The 2017 Chablis 1er Cru Forêt is showing very well, bursting with scents of orange rind, green apple, white peach and spring flowers. On the palate, it's medium to full-bodied, ample and fleshy, with an elegantly textural attack, a pretty core of fruit and a long, precise finish. This is quite reminiscent of the 2010 rendition chez Raveneau, and it is well worth seeking out.
In last year's Chablis report, I wondered aloud how one explains the Raveneau magic? Yields here aren't excessively high, but they're not the region's lowest. Fermentation at between 18 degrees and 20 degrees centigrade in tank, followed by élevage 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, presumably, is in the details.
This year's visit with Bernard Raveneau, with whom I passed a fascinating two hours, revealed a new piece of the puzzle. When I inquired about the importance of lees during the wine's time in wood, Raveneau's response was memorable: "I've never understood why we change babies, whereas we leave a wine in its excrement!" Clearly, therefore, the Raveneau wines go to barrel after their fermentation in tank with very little in the way of solids, and perhaps this provides a point of distinction—in addition, of course, to different approaches in the vineyards—with Vincent Dauvissat's more reductive wines. In any case, as I wrote last year, I'm content to ponder the domaine's mysteries 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.
The 2017s, which were bottled during my two weeks in Chablis, increasingly resemble the domaine's 2010s, though they're a touch more extroverted and expressive in style. While acknowledging that "people will fixate on the Clos and Montée de Tonnerre," I suspect Raveneau may have shared my preference for the Butteaux and Valmur over their more famous siblings in this year's collection. Tasted from barrel, where they had only just begun their élevage, the 2018s—which represent the first copious yield chez Raveneau for several years—were already quite put-together, supple and incipiently delicious. It doesn't appear to be a vintage built for the long haul, but it will deliver immense near- and medium-term pleasure, as well as what appears to be, at this early stage, a more classically Chablisien profile.
Readers looking for more on this important estate and its history are directed to my article published in the End of March issue of The Wine Advocate, which includes information previously unpublished in English.
Domaine Raveneau blev stiftet i 1948 da Francois Raveneau kombinerede vinmarker han selv havde købt med vinmarker ejet af sin kones familie.
Francois far, Louis Raveneau, ejede flere parceller i Chablis men solgte dem i løbet af 1950’erne. Chablis befandt sig nemlig på dette tidspunkt i en hård tid: Produktionen havde været kraftigt forstyrret under 2. verdenskrig, hvilket påvirkede producenternes likviditet, og for at dette ikke skulle være nok, var området plaget af vinlus i denne periode. Francois Raveneau så dog stadig Chablis’ store potentiale og udnyttede faldende jordpriser til at udvide sit domæne løbende op gennem 1960’erne og 1970’erne - bl.a. med vigtige parceller på nogle af Chablis’ fine Grand Cru-vinmarker.
Domaine Raveneau er i dag en af de absolut mest berømte producenter i Chablis og der kan argumenteres for at det også er den mest eksklusive. Raveneau er samtidig en af de ganske få producenter, der producerer vin i alle Chablis’ fire klassifikationer: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru og Grand Cru.
Raveneau producerer i dag tre Grand Cru- og fem Premier Cru-vine, og det er her du som vininvestor skal finde din næste hvidvinsinvestering.