Every great wine region of the world has many average producers, a few excellent ones, and then one or two names that represent the elite. In Chablis, the northern-most outpost of Burgundy, the two names at the top of the heap are Francois Raveneau and Vincent Dauvissat.
As Wine Advocate explained in 2014:
“Raveneau or Vincent Dauvissat? Cognoscenti seem to be split about which of these growers represent the pinnacle of Chablis, though frankly I would not complain if I found either in my glass. I have adored these wines for many years.”
The Dauvissat family has been important in Chablis for years, and Vincent’s grandfather was one of the first in Chablis to bottle his own wines starting in the 1930s. Vincent’s parents, Rene and Madeleine, guided the estate to greater fame and Vincent began working at the 30 acre estate in 1977 and took over in 1989.
The winegrowing here has remained more or less the same over the past 50 years. Dauvissat carefully prunes and trains his vines to give him exactly the yield he wants – he shuns green harvesting to reduce yield as a sign that the vines aren’t being farmed properly in the first place.
Harvest is entirely by hand with whole bunches going into the press for a gentle crush. The clear juice goes into tank and old wood vat for fermentation and then into barrels he purchases from his friends at Tonnellerie de Mercurey. Most of the barrels are “neutral” (some date from the 1950s!) but Vincent will use a little new oak if he believes the vineyard and vintage want that.
Once the wine is in barrel, he does as little as possible. Malolactic fermentation happens when it happens and Dauvissat is one of the few in Chablis that does not stir the lees of his wines to add richness (he believes properly farmed grapes will give enough richness for balance on their own). He leaves the wine to rest until he think it tastes right for bottling on the old, manually operated, bottling machine.
At the end of the day, Dauvissat’s wines are more than the ultimate expression of Chablis – they are flat out captivating and delicious. As Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin said after tasting the 2012s:
“Unsurprisingly, these were a set of quite sublime expressions of Chablis that leave you questioning whether it’s worth bothering with the rest of the tastings (which of course it is, but you know what I mean when you taste something that you are convinced will not be bettered.) These Chablis seem to be sculpted by the earth itself, exquisitely balanced and with more minerality than almost all of their peers.”
If you haven’t had the pleasure of tasting Dauvissat’s wines, we’ll pour the 2014 Village Chablis as part of our Friday tasting this week. But don’t wait and find them all sold by then. Reserve a selection for yourself right now – I guarantee you will not be disappointed.