Raveneau's 2005 Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre is beginning to drink beautifully as it approaches age 13, wafting from the glass with a complex bouquet of lemon oil, mandarin, drawn butter, iodine, beeswax and dried white flowers. On the palate, it's medium to full-bodied, deep and textural, with the mid-palate richness and generosity of a warm vintage but with a delineated, chalky finish that's faithful to the Montée de Tonnerre. This is a gourmand, fleshy vintage for Raveneau—though not to the extent of 2006 or 2003—but the wines are aging gracefully.
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.