All in the Family: Domaine Jaeger-Defaix

I’ve long been a fan of the wide range offered at Chablis’ Domaine Bernard Defaix. So when Didier (son of Bernard, who with his brother Sylvain oversees the domaine’s production today) asked if I would be interested in tasting the wines of the Rully domaine that his wife, Hélène, inherited in 2002, I replied with great eagerness. I’d tasted a wine or two from Domaine Jaeger-Defaix in New York, but I didn’t know much about them.

Hélène first took over the Rully Premier Cru Mont Plaisir in 2002 then added the other white Premier Crus in 2004. With the 2011 vintage, she and Didier picked up some Rully rouge, too. For now, the wines are vinified at the Chablis home base, but the couple aims to produce the Côte Chalonnaise wines down south soon.

The whole range brims with the freshness of the family’s Chablis wines. Didier introduced the reds saying that their aim is to make subtle Pinot Noir. And, they do. The wines’ elegant harmony, profound aromatic purity and thoughtful delicacy give me no hesitation in recommending these wines. They are a joy to drink!


Rully Blanc Mont Palais Premier Cru 2016
As Didier poured this, he mentioned that it is always the most fruit-driven. The attack begins with sweet apricots and yellow tomatoes while the mid-palate dusts on winter and savory spices. There is a tight nucleus of viscosity in the mid-palate that is nudged by refreshing acidity into a flavorful and palate-caressing finish. Delightful!
Drink: 2018-22

Rully Blanc Les Cloux Premier Cru 2016
Overt and effusive on the nose, this wine’s polished core of concentrated fruit is very accessible. Brisk acidity lifts the glossy, sensuous texture and pulls the floral and baking spice tones into a lingering, spicy finish. Of the three whites, this seemed most robust in oak presence thanks to its spicy side, despite the fact there’s no new oak used here. It’s simply vinified and aged in oak prior to bottle.
Drink: 2018-22

Rully Blanc Rabourcé Premier Cru 2016
Hailing from the top of this cru, around 300 meters, this has a surprising amount of stuffing in the mid-palate for a higher elevation wine. I loved the tangy, mouthwatering acidity that jostled around the lively yellow fruit core accented by cantaloupe and white pepper. Here the Jaeger-Defaix team uses some twice-fired Chassin barrels.
Drink: 2018-24

Rully Rouge 2016
In 2016, this was entirely destemmed and aged excusively in used oak. The nose is shy, but the elegant palate offers highly attractive raspberries and red plums. The crisp acidity gives the palate a taut and feisty feel that is nicely matched with smooth, drizzle-soft tannins. Easy-going and charming, this will hold well if you can resist it!
Drink: 2018-22

Rully Rouge Préaux Premier Cru 2016
The perky, fresh and inviting nose of blueberries, raspberries and anise doesn’t disappoint on the nicely concentrated, bewitchingly thirst-quenching palate. It is quintessential Pinot Noir in perfume and refinement. This sees one-third new oak and two-thirds six to seven times used oak. Didier commented that this – as well as all of their 2016s – would likely be ready to drink before the 2015s.
Drink: 2017-23

Rully Rouge Clos du Chapître Premier Cru 2016
This is a true clos(a vineyard fully enclosed by four walls) that sits just behind the family house and next to Préaux. Because it is situated in a clos, it’s a slightly warmer parcel than the Préaux. It’s dramatic to see the contrast of the two wines in their respective glasses. The lifted raspberry character carried over here, but this was a sturdier, more muscular wine with masses of cracked pepper and deeper tones of black cherry. Despite showing so much forward fruit character, the tannins were firm and sculpted, especially on the crisply dry finish. Lovely now but it will benefit from time.
Drink: 2019-26