Domaine de Chantemerle and That Yellow-Green Pen
Every time I pulled out that bright yellow and green pen over the course of my ten days in Chablis last year, the vigneron I was chatting with gave a nod, a point and a smile. “Ah! You’ve been to Chantemerle!” Yes, I had.
Moreover, I had been received there on July 14th, Bastille Day! Angelique, grand-daughter of the charasmatic Adhémar Boudin (somewhat recently departed at 96 years young), graciously received me on one of those seemingly holy French holidays. Angelique has been working with the domaine for five years, but she feels like it was in 2015 that her father, Francis, really handed her the reins in the cellar.
Appropriately, we tasted the 2015s and 2016s, sheltered from the blazingly hot sun in the chilly cuverie. Famously, Adhémar intensely disliked barrels (his father had been a cooper). The estate persists in its “barrel free” stance, and I sensed no interest in changing this methodology. The Boudins believe that barrels lead to a loss of Chablis inherent minerality. Instead, Angelique and Francis prefer a somewhat warmer fermentation temperature, around 22° or 23° C, to give their wines the palate breadth and fat that barrels can give. All of the wines see the same protocol in the winery so as to reveal the underlying terroir. The resulting wines are very approachable early on, especially for those less keen on a super-chiseled Chablis style.
WINE NOTES FROM JULY 2017
Exuding richly ripe fruits on the nose, the dark gold liquid in my glass smelled of golden raisins and dried apricots. The attack was supple and the mouthfeel was ample and almost lusty. The heft and creaminess were accompanied by refreshing lift, allowing for a strong finish. I was impressed with the wine’s concentration for a village level Chablis.
Similar in aromas to the 2016 with its cornucopia of dried fruits, this wine was starting to take on a savory tone on the palate. Its medium finish was highlighted by delightfully lemony acidity. All of the Chablis village level vineyards come from Villy, La Chapelle Vaupelteigne and near L’Homme Mort in the northern sector of the Fourchaume Premier Cru. Francis believes the 2015s will have better staying power than the 2016s.
Chablis Fourchaume Premier Cru 2016
These vines are oriented southwest versus those going into the L’Homme Mort cuvée, which point directly south. Bright yellow – almost neon - in color, this wine had a rich nose of pineapple, mango and quince. The palate’s sweet fruit core was balanced by tingling acidity that gave the wine tremendous gulpability. Angelique confided that she prefers the 2016s now. I’m with her on that!
Chablis Fourchaume Premier Cru 2015
Like its village Chablis counterpart, I found it interesting that this wine was taking on white pepper, winter spice and chalky tones, despite its generously ripe orchard fruit. This was showing beautifully with a svelte, rounded palate and a succulent persimmon finish.
Chablis L’Homme Mort Premier Cru 2015
The subsoil in L’Homme Mort is more starkly Kimmeridgian, according to Francis, so this wine usually bursts with struck flint. It didn’t disappoint. The wine tasted of lemon-drenched, yellow apple slices sprinkled with clove. The finish was far from greedy with its opulent nectarine and mango flavors. Alas, the 2016 was ready to taste on my visit.