This long-established domaine, amounting to some 26hectares, is directed by 14th-generation vigneron Benoit Droin. Farming is conventional, but the soils are worked and their vitality prioritized. Harvest is early, and partially mechanized, followed by fermentation and elevage in stainless steel and wood, the proportions varying according to the cuvee. Most of the barrels are recently used, but some cuvees see as much as 10% new wood. Bottling, like the harvest, is comparatively early to lock in freshness and is preceded by a light filtration and sometimes a fining. These are concentrated but incisive examples of Chablis, sometimes marked by spicy wood influence in their youth-a quality for which I have an admittedly low tolerance-but generally integrating and harmonizing with bottle age. - William Kelley, 31st Aug 2018, 238, The Wine Advocate
Wine maker notes
Over the years as the demand for Chablis has grown the appellation has expanded its borders to meet this demand. Unfortunately most of this expansion has occurred in areas where portlandian limestone is the predominant soil type. Traditionalists to their core, Jean-Paul and Benoit Droin source their Chablis from thirty plots of entirely kimmeridgian soils ensuring that their village wine has the depth of minerality one has come to expect from the appellation. It is fermented and aged entirely in tank. Their holdings on portlandian limestone are bottled, as it should be, as Petit Chablis.
Many viticultural regions in France serve as benchmarks for the rest of the world and Chablis is numbered among them. The landscape surrounding this idyllic Burgundian village has been planted with vines for centuries. At some point in the distant past the local residents and farmers discovered the wonderful symbiosis between Chardonnay and the Kimmeridgian limestone soils of this rolling, bucolic land. So distinct are the Chardonnays from these hills that they have come to represent a style of Chardonnay from innumerable places outside of Chablis itself. Many will say that their wines are chablisienne or inspired by the wines of Chablis. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery. The millions of year of geological history that built the soils of Chablis combined with its northerly latitude makes for wines of upright clarity, piercing minerality, tremendous focus and remarkable longevity. Of the two main soil types in Chablis, Kimmeridgian and Portlandian limestone, the former reigns supreme yet the ever growing demand for this authentically bracing style of Chardonnay means that there is a growing temptation to continually expand the borders of the appellation and prices have been steadily increasing as vineyards become harder to acquire. There are fewer and fewer bargains in Chablis these days as more and more growers are turning to industrial styles of farming and winemaking yet despite market pressures there remain a handful of faithful producers and families in Chablis. The Droin family is one of these. Father Jean-Paul and son Benoit Droin can trace their family roots as vineyard owners back to the early 17th century. Through succeeding generations they have managed to acquire a little over 26 hectares of vineyards with extensive holdings in Premier and Grand Cru sites. Their best sites and oldest wines are still harvested by hand while many of their neighbors have replaced their old vines so they could machine harvest. In 1999 Benoit began plowing his vineyard to help revitalize the microbial life in the soils and at the same time he also began to prune his vines differently to decrease yields and reduce the disease pressures in this famously inclement appellation. Harvest are conducted early - just as the grapes reach ripeness so as to preserve the natural acidity in the final wines. The new cellar, built on the edge of the sleepy village of Chablis in 1999, see a mix of modern and traditional winemaking techniques where both stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels are used to make the wines. Fermentations are conducted, after a gentle pneumatic pressing, in stainless steel tanks by natural yeasts. Most of the barrels are used with only small percentages of new barrels introduced each year, primarily for the Grand Cru wines.