Bernard Billaud was eager to discuss global warming and the changing climate of Chablis. And he clearly did not agree with the opinion that global warming was a net positive for Chablis. "Now we have a more violent climate," he said, "and extremes are never good for the vines. And nowadays we have to be very precise about picking dates, as the vines pass into surmaturite very quickly, as they did in both 2005 and 2006." My chance to see the 2006s here was limited, as the grand crus were in full malo and a few wines-or components of wines-were being racked. This domain continues to be one of my favorite sources for precise, minerally Chablis raised in stainless steel. Billaud described 2005 as "a year of pleasure and generosity." Two thousand six was a hotter year, he went on, yielding riper grapes with similar acidity levels. The new vintage produced pinker grapes and an element of noble rot, he added, "but although the fruit was very ripe, there's also good minerality underneath."(Langdon-Shiverick, Los Angeles, CA)
Previously recommended: 2005 Petit Chablis (87), 2005 Chablis (89), 2005 Chablis Les Vaillons (90), 2005 Chablis Mont de Milieu (90), 2005 Chablis Fourchaume (90+?).
Component #1: Good pale color. Cool aromas of lemon, lime and spearmint. Supple and spicy, with some exotic suggestions of lichee and banana and a hint of warmth on the back. Component #2, from a southwest exposure on the rive droite: Good pale color. More tight and less expressive on the nose, hinting at nectarine and spice. Supple and ripe but with a firmer structure and more material in reserve. Flavors of soft citrus fruits, lemon and acacia flower are more classic than those of the first sample.
Good pale yellow. Ripe aromas of lemon, dusty stone and gingery spices; there's something almost Austrian about this slightly reduced wine. Sweet, fat and fruity, in a distinctly rich, almost exotic style. Impressive more for its volume than for its cut or minerality. My score may be conservative, as some old-vines juice will be blended in.
From 40-year-old vines: Good pale, green-tinged color. Intriguing aromas of gunflint, peach and spearmint. Dense and minerally, with complex, subtle flavors of lemon, lime, ginger and spearmint. Quite rich and spicy in a subtle way. The refreshing, classic Chablis finish features a real whiplash of fruits, minerals and spices. The component from 65-year-old vines was being fined and was not yet in the blend.
Good pale yellow. Reduced nose dominated by gunflint, crushed stone and metallic notes. Very ripe, rich and broad but quite dry, with strong stone fruit flavors dominating. Boasts superb volume. Less obviously minerally than the Montee de Tonnerre, but this broad, voluminous wine is classic Chablis. Finishes with excellent length. These '06s have alcohol in the 13% to 13.5% range.
($50) Pale yellow. Very ripe, minerally aromas of pear, apple, honey and crushed stone. Big, supple and ripe, with sweetly spicy flavors of stone fruits, apple and pear. Much more open today than the 2006 version, but there's plenty of stony reserve on the back. Showing its silky side today, with pliant flavors of soft citrus and stone fruits.
($98; bottled just two weeks prior to my visit) Bright, pale lemon-straw color. Tight nose suggests quinine, stone and exotic brown spices. Very rich and spicy but with a rigorous quality to its sexy flavor of spicy vineyard peach. Firm acids accentuate the wine's intensity. This spreads out impressively on the back end, finishing stony and long, with a touch of austerity that suggests it will evolve slowly in bottle.
($107) Pale, bright yellow. Musky, lower-toned aromas of ripe yellow fruits, minerals, smoke and earth; less pristine than the Vaudesir. Then sweet, round and a bit exotic, with apricot and peach blossom flavors dominating today. Bernard Billaud notes that this wine is always rounder and more open than the Vaudesir, but I find some slightly disjointed acidity in the middle palate today. Still, this finishes suave and long, with a rather refined texture.
($115) Pale yellow. Reticent but pure aromas of yellow fruits, clove and hazelnut; I would have guessed there was oak influence here but it was done entirely in stainless steel. Big, rich and airy, with ineffable notes of stone and citrus fruits, crushed rock, dried almond and hazelnut. Broad, ripe and full but with an edge of acidity giving it definition and verve. The rising finish is very ripe and very long, with minerality currently covered by powerful fruit. I find this delicious already but it really calls for at least a few years of aging.
($130; done entirely in barriques, none of them new) Good bright, pale yellow. Peach and apricot nectar on the somewhat exotic nose, complicated by toasty, spicy oak and almond blossom. Quite concentrated and powerful but a bit youthfully aggressive today. But there's strong fruit, enticing spiciness and a note of acacia flower here that promise a positive evolution in bottle. Finishes broad, spicy and fine-grained, with excellent length. I still give the '04 version a slight edge for its minerally, citric thrust.