Romain Collet at Domaine Jean Collet, Chablis.

hile other Chablis producers may go for an either/or approach – wood or no wood – Domaine Jean Collet uses a mixed bag of tools, all depending on what they believe is the best for each individual wine.

– Take our Chablis premier cru Vaillons for instance, says Romain Collet. After the malolactic fermentation we put one third in tank, one third in 80 hl foudres and one third in barrels.

Chablis, Burgundy.Romain Collet is the son of Gilles. After wine school in Beaune and internships in New Zeeland and Australia he arrived at the domaine in 2009. Domaine Jean Collet was created by his grandfather in 1952, but the family has been working in wine since 1792.

– Depending on the terroir and the wine’s structure we make different choices, he continues. Already my grandfather worked like this and we haven’t changed the style. It allows us to have different styles depending on the appellation.

Today the domaine covers 40 hectares, from Petit Chablis, via village Chablis and premier cru, up to grand cru. Part of the domaine – ten hectares – is organic.

Domain Collet in Chablis, Burgundy.– In premier cru we have Vaillons, Montmains, Butteaux, Forêts, Sécher, Mont de Milieu and Montée de Tonnerre. In grand cru we have Valmur, half a hectare, and we have also managed to find a small parcel of Les Clos en férmage. 2013 was our first vintage and it is only 16 ares, which means an annual production of about 1000 bottles.

It was Gilles Collet who started experimenting with organic wine growing back in 1999. With one and a half hectare of village appellation Chablis he took his first steps. In 2008 he then decided to increase the area to cover one quarter of the domaine.

Chablis, Burgundy.– We harvest both by hand and by machine, says Romain Collet. About 90 per cent is done by machine. The rest by hand. The grand crus are harvested by hand, as well as the old vines Chablis where it is difficult for the machine to move between the vines.

The old vines were planted in 1932, on Portlandian soil. It is a 0.80 hectare parcel in the commune of Villy, northwest of Chablis, between Maligny and Lignorelles. Despite the age the yield is still good, around 50 hl/ha.

Romain Collet at Domaine Jean Collet in Chablis.– For the Petit Chablis, the Chablis and the Montmains we use 100 per cent stainless steel. The Mont de Milieu we put in demi-muids, 600-lire barrels and the Montée de Tonnerre gets 100 per cent barrels. It has the power to support the wood.

In Montmains Domaine Jean Collet produces three different wines. One from several parcels all across the different lieux-dits and two from specific lieux-dits – Forêts and Butteaux.

– The Montmains comes from vines in six different parcels. Altogether they cover six hectares and the average age is 35 years. We harvest by machine. My grandfather began machine harvesting in 1984, but the results were not great back then. But it has improved since.

Chablis, Burgundy.You’ll find Butteaux at the southern end of Montmains. It is a bit higher up, with more clay. The vines were planted in 1971 by Romain’s grandfather, Jean Collet, and are part of the organic side of the domaine.

– Compared to the Montmains the Butteaux has more body and structure. Montmains is easy to drink young. The soil in Butteaux is much less stony. It is deeper and contains more clay, blue clay. We have been making this cuvée since 2009 and every year you find the same reductive character in the wine.

Montmains is just south of Chablis. Just west of Montmains is Vaillons. The domaine’s approach is similar here. One Vaillons cuvée from several parcels and lieux-dits, and one from a specific lieu-dit – Sécher.

Chablis, Burgundy.– Vaillons is more homogenous than Montmains, explains Romain Collet. In general you can say that Vaillons has more structure and complexity. The Sécher comes from a small parcel. Only 0.25 ha, which produces 2000–2500 bottles annually. It is organically farmed and the yield is 58 hl/ha. We use 30 per cent new barrels. The rest is stainless steel. This cuvée was first made in 2008. We chose a parcel where we could do a different vinification, a wine that could take new wood but still keep the freshness.

Over on the other side of the Serein, the river that cuts right through Chablis, on the same side as the grand crus, Domaine Jean Collet has two premier crus – Montée de Tonnerre and Mont de Milieu.

Rue des Moulins, Chablis, Burgundy.– They are just southeast of the grand crus. It’s the right bank, which produces wines you need to lay down. Our Mont de Milieu is small, low-yielding, parcel my father planted in 2007.

The Montée de Tonnerre at Domaine Jean Collet sees 100 per cent barrels, but just five per cent new ones. In total they own 2.80 hectares, in two different parcels. One in Montmains proper, one in the lieu-dit Les Chapelots.

– Montée de Tonnerre brings body, fat and structure to the wine, says Romain Collet. Les Chapelots brings minerality. It is interesting to vinify the two parcels separately to see the impact of terroir.

– Exposure is slightly different compared to the grand crus. But it depends on where in Montée de Tonnerre you are. Les Chapelots is pretty much the same as Les Clos. In terms of soil Les Chapelots is stonier than Montée de Tonnerre proper.

© 2016 Ola Bergman