Bonjour d’un jeune homme qui saute en avance pour decouvrir le passe,
Romain Collet is wasting no time. Since being handed the reigns of his family’s deep holdings in some of Chablis’ finest terroirs, he has wavered not in his (r)evolutionary drive to bring out the parcellary best of it. I already knew of his first step in this direction, culling separate 1er cru Secher and Butteaux bottlings from the stonnier upper slope lieu dits of their massive parcels in Vaillons and Montmains. However, after putting about the vineyards in an old school 2 cylinder jeepy-car-thing last month, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few more cru gems in his stable, well below the radar. In the midslope Montmains lieu dit sweetspot of les Fôrets, nestled between two sections of vines belonging to Dauvissat, he replanted several rows of unhealthy vines just 5 years ago, whose promise is just beginning to emerge. When we ventured into the fabled Grand cru portion of the Chablis hillside to check out his parcel of Valmur (image below), we stopped at the top of the hill above les Clos (image above), perhaps Chablis’ most famous single site. From here you can see the village of Chablis on your right, with the 1er crus of Montmains and Vaillons extending behind the village and to the left. It was here that he let another cat out of the bag: he rented a small parcel of les Clos!, from old vines towards the bottom of the hill that he now farms year round. I could hardly wait to taste them back at the winery…..

I have to say that I am beyond impressed with the quality minded commitments that young Romain has pursued so aggressively and successfully. He converted the entire cru portion of the production over to organics (although he reserves the right to use more invasive treatments if the sh!t hits the fan). The soil and vine health that I saw are immaculate and vibrant, with well plowed fluffier-rather-than-compact soils. The length of elevage has gone markedly towards the low-and-slow school, with bottling not taking place until late winter/early spring, some 18 months of patient, depth enriching elevage, without racking or filtration. To do all of this so quickly takes some serious conviction and cojones. I suppose that to the risktakers go the rewards, as they say….
Based on the buzz in the Chabis community about what he is up to, i’d say that people are noticing. Friend and fellow vigneron Fabien Moreau recommended to Steve Tanzer that he start visiting the estate to see what the kid is up to; Steve recognized the raw quality and Romain’s touch as a winemaker immediately. I’ve included Steve’s impressions of the ’12 and ’13 wines (where available) below. In my book, Steve is my favorite Burgundy critic, without exception. When I had lunch with him in Chambolle in November ’14, he was psyched to hear that I was starting to work with Romain, yet another member of my young generation Burgundian wonderkid team.
What follows is a comprehensive offering of Romain’s best, all offered at the best (if not ONLY) prices in the USA. For both lifelong Chablis lovers as well as curious newbies, you will find the real deal in Chablisien substance and value here.

LE MENU:

2014 Chablis villages $17 – 2014 is a CLASSIC Chablis vintage, along the lines of the electric and precise 2010s. This is from a blend of several parcels throughout the appellation. In dry, airy, floral dimension, with saline persistence and cut, this is absolutely as good as it gets for an everyday Chablis villages, bottled freshy fresh THIS WEEK. Trust me when I say that anybody looking for the $16 everyday house white Burgundy/Chablis should load up here. It doesn’t get better than this for the money. CASE BUY NO BRAINER.

2013 Chablis 1er cru Fôret $29 – From the 5 year old vines nestled inbetween Dauvissat’s legendary holdings (Dauvissat Forest is perhaps the single greatest buy in all of Chablis, imho), this wine comes across as quite delicate, airy, and fine. It will be wonderful to see the vines age, with increased depth as the years roll on; I can only imagine what lies ahead. From fairly low yields of 28hl/ha. Fwiw, this is not listed in the export pricelist, for insiders only….

2013 Chablis Grand cru les Clos $69!!! A mere 75 cases are made from this tiny .16 hectare parcel in les Clos, from 65 year old vines. This is STUNNING in its explosive palate coating mineral breadth and captivating Grand cru presence/length. It is not a mystery why les Clos is so very revered, with the proof being in the pudding. Put in your best request, and I will see what I can do. To get a smokin’ rendition of les Clos at this type of price tag is not an opportunity to miss…..Once again, this is not listed in the export pricelist, this is being shared out of friendship and respect!!

IN STOCK:

2013 Chablis 1er cru Secher $35 This is quite harmonious, with a silky texture and a marked step up in complexity relative to the regular Vaillons. This is the first one Amber gave a “heart” to in our tasting notes. :0
“(just bottled; from a tiny parcel of 25-year-old vines; aged for 12 months in 30% new oak, then in cuve for another 5 months): Vibrant aromas of crushed stone and spices. Dense, large-scaled and rich, with strong, sweet stone fruit and spice flavors nicely framed by well-integrated acidity. Tactile, chewy wine with a spicy, lively, long finish featuring stone fruits and spices. Collet told me this wine got a long, slow pressing. I may be underrating it today.” 91+ points Tanzer FOR THE 2012, NOT THE 2013 OFFERED HERE.

2013 Chablis 1er cru Butteaux $35 This is much more tension driven, more mineral. This one got me goin’….my style of salty rockhead delight! I gave this one a star, Amber gave it a heart. You know, the ol’ “heart and star” rating system!! From a .72 hectare parcel of vines planted in 1970 by Romain’s grandfather.
“Aromas of lemon, minerals and spices. Offers enticing floral lift in the mouth, with the mineral and spice elements carrying through. Brisk acidity extends the finish but is keeping the wine tight today. This wine from soil rich in blue clay is routinely reduced in the early going and Collet put it into barrels for the end of its elevage to counter this tendency. I’d give this wine at least three or four years in the cellar.” 90+ points Tanzer FOR THE 2012, NOT THE 2013 OFFERED HERE.

2013 Chablis 1er cru Montée de Tonnere $35 12 bottles in stock, more available at the winery- From a massive 2.26 hectare holding in the lieu dit Chapelot as well as the Triangle d’Or (golden triangle) within the Montee de Tonnere, both harvested and vinified separately, then blended at the end of elevage. Aged 100% in barrique, with only 6-7% new wood. There is a reason why the Montée de Tonnere is revered as perhaps the finest 1er cru terroir in all of Chablis, as it is essentially an extension of the Grand cru hillside, with a tiny depression/valley that separates the two. In completeness and class, it tastes like a baby Grand cru. This one got a star in my book. (you can visualize the placement of the vineyard by looking at the panorama of the les Clos hillside above, and imagine walking for a bit to your left)
“(100% barriques): Full bright yellow. Musky aromas of apricot, fresh nectarine, quinine, ginger and spices. Very rich, broad and ripe, showing expressive flavors of stone fruits and spices. The late-picked Chapelots portion of this wine contributes the mineral character, notes Collet, while the other vines bring the richness and breadth. Finishes sexy, saline and persistent. Excellent potential here, and not at all overly oaky.” 90-92 points Tanzer

2013 Chablis Grand cru Valmur $69 Valmur is quite a unique vineyard, the northerly neighbor to les Clos. It is the only Grand cru that has two distinct exposures, both WNW and SE, as there is a similar little depression/valley in the middle of the vineyard (a la the separation of Montee de Tonnere from the Grand cru hillside). Romain has holdings principally in the cooler WNW facing parcel. Pictured above is Romain standing in his parcel, with the SE portion behind me, the photo taker. In harmony and class, explosive palate staining presence, and rising inner mouth perfume, this clearly speaks of its Grand cru pedigree. Flat out delicious. Another star here. (fwiw, Raveneau has holdings in the SE facing portion of Valmur. The soils were not tilled, hard and compacted, with not much vegetation to speak of…..no mystery as to why Raveneau can at times be sublime (like the ’10 Butteaux we had for lunch that day), but too often meh for the $$$$))
“(100% fut; never racked, as Collet does not like to rack wines in barrel): Apricot and some exotic smoky, spicy oak tones on the nose. Densely packed and energetic, showing a slightly disassociated character to its stone fruit, ginger and chlorophyll flavors. A strong oak element makes this wine difficult to taste today, but the finish is powerful and persistent. ” 89-92 points Tanzer

LES VOILA
It is exciting to present Romain’s rising star in full ascent, before the broader world has really caught wind of what this kid is up to. You will only continue to hear more, I assure you. Steve Tanzer was there two days before I was…..
As always, with any questions or interests: rob@downtoearthwines.net