Domaine Jaeger-Defaix Rully Premier Cru Rabourcé 2005
Chardonnay doesn't need to shout to be heard, at least not in its home turf of Burgundy.
Domaine Jaeger-Defaix is run by Hélène Jaeger, wife of Chablis grower Didier Defaix, in
Rully, in the north of the Côte Chalonnaise, just south of Beaune. Sandwiched between the
Côte de Beaune to the north and Macon to the south, the Côte Chalonnaise seems to walk a
public relations tightrope, depending on who is writing, between un-sexy, on the one hand,
and hidden-value on the other. You cannot deny the value equation here—this wine is $21—but
I at least could imagine these wines attracting much greater attention if the
knock-your-socks-off white Burgundies of legend weren't just a few villages to the north.
To the eye, the Rabourcé is a clear, light lemon, pure and clean. The nose is not intense, but brings a pleasant green apple, lemon, peach and light minerality. Chardonnay is not an aromatic grape, and this wine does not try to make it something it is not as happens so often in the New World. Here is a wine that would be unapologetically French if it weren't unapologetically Rully. You must adjust to it, and not it to you.
In the mouth the wine is medium bodied, with acidity that works when it needs to, watering the mouth in a steady way, supporting the same green apple, lemon, and peach given by the nose, with a dose of apricot and a tangible minerality that stimulates the mouth without coating it. The wine shows light creamy butter. The finish is well connected to the beginning and middle of this wine, with good acid and mineral at the finale, a warm cloud of classic Chardonnay.
It would be a mistake to write too much about this wine; it is a Chardonnay you enjoy for its
connection to the classic expression of that grape, and I have already suggested that
Chardonnay need not shout to satisfy. This wine is sophisticated, and very well made, a
delightful respite from white wines that insist on jabbing you in the ribs until you say
something nice about them. I don't need the jab; I am delighted with it.
The Côte Chalonnaise in Burgundy, about evenly divided between reds and whites, is justifiably considered a “value” region.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman