Jean Paul & Benoît Droin

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History

The Droin family is amongst the oldest in Chablis, its members having been wine growers for nearly five centuries.

Since the year of 1620, fourteen generations of vignerons have transmitted their “savoir-faire” down from father to son.

During François 1st’s reign, in 1547, a certain Jehan Droin was already working on an arpent of vineyard in the Clos which was owned by the lepers hospital St Sebastian, later linked to the Hotel-Dieu.

In 1698, Jehan Droin was a wine grower, a “brandevinier” and also a barrel maker.

If today Jean-Paul and Benoit are the only bearers of the Droin family name, during the 18th century about ten families with one common Droin ancestor used to live in Chablis.

In 1791, Jean Boniface Droin became the owner of a few parcels of vineyard during the sale of the National goods.

Diverse records mention the Droin family over the centuries including on May the 6th 1866 when the Emperor Napoleon III visited Auxerre a certain Edme Jean Baptiste Droin presented the Emperor with some bottles of his wine. To thank him the Emperor gave him a silver wine taster with the coat of arms of the empire engraved upon it. This has been passed down through the generations in the safekeeping of the eldest son in each family.

On June 19th 1923, Louis Droin , Jean-Paul’s great-grandfather was elected president of the “Union des Propriétaires Vignerons de Chablis”, an organisation established to prevent fraud and to authenticate the origin of the wine.

This Union has since become known as the “Syndicate de défense de l’appellation Chablis” and Jean-Paul is today one of its vice presidents.

In 1950 Marcel Droin, great grandfather to Benoit created the “Fete des Vins de Chablis”.
He was also one of the founder members of the “Confrérie des Piliers Chablisiens” as well as being a member of the committee of the INAO.

In 1965 Jean-Paul joined the family business and learned his profession “on the job” from his father, Paul and grandfather, Marcel.

By 1983, he had taken over the family business with the help of his wife Catherine, who gave up her job to manage the running of the business and the marketing of its wines.

In 1999, their youngest son Benoit, representing the fourteenth generation, started at the Domain after having spent five years studying for the National Diploma of Oenology at Beaune and the University of Dijon. He is now chief winemaker in the new winery built at the foot of the Grand Cru vineyards.

On November the 1st 2002, the SCEV Jean-Paul and Benoit Droin was created. The Domain has been enlarged by 4.30 ha in Chablis, Premier Crus Montmains and Grand Crus Les Clos, thanks to a lease granted to Benoit by his cousin Christiane Droin-Lucas, now retired.

Catherine has become the Domain manager, assisted by Marie, Benoit’s wife and by Martine who has been the secretary of the domain since 1994.

The Domain now consists of more than 25 ha spread over the four appellations as follows :

Petit Chablis 1,30 ha
Chablis 9 ha
Premiers Crus (8 parcels) 11 ha
Grands Crus (5 parcels) 4,14 ha

It is principally made up of vineyards acquired over the centuries by 13 generations of wine growers who have never left their native soil. This explains the typically Burgundian divisions of the land.

Practices & Techniques

Pruning:

Since 1920, double guyot pruning has been used in Chablis. (2 shoots with 7 buds and one or two spurs) As much old wood is conserved as possible which allows the sap to circulate more slowly and regularly thus reducing the rupture of the grape caused by excess sap.

Harvest:

Mechanical picking is allowed for all the appellations but harvesting by hand is necessary when accessibility is difficult or for old vines which are more difficult to harvest.

Production and commercialisation:

Chablis produces the most white wine in Burgundy.

The volumes produced have been constantly increasing over the last 20 years.

25 500 hectolitres were produced in 2001 and about a third of the wine produced goes to La Chablisienne, the wine cooperative, which was founded in 1923. Another third sells their wine unbottled to local or regional trading houses and the remaining third is sold by the producers under their own label.

Estate Vineyards / AVA

Chablis is a village of 2.600 inhabitants situated 160 kms southeast of Paris and 150 kms northwest of Dijon. The village gave its name to the surrounding vineyards which stretch west for about 15 kms on both banks of the river Serein. The area under vines is about 4.300 ha and encompasses about twenty villages.

The Kimmeridgian soil :

The Chablis region was once covered by a sea which laid down calcium sediments containing vast numbers of shells, the majority of which were small oysters in the shape of a comma (Ostrea virgula). At the end of the Jurassic period, the sea disappeared and the following ice age channelled out valleys in the sedimentary rocks that forms the topography that we see today.

This geological age is called The Kimmeridge in reference to the Bay of Kimmeridge in the south of England whose sub soil has the same characteristics. This type of soil is only found in these two places in the world.

It is this very special soil which gives Chablis wine its typical mineral quality. The Chablis soils are in fact alternate layers of very compact limestone interspersed with soft layers of clay which holds the fossilised sea shells.

The Portlandian soil:

We can also find in the Chablis area portlandian soil which is a layer found covering the kimmeridgian and dates from the Cretatious period. This layer is high in calcium, but with little clay and fossils. It produces wine that is more supple and fruity rather than mineral in character. The wines produced from this soil are principally classed as “Petit Chablis” and less often as a “Chablis”. All other appellations are grown on Kimmeridgian soil.

The Chablis climate:

Chablis, the most northern vineyards in Burgundy, has a continental style climate with hot summers and cold winters. Along with Champagne, Chablis is the wine growing area which is most susceptible to frosts in France.

The vines of Chablis are subject to spring frosts in April and May for three out of every five years. If the new buds freeze it destroys any hope of a good harvest and many vignerons, discouraged, abandoned their vines because of this hardship. The area under vine cultivation was smaller than that of today which increased the destructive impact of the frosts.

However since the 1950s, the means with which to reduce the effect of the frosts have been widely developed. There are two principal methods which, in principal, are contradictory : the heating and the cooling of the buds.

The first method consists of placing heaters between the vines which are lit when there is a frost. This increases the temperature around the vines by a few degrees and is enough to protect the vine.

Heating system against frosts

The second method consists of spraying the vines with a fine mist which forms an ice capsule around the bud. This has an exothermic reaction in which the bud releases heat and thus protects it from freezing. This is a very efficient method but requires a large amount of water near by which is often the limiting factor.

Drenching system against frosts:

The cost of protecting the vines against frost is quite high which means that only 450 ha are protected, prioritising the Premiers and Grands Crus.

These methods of protection have allowed the vineyards to develop as the vigneron is no longer hesitant about planting new vines as the harvest is to a large degree assured.

Vine:

The only grape variety planted in Chablis is Chardonnay (also known as Beaunois). The grafting stock used is : 41B, 161-49, 3309, So4 and Fereal.

The vines are planted at 1.60 m intervals between the rows and 1 m apart. This represents about 6.000 vines per hectare.

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14 bis, rue Jean Jaurès BP 19
Chablis, Yonne 89800
France

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