Domaine Oudin Chablis 1er Cru 'Vaugiraut' 2021
An upper left bank premier cru that sits above the village of Chichée and to the south of Chablis itself, this Oudin Vaugiraut is a moment of pleasure with ripe fruit and gun-flint smoke. It’s floral and stony with a hint of salty sea breeze, pure and powerful and elegant.
The Domaine Oudin came to be in the late 1980s when Jean-Claude and Christine Oudin left the stress of Paris life behind and settled near the bridge in Chichée to raise their two daughters and to develop a small 5 acre vineyard they had inherited near Chablis. Today, the daughters, Nathalie and Isabelle, oversee almost 20 acres of Chardonnay. From the outset, theirs has been a natural viticulture, respectful of the environment, and a style of winemaking that is at once simple and modern.
Nothing abides. Just as we Burgundy purists begrudgingly acknowledged the vitality and variety of the three previous hot-weather vintages, along came 2021, classic Burgundy with its frost, damp and low yields.
Way back when, in pre-climate-change conditions, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay would struggle, year after year, to come to maturity in what was this, the northernmost spot in Europe where grapes could ripen enough to make still wine. That struggle was, in fact, the very definition of viticulture in Burgundy (chaptalization notwithstanding).
But then weather patterns started to change, not drastically, but gradually: milder winters and earlier springs; hotter summers and earlier autumns. By the time we got to 2018, then 2019 and then 2020, those mild winters were breeding grounds for mildew, the early springs were prone to killer frosts, those hot summers forced ripeness onto reticent grapes varieties, and early autumns left little time to the winemaker to sort it all out.
If this all sounds like an accident waiting to happen, hang on to your hat; it’s all perspective.
2018 was wet, wet, wet through winter and up to mid-April. Then an explosive bud-burst sent the winemakers scurrying to control the vegetation. But then it got hot, hot, south-of-Spain hot, and mildew never stood a chance. Early harvest, no health issues. Big crop. Great vintage.
2019 was wet through the winter. Early bud burst, then frost took part of the crop. A warm set up flowering, but cold weather set in, taking another part of the crop. Then it got hot and very dry. Well-tend vines and, especially, old vines did well because there was last winter’s water in the water table, and good vines can go deep for water. Hot, healthy harvest. Great really ripe vintage.
2020 was precocious. Mild wet winter. Bud burst in mid-April. From that point on, there is not much to report weatherwise. It was hot and dry from June through to the end. Harvest started in August. Indeed, there was more stress on the winemakers than there was on the vines. When to pick? Overall, great vintage both white and red.
See a pattern?
And 2021…well in 2021 things returned to ‘normal’ (if such a thing is possible in Burgundy!) First came devastating frosts in the early part of April, which were followed by a cool May, leading to a damp summer with the ever-present threat of hail.
Chardonnay was more affected than Pinot Noir in that the red grapes come into leaf later. What all this means for the Burgundy harvest is that it will be a story of low yields (miniscule in places) and a late harvest.
When the older winemakers talk about what to expect this year, words such as ‘historic’ are used and comparisons are drawn with the harvest of 1970.
Some say we could be down 30% on 2020s already low yields. But it isn’t all bad news. Winemakers are nothing if not hardy, and their optimism cannot be shaken that easily. Fewer grapes on the vine means that those which have survived should have an intensity of flavor which sets them apart and may mark this harvest out as extraordinary. There may be other upsides, too: because the harvest is later, the grapes have had more ‘hang time’ which could mean good phenolic maturity.
CHABLIS and the GRAND AUXERROIS
Located near the city of Auxerre in the department of Yonne, the Chablis vineyards lie on slopes above valleys that feed into the Serein river. Vines date of course to the Roman era, but in the 12th century, the Cistercian monks from the abbey of Pontigny developed serious cultivation. The Chablis appellations (Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru) form a qualitative pyramid of which the Grand Cru appellation forms the apex.
Petit Chablis, which is the local equivalent to the regional appellation 'bourgogne', comes from vineyards on either side of the river, usually on the edges of Chablis production or on the plateaus above the valleys. They can vary wildly in quality.
Chablis (or 'tout court' as the locals say) is the local equivalent of the village appellation, and is generally found on the edges of the premier cru production.
Chablis premier cru vineyards are generally situated above the valleys on slope with ideal exposition. They almost always are planted on the chalky kimmeridgian clay. Left bank and the right bank minerality are the most obvious ways to categorize these wines.
Chablis grand cru comes from vineyards to the north-east of the town of Chablis on the right bank of the Serein facing the sun at altitudes of 100-250 meters. The Grand Cru climats form a continuous band along the upper part of the valley from Bougros in the north-west, through Preuses, Vaudésir, Grenouille, Valmur and Les Clos to Blanchot in the south-east.
The appellation Chablis includes a total of 89 premiers crus and 6 grands crus.
Producing communes: Beines, Béru, Chablis, Fyé, Milly, Poinchy, La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne, Chemilly-sur-Serein, Chichée, Collan, Courgis, Fleys, Fontenay-Près-Chablis, Lignorelles, Ligny-le-Châtel, Maligny, Poilly-sur-Serein, Prehy, Villy et Viviers.
Chablis is often pale in color, ranging from white gold to greeny gold, and it should be limpid, brilliant and fat. The nose is often discreet in youth, but is marked by freshness, dusty minerality, grassiness and white floral notes like acacia or honeysuckle. Extremely distinctive chalky minerality (coming from a streak of kimmeridgian clay running through the region) carries the fruit on the palate, making a good Chablis very persistent in length. There are distinct differences between 'left bank' (of the river Serein) and 'right bank', having mostly to do with hours of exposition to the sun. Left bank wines have an almost severe minerality (much loved by the locals) whereas right bank Chablis is rounder, riper. Either however should be easily recognized as unmistakeably Chablis to any discerning taster. The premiers crus and grands crus are set apart because they generally have a higher concentration of the kimmeridgian as well as prime exposition. The grands crus are the best example of this. They are all grouped together in an amphitheater-shaped heat trap and, come harvest time, invariably have that half degree more potential alcohol than other vineyards in the zone.
No French wine-growing area has its reputation more firmly allied to its geology. The main substrata is jurassic limestone (specifically, kimmeridgian clay) laid down some 150 million years ago. The rock contains deposits of tiny fossilized oyster shells which remind us that Burgundy once lay beneath a warm ocean. This is the same rock that much of Champagne is planted upon, and it is the same rock through which the Channel Tunnel is bored, as this geologic vein makes its way into south-east England.
White wines only - Chardonnay (known locally as " Beaunois ")
Production surface area :
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Grand Cru: 104.07 ha
Premier Cru :776.08 ha
Chablis : 3,256.81 ha
Petit Chablis: 843.32 ha
Chablis is aromatically highly complex and very adaptable with food. Good matches include oysters and shellfish, as well as fish, grilled or in sauce. The more mineral versions (left bank) go well with quality poultry or veal. The more open and round variations (right bank) are locally drunk with the traditional dishes like andouillettes (tripe sausages) and of course, the Burgundian specialty par excellence, escargots (snails). Another local specialty is jambon au Chablis, thick-sliced cured ham braised in Chablis and cream. Chablis can also tackle the wine-killer, asparagus. It also goes well with creamy goat cheeses, as well as mountain cheeses like Beaufort, Comté, or Emmental.
On the label, the appellation Chablis 1er Cru may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
These climats are often inclusive. The 17 bigger classified climats have names which the producers opt to use more often:
Mont de Milieu - Vallée de Chigot
Montée de Tonnerre - Chapelot, Les Chapelots, Pied d’Aloup, Sous Pied d’Aloup, Côte de Bréchain
Fourchaume - Vaupulent, Vau Pulan, Les Vaupulans, La Fourchaume, Côte de Fontenay, Dine-Chien, L’Homme Mort, La Grande Côte, Bois Seguin, L’Ardillier, Vaulorent, Les Quatre chemins, La ferme couverte, Les Couvertes
Vaillons - Sur les Vaillons, Chatains, Les Grands Chaumes, Les Chatains, Sécher, Beugnons, Les Beugnons, Les Lys, Champlain, Mélinots, Les Minos, Roncières, Les Epinottes
Montmains - Les Monts Mains, Forêts, Les Forêts, Butteaux, Les Bouts des Butteaux, Vaux Miolot, Le Milieu des Butteaux, Les Ecueillis, Vaugerlains
Côte de Léchet - Le Château
Beauroy - Sous Boroy, Vallée des Vaux, Benfer, Troesmes, Côte de Troesmes, Adroit de Vau Renard, Côte de Savant, Le Cotat-Château, Frouquelin, Le Verger
Vauligneau - Vau de Longue, Vau Girault, La Forêt, Sur la Forêt
Vaudevey - La Grande Chaume, Vaux Ragons, Vignes des Vaux Ragons
Vaucoupin - Adroit de Vaucopins
Vosgros - Adroit de Vosgros, Vaugiraut
Les Fourneaux - Morein, Côte des Près Girots, La Côte, Sur la Côte
Côte de Vaubarousse
Chaume de Talvat
Côte de Jouan
Les Beauregards - Hauts des Chambres du Roi, Côte de Cuissy, Les corvées, Bec d Oiseau, Vallée de Cuissy
On the label the following climats are classified as grand cru: