Domaine Raveneau • Chablis Grand Cru Clos 2014

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97 points - Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, August 2016

The 2014 Chablis Grand Cru les Clos has a much more expressive bouquet than the 2015, with beautiful orange blossom and smoky scents decorating the nose. The palate is very well balanced and so saline in the mouth that you almost want to reach for your bucket and spade. This Les Clos is so seductive and so harmonious, seeming to bloom and deliver fabulous intensity on the finish. Whereas Valmur is the pick in 2015, the Les Clos might be the pick in 2014, thanks to its sense of completeness. But as I mentioned in my remarks from barrel last year, patience will be paramount for those seeking to witness this Chablis at its peak.

Isabelle Raveneau was in fine form when I rang the doorbell of the most renowned grower in Chablis. This being just after the Brexit and the following morning from the English football team’s embarrassing defeat to Iceland in Euro 2016, Isabelle did not know which subject to broach first--though I detected a morsel of sympathy between stifling her laughs. Although my own country has a mountain of problems, so has Isabelle, the only difference being that hers are not self-inflicted. With the slew of frost damage, hailstorms and at the time of tasting, omnipresent risk of mildew after what has been a wet period, like everyone else Raveneau is not spared the challenges of the 2016 growing season. But today, I was here to taste through the 2014s now in bottle and the 2015s from barrel. “We began the 2015 harvest on September 3. There was a hailstorm two days before harvest,” she told me. “The affected vineyards were Les Forets, Montmains, Montée de Tonnerre, Les Clos and Blanchots. We had to change the organization of the picking, so we went into Les Clos and Blanchots first as they were damaged. After the storm, we had sunny days and cool nights, which kept the grapes fairly healthy. There is a big difference in terms of yield as there was 110 millimeters of rain, as well. Fortunately, the summer had been dry and the berries needed rain anyway and the skins did not split. We were ready to start by that time, but we were expecting lower yields. I think 2015 is not a classic vintage. The acidity is not as high as 2014 and the wines are very smooth and round. It seems a bit like 2006 on paper.” For further details on 2014, I would refer readers to last year’s Chablis report. I asked Isabelle whether they had changed much since they were bottles. “They have become a bit more closed than they were. They were a bit shocked by the bottling at the beginning of May. It is a great vintage--I might compare it to 2010 due to its salinity and mineralité. It is also just very drinkable at the same time.” Suffice to say, the 2014s are some of greatest wines that I have tasted from Raveneau and I concur with Isabelle that they do resemble the 2010 (I have included a note for the 2010 Les Butteaux that I tasted later that day in Chablis). They are everything that Chablis should aspire to: tensile, mineral-laden, energetic, aloof and terroir-driven. Perhaps they do highlight what the 2015s might lack, render them easier-drinking than I think they really are. There is no question in my mind that the 2014s have something extra when compared to 2015s, however the latter should not be overlooked because there are some very beautiful wines born in this vintage. What it comes down to is that there are no snow-peaked pinnacles in 2015, like there are in 2014--peaks like Blanchots, Les Clos and perhaps even Butteaux, all extraordinary and life-affirming Chablis that are thrilling from very first sip.

- Neal Martin

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