2014 Chablis 1er Cru Côte de Léchet
Domaine Sébastien Dampt
The above photo may look romantic, right? Who doesn’t like a lit up vineyard at night? Unfortunately, it’s not romantic. This picture Sébastien Dampt sent David back in early May shows what sometimes is done in hopes of fending off any severe damage from forecasted overnight frost by keeping the newly broken buds warm. 2016 has been a nightmare for Chablis producers as they had not only frost to contend with, but suffered through two hailstorms. Damage was so severe in some communes that the vintage itself has come into question, as in “Will we make wine in 2016?” As far as we know, Sébastien will make his wines in 2016, but how much is anybody’s guess. Taking that into consideration, one could come to the logical conclusion that in order to keep his business running, he may need to raise his prices slightly to recoup lost revenues due to lost fruit. It’s a sad reality, but it is reality nonetheless. Let’s keep that in the back of our minds and focus on what’s in front of us now, in the present, and currently in-stock: 2014 Domaine Sébastien Dampt Chablis Premier Cru Côte de Léchet and its incredible low price.
When David is on assignment in France, he usually stays in touch by sending us notes and comments from some of his tastings. Last winter, he sent this in an email, “Lots of good tastings. I tasted a couple of ’15s at Dampt today – they’ll be nice, round, early maturing. I went through all the ’14s and they are THE BOMB! I actually prefer the 1er Crus to the Grand Crus. The Vaillons, Léchet, and Beugnons are just fantastic.” I probably don’t need to add anything to that; if David is going to recommend something with that kind of enthusiasm, I would say we would be depriving ourselves if we don’t heed his advice.
We’ve mentioned Sébastien Dampt before, as we’ve been directly importing his wines for a few years now. That’s directly importing, as we deal with Sébastien himself, not a negociant or special contact who have their hands open for a “finders’ fee.” This, of course, is great news for all of us as prices are as low as possible. Take that fact and then read Burghound’s Allen Meadows’ comment that, “As the scores and comments suggest, these are well-made wines and at the prices the Dampt wines generally sell for, they are first-rate bargains.” And yes, they’re all that.
I have a soft spot on my palate for wines from Côte de Léchet. Long ago, back when one could tell my hair color was once brown, we had a different producer’s Côte de Léchet, and I loved it. It was $44.99 per bottle. Obviously, we weren’t the importer for that wine. But while we had this other producer’s line of Chablis, it was a rite of late spring to grab one bottle of each vineyard and head over to a buddy’s house to taste them against each other while noshing on sautéed shrimp and scallops. Go figure that the Côte de Léchet was always the standout. So when we began importing Dampt’s wines, it was not a surprise that I gravitated toward the Côte de Léchet. As if I needed further encouragement, the sub $30 price tag was a huge bonus! Don’t you love it when you’re ready to pay $50 for something, but are then told it’s only $30?
The Chablis, shrimp and scallops tradition may have waned in recent years, but tasting Sébastien Dampt’s newly released Côte de Léchet has picked up right where we left off. I tasted the 2014 the other night, this time with some baked chicken with garlic and herbs. Bingo! I think that the thing about Côte de Léchet that tips the scale for me is its richness. When I’m about to take my first sip of Chablis, I am prepared for sleek, zippy acidity and a mineral underlay. From the aromas to the finish, this 2014 Sébastien Dampt Côte de Léchet delivers some rich, fleshy, white and yellow Chardonnay fruit; kind of like a green apple with a little lemon blossom. That fruit is propped up and balanced by the sleek, fresh profile, and the harmony of the finish is quite the upside surprise. I’m a fan.
As summer continues, it just makes sense to have wines on hand that are delicious when chilled. Holy cow! The Thirst Gamay that Anya wrote up last weekend has earned a permanent place in my refrigerator door! Though, just in case I find some nice looking shrimp or scallops at the market on my way home, I’m going to want a bottle of 2014 Sébastien Dampt Côte de Léchet on that shelf too! The new treehouse is finally taking shape and I enjoyed a glass of something nice last night out on the deck while the sun set behind the canopy of trees. Now that’s romantic. – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions about Chablis, Côte de Léchet, Bordeaux, European Football, Sauternes, or treehouses: peter@wineSF.com