Chablis 2009 and 2010

By Antonio Galloni

The 2009 and 2010 vintages in Chablis present readers with two dramatically different sets of wines. In general, the 2009s are supple and approachable upon release. The 2010s, most of which I tasted from barrel and/or tank, are much more structured and potentially long-lived. The sheer breadth and diversity of the wines across the top properties in Chablis is quite striking. Readers willing to look beyond the region’s top two names will find a remarkable array of wines made in a variety of styles. Best of all, Chablis remains one of the most fairly priced, pedigreed wines in the world. Chablis is a great wine for the dinner table, and is quite versatile with a wide variety of foods, perhaps the best reason to always keep at least a few bottles on hand.

Chablis experienced a warm, sunny year in 2009, as was the case throughout the rest of Burgundy. Most growers began harvesting in mid-September, quite early by Chablis standards. Other than the advanced maturation of the grapes, there were no widespread issues during flowering, summer or harvest, and most growers reported bringing in healthy fruit. To be sure, the acidities were lower in 2009 than in most years, but that is not necessarily a bad thing for wines that can sometimes be on the lean and austere side. In the 2009s, readers will find unusually fleshy, radiant wines, many of which will require minimum cellaring. The concern with a warm vintage is always a loss of site specificity, and while some of that exists in 2009, the best wines have plenty of vineyard character. It is an excellent vintage for readers who want to approach the wines for the first time, and will likely also be quite successful in restaurants.

Readers who are familiar with Chablis or who generally favor more typical, cooler years and wines with significant structure will likely gravitate to the 2010s. The vintage did not start well.

Cold, damp weather in the spring caused an irregular flowering with high amounts of shatter and shot berries. Yields were impacted significantly. Growers reported losses of anywhere from 15- 50%, depending on the estate and vineyard. The summer was generally cool and the harvest took place in late September and early October, closer to normal in Chablis. The unique weather conditions yielded wines that are rich and concentrated (because of the low yields) yet high in acidity (because of the late harvest). I must say that from barrel, many of the 2010s I tasted were simply thrilling, if quite atypical. It will be interesting to see how the 2010s evolve in the coming year as the wines complete their élevage and go into bottle. Today, 2010 looks like a very promising vintage.

I tasted all of the wines in this article in June, 2011. At the time, a number of 2010s had not completed their malos, so I was unable to taste them. I have kept drinking windows on the conservative, short side, although I have no doubt some wines will drink well beyond my projected dates. As mentioned above, the 2009s should drink well upon release. The 2010s are likely to require a few years in bottle. In general, Chablis has been less affected by issues of premature oxidation than the Côte de Beaune, but these days erring on the conservative side seems like the only smart choice when it comes to white Burgundy. Wine appreciation is, of course, quite personal, and the optimal time to savor a specific bottle is perhaps the most subjective part of enjoying wine.