Chablis (9) Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin

Benoît Droin

Benoît Droin is A fourteenth generation winegrower in Chablis. The fame of the domaine, which is now regarded as one of the very best in the region, is in large part down to the work of his father, Jean-Paul, who began working here in 1965 at the age of 14, built the domaine’s first winery in 1981, and retired in 2014. Benoît has been working here since 1999. Initially, he says he changed the blend of barrels, but since 2002 the only thing he changed was moving to native yeast ferments in 2013. But clearly, he’s on top of his game right now.

I visited with him in his cellars. They have 26 hectares of vines altogether with some very smart holdings, including lots of the best premier crus on both left and right banks, as well as a range of grand crus.

Farming is not fully organic, but is sensitive to the environment. ‘My philosophy approaches the sensibility of organic,’ says Benoît, ‘but some things about it are not logical.’ He doesn’t use herbicides. ‘The minimum thing you have to do is plough,’ he says. ‘We work the soil to have renewal.’

Elevage is a mix of barrel and stainless steel. ‘We use some small barrels but it depends on the terroir,’ he says. ‘We like the freshness and energy of the tank and the elegance of the wood in small quantity.’ For the last 6 vintages the ferments have all been native.

Interestingly, Benoît doesn’t believe in a long élevage, unlike many of his peers. ‘If you have to imagine what is the best you say long élevage,’ he says, ‘but I don’t agree for Chablis. Don’t bottle too early, but don’t wait too long, to conserve the freshness and elegance. If I compare my bottlings of Chablis village it is always the first bottling that is freshest.’

He now uses DIAM5 and 10s to seal the wines, having moved away from natural cork.

One of the interesting observations Benoît makes is that he thinks there are two different styles in Chablis, cold vintage and hot vintage, and these two styles have different directions of ageing.

  • Cold vintages develop: salty, oyster, petrol
  • Warm vintages develop: forest, mushroom, toast, honey
  • In a warm vintage he reckons the wine can still live 15-20 years
  • Overall, there are two windows for drinking. The first is when the wine is aged up to three, when it is fresh. If you miss this window, wait 7-10 years

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Petit Chablis 2017
Tank. This has lovely rich texture to it: ripe yellow fruits and a twist of green apple. Lively and quite mineral with nice spiciness. 90/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis 2017
Tank. This has nice concentration and intensity with a creamy edge to the sweet peach and pear fruit. Has a nice texture and it’s full and very tasty in the mouth with juicy citrus fruits. 92/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis 1er Cru Vosgros 2017
No wood here. This has density and purity with powerful pear and citrus fruit. It’s very pure but also has some richness and attractive spicy notes on the finish. Very fine. 93/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2017
A blend of four plots spread through the 1er Cru. 25% wood. Compact and pure with sweet pear and citrus fruit, some mandarin, and some pure, mineral, slightly salty notes, with some smooth texture from the wood. Correct and classic, but also quite seductive and rich. 93/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2017
The neighbour of Vaillons but there is more clay so the wine is more concentrated and tastes more like Burgundy than Chablis. Lovely white flower and peach aromatics with a sense of freshness. There’s lovely rich, exotic fruit here with mandarin, passionfruit and peach, as well as a touch of almond and a bit of salinity. Very distinctive. 94/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis 1er Cru Mont Mileu 2017
Very sunny exposition and this is found in the wine.  There are two bits, part in Chablis (south, this wine) and Flehy (west). Very fruity and exotic with white peach and apricot flavours and lovely floral mandarin notes. So exotic. Lovely weight and freshness here with purity and richness. This is expressive and bright, with amazing personality. 94/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume 2017
This is from a warm climat called Vaupulol. Very ripe and full with stone fruits, pear and lovely texture. Quite a pretty, expressive wine with real depth and intensity. Tangy finish. Impressive. 93/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis 1er Cru Monte de Tonerre 2017
Very classic 1er Cru that often shows reduction and flint aromas. This has generous, broad mandarin and peach fruit with some more steely saline hints and a touch of flint. Full flavoured yet still bright with fresh fruity notes. 93/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2017
This has lovely concentration and texture: if you have to open a bottle of GC young, Vaudesir is the one. Dense pear andwhite peach fruit with spice, minerals and some apricot richness on the finish. I’m sure it will develop but it’s lovely now. 94/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis Grand Cru Valumr 2017
Lovely aromatics of mandarin and peach, with great purity. Supple yet concentrated on the palate with fresh citrus and pear notes, and a nice core of acidity. Carries its ripeness very well. Long, finely spiced, subtly saline finish. 94/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles 2017
This plot is on the top of the hill and has lots of earth, including white clay, which gives the wines some richness. This is concentrated and dense with a note of cabbage under the rich quince and ripe peach notes. This has nice depth and intensity to it. Very stylish. 94/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2017
Blend of three places: bottom, middle and top. Normally strict, mineral and reductive but in 2017 the low yields (20 hl/ha) made it richer. It’s usually closed but massive, and in 2017 it is round because of the concentration. This is quite a big wine with rich pear and apple fruit and some herbal notes. It’s very fruity with a touch of cream, too. Dense and quite hard to understand at the moment. 93/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2010
Sealed with DIAM. So fresh and pure with some aromas of the seaside. Lovely taut, mineral palate with nice intensity. Saline with fine herb and seaweed notes, as well as oyster shell. Lots of grapefruit and yuzu (I borrowed this term from Benoit). Beautiful complexity and minerality here: such a lovely wine, that still has massive life ahead of it. 96/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Lechet 2008
Natural cork: we opened two bottles and both were different. 100% tank. This is laser sharp and mineral with bright citrus fruit. So linear and direct with real precision to the compact lemon and grapefruit. There’s some maturity here, with a bit of oyster shell and toast, but also a lovely core of acidity. Starting to show a little bit of age now when compared with the Vaillons. 94/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2008
DIAM. Astonishing purity and precision with crystalline citrus fruit, some pear and some spice. Has amazing freshness and purity with minerals and oyster shells and lovely lemony fruit. There’s some fruity richness, but also a steely core. Long life ahead for this wine. 95/100

Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin Chablis Grand Cru Valmur 2002
This is amazing in a good place of maturity. It’s lemony and fine with a stony edge to the nose (wet stones and dried herbs), with touches of toast, mushrooms and honey from a warm vintage. Very linear and fine, and still quite young, with a fine-grained structure and some subtle nuttiness. Such a lovely wine. 95/100

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