Etienne Boileau’s spectacular Premier Cru Chablis doesn’t just hold its own—it makes a compelling case that the superlative Kimmeridgian soils of “Vaillons” are capable of producing some of the most expressive and deeply mineral wines in the region. So, if you seek Grand Cru depth, unique mineral power, and understated elegance at a Premier Cru price, this is the clear winner.
Perched on the left bank of the Serein River, directly across from the concentrated cluster of Chablis’ seven Grand Crus, “Vaillons” is among the best Premier Crus in the region—and with price-to-quality in the equation, the entirety of Burgundy. Etienne’s 2016 is an undeniably rich achievement that infuses full-flavored fruits and dazzling minerality that was extracted directly from Chablis’ signature 180-million-year-old soils. This is a marathon Premier Cru wine: toned, spirited, and fully ready to go the distance, it’s unafraid of any competition you may throw at it. That said, don’t hesitate to place it alongside white Burgundy labels that have a strong foothold in the world of premium wine.
Over the past few years, we’ve been consistently impressed with the wines from Etienne Boileau—not least for the serious value for dollar they offer. The domaine, which is alternately known as the Domaine du Chardonnay (they bottle wine under both labels), was created in 1987 by Etienne Boileau, William Nahan, and Christian Simon, who pooled their financial and vineyard resources to create a winemaking operation that now has access to 37 hectares of vines. Among these holdings are nine hectares in Premier Cru sites, including parcels of “Montée de Tonnerre,” “Montmains,” “Vaugiraut,” “Vosgros,” “Mont de Milieu,” and today’s “Vaillons”—quite an impressive lineup.
Etienne operates under the belief that “a winegrower should allow the natural environment where his grapes are grown to be reflected directly in the glass.” So, with “Vaillons” being rich in Kimmeridgian limestone/clay and fossilized seashells, this results in a top-tier Chablis that shines with intense minerality. Etienne farms his Chardonnay from a three-hectare, southwest-facing plot and handpicks them at supremely ripe levels. After a gentle pressing and full malolactic fermentation, the grapes undergo a 2-3 week alcoholic fermentation. The resulting wine ages for 14+ months, both in French barrels and (mostly) stainless steel, with two rackings. It was bottled in late 2018.
What impresses me most about Boileau’s 2016 “Vaillons” is the resounding presence it has on the palate—simultaneously toned, rounded, and dense, it delivers an enriching, mineral-etched sensory experience that I long for in great white Burgundy. A confluence of citrus and yellow apples lead to a refreshing, fruit-dense palate before seamlessly blending into a sea of oyster shell and crushed rock minerality with waves of lees, acacia, and salt-preserved lemon. There’s a great deal of power behind this wine, edging more towards generous than lean. My own experience cellaring Premier Cru Chablis has shown that most drink best between 10-20 years of bottle age. This is typically the point when it has achieved the perfect balance between refreshing minerality, nuanced depth, and advanced aromatic complexity. This waiting game, however, can be dangerous, as one never knows if the wine has expired until the bottle is open. Thankfully, Boileau’s mastery of Chablis allows you to fully enjoy this bottle of 2016 Vaillons now, in five years, or 15+. If drinking sooner rather than later, decant for 30 minutes and serve in Burgundy stems around 50-55 degrees. It’s begging for citrus and seafood, so marry the two in the attached recipe. Cheers!
Burgundy / Chablis
1er Cru Vaillons
Partial French Barrels