Domaine Watson

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Having set up the Parisian branch for his UK law firm (and passed the French Bar exams to boot), Chris Watson - an international lawyer, specialising in major telecommunications work - inevitably spent some time investigating vineyards close to Paris and was bitten by the wine bug so badly that it resulted in him being the proud owner of land in Chablis. He spends as much time as possible in the region, and has many friends there from his 27 years of visits.

Chris’s respect and passion for Chablis spurs him on to make the best wine possible. Being the only English owner in the region could be tricky – but not in Chris’s case. Being a fluent French speaker helps but because he has remained true to the core values of Chablis production, his endeavours have been recognised in his appointment as a member of the Confrérie des Piliers Chablisiens (the elders of Chablis) and, more recently, as the first English Royal Pilier, or senior member of the Confrérie.

Domaine Watson’s vines are grown on just over half a hectare of steep south-facing Kimmeridgian limestone near Chichée, a hamlet south-east of Chablis. The little valley of Vaudécorce where the vineyard lies is next to premier cru Vaucoupin, enjoying the same soil and south-facing exposition as its illustrious neighbour and although it is not officially verified, some say Vaudécorce was itself premier cru in the 19th Century. The high proportion of Kimmeridgian clay and oolitic oysters (ostrea virgula) give the wine a strong and traditional Chablis style with a flinty, smoky, aromatic character.

Planted in 1999, Chris chose the Chardonnay clones with a steely focus on quality, intensity, minerality and complexity, rather than opting for safety, volume or simplicity. The density of planting is high for AOC Chablis, at 8,000 vines per hectare, giving greater concentration and deeper roots, which leads to a wine exceptionally faithful to its terroir. The first wine production was in 2002, bursting onto the tasting scene in true style, winning the silver medal for Chablis at the prestigious Salon des Vins des Caves des Particuliers 2002.

The wine is made by the Dampt brothers: Emmanuel, Eric and Hervé, who have taken over the running of the Dampt enterprise established by their Grandfather at the beginning of the last Century. The business is one of the truly up and coming Chablis growers whose innovation and constant exploration into the art of viniculture awards the Dampts a huge haul of medals every year for their increasingly well-known and sought after wines. At their very modern chai in Collan, just to the east of Chablis, their focus is on timing, with each step in the wine-making process taken at the moment best suited to the state of the wine. Through their respect of the wine and the region, they seek to capture and preserve the true character of each piece of land and each vintage. It is thought that they will be among the great growers of history in Chablis underlined by the fact that they are starting to attract owners of Premier and Grand Cru land (they now make 6 of these much respected jewels in Chablis's crown).

Grape variety:
8,000 vines per hectare
Date of planting:
10 months in stainless steel/Aged oak
Cold stabilisation:
Stabilised by negative temperature (-5°) for one week.
In July
Average production:
Approximately 1,500 bottles under natural cork
Alcoholic and Malolactic fermentation; 70% of the cuvée in stainless steel tanks under controlled temperature (18°) and 30% in barrels of 1 to 5 years old. After racking, the cuvées are blended in tank.
Alcohol Percentage:
12.5% - 13.5%
Serving suggestion:
Serve lightly chilled with fish and white meats.

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