Domaine d’Elise

Petit Chablis
Frédéric Prain

Wine has been produced around Chablis since at least the ninth century. For the last hundred years the area of cultivation authorized to use the name Chablis has had controversial and shifting boundaries. The controversy centers around the area’s two geological formations of limestone deposits; the Kimmeridgian and the Portlandian.The Kimmeridgian soils which are soft and marly, are found mostly on the slopes while the Portlandian soils are hard and rocky and are found mostly on top of the hills. The question is whether to restrict the appellation to vineyards on Kimmeridgian soils. There are many opinions on the subject, but no two seem to agree. There is great overlapping of the soils and thus a geological answer is not clear cut and there is also the historical record of where vineyards have been cultivated which further confuses matters.

Today, the basic organization of the appellation gives Grand Cru status to seven vineyards which are contiguous and comprise a total of 112 hectares. It gives Premier Cru status to 40 vineyards comprising 742 hectares which are spread throughout the appellation. These vineyards are on Kimmeridgian soils. The far greater portion of the appellation is divided into Chablis Villages (4420 hectares), largely on Kimmeridgian soils and labeled simply as Chablis and Petit Chablis (1562 hectares) which are largely on Portlandian soils.

Established in 1970, the Domaine d’Elise is located just outside the town of Chablis in the commune of Milly. It was purchased by the current owner Frédéric Prain in 1982. The domaine’s vineyard is situated directly above the south/southeastern facing Premier Cru Côte de Lechet vineyard. It is unusual in that its entire 13 hectares are in one parcel with Frédéric’s house and winery situated in the middle. Interestingly, the appellation laws have divided the vineyard into two equal plots of Chablis Villages and Petit Chablis.The soils are quite poor with an abundance of surface stones, particularly on the top of the hill. A great deal of pruning is done throughout the growing season to limit yields to 45/50 hl per ha. Harvesting is done as late as possible.


Frédéric allows the must to settle before fermentation (débourbage) which is done in stainless steel lined cement vats that are temperature controlled. The wine ferments in the same type of vat and goes through a malolactic fermentation. It is then matured on its lees for 10 months and then fined before being bottled. Frédéric bottles all his wine at one time and holds it in his underground cellar until shipment.

Petit Chablis

Frédéric allows the must to settle before fermentation (débourbage) which is done in stainless steel lined cement vats that are temperature controlled. The wine ferments in the same type of vat and goes through a malolactic fermentation. It is then matured on its lees for 7 months and then fined before being bottled. Frédéric bottles all his wine at one time and holds it in his underground cellar until shipment.


2012 was a difficult growing season; fraught with unpredictable weather. Yet, with careful attention and know-how, a vintage of grand results. Here are some first hand accounts of the 2012 year in the vines direct from our producers in Bordeaux, the Southwest, Champagne and Chablis.......

Marie Vincent-Rochet, Chateau du Grand Bos, Graves

The 2011/12 growing season had been particularly contrary : along the start of the season the vegetative cycle was quite disturbed by cold and rain ; in September it came to a close after a prolonged period of dryness.

Extrememe frosts in February, with temperatures decending to -10°C, and a very rainy spring, resulted in an uneven flowering. The growing season saw normal rainfall only until the 14th of July ; the second half of July, all of August and beginning of September had very little precipitation, except for isolated rains on July 26th and August 15th. This period of 8 or so weeks without rain in mid to late summer were favorable conditions for the maturation of the grapes. The harvest of Sauvignons gris and blanc on the 7th of September attest to that. It was necessary however to wait a bit longer for the reds to mature and choose a harvest date sufficiently late enough achieve the necessary technical and phenolic maturation, and at the same time avoid the first rains and the onset of harmful botrytis. This will be an impact on the quality of wines from this vintage at properties that were less vigilant during this period.

Harvesting required much attention and careful selection in the vines ; in the end the quality was very good, even though of fairly low yield. The whites should be of a comparable quality to 2011 with aromatic richness, roundness of texture and a lovely typicity of varieties. The red wines evidence a success that we dared not hope for ! The merlots are deeply colored, round, with beautiful scents of ripe fruits. The cabernets-sauvignons are also concentrated in color, with a nose of red fruits and notes of pepper.

In this vintage of all possible excesses, our chateaux Grand Bos achieved wines which are at once lush, aromatic and persistant, that will undoubtedly be approachable young but will also keep for many years.

Thus the 2012 growing season, which ended in a successful and happy harvest which will result in very good wines.

Mathieu Vieules, Domaine Philemon, Gaillac

In spite of a difficult growing year on a climactic level (a very cold winter, rainy spring), the health of the vines was exceptionally well maintained, thanks to sustained organic treatments in May and June.

Unlike 2011, the vines suffered less from drought in August and September due to plowing of the topsoil and important water reserves maintained in the soils. During the harvest in September, favorable weather conditions guaranteed a crop of good quality fruit.

The 2012 crop is one of very healthy and quite large berries in spite of a dry season, with good fruit on the palate and an appropriate concentration of tannins. Alcohol levels in the cellar average 13% (levels were 14% in 2010 and 2011).

Le Perlé 2012 is a blend of 3 Gallic varieties : 40%: Muscadelle, 40% Loin de L'oeil et 20% Mauzac, this last grape adding a bit more freshness and complexity. In the coming years, the percentage of Mauzac (now with new vines in production) will increase in the Perlé blend.

La Croix d'Azal 2012, remains as always very Braucol (red fruit, cassis and menthol, all characteristic of Fer Servadou), its evolution in the cellar following its usual course….

Young vines of Prunelard will be in production for the September 2014 harvest.

Bernard Dumont, Champagne Dumont Pere et Fils, Aube


I will always have a memory of this year of permanent contrast between unfortunate events and other truly happy ones.

During this campaign, our vineyards were subject to all possible aggressions : frost in winter then again in spring, a violent hail on the 7th of June, high winds, a poor fruit set in June, mildew, oidium.

Our long experience was put to a difficult test, and to see the grapes disappear in spite of our efforts was at times dispairing.

However, as have always done our predecessors before us, we must keep faith in Mother Nature. The sun returned at the start of August and stayed until harvest time, perfectly ripening the 2012 grapes. The crop, although of modest quantity, is a largely satifying one of exceptional quality, and worthy as a great Champagne vintage. The wines are limpid with lovely fruit notes, rich with a long finish, the result of good acidity. In March we will do the blending with the reserve wines of 2011, 2010 and 2009, to be bottled in May. Be ready, in five years time, to taste this rare vintage.

The other great satifaction of this vintage, is to have welcomed more than 7,000 visitors to the Domaine, participant in the "Route de Champagne en Fete", which passed through our village the first week of August: gastronomy, music, expositions, tastings……

Frederic Prain, Domaine d'Elise, Chablis
For the 2012 vintage, to be bottled in July 2013, it’s very early to give an opinion…..
All considering, this will be a very good vintage at Domaine d’ELISE because:
- the yields are the desirable level at 58HL/HA
- the quality is excellent
- very ripe (13° at the end of harvest)
- no blight at the Domaine, but at many a others (mildew and oidium)!!!
- No rot this year
Thus, "on paper" it is a very good vintage.
News in the vineyard :
In the spring of 2013 we will have completed a replanting program at the Domaine begun in 2004; over a course of 9 years we have replanted 5 out of our total 13 plus hectares, the final ½ hectare to be planted next month! This project entailed a double objective: one to preserve 8 ha of old vines of recognized quality ; the other objective to create an entirely new vineyard in keeping with techniques of a modern agriculture respecful of the environment.
I prefer to talk not about organic viticulture, but rather a return to the "traditional methods" ; as in the "scraping of the soil" (light ploughing) synonymous with abandoning chemical herbacides.
The new Chardonnay plants are of a variety better adapted to calcareous soils and produce small berries resistant to rot. The vines are pruned in the simple Guyot method (a single cane with 8/9 buds instead of two), the lowering of yields will permit, through concentration, an improvement in quality.
Once in place, this model vineyard will allow an even more advantagous expression of the terroir.
Harvest, vinification and bottling :
All good winemakers confirm: the vine makes the wine !
That is where the work is the most difficult. It lasts all year long and requires constant and repeated efforts.The art lies in timing, never being late, no matter what the weather, and then in good management of staff.
The harvest always takes place relatively late, of course taking into consideration the specifics of the Domaine : a high plateau, but of favorable orientation (south/southwest).
We pick our grapes when they are sufficiently ripe to be rich in sugar, but never so much as to compromise that freshness that typifies Chablis.
In the cellar the protocol will be to continue what we are doing.
For the Petit Chablis and the Chablis, the juice is carefully vinified in stainless steel vats and matured on their fine lees for nine months. I leave the wines as untouched as possible to retain their maximum freshness : a single racking , a fining in spring and a simple filtering at bottling.
For the Cuvée Galilée the grapes are the same as the Chablis, but vinification differs ; still in stainless steel but with a regular stirring of the lees. As for the 1er cru "Côte de Léchet" it is vinified entirely in barrel.
2011 : This vintage began with an extremely precocious development in spring, but could not hold its rythym once summer came.
Spring 2011 was absolutely magnificent, very hot and very dry. Some numbers : 5.2° above average in April, +3,5° in May and only 88 mm of rain over 5 months, a record! As a result bud burst commenced at the very beginning of April, and by the 23rd of May the vines were in full flower.
The emersion of the grapes was entirely beautifully magnificent but things then deteriorated : the months of July and August proved mediocre. The first signs of rot appeared the end of July : but deceptive signs!
So, not to panic, we got through it, approaching even the eternal "vintage of the century", with the return of the sun in early September. This allowed us, inspite of everything, to gather a beautiful and plentiful crop. The harvest took place over two weeks : between the 7th and 21st of September. I tried to spread out the concentrated part of the picking to happen over several days to get optimal quality. An effort in vain though : not enough sun!
However the grapes in the end reached a ripeness of 12° and the quality is overall good. So, by all accounts it is a correct vintage, even if, over the years, the demands on the winemaker have become insatiable!
2010 : A great year, I have not yet bottled it……so no use to talk about it for the moment !
Recent Vintages, in the cellar :
2011 : Following two very beautiful vintages, the fear of seeming deceptive in describing the 2011 is clear. Happily, for fans of the Domaine, the 2011s followed a carefree path in their evolution in the cellar. It’s a little bit the year of "neither….. nor" : neither very ripe, nor very racy ! But, one can’t always live in extremes ! These are pleasing wines of good typicity, ready to drink now while you wait for the magnificent 2012s!
In the wine guides :
The Domaine is listed (and very well noted!) in the two most important wine guides of France:
In England, the famous journalist Oz CLARKE classed my Petit Chablis in the 250 BEST WINES 2012 , I could not stay silent about this glorious title, England is our best market!
PETIT-CHABLIS 2011 : Very "sharp", citrus zest on nose, good acidity in the mouth, ending on a mineral note. Light and racy, it is ready now, to be drunk along this coming year. Try it with oysters!
CHABLIS 2011 : His big brother! Made from riper grapes, it is more structured, with more substance and "chew" ! It will become expressive at the beginning of 2013. Pair with shellfish or a delicately cindered chevre.
CHABLIS 2009 "Cuvée Galilée" : Great vintage ! It is the very reflection of my terroir, a wine of rocks ! Fine, taught and very mineral, it is vinified to be aged, unlike many other 2009 which are a bit flabby. Stirring the lees (bâtonnage in stainless steel vats), which is specific to this cuvée, enriched the wine and also prolonged its maturation process. It is a wine for connaisseurs.

Every year about this time we ask our winemakers to send us reports on the current vintage : events over the growing season, harvest conditions, what's happening in the winery during these early stages. It takes a while for all reports to roll in, which we will eventually compile and publish on our Vintage Reports page. Meanwhile we've received enough responses from all over France, from Champagne, Loire, Southwest, Rhone, Bordeaux, Burgundy, post a preview of Vintage 2019.

Having heard from wine makers in different regions of France, weather conditions in 2019 were almost uniform, north to south, east to west, having to do with similar climatic irregularities during the growing season. All inconsistant with historic norms. Warm winter and early spring, leading to early bud set, only to be beset by frosts in April and delayed flowering, then heatwaves and drought in summer, somehow miraculous comebacks with needed rains at the end of the growing season, and clement harvesting weather. In general there was a loss of yields but high quality fruit. Climate changes are tangible and posing serious challenges to wine growers who are now needing to anticipate how to adapt their wine growing methods to deal with an erratic and quickly changing growing environment.

Notes from our winemakers :


Domaine d’Elise, Chablis, Frédérique Prain

The year 2019 = a hot and dry year
Alas, we had a bit of hail at the beginning of April and again in late April.
The hail beginning of May at which time buds were between 1 and 12 cm.
With this persistant cold budding was slow, taking through the end of May.
The vines were in full flower around June 17th
Which put the predicted harvest date at September 25th;Then the heatwave came!
Very hot at the end of June: 38°C, beautiful all of the beginning of July and at the end of July, record hot temperatures in Chablis : 42.6°C on the 25th of July.
End of August it was still very hot, and above all dry.
So the harvests began in the region the beginning of September, around the 10th in Chablis, on the 17th at Domaine d’ELISE!
The quality is excellent but its necessary to take note that there a lot of underdeveloped berries that were slightly dried out, and some even burned by the sun.
The yields are only 40HL/HA instead of the usual 60.
The degrees vary between 12.5 and 13.5, which is very high for Chablis and Petit Chablis.
However the acidities are correct, allowing for making characteristic Chablis.
They will be for medium term keeping.
The juice is already tasting very well : its round and fruited, very agreeable on the palate.
Since the year 2000 we've experienced many good years, despite climactic warming.
Often with excessive ripeness comes a decline in acidity, which is not suitable for Chablis.
Happily, le Domaine d’Elise always has good acidity because of its rocky, very calcareous soil.


Domaine des 13 Lunes, Savoie, Sylvain Liotard

The 2019 vintage was the vintage of confirmation for me (my third year), in spite of being a growing season of all possible climactic hazards.

We had frost, hail, violent winds and 3 months of drought.

I was anxious about protecting the grapes.

In the end, the losses were not too bad, (15 to 20%).

The acidities are for the monent high, a real mountain wine.

The maturities were very good but heterogeneous, resulting in quite a bit of millérandage (mixed sized berries and partial crop failure).

The fermentations are quite variable, according to different parcels. Those that got hail are taking more time.

I really like these wines to come, I think that they will have great personality.

I just finished (end October) putting the wines in tank or in barrel to finish fermentations and for maturing.

Autumn work begins, earthing-up the vines, treating of the soils, replacing certain vines and a bit of commerce.


Domaine du Crêt de Bine, Sarcey, Florence Subrin

2019, a crop of excellent quality but a small crop as a result of climactic hazards. The 2019 vintange for us will have been remembered by the successive late frosts in the month of April, as well as the hailstorm on the 18th of August. With the very warm start of the growing season, vegetation started early, then suffered the climactic "rewind" of a sudden drop in temperatures in April. Follwed then by a lovely spring and a hot summer, which was favorable to good ripeness of fruit. Unfortunately, the quantity was affected by a violent hail storm in August. Nevertheless, this small yielding season, makes up for itself in quality. Indeed, with such beautiful fruit, very balanced with delicate aromas, we are able to vinify wines that reflect that beauty the of fruit. Entirely hand harvested over 9 days, our 2019 cuvées are showing a rare finesse with beatiful bright "cherry" color, all with no added sulfur other than a minimal dose at bottling to protect them during transport. Beautiful "Natural" cuvées, are equally "Beaujolais" ; they will be released in the Spring 2020.


Chateau La Caminade, Cahors, Dominique Ressès

Here is my first impression of the 2019 millésime.

We’ll say that the vintage, started a bit poorly with a spring frost (May 6th), but finished well, though with a reduced quantity, but superior quality than we estimated.

In addition, a beautiful, hot and dry summer provided conditions for the vines to catch up on the delay caused by the Spring frosts.

Finally, some rains at the end of August and beginning September, followed by nice weather, hot during the day, cool at night, during the whole rest of September, made for a lovely and homogeneous ripening of the fruit.

We started harvesting the 3rd of October and finished the 9th, days were cloudy and cool.

Today we can say that this vintage will be easy to drink, gourmand, with low acidities and high pH (already 3.6/3.7 before malolactic!!!)


Domaine Christophe Thorigny, Vouvray

The harvests went very well.

The crop is correct with a good quality in spite of the difficult climactic conditions of the year : 20% of vines affected by frost in the spring, heatwaves and drought this summer.

Domaine Verdier-Logel, Côtes de Forez, Julie Logel

The year 2019, once again, translates as an exceptional year, in the sense that the climate has upset the usual growth patterns of the vine and challenged the wine grower. Frosts during Spring and little rain caused a delayed development of the vines, which only started coming into a phase of fruit maturity at the end of August, which meant the winegrowers had to roll up their sleeves after traditional summer vacations. In the end, the harvest was quite satisfactory concerning quality. Vinification is just now finished, the wines are starting the maturing process and are already displaying a 2019 vintage that is less powerful than 2018, but more typical of the wines of the Forez and express the granite and basalt terroirs of the region.


Champagne Perseval-Farge, Montagne de Reims, Isabelle Perseval

Each new vintage is an occasion to write a new page in history and above all to understand new winegrowing conditions in the changing climate.

The 2019 winegrowing season was once again quite singular : the erratic climactic cycles meant we had to organize ourselves around spring frosts, sudden unusual cold temperatures at budding and then heat waves during the summer. These changes in weather are recent and their consequences are unknown ; with little hindsight, an evolution is in progress. Each year we have to review the new imprint and rethink our production strategy.

The musts are very aromatic, and stimulate the palate. They have fruit, balance, concentration with a touch of liveliness, everything is there.

The fragrances emanating in the winery are so pleasant, we can’t wait to taste the first wines. Nature has given us the best, now it is up to us to magnify the fruit of our labor.

The Chardonnay has quite particular aromas : complexity, fruitiness, while the Pinot Noir and Meunier are powerful and elegant.

The 3 forgotten varieties (Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Fromentot) are very expressive. Their specific aromatic profiles are complementary : they combine freshness, balance, generosity and finesse. The production of the Cuvée Les Goulats remains very limited [1,000 bottles approximately / year]

In the end, the cuvées will be a reflection of the winemaker, his passion and his emotion. To that add patience to discover an acomplished wine…..

Now it is time that everyone takes ownership of their own Terroir and takes responsibilty and makes decisions to maintain productive vineyards, and bring the quality of production to the highest level. It is our credo and we consistantly pursue this objective. On this note, we have the pleasure to announce that Henry, our second son, has taken his place at the winery and that he has come to observe and assimilate Benoist’s savoir-faire after his wine-growing/making studies in Alsace and 2 years of profesional experience outside of our domaine.


Chateaux Barraillots, Margaux, Yannick Martin

The 2019 harvests took place in very good weather with grapes in very sanitary condition.

It was sunny the entire harvest from September 26 through October 10th.

The grapes were healthy and well ripened.

Vinifications are almost complete, this week (end October) we finish the juice runs and pressings.

The malolactics are also almost finished.

In brief, a lovely crop, very good quality and good yields.


Domaine de Berane, Côtes de Ventoux, Bertrand Ferary

We had quite a few suprises in 2019.

We grow Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. And for 19 years we have been harvesting them in that chronological order. For the first time Grenache matured before the Syrah. Incredible! In addition, maturities were blocked.

One of the causes is that we had the hottest summer in Provence since 2003. The grape skins were very thick, natures reaction to protect the pulp from dehydration, preserving its own production. We did reach normal quantites, with wonderful deep color, with higher degrees than usual.

We are performing many "déléstages" (multiple rackings of juice during fermentation and maceration, a process that aerates the juice and softens it by lessening time spent in contact with skins). And, hard to believe, for the first time, our Syrah and Mourvedre tanks have still not finished fermenting in early November. We expect they will have finished in a week. With this careful vinification, 2019 should be an excellent vintage.

Region: Bourgogne

The wine region of Burgundy extends from the town of Chatillon sur Seine in the north to Lyon in the south, though; I prefer to put the southern boundary at Macon, and in this way leave the Beaujolais region as a separate entity. Thus, Burgundy includes the wine regions of Côtes de Chatillon, Yonne, Côte d’Or, Côte Chalonnaise, Côtes du Couchey and Maconnais. The vast majority of Burgundy’s wines are produced from three grape varieties: Aligoté, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and they are produced without blending the different grape types. The result, therefore, is a mapping of these three grape types onto the whole range of Burgundy’s vineyards which consequently offers the wine lover a unique window through which to notice and appreciate the concept of terroir. The difference in taste between Chardonnay grown in Chablis and Chardonnay grown in Macon is something that will always delight me...

The Burgundy vineyards have been intimately worked and studied for many centuries which has resulted in a complex and highly detailed system of nomenclature, one that beginning in the 1930’s the INAO has tried to formalize into a logical network of “appellations controlees”. The system of appellations is uniform in its general outline for Burgundy’s different wine regions, but much less uniform in its application. For example, each of the Premier Cru vineyards in the Côte D’Or and Côte Chalonnaise is associated with its village of origin and corresponds specifically to one plot of land within that village, whereas in the Yonne or Chablis to be exact, the Premier Cru vineyards never make reference to their villages of origin and moreover, the 79 Premier Cru vineyards typically use only 17 names. So, putting differences aside and embracing contradiction, one can say with confidence that the overall appellation structure is organized from the general to the specific. At the most general level, vineyards from any of the Burgundy wine regions can produce white, red, rosé or sparkling wines with the Bourgogne appellation. At the first level of specificity (and beginning of disparity among the regions), there are 24 regional appellations, each of which is comprised of a group of villages which share a common appellation name. Two examples, which illustrate the possible variation in size, are Côtes de Nuits Villages and Macon-Villages. Côtes de Nuits Villages includes nine villages whereas Macon-Villages includes 83 villages. At the next level of specificity, there are 44 local appellations, each of which corresponds to a specific village such as Gevrey-Chambertin and Chassagne-Montrachet. Within the local appellation structure, but higher up the hierarchal scale, there are 750 Premier Cru appellations which mark specific vineyard boundaries within a particular village. Examples are Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Petite Chapelle” and Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru“Les Chenevottes”. At the highest level of the paradigm, there are 33 Grand Cru appellations which similarly mark specific vineyard boundaries within a specific village (or spanning two!).

Examples of Grand Cru vineyards are Mazis-Chambertin and Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet. One of the lovely idiosyncrasies is evident from these examples; namely, why the grand cru vineyard “climat” names Chambertin and Montrachet are attached to their respective communes at all appellation levels.

If one is interested and persistent enough to comprehend the lay of the land in terms of its geography, geology and nomenclature, the picture quickly becomes much more complex when the land is divided between the many thousands of Burgundian wine-growers. The average land holding in Burgundy is two hectares (five acres) and in some of the most illustrious vineyards such as Batard-Montrachet a mere twelve hectares can be divided among 55 growers.

A deep knowledge of the wines produced in Burgundy, it is easy to see, would be best left up to those who have lots of free time. People that are teachers or NBA basketball players might have enough vacation time to tackle such a project, but only the NBA player would have the money to taste the wines. Happily, even without four months of vacation or enormous resources, the wines of Burgundy are there to give us all the taste of one of the vine’s favorite places on earth.

Burgundy wine growers certainly have no special claim to the concept of terroir, but they have embraced the notion of terroir in a way that brings it to our attention and gives us much to think about. If our attention is turned to the infinite variations of our mother earth and its ability to give these variations expression through the grape vine and its transformation into wine, then what a lovely reminder that we are from the earth, nourished by the earth and will return to it.