2018 Domaine Raveneau Chablis Montee de Tonnerre 1er Cru

Year: 2018
Appellation: Chablis
Country: France
Wine Advocate: 90-93
Vinous Media: 91
James Suckling: 93-94
Burghound: 95
White Wine
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"The 2018 Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre offers up an attractive bouquet of Meyer lemon, green apple, white flowers and crushed chalk. On the palate, it's medium to full-bodied, layered and satiny, with good depth and concentration at the core and a pure, stony finish. This is quite an ample but reserved Montée de Tonnerre, but while it's the domaine's emblematic premier cru, I felt that it was upstaged by both the Chapelot bottling and the Butteaux this year.

In last year's Chablis report, I wondered aloud how one explains the Raveneau magic? Yields here aren't excessively high, but they're not the region's lowest. Fermentation at between 18 degrees and 20 degrees centigrade in tank, followed by élevage in used barrels define the very elementary outlines of the winemaking process—a description that would equally apply to Vincent Dauvissat's stylistically different wines. The devil, presumably, is in the details.

This year's visit with Bernard Raveneau, with whom I passed a fascinating two hours, revealed a new piece of the puzzle. When I inquired about the importance of lees during the wine's time in wood, Raveneau's response was memorable: "I've never understood why we change babies, whereas we leave a wine in its excrement!" Clearly, therefore, the Raveneau wines go to barrel after their fermentation in tank with very little in the way of solids, and perhaps this provides a point of distinction—in addition, of course, to different approaches in the vineyards—with Vincent Dauvissat's more reductive wines. In any case, as I wrote last year, I'm content to ponder the domaine's mysteries for the foreseeable future, as the Domaine Raveneau is undoubtedly the source of some of Chablis's greatest wines—and its most dependably long-lived.

The 2017s, which were bottled during my two weeks in Chablis, increasingly resemble the domaine's 2010s, though they're a touch more extroverted and expressive in style. While acknowledging that "people will fixate on the Clos and Montée de Tonnerre," I suspect Raveneau may have shared my preference for the Butteaux and Valmur over their more famous siblings in this year's collection. Tasted from barrel, where they had only just begun their élevage, the 2018s—which represent the first copious yield chez Raveneau for several years—were already quite put-together, supple and incipiently delicious. It doesn't appear to be a vintage built for the long haul, but it will deliver immense near- and medium-term pleasure, as well as what appears to be, at this early stage, a more classically Chablisien profile.

Readers looking for more on this important estate and its history are directed to my article published in the End of March issue of The Wine Advocate, which includes information previously unpublished in English." (WA)

"The 2018 Chablis Montée de Tonnerre 1er Cru has a touch more tropical fruit on the nose compared to the Les Butteaux, offering faint passion fruit, white peach and apricot scents with aeration. Lovely definition. The palate is well balanced with a slight waxiness on the entry, and a little pithy in style. Hints of yellow plum and spices emerge toward a finish that develops an appealing creamy texture with time. Excellent. But personally I prefer the nervosité of the Butteaux. "(VM)

"The nose has a sheen of glossy praline and almost toffee with peach and lemon-brulée notes, as well as lemon curd and mangoes. The palate has a super smooth and attractively round feel with a succulent and super slinky, utterly seductive texture. So delicious it’s crazy! Drink or hold." (JS)

"This is perhaps the most elegant and floral-infused wine in the range with its array of various white flower scents, especially acacia that are nuanced by wisps of ocean breeze, iodine and algae. The restrained and well-detailed flavors possess a sophisticated and refined mouthfeel while the stony and chiseled finish exhibiting excellent persistence on the bone-dry finish. This is class in a glass and a stunning rendition of the appellation though note well that at least moderate patience is strongly advised." (BH)