Today, you could be forgiven for thinking that any Chablis vintage is a story of a vigneron fighting to protect his or her vineyard against frost. With warmer starts to the year, and vines bursting into action that bit earlier, the risks have increased, and late spring frosts can wreak havoc. In 2017, it was not just the low-lying vineyards of Chablis that bore the brunt of the frost, but all of the Grand Cru on the slope were affected to some degree as well. The fine Premier Crus of Montée de Tonnerre and Mont de Milieu were also hit. It has been a tough run of vintages in terms of reduced volumes for the vignerons of Chablis, but at least recorded volumes of the 2018 vintage suggest a much more plentiful crop.
Despite the trials and tribulations, the 2017s turned out to be of very high quality. Yes, frost reduces the volume the vine will produce, but with the vine’s efforts focused on a smaller crop, significant concentration can result. This means that the harvest date becomes all-important in order to retain typicity. Just as we noticed when tasting the 2017 white Burgundy last autumn, for such an early vintage (harvest ranged from the end of August to mid-September), the wines show a remarkably classic profile. 2017 Chablis has a fresh, taut and racy fruit; it is a fascinating vintage for that reason, as early vintages are normally marked by a hot weather pattern and so ripeness and concentration are magnified and acidity falls. In 2017, the early harvest was down to warm season conditions; the summer was cool, July was wet and August dry. Given how dry August was, the grapes were in great condition at harvest with sorting rendered a straight-forward exercise.
To my mind – even though on paper the climatic data might suggest something else – there are a number of truly great, classically-styled Chablis in 2017 that rank alongside or just a slight fraction behind the 2014s in sheer quality. If you like racy, clear cut fruits with plenty of zip and zest, coupled with well-expressed mineral nuances and enlivening freshness, then you won’t be disappointed here.
I have chosen to highlight the 2017 Chablis, Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre, Louis Michel, which has become a mainstay for Atlas, on account of its style as much as the value it offers. This Premier Cru is surely benefitting from that added note of concentration brought about by a reduced crop. I cannot recall having been so impressed as I have been by the recent run of vintages. Domaine Louis Michel only use old oak for fermentation and ageing which imparts no toastiness to the wines. The fruit, therefore, is pure, racy and mouth-watering. Today, under the guidance of Guillaume Gicqueau-Michel, the domaine continues to maintain an enviable reputation for producing classic, age-worthy Chablis. The great sadness is that their production in Montée de Tonnerre was down 50%, even if it is a gem of a wine.
2017 Chablis, 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre, Domaine Louis Michel
£150 per 6 bottle case in bond
91-93 points, Allen Meadows, Burghound
An overtly floral nose flashes notes of iodine, freshly sliced white-fleshed fruit and an interesting hint of tangerine peel. There is both excellent volume and vibrancy to the solidly powerful and focused flavors that exude a subtle minerality on the beautifully long, complex and well-balanced finale. Classy juice that is well-worth your attention. Drink 2024+
I would echo Allen’s sentiments; I particularly liked that riper, zestier hint to the fruit that added complexity to the crisp, leesy nuances. Such a pure and complete style, with a long-focused finish. Given how well integrated the acidity is, there is an overriding sense of harmony and so I think this will drink well from 2022 and age comfortably for a decade beyond.
Please let us know of you interest.