On the Trail

The Hill of Montée de Tonnerre

David Driscoll

On our recent trip to Burgundy, one of the highlights for me personally was spending an early morning walking through the vineyards of Chablis, watching the haze burn off over the eponymous small village from the hillsides as the sun crept up over the horizon. Obviously, like anyone with an affinity for Burgundy, I wanted to get a look at the grand cru sites to see if I could decipher the topography and determine why exactly they were considered the best vineyards. I spent a good forty-five minutes doing that. But with an hour still to spare before our first appointment, I decided to head back to the southeast and check out the hill of Montée de Tonnerre, a premier cru vineyard site from which I've drunk countless bottles over the years. Whether it was from Gerard Trembley, Raveneau, or Domaine Vocoret, for some reason I've always gravitated towards the wines from Tonnerre. They traditionally have a prettiness to them, an elegance of acidity and balance of fruit that has come to define what Chablis means to me: a serious bang for your buck. 

Our appointment later that morning was with La Chablisiénne, one of the best negotiants in the region with prices that are often too good to be true (especially when you can buy direct!). The Kimmeridgian soils of the Tonnerre terroir (meaning the fossilization of small sea creatures from the Kimmeridgian era) is on full display in the outstanding 2014 La Chablisiénne 1er Cru "Montée de Tonnerre". The breakdown of all that former sea life creates a chalky, limestone-rich slope that helps the grapes retain acidity and express a piercingly mineral character. I was stunned by the wine when we tasted it that day, and put the experience down as further proof of just how good 2014 was as a vintage for white Burgundy. It was racy and bursting with bright acidity with a saline note on the finish that almost reminds me of a great Islay whisky (sans the smoke). Located just a short walk from the famed grand cru vineyards, Montée de Tonnerre really doesn't give up much with the step down in classification. For less than thirty bucks, you're getting one of the best deals in all of white wine with our new Chablisiénne arrival. Not only am I reminded by my gorgeous morning walk with each sip, I'm reminded why I wanted to go to Chablis in the first place: it's the last true value in serious French white wine. 

-David Driscoll