Like a number of his colleagues in Chablis, Benoit Droin began harvesting before the ban de vendange, picking his fruit from September 14 through 25-"one week earlier than in 2005 and with an additional half-degree of sugar. We had a lousy August but much less rain than on the Cote d'Or," Droin went on, "and the fruit ripened better than we thought. A lot of people here were on vacation until September 6, and they got caught by the heat and quick ripeness during the first half of September." Droin admitted to me that he wished he could have picked even a few days earlier than he did. "The rain on September 15 gave riper grapes, and this made it easier to harvest by machine, as the grapes came off the vines more easily." Droin, who harvests 80% of his crop by machine, picking only his oldest and steepest parcels by hand, maintains that machine-harvesting enables growers to get the grapes to the press very quickly, which is an advantage when the weather is hot. He also said that hand-harvested wines can be literally twice as expensive in Chablis, and that the incremental wine quality does not justify this difference. Droin describes 2006 as "a year of pleasure, with a warm-year character like 1989 and 1990. The wines are open-knit and will give immediate pleasure, but certain sectors still offer good minerality, especially when the wines are done in stainless steel." In comparison, he went on, vintages like 2005 and 2002 offer fresher fruit tones and a more floral aspect. Droin's 2005s may be a tad denser and more classic, but these 2006s will give earlier pleasure. (Eric Solomon Selections/European Cellars, Charlotte, NC)
Previously recommended: 2005 Petit Chablis (87), 2005 Chablis (89), 2005 Chablis Vosgros (88), 2005 Chablis Vaillons (89), 2005 Chablis Montmains (90), 2005 Chablis Mont de Milieu (89+?), 2005 Chablis Montee de Tonnerre (91), 2005 Chablis Valmur (89+?), 2005 Chablis Vaudesir (91), 2005 Chablis Grenouille (90), 2005 Chablis Les Clos (92).
(13% natural alcohol, compared to a normal 12% for this cuvee; bottled in April) Pale, green-tinged color. Classic Chablis aromas of quinine, citrus peel and minerals. Juicy and citric, with strong minerality giving lift to the white peach and slightly reduced, smoky silex flavors. This boasts uncanny texture for its appellation, but then this is from vines on the plateau above Les Clos. Rather like a blend of chardonnay and Pouilly-Fume.
Pale yellow-green. Melon, mint and stone on the nose. Rich and juicy, with good limey lift to the flavor of white peach. Finishes with good breadth and length, with emerging minerality.
Pale, green-tinged yellow. Reticent aromas of smoky yellow fruits and wet stone. Fatter and spicier than the village wine, but with less cut to its ripe peach and apricot flavors. Finishes with a suggestion of petrol and a slightly blurry quality. Rather fat for this wine, which is from a comparatively cool site.
Green-tinged yellow. Bracing aromas of lemon-lime, minerals, ginger and quinine. Then fat and lush but with a refreshing greenness and bright iodiney minerality giving it a classic Chablis character. The supple finish shows a firm edge to the peach fruit and lovely mineral character.
(aging in 25% oak, just a tiny portion of which is new) Pale, green-tinged yellow. Reduced, musky aromas of lime, menthol, oyster shell and spices. Supple but reduced, with some edgy acids and a brisk oyster shell quality dominating. Builds slowly on the finish but this is quite inexpressive today, despite possessing good lurking sweetness. "Wait and see," offers Droin, who says this will need three or four years in the bottle.
(this got 40% "younger" oak, but no new barrels) Green-tinged yellow. Spicy aromas of peach and apricot. A rich, sweet fruit bomb with a flavor of peche de vigne A spicy character gives the wine shape and an oaky element contributes elegance and grip. An opulent, silky wine that's midway between Chablis and Cote d'Or in style. There are some toasty, hazelnutty oak notes in a Puligny way but I like the balance here. Finishes rich but not at all sweet. I'd give this a couple of years in the bottle.
Pale, green-tinged yellow. Highly perfumed nose offers fresh apricot, pear and white flowers; if the Montmains is Cote d'Or, this is Condrieu. Ripe and rich but less fleshy than the Montmains, with good inner-mouth energy. The apricot flavor is nicely buffered by ripe acidity and a saline element, giving the finish a chewy, tactile quality. Persistent and not at all sweet on the end, but still a rather easy style of Chablis.
(aged in 25% oak, including a bit of new wood) Knockout nose combines white peach, citrus peel, crushed rock, ginger and quinine. Sweet, ripe and sexy, with expressive flavors of lime blossom, powdered stone and oyster shell. Offers good volume without any heaviness. Finishes long and firm but not at all hard, with a lingering iodiney quality.
(from very pale soil, like the Vaucoupin, and, like that wine, done entirely in cuve Pale, green-tinged color. Spicy aromas of peche de vigne, grapefruit, lemon, nutmeg and peach blossom. Silky-smooth, rich and easygoing, but quite ripe for this delicate style, even a tad warm. Nicely concentrated but lacking in grip. I find this a touch bitter on the end. Perhaps in an awkward stage.
(aged in 40% oak, of which one-third was new) Pale yellow. Plenty of buttery, toasty oak on the nose, along with a note of clove. Fat and sweet, with spicy oak and stone fruit flavors. The wood element gives grip to the wine but will require three or four years to integrate with the fruit. Right now I don't find the terroir Droin likes this bottling and insists that the oak will be transformed with bottle aging; indeed, a sample of the 2005 seemed a bit more harmonious than this very young wine.
(40% oak, one-third new) Pale yellow with green highlights. Musky aromas of citrus peel, white peach and powdered stone, with only hints of nut oil and nutmeg to suggest the wine's oak component. Suave on entry, then juicy and spicy in the middle, in a more masculine and large-scaled style. Concentrated and energetic, with peach and spice flavors leading to a tactile, chewy back end.
(14% alcohol, vs. 13.5% to 13.8% for the other 2006 grand crus; aged in 50% oak, 10% of which was new) Pale yellow. Very ripe yet fresh fruit aromas of white peach, nectarine and apricot perfectly complemented by oak. Fruity and round but not at all overly sweet, with rich flavors of peach, apricot and spice; less minerally than the Valmur. Finishes rich, tactile and long, with a touch of dryness from the wood element.
(50% aged in oak, but no more than 8% new) Good green-tinged yellow. Sexy aromas of musky quinine, lemon-lime, powdered stone, ginger and smoky silex Rich, broad and dry on entry, then suave and airy in the middle, with terrific volume. Almost too open for young Clos, but this chewy wine remains very light on its feet. Finishes brisk but not at all bitter or dry, with excellent length.