late September and early October, closer to normal in
Chablis. The unique weather conditions yielded wines that are rich and
concentrated (because of the low yields) yet high in acidity (because of the
late harvest). I must say that from barrel, many of the 2010s I tasted were
simply thrilling, if quite atypical. It will be interesting to see how the
2010s evolve in the coming year as the wines complete their élevage and
go into bottle. Today, 2010 looks like a very promising vintage.
I tasted all of the wines in this article in
June, 2011. At the time, a number of 2010s had not completed their malos, so I
was unable to taste them. I have kept drinking windows on the conservative,
short side, although I have no doubt some wines will drink well beyond my
projected dates. As mentioned above, the 2009s should drink well upon release.
The 2010s are likely to require a few years in bottle. In general, Chablis has
been less affected by issues of premature oxidation than the Côte de Beaune,
but these days erring on the conservative side seems like the only smart choice
when it comes to white Burgundy. Wine appreciation is, of course, quite
personal, and the optimal time to savor a specific bottle is perhaps the most
subjective part of enjoying wine.