The grapes to produce the Chablis 1er Cru “Les Lys” Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix were pressed very gently. They underwent a cool fermentation in stainless steel tanks using only natural yeasts at a controlled temperature of 18°C for three weeks. Malolactic fermentation took place before the wine was left to age on its fine lees for 36 months in tank. During this period there was monthly bâtonnage (lees stirring). The bâtonnage breaks up the fine lees and releases glycerine, which acts as an antioxidant, helping the wine to successfully age. The wine was stored for a further 14 years in tank, before bottling.
Les Lys is a ‘climat’ at the top of the Vaillons 1er Cru plot and takes its name from the fact it used to be owned by the French crown. The vineyards are planted on Kimmeridgian marl soils and are south-east facing, which enables the grapes to undergo a slow ripening process and accumulate delicate aromatic flavours.
Said to be the oldest domaine in Chablis, tracing its origins back to 1610, it is now run by Daniel-Etienne Defaix, 14th generation of the Defaix family. He took over from his father in 1978 and started making wine “as my grandfather had done”. This involved keeping the wine in tank for a protracted period and putting it through a monthly bâtonnage, a practice he retains to this day. “My grandfather’s generation used to keep the wine for so long in order to protect themselves against frost, to ensure they would always have wine to sell,” he explains. Nowadays, this approach is unique in Chablis, and the extended ageing before release gives the wines a lovely evolved character that adds complexity to their freshness.