The Droins have been producing wines in Chablis for nearly 400 years (their history as vignerons goes back at least to 1620). Benoît represents the14th generation of Droins and is one of the most dynamic winemakers in the region. His father Jean-Paul put the domaine on the map but perhaps went too far down the road of new oak barrels. The domaine owns 13 hectares of vineyards and produces 14 different wines, including Petit Chablis, Chablis, 7 Premiers Crus and 5 Grands Crus. Benoît runs a more sophisticated operation from a large modern winery almost in the shadow of the grands crus. He has revised his pruning system and significantly reduced yields. In the cellar the principal change has been away from new oak. Each wine now gets the treatment which Benoît thinks is suited to its terroir. Thus Petit Chablis, Chablis, premiers crus Vaucoupin and Côte de Lechet, and grand cru Blanchots are all fermented and matured in tank. Vaillons, Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre receive 25 per cent of barrel fermentation and maturation, 35 per cent for Vosgros and Vaudésir, 40 per cent for Montmains and Valmur, peaking at 50 per cent for Fourchaume, Grenouilles and Les Clos. However the age of the oak and the choice of tonnelier may vary according to the cuvée. The maximum new oak is ten per cent in the grands crus.
The grandest of the Grand Cru sites in Chablis, Les Clos is a large vineyard that faces south and southwest, is rather steep and well-drained, and is composed of a seemingly perfect blend of white chalk and clay. Les Clos is a wine that can be easily misunderstood if opened too young. It tends to be compact, dense and have levels of hidden power that take a to of bottle development to appear. Over time and wonderful layered profile of citrus oil, orange peel and fine smoky notes appear. I would decant Les Clos for at least an hour or more before drinking. Droin is blessed with 3 distinct parcels in Les Clos. One at the very top, eastern side that is extremely stony and produces fine, delicate fruit. A middle section faces due south that Benoît finds has perfect reduction and minerality. Finally, a section on the bottom western corner that provides fruit richness and palate volume. In the context of global fine wine Les Clos, being the top site of its region, remains a relative bargain in the wine world and Droin sit comfortably amongst its very finest producers. Every wine collector should have some of this in their cellar and leave it alone for ten years before opening.
A special name for Les Clos this year, in homage to Louis Droin, who in 1920 became the owner of a Grand Cru vineyard at the juncture between Les Clos and Valmur and described in official records at the time as “Au Clos, lieu-dit Les Clos”. For almost a century, and well before the decree of 1938 defining the AOCs of Chablis, all harvests from this parcel have been declared and sold by five generations of winemakers as Grand Cru Les Clos. Despite this, it is no longer officially authorised to bear the name of Les Clos according to the INAO. Despite this, it has always been blended with the domaine’s other wines from Les Clos. The 1920 vintage is the anniversary of the acquisition of this parcel by the Droin family, and as such bears a special name and label.
The 2022 Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru Hommage à Louis has quite a malic, green apple and Anjou pear-scented nose that unfurls beautifully in the glass. The palate is taut and linear, with moderate depth, clamming up slightly towards the finish compared with the Grenouilles or Valmur. Neal Martin, Vinous