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The Burgundy-based producer Laroche got its start in Chablis, and it has just released five of them plus a regional chardonnay, the same grape also employed in the five with the higher pedigrees.
The basic flavor of most chardonnay is generally apple, and that is the case here, ranging from green and tart to soft and mellow. As a group, Chablis is great at pairing with shellfish and fillets of white-fleshed fishes, as long as they are not overspiced.
The starter wine in this group is the 2010 Laroche "Tete de Cuvee" Bourgogne chardonnay ($17.50), with grapes primarily from the Maconnaise, grown farther to the south than Chablis and therefore often somewhat riper. This one falls within the mellow-apple range, with somewhat flabby structure but nevertheless firmness in the end with a hint of tannin.
The 2010 Laroche Petit Chablis ($19) is simple but flavorful — some aromas of corn oil, mildly floral, and quite minerally, while the 2010 Domaine Larcoche 2010 "St. Martin" Chablis ($23) is rich in the middle and tart around the edges, much more complex, with hints of whey and a touch of earthiness. It seems made for afternoon tea sandwiches.
Stepping up to the crus — honored specific vineyards — the 2009 Domaine Laroche "Les Vaudevey" Chablis premier cru ($38.50) is smooth and velvety on the palate with a touch of lactic and toastiness from the oak barrels. The 2009 Domaine Laroche "Les Vaillons" Vieilles Vignes Chablis premier cru ($49) is much more structured and tighter at the finish with brown toasty flavors.
Finally, la crème de la crème — the 2009 Domaine Laroche "Les Blancots" Chablis grand cru ($85.50) — lives up to its status. It is rich and delicious, the most herbal and floral of the group, well-structured, rich and long.
All in all, the six represent a very enjoyable — if not quite stellar — climb up the chardonnay ladder.