One of the latest harvests in the last 30 years, 2013 is perfectly suited to highlight the very strengths of the great wines of Chablis. Such cooler later ripening seasons inevitably produce wines with brightness, purity, freshness and, subject to location, minerality. These are all key ingredients for delicious Chablis and so it is for the best wines in this small but very select vintage and the crucial factor was very much in the timing of the harvest.
2013 was a nerve racking year for the Chablisien wine producer. The cold winter and spring months allowed for healthy vineyards but also caused a late flowering season with the obvious impact of a later potential harvesting date. On top of this flowering in June took place in surprisingly cool conditions which remained throughout July and much of August. Not only did this guarantee a late vintage but also had a huge impact on yields; the bunches of grapes were smaller than usual but they did have the potential to produce some high class fruit.
What followed was a lovely warm September which guaranteed good ripeness for the small volume of fruit that there was. By the end of the month the best located vineyards were reaching their optimum maturity producing some fabulous fruit of excellent quality and harvesting began in earnest.
Speed with late harvests is always of the essence; the window of opportunity is smaller than earlier picking years and so it was in 2013. The first week of October was lovely and sunny, ideal picking conditions, and, whilst economically nobody wanted a small crop, for the quality of the vintage it was certainly an advantage. Not only does it help to produce wines of good intensity but also growers were able to gather the majority of their crop from their top vineyards before the heavy rains of the weekend of the 5th October.
These earlier picked wines are wonderfully strong Chablis; they have lovely freshness, great zest and a classic Chablis minerality. I found that many of the wines are quite forward in their drinking style and will give delicious youthful pleasure. The Grand Crus certainly have more substance and therefore longevity and will make strong aged wines.
The negative, is that yields were down substantially. 2013 is one of the smallest vintages we have seen released for many years putting huge pressure on stock and therefore availability is very limited indeed. Whilst we have asked for added allocations, the stock just simply doesn’t exist and I suspect we will see many growers releasing their 2014s much earlier than normal next year to make up for the shortfall. The message is simple if you would like some wines from this limited vintage, act fast before it disappears…