Perseverance and patience finally paid off. I first met Vincent Dampt when I tasted with him at the Domaine on a cold and blustery November day in 2014. This was very early on in the history of Balanced Wine Selections (and it hasn’t even been a year yet). We had not yet purchased our first wine, much less sold anything. Vincent was generous and welcoming, but understandably cautious about jumping in with some new guys. I tasted through his 2013s, and what I loved about them was, you guessed it, their balance! Alcohol levels under 13% on the Petit Chablis and Chablis AOC, and right at that level on his premiere crus, good acidity, with structural elements to frame his wines. The ‘13s also had a touch of botrytis character moving them out of the truly classic Chablis frame. These would have been lovely additions to our portfolio, but the time wasn’t quite right. Vincent wanted to think about us and get to know us better. We stayed in touch by email and I kept him apprised of how things were progressing for us.
Fast-forward to March 2015. Ok it was only five months later but given what we’d accomplished, we looked and felt entirely different. I was wrapping things up in Champagne and decided to reach out and see if Vincent had a couple of hours for me to make an impromptu visit. He did. So I jumped in the car and headed for Milly-Chablis. When I’d visited in November Vincent was cautiously optimistic about how 2014 would turn out. Well, as we worked our way through the ‘14s he was beaming, they exceeded even his expectations. His best vintage so far? He gave no argument. Now the moment of truth. Would he give us the honor of working with him? He still wasn’t ready to pull the trigger. We talked in April, May and finally the good word came. We’d get an allocation of 2014. Hallelujah! Thanks for the vote of confidence Vincent!
The Chablis AOC, Cote de Lechet 1er and Vaillons 1er grapes all come from vineyard parcels comprised of classic Kimmeridgian soils. A mixture of clay and limestone that contain high amounts of fossilized marine organisms. These vineyards are located west of the town of Chablis and can be seen just to the left of the town of Milly in this photo. The Chablis AOC is from the west facing lieu dit (or single site) Les Charleveaux that sits between Lechet and Vaillons and the vines are 35 years old. The Lechet parcel faces southeast and the vines are over 40 years old. Vaillons vines are younger at only 15 years old, but boast the same excellent southeast orientation as Lechet.
The Petit Chablis vines are located on a plateau on the eastern side of Chablis near the town of Fyé, just up and to the right of the Grand Cru vineyards Les Clos and Blanchots -- dark orange on the map just to the right of the town of Chablis. Here the soil is Portlandian, which means it’s clay and limestone but without the fossilized marine influences. Each wine is gently pressed and is fermented and aged on the lees in stainless steel tank. No oak influence on any of these babies and they all go through malolactic fermentation. It’s the right balance to keep the nervey, steely minerality that is prized (at least by me) in classic Chablis. The Petit and Chablis AOC go into bottle around 6-8 months post-harvest with the 1ers being bottled somewhere around the 15-18 month mark.
There’s a different role for each of these wines to play on your table. From an easy drinking Petit Chablis that is your aperitif wine, transitioning into the Chablis for lighter fare including oysters and delicate fish dishes and finally working your way to the more serious main course partners of the premiere crus. Like many things in life, having the right tool for the job elevates the experience. Make sure these tools are in your tool box.