Chablis 2011 and 2010
By Antonio Galloni
Chablis fans will find a lot to like in both the 2011 and 2010 vintages. The 2011s are generally soft, open wines with lovely fruit, accessible
personalities and little of the austerity often associated with young Chablis. The vintage is inconsistent, so choosing carefully will be the key, but the
best wines are tasty and will be ready to drink upon release. The 2010s are much stronger across the board, but the finest wines are going to need to come
together. It is an exceptional vintage that combines both richness and acidity to a degree Chablis has rarely, if ever, seen before.
Vintage 2011 Overview
After a vintage in which yields were painfully low, most Chablis producers were thrilled to see a return to more average levels of production. The spring
and summer were very, very hot, which caused the growing season to take off as much as one month in advance. I was in Chablis last June, and growers were
quite worried. They had never seen such a precocious vintage. Rain arrived later in the summer, which slowed down the maturation of the grapes. Heavy rains
arrived in August and caused the fruit to bloat in a few spots, something that was especially problematic as the plants were already carrying generous
yields. Harvest dates were all over the place in 2011, reflecting both the various states vineyards were in throughout late August and September and
differing philosophies in vineyard management. Most growers reported very fast alcoholic and malolactic fermentations.
The 2011s are hugely inconsistent across the board. I tasted a handful of gorgeous wines that in some cases even outperform their 2010 counterparts, all
the way to green, vegetal wines that will never be balanced or particularly appealing. In some spots, it is clear yields were too high. In short, 2011
Chablis has a bit of everything. Right now, 2011 appears to be a vintage best suited to near-term drinking. The best wines are undoubtedly pleasant, even
though they lack the tension most Chablis fans look for in a truly great year.
[Above: Vineyards in Courgis]
Vintage 2010 Overview
The 2010s have pretty much turned out just as I had hoped, which is to say they are fabulous. The wines combine textural richness and weight with high
acidity, something that is exceedingly rare, as most vintages tend to favor one over the other. The Achilles heel for the vintage is the excess
concentration and weight that is found in a few wines, likely the result of waiting too late to harvest. This isn’t a huge problem across many domaines,
but it is something to look out for, and in my opinion, avoid when possible. Readers can start to gauge the quality of the vintage by picking up the
entry-level wines, many of which are fabulous. If there is a vintage in which to drink copious amounts of straight village-level Chablis and even Petit
Chablis, 2010 is it.
The 2010 harvest in Chablis is marked by several weather events. Perhaps the most dramatic of these was the highly irregular weather during flowering.
Unseasonably cool and wet weather, particularly in June, caused high levels of millerandage (shot berries) and coulure (shatter), both of
which lowered potential yields significantly. The weather improved in June, and temperatures mounted quickly in July. Normal temperatures returned in
August and September, along with higher than normal rainfall, but average hours of sunshine in September were in line with historical averages. Most
growers harvested towards the end of the month. Because of the irregular flowering, yields were down significantly, anywhere from 10-50%, depending on the
vineyard and parcel.
In the glass, the 2010s are big, rich, powerful wines, mostly because of the low yields. At the same time, the late harvest allowed the fruit to maintain
lively acidity that for most domaines is at or near the top of historical averages. Several growers told me they had never seen a vintage with both such
high sugars and acidities. The result is a vintage that manages to walk a very fine line, as the wines don’t have the textural leanness and austerity
Chablis can have, especially when young, yet the wines are vibrant, vivid and full of life. Many of the best 2010s are immensely pleasing today, yet appear
to have the stuffing to age well. In short, while all vintages have their disappointments, overall 2010 is an exceptional vintage for Chablis. It is
virtually impossible to go wrong with a bottle of Chablis from a top grower or domaine in 2010.
A Note on Drinking Windows
As I did last year, I kept drinking windows very much on the conservative side, with starting dates but no end dates. Given all of the issues surrounding
premature oxidation, this seems like the only reasonable thing to do, even though I am fully aware that many of the best wines in this article will take
many years to peak. Or will they? That is the essential question that confronts all of us every time we choose to buy white Burgundy. In my experience, the
wines of Chablis have been much less affected by premature oxidation than the wines of the Côte d’Or. Still, a measure of prudence seems warranted. As a
rule of thumb, the 2011s will drink well upon release. The 2010s, on the other hand, will take anywhere from 1-10 years to blossom. Exactly how long is