2010 Domaine du Vieux Château (Daniel-Etienne Defaix), Chablis 1er Cru "Côte de Lechet"
2010 Domaine du Vieux Château (Daniel-Etienne Defaix), Chablis 1er Cru "Côte de Lechet"

2010 Domaine du Vieux Château (Daniel-Etienne Defaix), Chablis 1er Cru "Côte de Lechet"

Burgundy, France 2010 (750mL)
Regular price$70.00

2010 Domaine du Vieux Château (Daniel-Etienne Defaix), Chablis 1er Cru "Côte de Lechet"

I’ve declared Chablis to be the best value in white Burgundy, and among the best values in white wine globally, many times. From the humble villages to the Grand Crus, all deliver best in class bang for your buck. But within this small hamlet there is one address where the word “value” ascends to breathtaking heights, indeed there should be a new word to describe what wine lovers encounter in the cellars of the Domaine du Vieux Château. This is where Daniel-Etienne Defaix allows his Premier and Grand Crus to age for an astonishing eight to ten years or more in tanks before he bottles them and then releases them to us, here in the U.S. eagerly awaiting another perfectly aged, mineral drenched gem. Today we have his most precise, structured cru, “Côte de Lechet” from the generationally great 2010 vintage. If you know these wines you’re already loading up your cart, if not, don’t hesitate because these beauties always disappear fast!

In an era when Burgundian whites are so often (a) overpriced and (b) engineered for quick release and young drinking, Defaix remains one of the last defenders of long, slow aging in the cellar and genuine value in the bottle. I can’t quite say how the estate stays in business after deferring profits for ten plus years, and then charging such modest prices for such exceptional wines—but I’m not arguing, either. My own experience cellaring Premier Cru Chablis has shown that most drink best between 10-20 years of bottle age. This is typically the point when oxygen has broken the wine down to the perfect balance between refreshing minerality and advanced aromatic complexity. This waiting game, however, can be dangerous, as one never knows if the wine has expired until the bottle is open. Fortunately, Daniel-Etienne Defaix is a master of anticipating each vintage’s eccentricities in this regard. Over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed a variety of Defaix whites from the late-1990s to the present, and almost always, spectacularly, they’ve possessed a beautiful synthesis of youth and maturity. 

Defaix’s family has been producing wine in and around this region since the 1500s. Defaix works almost exclusively with Chardonnay and his ample collection of Premier Cru vineyards are farmed entirely by hand and fertilized with natural compost and manure. The majority of his 45-year-old 1er Cru “Côte de Lechet” holdings lie in the steep, southeast facing lieu-dit of “Clos de Moines, but the most exciting and unique aspect of this property is what happens in the cellar.

Benefitting exclusively from the property’s native airborne yeast culture, Defaix’s wines ferment slowly and naturally—usually a month for alcoholic fermentation, and typically much longer for natural malolactic fermentation. It’s an unusually patient, hands-off process, but the excitement doesn’t end there: Like all of Defaix’s wines, this 2010 spent several years resting in steel tanks, which allows the fine lees to slowly settle and naturally, eliminating the need for any filtration. From there, it began a dark, undisturbed 10-year evolution in the family’s bone-chilling underground cellar. When all is said and done, one can generally expect to wait between 12-15 years for the release of Defaix’s top Premier Crus.

If you’re still sitting on a bottle of Defaix’s 2010 “Vaillon” that we offered almost exactly one year ago, lucky you. Today’s the perfect opportunity to compare the nuances of Burgundy’s innumerable terroirs. This is the same vintage, same producer, same 1er Cru quality—just a different hillside vineyard about a mile north of Vaillon. Lechet doesn’t have as much up front fruit as Vaillon, but I find it hard to disagree with the notion that it’s the most complex of his Premier Crus. There’s more mellowness here, but within that supple frame lies great intricacies. You’ll uncover finely crushed white stone, oyster shell, hazelnut, white mushroom, stirred lees, buttered toast, acacia honey, damp white flowers—and plenty of integrated fruits like pineapple core, yellow apple peel, white peach, citrus rind, salt-preserved lemon, and yellow pear. Minerals–lots of minerals!– myriad savory notes, and a pulsing note of mouthwatering acidity linger well after the fruit has faded on the finish, making this bottle stretch much longer than your typical Premier Cru Chablis. The point being, this really is an incredible bang for your buck. Enjoy now and over the next 5-7 years. Cheers!

2010 Domaine du Vieux Château (Daniel-Etienne Defaix), Chablis 1er Cru "Côte de Lechet"

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