The Delalex brothers, Samuel and Benoit, are among the very few trying to make wine at the highest level in the Chablais – the foothills of the Alps along the Lac Léman, on the French side of the lake. The grape here is Chasselas, a generally uninspiring variety, which makes wines that are too often flabby and neutral. Yet these brothers are making something exceptional with Chasselas.
The key here is that Delalex does not put the wines through malolactic fermentation. This translates into a precise, laser-sharp acidity, which can be intense in young wines. The second part of the equation is that the wines see extensive bottle aging before release. These wines do not tend to express themselves until they've spent at least a year in bottle, and the acidity retained in the winemaking process allows them to age gracefully –one can taste vintages going back a decade which not only still hold up but also still have a freshness and a vivacity to them.
The Delalex estate consists of around 8 hectares in the Cru of Marin in Savoie, the vast majority of which is planted with Chasselas. Most vineyards are exposed essentially south-west, though the property’s best site faces mostly south. The main wine is an assemblage of various parcels that they own around the village, with vines ranging in age from 10 to 70 years. The other wine is from a single vineyard called Clos de Pont, which was replanted in 1982. This is a very beautiful, privileged site, steep and stony, with the vines planted right down to the banks of the glacier-fed Dranse river. It’s a warmer site, protected from the northern winds called the bise. Though vinified in precisely the same manner as their other wine, it shows much more density and structure.