Jean-Marie Guffens
Photo Credit: Stephen Tanzer
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.Jean-Marie Guffens recently bought out his partner Olivier Leflaive's share of their new winemaking facility in Chablis and has significantly stepped up his production of Chablis-from 9,000 cases in 2002 to 15,000 in 2004.Grape sugars ranged between 12.3% and 12.9% in 2004, and Guffens did very little chaptalization."The fruit was physiologically ripe at moderate alcohol sugar levels," he explained."Higher alcohol would have produced hot wines in 2004."Guffens emphasized that he used virtually no new oak in 2004:"just six new barrels for 15,000 cases."This is a superb source for Chablis, as prices are very reasonable and Guffens offers a wide range of cru bottlings as well as several markedly different village wines.He is now offering his clients the choice of having their wines bottled with screwcap, Nomacork or traditional cork.(The Stacole Company, Boca Raton, FL; also a Peter Vezan Selection; importers include Vintner Select, Mason, OH; North Berkeley Imports, Berkeley, CA; and Ideal Wines, Medford, MA)

2004 Verget Chablis

(spring bottling, sealed with screwcaps) Apple aroma. Juicy, fresh and pure, with flavors of apple and Poire William, accented by a note of spearmint. Very natural village wine.

86

2004 Verget Chablis Grand Elevage

(essentially the same wine as the regular Chablis, but not yet sulfured and slated to be bottled in the fall) Apple butter on the nose. Rich but brisk, with steely flavors of citrus skin and spices. Quite firm-edged on the end, with good cut.

86-87

2004 Verget Chablis Terroir de Fleys

(from village parcels near Mont de Milieu and Montee de Tonnerre, but, like all of the 2004 terroir wines, this also includes some premier cru juice and press wine) Spiced apple, ginger and quinine on the nose. Sweet, ripe and soft, with flavors of candied ginger and ripe pear. Finishes juicy and persistent. Made almost entirely in stainless steel.

87-88

2004 Verget Chablis Terroir de Chablis

Ripe, nuanced nose combines apple, peach, crushed stone, minerals and nutmeg. Denser and sweeter than the Terroir de Fleys, with pure flavors of ripe fruits and stones, complicated by notes of baking spices. Classically dry on the back end.

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2004 Verget Chablis Terroir de Poinchy

(from fruit on the Fourchaume side of the region) Deeply pitched nose shows an exotic honeyed quality, along with gruner-like menthol and pepper. Fat, round and dry, with good richness but a slight bitter edge. Not a minerally style of Chablis. Less sharply delineated than the Terroir de Fleys and Terroir de Chablis cuveesRather Meursault-like.

87-89

2004 Verget Chablis Cuvee de la Butte

(from a parcel in the middle of Butteaux that's not designated as premier cru) Apple, gunflint and gingery spices on the rather reduced nose. Fat, sweet and rich, with distinctly exotic flavors of honey, peach, passion fruit and mango. Very supple for the vintage.

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2004 Verget Chablis Vaillons

(80% done in stainless steel) Rather steely aromas of green apple, powdered stone and spices. Soft and marmalade-like in the mouth, but with a mineral firmness underneath. This still has 2.4 grams of residual sugar. The Terroir de Chablis wine is more expressive today, but this will last longer in bottle.

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2004 Verget Chablis Vaillons Les Epinottes

Pure, steely aromas of apple, spearmint and licorice. Juicy, spicy and penetrating, with an enticing combination of ripeness and fresh acidity. Not as round today as the regular Vaillons, but more intense, more steely and longer on the aftertaste. Made from older vines that produce less fruit.

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2004 Verget Chablis Les Forets

(from very old vines that yielded grape sugars of 13%) Pure aromas of minerals, dusty stone and spices, with a note of white chocolate. Rich, ripe, layered and dry. Offers excellent volume and early sex appeal. Finishes long and ripe, and not at all austere. This was entirely fermented in barrel but was moved into stainless steel in February. (In contrast, the Chablis Fourneaux was in an awkward, oxidative stage after having been moved from tank to barrel.)

89-91

2004 Verget Chablis Vaillons Vieilles Vignes des Minots

Spicy, stony, metallic nose. Powerful but a bit disjointed today and uncompromisingly dry. But this boasts excellent intensity, combining ripe Poire William, mineral and spice flavors. Grew silkier and creamier as it opened in the glass. A bit difficult to assess today, but impressively long on the finish.

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2004 Verget Chablis Montee de Tonnerre

Pure aromas of ripe apple and stones. Broad, dense and sweet but with a lovely light touch; lively flavors of lemon, cold steel and dusty stone are framed by strong acids. Finishes very long and subtle, with terrific cut.

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2004 Verget Chablis Fourchaume Vieilles Vignes de Vaulorent

(from vines situated across from the grand cru Preuses; 85% done in stainless steel, the rest in newish oak) Ripe peach, smoke, spices and a whiff of gunflint on the rather Meursault-like nose. Big, ripe and fruit-driven; this has real volume and sweetness for a 2004. Guffens refers to this rather voluptuous wine as "a winter Chablis."

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2004 Verget Chablis Mont de Milieu

Highly nuanced nose combines talc, ginger, coriander, spearmint and white chocolate. At once dense and juicy, with lovely purity and cut to its flavors of lime, spices and spearmint. Finishes very pure and long. A superb example of this vineyard.

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2004 Verget Chablis Bougros

Dusty stone, green pepper and spices on the reticent but pure nose. Superripe, even a bit sweet, on the attack, then quite dry, brisk and dusty toward the back. Rapier-like finishing flavors of powdered stone and pepper.

91-93

2004 Verget Chablis Bouguereaux

(the only one of these 2004 Chablis that is still in barrel and not yet racked) Pungently aromatic nose of minerals, pepper, licorice root and violet. Superconcentrated but gentle and creamy. Tactile and dusty but less sharply delineated than the relatively tight Bougros and distinctly sweeter in style. This is concentrated, complex and long but doesn't have the cut of the Bougros.

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2004 Verget Chablis Les Clos

Very ripe fruit aromas complicated by smoke and liquid stone. Fat, lush and sweet; manages to come off as powerfully mineral and yet silky-smooth too. This has all the elements to make a great bottle. The longest of these 2004s today, finishing with minerals and crushed stone.

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2003 Verget Chablis Terroir de Fleys

($21-$30) Exotic, oily, perfumed aromas of peach, apricot and pepper. Fat, concentrated and sweet, with a rich flavor of apricot. A bit warm on the finish. Here one really tastes the vintage.

86

2003 Verget Chablis Cuvee La Butte Caniculus

($29-$36) Exotic aromas of minerals, truffle and earth, with notes of spearmint and rooty underbrush. Fat, concentrated and mouthfilling; sweet and low in acidity but not hot. I would not have picked this as Chablis, but this has complexity and very good length.

89

2003 Verget Chablis Montee de Tonnerre Caniculus

($58) Good pale color. Apple, spices and a hint of mango on the nose, with a mineral character just beginning to emerge. Rich, ripe and deeply pitched, with apricot and peach flavors. A bit blurry with alcohol and less delineated than the Cuvee La Butte, but this has more stuffing and underlying minerality. Called to mind a wine with a bit of Calvados added. Guffens is confident that this will age well.

89(+?)

2003 Verget Chablis Vaillons Vieilles Vignes de Minots Caniculus

($45-$68) More classic, steely aromas of apple, spices and minerals. Round, concentrated and sweet, with enticing mineral flavors and much less impression of sunburned grapes. This has a compelling sweetness and impressive length. (Guffens used the "Caniculus" designation to describe 2003s that are perfectly representative of this year of the heat wave-that is, naturally made wines to which he added no acidity or did anything else to change the nature of the vintage. He assured me that I would not be interested in his 2003 Chablis bottlings not labeled Caniculus.)

90
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