Citizens of the “New Chablis”: Domaine Camille & Laurent Schaller
Chablis is rapidly changing today, and it’s all for the better. I was thrilled to visit one of the region’s new wine-producing domaines in Préhy last July. There are several new or new-ish wineries in this southwestern corner of Chablis. It’s quite a hotspot for new names.
The Schallers aren’t recent arrivals to the wine business, though grapes weren’t the reason the Schallers put down roots in Chablis. Laurent and his wife arrived to raise grain and cattle. Still, they’ve been growing grapes and selling them to La Chablisienne, the region’s tremendously good cooperative, all along.
Yet when Camille expressed an interest in becoming a winemaker from an early age, Laurent was more than pleased to work with his son to bring the family business into a new era. The two of them launched their domaine in 2014. They’re currently playing the market conservatively by producing only eight of the 15 hectares they own. Also, Camille hopes to buy some Grand Cru grapes via négociants in the future, so there’s plenty of room for expansion here.
Alas, their limited production strategy turned tough in 2016 as almost all of their vineyards were destroyed by a May hailstorm. As such, I felt lucky to get to taste those as well as some 2015s on my inaugural visit.
NOTES FROM JULY 2017
Petit Chablis 2016
Coming from vines looking north-northwest on the eastern side of Préhy, which were severely impacted by the 2016 hail, this wine is composed of first and second generation grapes. It’s light, minerally and firm with flavors of white grapefruit and lemon zest. It’s an ideal aperitif wine.
Drink: Through 2018
Coming from central Préhy vines located along the road leading to the town of Chablis as well as another, this wine has a super pale yellow color with green reflections. It is moderate in concentration with tones of spring flowers, freshly sliced baguette, pomelo and yuzu.
Chablis Vaucoupin Premier Cru Vieilles Vignes 2016
The Schaller’s Vaucoupin vines sit on a steep slope on the western “point” of Vaucoupin that looks down toward the Serein. These 23 ares are farmed organically. The Schallers started their 2016 harvest here around September 20th; their Petit Chablis and Chablis across the river and two valleys west toward Préhy needed another 12 days! This wine has a mildly toasty nose with a palate displaying straw, Spanish almonds and melon. It’s nicely succulent with just a bit of love handles to fill out the palate. The cheerful acidity makes it an excellent sipper.
Chablis Vieilles Vignes
The fruit of 40-year-old vines saw about 25% new oak between one new barrel and one previously used barrel. The purity was spot-on, and the concentration was considerably deeper than in the other wines. There was a chalky lift and white pepper spice on the citrusy palate leading to a tangy finish. The oak is very subtly integrated. Bravo!
Petit Chablis 2015
There’s a clear difference in vintage here, with the 2015 showing a more richly fruited nose. Yellow plums and peach fuzz fill the palate. There’s a bracing tension to mold the juicy core. Not at all one of those bitingly lean Petit Chablis, this should make plenty of friends.
Yellow grapefruit, iceberg lettuce and celery give this wine distinguished aromatics. The moderate concentration and fleshy mid-palate are framed by vivacious acidity. This is very pleasant, if rather direct and somewhat simple.
Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015
The 30% new oak is a more evident here than in the 2016, but with the more generous fruit of the vintage, the balance works well. There’s buoyant acidity to accompany the oily palate feel and bring the flavors of ripe pear, yellow tomato and anise into a solid finish.