Raveneau's 2016 Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux is excellent, offering up a youthfully reserved bouquet of apple, white peach, beeswax and dried flowers. On the palate, it's medium to full-bodied, with lovely texture, considerable mid-palate amplitude and a bright line of acidity, concluding with a firm, salty finish that balances its somewhat gourmand attack. Along with the Vaillons, the Butteaux stood out as one of the most complete of Raveneau's premiers crus this year, revealing more and more nuance over several days. Right now, it's quite closed, but I won't be surprised if it becomes quite musky and exotic after a few years in the cellar.
What explains the Raveneau magic? Yields here aren't excessively high, but they're not the region's lowest. Fermentation at between 18 and 20 degrees centigrade in tank, followed by élevage on the lees in used barrels define the very elementary outlines of the winemaking process—a description that would equally apply to Vincent Dauvissat's stylistically different wines. The devil is, presumably, in the details. And it's a conundrum I'm content to ponder for the foreseeable future, as the Domaine Raveneau is undoubtedly the source of some of Chablis's greatest wines—and its most dependably long-lived. Isabelle Raveneau told me that the 2016s we tasted had been bottled in mid-April. In this vintage, yields were down 30% for the domaine as a whole, but yields varied considerably by location, from as little as 15 hectoliters per hectare in some sites to as much as 50 hectoliters per hectare in others. The wines vary in profile accordingly. At this early stage, the 2017s appear more homogeneous, classic but charming in style, marrying characteristically Chablisien cut and tension with a touch of sun-kissed generosity. I suspect they may end up resembling a hypothetical blend of the 2009 and 2010 vintages—but their quality and character will be more clear after more élevage. I'll try to retaste them again at the end of the year if I can.