Top 100 Wineries of 2015: Domaine Laroche
“For over 150 years, Domaine Laroche has been linked to Chablis in both quality and the impressive scope of its holdings.
“Land Holdings: While Domaine Laroche traces its beginnings to 1850, it was fifth-generation family member Michel Laroche who created the domaine’s modern-day reputation, taking it from just under 15 acres to almost 250. When he took over from his father in the 1960s, spring frosts were still frequent and land was affordable, so Laroche was able to scoop up prime parcels: ‘Today, the domaine’s holdings include 15 acres of grand cru vineyards and 73 acres, of premier crus. The domaine employs more than 30 workers on their vineyard team, each tasked with caring for a specific plot, with duties ranging from day-to-day farming to decisions on picking dates.
“Chablis Focus: Today, the Laroche company extends to Mas La Chevalière in the south of France, L’Avenir in South Africa and Viña Punto Alto in Chile, but the name remains most closely associated with Chablis. Wines like the 2012 premier cru Les Vaillons provide a classic definition of Chablis, the lemon and green pear flavors crisp and quiet, firmed up by persistent limestone acidity. Others, like Le Clos, show off the region’s potential for long-lived wines. Selected from Laroche’s 2.77 acres of this grand cru, from vines planted in 1960, the 2012 is still an infant, contrasting youthful, earthy intensity with pale notes of cream and an invigorating clarity of fruit.
“Crown Jewel: In 1985, Michel Laroche purchased the L’Obediencerie, a ninth-century monastery in the grand cru vineyard of Les Blanchots. Now it houses the cellars for the premier and grand cru wines, and lends its name to the crown jewel of the portfolio, the Réserve de l’Obédience. Blended from the best wines of Les Blanchots-some aged in tanks others in barriques or large wooden casks-the wine is a composite reading of the vineyard, a mix of steep slopes of white, blue and green clay and Kimmeridgian limestone. In 2012, it’s dense and closed, only hinting at the floral notes and spice bound up in its mineral fruit. The creamy texture relieves some of its austerity, but this wine needs at least five years in bottle to realize its full potential.”