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A crisp white's expressive range

November 07, 2007|Patrick Comiskey

The wines below are listed roughly in their order of weight, from the zippiest to the most opulent. The first two are ideal for raw shellfish; the rest will work in varying degrees with other fruits de mer on your plateau.

In retail stores the 2005 vintage seems to be the most current, but occasionally I was able to find older vintages -- 2004 and even a 2002 -- that were useful for comparing the warm 2005 vintage with the more "normal" 2004; the 2003 is by and large out of the market.

Comparing vintages is an imperfect science, but the younger wines tended to be fruitier, more expressive, and their ripeness was quite apparent, whereas the 2004s were generally more settled. When a comparison was possible, I've included it in the notes below.

2005 Francine et Olivier Savary Chablis Selection Vieilles Vignes. Fiercely mineral, especially for the warm 2005 vintage, with aromas of the yeast of levain (sourdough) bread and lime. The palate texture is lean and electric with fine mineral notes of quinine and talc. Without being terribly complex, its texture is thrilling, like grabbing a moving lasso. For the vintage, exceedingly lean, and an ideal oyster wine. Available at Du Vin Wine & Spirits, Los Angeles, (310) 855-1161,; Manhattan Fine Wines, Manhattan Beach, (310) 374-3454,; and the Wine Cask, Santa Barbara, (805) 966-9463, About $20.

2005 Domaine Joseph Drouhin Chablis. Drouhin's entry-level Chablis is quite brisk and zinc-like in the nose with a lime-flower scent and fresh, high-arcing apple aromas. This wine has plenty of appley fruit flavor; it's brisk, round on the palate, supported with decent acidity on the back end. Also tasted, the 2006 Chablis (not yet in wide release), another warm vintage, which in its youth is direct and fresh, with pear and apple notes. A ripe wine that is nevertheless vibrant and fruity. At Mel and Rose Wine & Spirits in West Hollywood (where the 2006 is just in), (323) 655- 5557,; and Manhattan Fine Wines. $18.

2005 Domaine Jean Collet et Fils Chablis Premier Cru "Vaillons." A rich wine, with aromas of quince and golden apples. The texture shows up the warmth of the vintage on a warm site, with broad golden- and baked-apple flavors leavened by notes of wet stone. Also tasted, the 2004 Vaillons, which was firmer, sleeker and mineral, with very firm texture. Tasting the two side by side is a textbook comparison of a ripe vintage and a cool one. The 2005 is available at the Wine House, West Los Angeles, (310) 479-3731, About $39.

2005 Daniel Dampt et Fils Chablis Premier Cru "Cote de Lechet." The most elegant and beautifully built of the Chablis here, its aromas lead with lime zest and juicy lime and pineapple, all dusted with crushed stone dust. Its texture is gorgeous and extremely fine, the fruit supported by a fine, filigreed minerality, generous yet well-built, gentle and firm all at once. Is it ripe? Perhaps, but who cares with a wine this seductive -- and it would be versatile up and down a seafood plateau. Available at K& L Wine Merchants, Hollywood, (323) 464-9463,; Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits and Cheese, (323) 856-8699; and the Wine House. About $26.

2005 Joseph Drouhin Chablis Grand Cru "Vaudesir." This wine is so tightly built it was a shame to open it so young. Sleek primary scents of lime and green apple greet the nose. On the palate it is terribly fresh and well-built (those apple flavors accented by a hint of burnt sugar), but the minerals are still dominating the wine -- a dusty, chipped-stone minerality gives way to a mild bitter almond finish. Like most grand crus, it shows impressive minerality through the lens of the fruit. Also tasted, the 2004 Vaudesir, which had relaxed and gives a hint as to where the 2005 might go: The mineral is more of a tone than an obstacle, the fruit more citrusy and a touch broader. All in all, impressive. At Mel and Rose Wine & Spirits; Wally's Wine & Spirits, Los Angeles, (310) 475-0606,; and the Colorado Wine Co., (323) 478-1985, About $85.

2004 Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Chablis Grand Cru "Valmur." Elegant, stylish and poised, this grand cru leads with aromas of oyster shell and baked pear dusted with light brown sugar. On the palate the wine is gentle and relaxed, even a little sweet, but it's a savory sweetness. A beautiful, pristine, gentle wine with quiet Burgundian power that builds on the palate. Not particularly tense; the heat of a warm grand cru slope leads to a bit of opulence in a cooler vintage. At Du Vin Wine and Manhattan Fine Wines. About $60.

2004 Domaine Laroche Chablis Grand Cru "Les Clos." Polished like a gem, this wine boasts scents of ripe pear and caramel-like lees, but it's as if the minerals have crystallized in its flinty core, giving the aromas delineation and contour. The pear fruit flavors are shored up by gorgeous acidity and an impressively long finish. Such a complex, suave, fascinating wine, again showing the sort of richness you can expect from a grand cru site, even in a cool vintage. Also tasted, the 2002, from another cool vintage, which is considerably more earthy and intense, with flavors of preserved lemon and egg cream, again supported by firm flinty minerals and suave acidity. Rich enough for cracked crab and lobster. Available at Mel and Rose Wine & Spirits and at the Wine House. About $75.

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