It would be easy to imagine Chablis as just one place, the vineyards around the town of the same name. However, in fact it is a collection of 20 villages, with a total of 4,800 hectares under vine, on both sides of the wonderfully named river Serein. To get to Emmanuel Dampt’s family holding of 60 hectares you need to leave the town on the right hand bank, go behind the Grand Cru slope for a few kilometres across rather flat fields, arrive at the village of Collan and, if you are in a coach, discover that the road is temporarily impassable a few hundred yards from your goal. After a detour, we finally arrive to a warm welcome from a patient home crew, ready to conduct a tasting and give lunch to 20 hungry visitors. It’s all conducted in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
The heart of Dampt’s wine production is of course Chablis at all four quality levels but they have a pretty comprehensive offer of red, white and sparkling. They make the most of the range of soils in the region – Kimmeridgean for Chablis itself, hill top sites of harder Portlandian for Petit Chablis and Oxfordian limestone, like the Côte de Beaune, for more rounded Chardonnay and Pinot. The vineyards basically follow the lines of the rivers – the climate here is continental, with cold winters and hot summers, so the moderating effects of bodies of water and air movement is important.
In general the wines here are excellently made, well marketed and very good value.
Crémant de Bourgogne – sparkling wine made from 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay. The grapes are grown in the Tonnerre district where the last vineyard is only 8 kilometres from the boundary with the Champagne region. Made in a fully dry style with no residual sugar, held for two years in bottle to round out the fruit, refreshing, good balance from the fruit, excellent value at €7.
Chevalier d’Eon, Bourgogne Blanc, 2009 – if you can’t put a famous appellation on your wine, how about the name and a drawing of a 17th century, transvestite spy who clocked up 33 years as a woman and 30 as a man? The wine: a good, everyday white Burgundy at €6 a bottle, with slightly yeasty complexity.
Petit Chablis Elegance 2008 – nice, light Chablis, a little nuttiness and yeast with good citrus notes. €6.50
Chablis vielles vignes 2008 – from old vines in a vineyard alongside the grand cru slope, this is weightier, with good apple/grapefruit fruit and trademark minerality, excellent mouth feel, very good indeed. Only €7.60 at the winery.
AC Bourgogne Tonnerre blanc Clos du Château 2008 – a much more rounded expression of Chardonnay, quite fragrant, good
Chablis Bréchain 2009 – 40% fermented in barrels, the rest in stainless steel; the expected Chablis characteristics but with an exceptional texture in the mouth, no doubt due to the oak
Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses 2007 – magnificent oak and fruit (apples, lemon, lime) on the nose, big on the palate, acidity is still a bit aggressive but this is for the longer term, great potential
Chevalier d’Eon rouge 2009 – fair Pinot Noir, light and quite fruity
Bourgogne Epineuil 2009 – excellent raspberry and strawberry fruit, some complexity, at the price (€6.90) the best Pinot Noir on this trip to Sancerre and Chablis. The less well known villages, as always, can produce great value.
Not all of Chablis is under vine, by any means – a fine example of the tractor driver’s art here on the flat fields by the winery. Many thanks to Emmanuel and co for this visit. As you can see we also bought a few bottles.