From: Chablis, France
Taste: Again, the vines here are from southeast facing slopes in a section of Les Lys known as “Clos du Roi” (effectively a monopole of the Defaix estate). The Defaix domaine owns 3.5 hectares of this 5 hectare 1er Cru. The resulting wine is long-lived and displays remarkable finesse and length, a classic Chablis. One often encounters the flavors and aromas of bergamot, acacia and honey in the Les Lys alongside a compelling freshness, a wine of excellent tension. The average age of the vines is 45 years.
Pairing: Daniel Defaix, the enthusiastic gourmand that he is, enjoys this wine particularly with scallops, lobster (keep going for a Lobster Ravioli In Won Ton With Lemon-Grass Butter Sauce recipe), line-caught bar and turbot.
Lobster Ravioli In Won Ton With Lemon-Grass Butter Sauce
Recipe from Gerd Knaust
Adapted by Marian Burros
“A genial gourmet, Daniel-Etienne Defaix is one of Chablis’s personalities, and his wines are no less characterful. He releases his sapid, gourmand expressions of Chablis at maturity—that’s to say, some 15 years after everyone else in the region. Gentle pressing followed by fermentation in stainless steel and élevage for as long as 30 months, with the lees kept in suspension, are the rudiments of his approach.
These are textural, complex wines that evoke the white Burgundies of yesteryear, and they may confuse consumers habituated to the tart, brittle, processed wines that are often passed off as expressions of region’s ‘terroir.’ Their potential to develop in bottle and their capacity to pair with a thrilling variety of foods, however, make them fascinating, at least to this writer. Much of the production is sold to France’s best restaurants, but what reaches the export market is well worth seeking out.”
William Kelley 2008
“On my most recent visit to the Defaix winery I tasted with Paul-Etienne Defaix the 15th generation of the family to perpetuate the domaine. Demand for the wines is high. The estate's 2010 premiers crus were bottled this year with plans to release them once the 2009s reviewed here are sold out. While I knew Defaix practiced very long élevage I confess I hadn't quite realized just how long but a tour of the winery revealed tank after tank full of Chablis patiently awaiting its moment in the limelight. Since my last visit 2007 and 2008 have both come and gone but I tried examples of both and found much to admire.” - William Kelley 2022
About. Daniel-Etienne Defaix’s ancestors cultivated the vine in the sixteenth century at the Château de Faix near Avallon, not far from Chablis. Etienne-Paul Defaix installed the family as vignerons in Chablis during the eighteenth century. Daniel-Etienne Defaix is the 14th generation to continue this long family tradition.
In 1978 Daniel-Etienne Defaix was an eighteen-year-old student studying winemaking when the famous vineyard, Le Lys, came on the market. This vineyard was next to his father’s land. It was too good an opportunity to miss, so he bought it with a mortgage from the bank. This was the start of his domaine. Today, the domaine consists of 28 hectares planted exclusively to Chardonnay and primarily in a serious of vineyard sites classified 1er Cru.
All the wines at this estate are vinified in a similar fashion. The grapes are pressed slowly for three hours, separated parcel by parcel, with only the finest juice maintained for bottling at the domaine. The wines normally ferment for three weeks (sometimes as long as a month) using only indigenous yeast and at a temperature of 18 degrees Celsius.
The malolactic fermentation is always completed but never artificially rushed (on rare occasion, the ML has taken two years to finish). The wines rest on the fine lees in stainless steel tanks for at least 18 months (and sometimes longer for the 1er and Grand Crus) undergoing a type of batonnage without exposure to air and without the addition of sulfur (utilizing the CO2 created by the malolactic fermentation to conserve the freshness of the wines). He is firmly in the “unoaked’ camp of Chablis producers. The wines are generally not fined nor filtered prior to bottling.
Daniel-Etienne Defaix releases his wine to the market only after obtaining several years of bottle age at which point the market has the pleasure of having access to wines that more fully express the remarkable and unique terroir that is Chablis. Note also that the high quality corks used at the domaine are purchased two to three years in advance to secure the finest quality and to insure the stability of the cork.
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