Chablis & Friends

“Wonderful Vibrations”: Glistening Whites from Bernard Defaix and Goisot
Chablis & Friends
When it comes to friends, Bill Nanson and Jasper Morris MW aren’t short of them down Chablis way. But even their connections are no guarantee of access to the gems we have here. “This visit is always a pleasure–if I could find them, I would buy them!” writes Burgundy Report critic Nanson of Goisot. Morris echoes the sentiment: “I don’t think I have ever had a disappointment in their wines (except not being able to find them!).” Yet right here, you’ll find three crackers from this Saint-Bris-le-Vineux domaine.

2020 was, of course, an electric vintage ’round these parts, with excellent ripeness and a smattering of rain and cool in the run-up to harvest, delivering finely tuned balance. We offer a Sauvignon Gris and a pair of Chardonnays from Goisot, a biodynamic grower Anne-Claude Leflaive once referred to as a superstar. As Neal Martin suggests, this grower delivers more quality for the price than almost anyone in Burgundy. These intense, textural, racy wines bear a stony complexity that speaks loudly of their chalky soils.

We turn to more familiar territory for the other half of this offer. “The fight is on for supremacy between 2020 and 2022!” was Jasper’s take on those two Chablis seasons, and Bernard Defaix has more than delivered on the latter's promise. The 2022 Petit and village Chablis bear all the pleasing traces: ripe fruit shot through with drive and mineral tension. To top it off, we have the Premier Cru for which Defaix is famed—and what a Côte de Léchet it is. “Wonderful vibrations,” says Morris. It’s enough to make you quiver with anticipation…

The Wines

Domaine Bernard Defaix Petit Chablis 2022
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Domaine Bernard Defaix Petit Chablis 2022

Screwcap. Unusually for a Petit Chablis, which generally comes from the lower-lying sites on Portlandian limestone, the lion’s share of this cuvée is drawn from a parcel of Kimmeridgian-based soil. Yet it’s not necessarily the type of limestone but more the location that makes the difference. The small Defaix parcel is very well situated on the slopes above Milly and Vaillons, a cool site that comes into its own on warmer vintages. In recent years, two small parcels in Poinchy and Beines have been added to the roster to flesh out some volume. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and raised in glass-lined tank, it’s a terrific vintage for this wine: nicely ripe yet mouth-wateringly bright with textured orchard fruits and a hint of quinine on the snappy finish.

“Grown on kimmeridgian soil above Vaillons. Pretty pale yellow. The fruit has a slight yellow character as well, a ripe Petit Chablis but not one of the over opulent ones we saw in 2018 and 2019. A little bit of almond paste behind, very good acidity, another smart wine from Didier Defaix. Sun on the stones at the back. Good length.”
88 points, Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy
“Less impact, more airy but rather complex too – it’s a nice aromatic invitation. Direct, mineral, growing in intensity – hmm, there’s salinity and even a little licorice too. Excellent, possibly great PC!”
Bill Nanson, Burgundy Report
Domaine Bernard Defaix Petit Chablis 2022
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Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 2022
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Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 2022

Screwcap. Defaix’s village Chablis is drawn from four parcels of mature, 30-plus-year-old vines situated around Milly and Poinchy on the left bank of the Serein River. The wine ferments spontaneously and ages on fine lees for 10 months in glass-lined tanks. Compared to the wine above, the older vines translate to more character, depth and classical restraint—not to mention supersized minerality and ozone salinity. It’s a ripe, poised and vibrantly fresh Chablis with juicy nectarine, mixed citrus fruit and stony, pithy freshness running the length of the palate. A terrific, super seductive Chablis and another outstanding-value wine from Domaine Bernard Defaix. We encourage you to take Jasper’s advice! 

“Complete harmony, a certain amount of nuance, lifted finish thanks to acceptable acidity. Bottled July. Pale lemon colour, a little more flesh on the nose, pleasingly rounded, very stylish. Buy this without question. With time in the glass the Chablis minerality shows as well as the pleasing flesh.”
89 points, Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy
“More open again, clean and mineral with a little inviting energy too. Larger scale, certainly not a direct wine to start, but one with a lot of minerality. Lovely texture and volume here – again with a peak of finishing flavour that’s full of salinity – simply excellent Chablis too!”
Bill Nanson, Burgundy Report
Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 2022
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Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet 2022
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Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet 2022

Diam. Much like the rest of Burgundy, Chablis’ finest vineyards have, for better or worse, become synonymous with a symbolic grower. This is the case with the Côte de Léchet and Domaine Bernard Defaix. With nine hectares of vines overlooking the village of Milly, the domaine is the largest single holder within this 1er Cru, and its cellars sit at the base of the Léchet hill. Didier Defaix is, therefore, the vineyard’s emblematic vigneron—as well as the site’s only certified-organic grower.

Perfectly exposed to the southeast, Jasper Morris MW describes an archetypal wine from Léchet, pictured above, as “Entirely white fruited in style …not dissimilar to Beauroy, but with more intensity”, while Andrew Jefford suggested the hill gifts “some of the most 'mineral' Chablis of all”. In 2022, you get the best of all these, even if there is an extra dollop of fruit sweetness compared to a classical vintage. Taking advantage of the vineyard’s intensity and to build complexity, Didier Defaix ferments a quarter of this wine in old, neutral barrels which previously housed Defaix’s old-vine Reserve Léchet bottling. It’s a fleshy and seamless Côte de Léchet with oodles of mixed citrus, briny drive and impressive tension between waves of fruit and the vibrant, chalky freshness that this site always delivers in spades. Doggone delicious and a bargain in the scheme of things. 

“Five star wine. Mid lemon colour, the bouquet has fineness here. Wonderful vibrations, mostly white fruit, a sensation of white pebbles in a white soil. Delicate but with a fine backbone and excellent length. Iodine finish. Not a wine to gulp but to take time over. Drink over 2027-2035.”
92-94 points Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy
Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet 2022
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Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet 2022 (1500ml)
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Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet 2022 (1500ml)

Screwcap. Much like the rest of Burgundy, Chablis’ finest vineyards have (for better or worse) become synonymous with a symbolic grower. This is the case with the Côte de Léchet and Domaine Bernard Defaix. With eight hectares of vines, the domaine is the largest holder within this 1er Cru, and its cellars sit at the base of the Léchet hill. Didier Defaix is, therefore, the vineyard’s emblematic vigneron (and the site’s only certified-organic grower). A quarter of the fruit fermented and matured in old, neutral barrels (which previously housed Defaix’s old-vine Reserve Léchet bottling).

“Five star wine. Mid lemon colour, the bouquet has fineness here. Wonderful vibrations, mostly white fruit, a sensation of white pebbles in a white soil. Delicate but with a fine backbone and excellent length. Iodine finish. Not a wine to gulp but to take time over. Drink over 2027-2035.”
92-94 points Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy
Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet 2022 (1500ml)
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Domaine Guilhem & J-Hugues Goisot Saint-Bris Corps de Garde Blanc 2020
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Domaine Guilhem & J-Hugues Goisot Saint-Bris Corps de Garde Blanc 2020

Sauvignon Gris. This Bibendum favourite is made from Fié Gris (aka Sauvignon Gris). Fié Gris used to be a much more commonly planted variety around Auxerre. Its fickle, low-yielding nature—on average, it yields 35 to 40% less than Sauvignon Blanc—sealed its fate, and it is now found in very few vineyards. Luckily for us, the Goisots have persevered, and their old vines of Fié Gris today flourish in the rich, red and brown clay and limestone soils of the Côte de la Canne, Cornevin and Moury vineyards. Unlike the Sauvignon Blanc wines, this bottling was partly fermented and raised in old 500-litre barrels. It’s always one of Burgundy’s leftfield gems.

 

“Grown at mid slope with more clay, all sauvignon gris which copes with the heat better. Clear crisp lemon and lime. Fresh yet with an evident sense of white fruit concentration. Massive intensity here, a little citrus to finish, slightly spicy and fuller bodied. The Corps de Garde is currently showing youthful bitterness, and amazing length.” Five Star Wine
91 points, Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy
“A more direct nose, more airy and fresh. Incisive, clean, more overtly mineral wine. The finish is extra-wide and with a lift of intensity. Always pure and attractive. Bravo.”
Bill Nanson, Burgundy Report
Domaine Guilhem & J-Hugues Goisot Saint-Bris Corps de Garde Blanc 2020
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Domaine Guilhem & J-Hugues Goisot Bourgogne Côtes d'Auxerre Gueules de Loup Blanc 2020
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Domaine Guilhem & J-Hugues Goisot Bourgogne Côtes d'Auxerre Gueules de Loup Blanc 2020

Single vineyard Chardonnay. Gueules de Loup is arguably the most picturesque vineyard of the Côtes d’Auxerre and is named after the beautiful flowers (snapdragons) that flourish in its soils. This one-hectare site faces south/southeast, and the soils are almost pure limestone, Portlandian downwash, which lends this cuvée its excellent mineral backbone (although it also lacks nothing for opulence). The vines are over 40 years old. The Goisots believe this is a terroir quite similar to the 1er Cru Vaillons in Chablis, but there is more ‘white Burgundy’ personality here than we have ever seen from Vaillons. Maturation is all in barrels, on lees.

“A higher-toned perfume – a little more chalky freshness. Extra fresh, extra mineral in the mouth. A subtle tannin and then an extra depth of finishing flavour. A faint, positive green accent only in the finish of this wine today. Super wine.”
Bill Nanson, Burgundy Report
“Pale lemon in colour. The nose is intense but a little fresher than Biaumont. Nuanced behind the concentration. Ripe orchard fruit, with underlying citrus, clean and mineral with weight and length. I love the crystalline finish.”
89 points, Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy
Domaine Guilhem & J-Hugues Goisot Bourgogne Côtes d'Auxerre Gueules de Loup Blanc 2020
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Domaine Guilhem & J-Hugues Goisot Bourgogne Côtes d'Auxerre Biaumont Blanc 2020
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Domaine Guilhem & J-Hugues Goisot Bourgogne Côtes d'Auxerre Biaumont Blanc 2020

Biodynamic. Single vineyard Chardonnay. Like any part of Burgundy, the Côtes d’Auxerre is a mosaic of small climats and vineyards. Goisot farms a mind-boggling 40+ individual parcels, with only the finest Chardonnay sites bottled individually. This cuvée is drawn from an old vine, single-hectare parcel in Les Biaumonts (pronounced like Beaumonts) at 250 metres above sea level. The vines here are between 40 and 50 years old, and the soils share a Kimmeridgian profile similar to Gueules de Loup. Biaumont has a sunnier, south/southwest aspect, and there is also more brown clay in the very rocky soil strewn with significant ammonite fossils (something that Goisot notes is unusual for this altitude).

 

“A fresher attack – width but not ultra-wide – a suggestion of pyrazine. Beautiful over the palate; cool, melting, a little fluidity to the character. Subtly accented with a green note as a positive extra complexity – almost like the mint of Sauvignon. But that is a beautiful thing in the mouth. Contemplative but not lacking an iota of balance!”
Bill Nanson, Burgundy Report
Domaine Guilhem & J-Hugues Goisot Bourgogne Côtes d'Auxerre Biaumont Blanc 2020
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“There is a huge amount to look forward to in Chablis 2022. Prices remain relatively sensible and this is clearly a fine vintage. I place it ahead of 2015 – 2016 – 2017 – 2018 – 2019 and 2021. The fight is on for supremacy between 2020 and 2022!” Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy

“As always, I extend my purview into St.-Bris, specifically to Domaine Guilhem and Jean-Hugues Goisot because a) the wines are brilliant and b) they continue to be sold at prices that are an amazing value… these wines deserve a higher profile and the truth of the matter is that quality is shoulder-to-shoulder with far more famous labels. In Goisot, we have a grower as meticulous and as principled as you will find anywhere and the results can be seen in the glass.”
Neal Martin, Vinous

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