It’s really exciting for us to be able to play our small part in spreading the word about small, upstart producers like Domaine des Hâtes. Founded by Pierrick Laroche in 2009 and already the recipient of glowing press from France’s Guide Hachette (among others), this estate feels tailor-made for SommSelect—one sip of today’s pure, mineral-driven, quite-substantial Chablis and I could see why Laroche is being touted as a talent to watch.
He grew up in Maligny, one of the northernmost villages in Chablis, where his father mostly grew cereal grains but maintained some vineyards whose grapes he sold to the local cooperative, La Chablisienne. Starting in the 1980s, he started expanding his vineyard plantings bit by bit, which ended up working out nicely for Pierrick when he decided wine was going to be his career. Upon taking over those vineyards and establishing Domaine des Hâtes, Pierrick immediately eliminated all chemical treatments and made his first commercial releases in 2010—from vines which, it should be noted, average 30 years of age. He has since built a gravity-flow winery carved into a hillside and garnered major industry buzz for his polished, precise wines. Today’s ’18 is a perfect example of what happens when you catch an upstart producer at exactly the right moment—the value-for-dollar here is simply incredible! Chablis lovers, assemble!
One interesting factoid about the domaine name: hâtes is said to be an old French word for an agricultural unit of measure (a small one), and here likely refers to Pierrick’s father’s slow, steady acquisition of vineyard land over the years. Their holdings classified as Chablis AOC total about 30 acres and are mostly in their home village of Maligny, which is north of Chablis on the “right,” or eastern, bank of the Serein River, about 10 kilometers from the Grand Crus. There is a touch more clay in the limestone soil up here, which, combined with the southern-leaning aspect of many of the sites, helps encourage greater ripeness. Pierrick also allows his wines to undergo full malolactic fermentation (which some producers seek to block) and allows them to age for extended periods on their lees before bottling. As you will notice, the combination of depth, texture, and profound minerality in this ’18 is pretty exceptional for a $29 village Chablis.
In the glass, it’s a pale yellow-gold with flecks of green and silver, with a complex nose combining fruit, florals, and stone: scents of yellow apple, lime blossom, white peach, lemon curd, white button mushroom, chalk dust, sea salt, and crushed oyster shells carry over to a palate leaning toward medium-plus in body, and the push-pull of ripe fruit and mouth-watering freshness/minerality lends amazing tension. As I said, this is very serious ‘village-level’ Chablis—no one would be faulted for pegging it as Premier Cru in a blind tasting. Pull the cork on this about 15 minutes before serving and let it blossom (and warm up slightly, to about 50 degrees) in the glass. There’s a flinty component to the minerality that really stands out, to the point where I’m inspired to trot out one of my favorite “unconventional” pairings for Chablis: steak tartare. Think I’m crazy? Once you try it, believe me, you won’t. Attached is a recipe for a home preparation—easier than you think, and guaranteed to be awesome with this wine!
Limestone & Clay