2016 Le Domaine d’Henri – Michel Laroche & Ses Enfants, Chablis Premier Cru, Fourchaume, White Burgundy, France.
A new project by famed Chablis master Michel Laroche with his kids the Le Domaine d’Henri is really worth checking out, especially for the quality to price ratio to be found on their Premier Cru offerings, like this stylish Fourchaume 2016 bottling. The Le Domaine d’Henri estate is a historic property in Chablis with the ancestors of the Laroche family having owned vines in the region as long ago as 1695, and today, with Michel Laroche as patriarch, a winemaker with great experience who Decanter Magazine has compared to Michel Chapoutier, saying to the effect that what Chapoutier is to the Rhone, Laroche is to Chablis, and also suggesting that Laroche has a presence in the area as Olivier Humbrecht has in Alsace. The wines at this Domaine are produced by the family team including Margaux, Romain, Cecile and of course Michel himself, with Cecile, the eldest daughter, taking on the major responsibility of running the vineyards and the estate, she also oversees the cellar team here and directs the winemaking operation. This 2016 delivers classic cooly/steely crisp layers of lemon/lime, green apple, fleshy pear and spicy flinty wet rock, a touch of hazelnut and white flowers. This is racy Chardonnay, but gains more and more texture in the glass, making it great with food, especially sea food, though also great with Burgundian soft cheeses.
The Le Domaine d’Henri wines are handcrafted using, as they put it, minimum intervention, with their Premier Cru grapes being harvested by hand only and are then carefully sorted on a vibrating table in order to ensure that only the best quality fruit goes into the gentle pneumatic press, with the wine being fermented using “pied de cuve”, a process where a small selection of grapes are harvested early and fermented in the vineyard before the main pick, to ensure there is a strong starter natural yeast. The d’Henri wines are never done with added sugar in the must, and the wines get between 10 to 35% of barrel aging, with almost no new oak being used in any given year, blending the oak-aged wines with those that have been aged in stainless steel tanks to achieve a balance, which this wine shows. The domaine believes that minerality is the signature of Chablis and the winemaking here is managed accordingly to showcase that, but there is also no doubt that with Premier Cru concentration these wines show richness and palate impact. Michel notes, that when Henri, his dad, opened a bottle of his cherished Fourchaume, like this one, he often used to say, that’s the purest expression of Chardonnay. And who would argue that, certainly not me, these are are still under the radar wines that are really worth searching out, especially this beautiful stony Fourchaume.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive