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2012 Le Domaine d'Henri Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume Heritage

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2012 Le Domaine d'Henri Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume Heritage

Single Bottle - Standard - 750ml


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Tasting Notes:

The 2012 Chablis 1er Cru Les Fourchaume Héritage has a slightly more fumé nose, although Michel Laroche believes that does not come from the 30% oak contact. Comparing it directly with the Vieilles Vignes, I must confess a preference for the latter. The palate is very well balanced, very persistent in the mouth and actually reminds me of say, a Puligny Pucelles. There is very good tension here, this bottle showing better than the one served blind three weeks previously, with a tightly wound but persistent finish. Very fine, though in this debut year I actually preferred the Vieilles Vignes.Michel Laroche is posing for a photograph with his daughter Margaux and insists on showing his "best side"...and with good reason. He's not being a narcissist. He was involved in what he described as "my only motorbike accident in 30 years," which is probably one too many for most. To his chagrin, he was not even going fast, but rather had the misfortune of falling straight onto his face and by the number of stitches holding it together, hit the ground hard. Later that evening I inquire whether he will ever get back into the saddle of his motorbike? "I've already been back on," he replies with a gap-toothed grin.After selling stake in his namesake company a couple of year ago, Michel was never going to rest. "After promised myself that when I reached sixty, I would go back to something a bit smaller," he explained as we toured the vat-room that still smelled of fresh cement. Whereas Domaine Laroche employs over 200 people, here at Le Domaine d'Henri there are just 10 employees, including Michel himself - exactly how he likes it.It is a recent addition to the Chablis scene, the brand spanking new winery on your left as you enter the village. One has the sense that this new project is not just for Michel but for his children to build. The nucleus of vineyards, Village Cru and in Fourchaume, comes from parcels that Michel's parents owned, though there will be continued expansion has lease agreements run their course over the next few years, which will include further Village Cru vines and in Bongrain. Now there are around 18 or 19 hectares under vine, Michel informing that there should be around 22 hectares once they take possession of all their holdings. So as you would expect, the first offerings are limited to just three or four label, his Fourchaume split according to age of vine with a Vieille Vignes bottling from those planted in 1970 and a Héritage bottling from vines planted back in 1937. There is also a second label that Michel uses: "Les Allées du Domaine," whenever he feels that they don't quite meet the requisite level. If visiting the domaine, you'll see a small parcel of vines that were planted this year as part of a selection massale program. "There are 200 vines," Michel told me as we surveyed them from the first floor window, "and I've only lost five vines due to degeneration." They will eventually be used to make a Vin de Table.I tasted everything that the Domaine has produced since their debut in 2012, including barrel samples of 2014. Starting with that particular vintage, Michel told me how he cropped at 46 hectoliters per hectare, 10 hectoliters per hectare below his expectations earlier in the season due to the warmth that concentrated the berries during September. He also appreciates how these are "impressionable" wines that express the terroir. This contrasts with the much more difficult 2013s that were blended in June last year, where Michel found wines at different levels, so much so that following the "catastrophic" spring and a very late harvest at the beginning of October, that he was not inclined to bottle any "Héritage." The 2012 was his debut for the Domaine, and it was clear that Michel has a lot of time for this vintage that he compared to 2002. Readers should note that there is no St Pierre this year because he was yet to repossess the vines that were under lease.

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The real origin of Le Domaine d’Henri came from my grandparents. When my father inherited it was just two hectares, planted by my grandfather. The Laroche family can date its roots in Chablis back to 1850 and my great great grandfather Jean-Victor Laroche buying one or two patches of vines in the village of Maligny, close to Chablis, but nothing that could really be called a wine estate. Even further back, generations of the Laroche family dating right back to 1695 had always had a few rows of vines. We have been looking carefully into our family history, and it has found that we can really date the creation of a true working vineyard to 1781. The vines were then passed down through my family, and things expanded slowly but surely – two hectares when my father inherited it, and six hectares by the mid 1960s.Today there are eight hectares of vines, with over 4.5 hectares in the Premier Cru vines of Fourchaume, planted by my father and I. We also have 3.5 hectares of vines in the village of Maligny where Jean-Victor Laroche created the estate. We are slowly reclaiming plots that have been rented, and so will reach 14 hectares within the next few years.The future of Le Domaine d’Henri is assured, and it will live through the future generations of our family. This is where I learnt how to be a winemaker, and it means a lot to me. I would spend most of my summers on the property as a teenager, and I know each plot of vines like my own children. The oldest plot was planted in 1937, so the vines have reached the venerable age of 75, and we use them to produce our cuvée Fourchaume Héritage. Our Fourchaume Vieilles Vignes wine is from a plot planted in 1970, so with vines approaching 45 years. The Fourchaume itself comes from vines planted half in 1964, and half in 1999. Our Chablis vines in Maligny were replanted in 1988 and 2001, and are increasing in complexity with every vintage, as they approach an average of 20 years old.