Benoit Droin
Photo Credit: Stephen Tanzer
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.In direct contrast to the weather of 2003, noted Benoit Droin, "in 2004 we had a lousy July and August and a huge crop.We had a lot of fear about the quality of the vintage, but then we got a solid month of good September weather.The ripeness came slowly, and the acids weren't burned out of the grapes."He continued, "The pHs are in the 3.1 to 3.3 range, while in 2003 they are more like 3.6.The wines of 2004 are like a combination of 2002 and 2000:less fruity than 2002 and a bit less minerally and austere than 2000."The young Droin displays an increasingly deft touch in the oak vs. stainless steel formula he selects for each of his various cuvees, and in recent years has elevated this domain, which has an extraordinary range of premier and grand cru holdings, into the top ranks of Chablis producers. Most of the 2004s had been assembled about three weeks prior to my visit and were to have been filtered and bottled a week later.(European Cellars, Charlotte, NC)

2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Petit Chablis

Pale green. Rather raw, peppery aromas of spices, mint and snap pea; distinctly herbal. Juicy, fresh and green-peppery, with slightly hard-edged citrusflavors. This will be too raw and green for many tasters, but I like its purity and intensity.

85

2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis

Green-tinged pale yellow. Reticent aromas of white peach, mint and chlorophyll. More supple and more fruity than the Petit Chablis, with a bit more fat from the Kimmeridgian marly limestone soil. But offers only moderate intensity and comes across as a tad dry.

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Tete de Cuvee

(30% of this was done in barriques, one-third of which were new; from vines located around Montmains and Vaillons) Aromas of lemon, pepper, smoke and gunflint; shows a strong silex character. Rounder and fatter than the regular Chablis, with notes of peppery spices, lemon and flint. Distinctly oak-spicy on the lingering finish. Droin considers this village bottling to be "a separate, stronger cuvee that can support some oak," calling it a "wine of pleasure." But he has also reduced his use of new barrels for this bottling, which goes to theU.S.market.

87

2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Vosgros

Pale color. Aromas of stone fruits and minerals. Then subtly ripe fruit flavors of peach and lemon, along with mint and petrol notes. A juicy Chablis that offers good cut without being hard. And not especially oaky, either. The palate-dusting finish offers subtle persistence. Forty percent of this wine is aged in older barrels, because, according to Droin, such treatment is necessary "to open an austere wine." Rather riesling-like.

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Vaucoupin

(all done in cuveGreen-tinged pale yellow. Aromas of white grapefruit, lemon, minerals and mint. Juicy and pure, with almost sauvignon-likeflavors of pepper, citrus skin and silex. Very fresh and bracing but not hard.

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Cote de Lechet

(100% done in cuveReticent but nuanced nose features peach, pear, smoke, mint, minerals, chlorophyll and powdered stone. Smooth but distinctly green-peppery; an uncompromisingly dry, almost raw style of Chablis. This cuvee received 25% oak in 2003, but Droin found it too oaky.

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Vaillons

Pale yellow-green. Perfumed, pure aromas of white peach and flowers. Round, rich and ripe, with enticing floral and spicy lift to the peachflavor. With more volume, this comes across as expressive and sweet by comparison to some of the foregoing wines, and more immediately likeable. The dusty, dry finish offers very good length. Showing well today. This got 20% barriques "so that the wine could express itself."

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Montmains

(30% done in fut, somewhat less than in past years) Pale green-yellow. Slightly reduced aromas of flint, minerals and snap pea, with some oak showing. Supple on entry, then a bit closed in the middle; distinctly reduced and less harmonious than the Vaillons. But this youthfully sullen wine offers enticing hints of sweet fruit and good purity, if not the thrust of the Vaillons.

87-89?

2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Fourchaume

(half oak, half cuveGreen-yellow color. Ripe stone fruits, honey and toasty, smoky oak on the nose; a distinctly less minerally style than most of these 2004s. Then rich andtextured in the mouth, with nicely integrated acidity. Fruit-driven, bright Chablis with no excess weight. Finishes with a note of mint and good persistence.

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Mont de Milieu

(the second year for this cuvee; Droin rents these old vines; 40% done in oak) Ripe fruit aromas of peach and orange marmalade complicated by white flowers. Fat, ripe and floral in an almost viognier-like way, but with good acidity and cut. Quite open and aromatic and not especially oaky. A very successful wine, finishing with chewy fruits, flowers and spices. Droin told me that he will continue to increase the percentage of oak here, as the wine is capable of absorbing the wood.

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Montee de Tonnerre

(20% oak) Pale green-yellow color. Pure aromas of minerals, crushed stone, flint, smoke and white pepper. Fat on entry, then round and voluminous yet steely and dry, withflavors of pepper and iodiney oyster juice. Very backward and uncompromising today and a bit hard to read. Like a baby Clos, with a very dry and subtle aftertaste.

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Blanchot

Pale green-yellow. Pure, powerful aromas of white peach, green pepper and minerals; slightly reduced and very Chablis. Sweet on entry, then tight in the middle, with very pureflavors of minerals and flowers. Best today on the long, pure, vibrant aftertaste. This very closed wine will need time. Droin noted that as recently as 2000, he did this wine entirely in barriques, but today it's made totally in cuve

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Vaudesir

(30% in futToasty aromas of pineapple and vanilla. Fat, spicy and sweet; open, broad and rather easygoing. A rich, appealing wine with a dustytexture. Quite supple in the context of this cellar and the cru.

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Grenouille

(50% oak) Pale yellow color. Complex aromas of spearmint, minerals and powdered stone, with suggestions of oily oak. Big, ripe and sweet, with a silkytexture and suggestions of exotic fruits. As fat and accessible as this is, it also boasts very good acidity and verve. Finishes long, with lovely fruit and spiceflavors and no heaviness. This cuvee was also once done in all barriquesFor the first time, half of this vintage is from recently replanted vines.

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Valmur

Somewhat musky aromas of smoke, lime skin and fresh herbs call to mind Chassagne-Montrachet. Rich, fat and layered; round and satisfying, though still quite young. Subtle notes of lime blossom, spices and pepper. Densely packed Chablis, finishing with slow-mountingflavors of pepper, minerals and dusty stone. Wonderfully rich for the vintage.

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2004 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Les Clos

Pale yellow-green. Very reduced on the nose, hinting at lemon, lime, flint and smoky oyster juice. Rich, supple and fat, but ultimately tighter than the Valmur and much less forthcoming today. Dense but light on its feet, with subtly complexflavors of citrus skin, flint, minerals, smoke and oyster juice. Finishes smooth and long, with theflavors spreading out to saturate the palate. The 50% oak component has really melted into the wine. Built to age but not especially austere today.

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2003 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Tete de Cuvee

($20) Oily aromas of exotic dried fruits, butter and white truffle; seems much more evolved than the young 2004. Then fresher in the mouth if a bit warm, with oaky, toastyflavors cut by citrus fruits. Fat, sweet and a bit warm, more ripe chardonnay than Chablis.

86

2003 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Vaillons

($28) Ripe aromas of lemon, smoke and minerals; more Chablis on the nose than the Tete de Cuvee. Then soft and round in the mouth, with notes of flowers, minerals and mint. Not bad, but with its low acidity this comes off as a bit blurry and lacking in grip.

86

2003 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Montmains

($32) Aromas of citrus fruits, pepper and minerals, with a hint of oystery reduction. Quite shy today, but possesses a solid core of mineral and citrus flavor. Less open than the Vaillons but possesses more volume and richness. Atypically powerful forMont mains, in the style of the vintage. A bit warm with alcohol but finishes with good length.

87

2003 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Mont de Milieu

($32) Rather exotic, superripe aromas of dried nuts and dried stone fruits, with some floral lift; this reminded me of viognier. Dense, fat and silky, with concentratedflavors of exotic fruits. Aromatic, easygoing wine without quite the floral freshness or minerality of the 2004. Finishes a tad dry.

87

2003 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Montee de Tonnerre

($35) Pepper, mint, petrol and flint on the nose. Reticent, backward and less sweet than the Mont de Milieu and Montmains, with a solid stony underpinning. Less expressive and open today but more typically Chablis in character. The flavors mount slowly and linger on the dry, youthful aftertaste.

88

2003 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Valmur

($60) High-toned, buttery aromas of peach, lime, pepper, spices and flint. Quite open and sweet, withflavors of apricot and toast firmed by some underlying minerality. This offers good shape and structure for the vintage, avoiding the heaviness shown by so many 2003s. Finishes with a mineral taste and good grip.

89

2003 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Vaudesir

($60) Pale yellow. Candied lime, peach and minerals on the nose, with rather dominant toasty oak. Fairly fresh on the palate, but distinctly dry and a bit warm. flavors of exotic fruits and oak are still a bit unforthcoming. Still a bit tight on the end. I would be more optimistic about the future of this wine if the oak element were a bit less pronounced today.

88(+?)?

2003 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Grenouille

($62) Very ripe aromas of oily cling peach and mango. Fat, broad and rich; a bit aggressive with alcohol. A big, oily grand cru that's more about fruit than soil. But a bit blurry for this, even if it's less oaky than some past vintages.

88

2003 Domaine Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Les Clos

($62) Musky, minerally nose dominated by smoky silex. Dense but quite supple for young Clos, with a solid core of lime and minerals. The freshest and most sharplydelineated of Droin's 2003s, even if it also shows the power of this superhot year. Finishes broad, very dry and very long. Very strong for the vintage.

91
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