Chablis is a white wine Region with fabulous, bright and zesty Chardonnays.
Chablis (sha-blee) is a region located in North-Central France. An outlier to Burgundy considering that Chablis is geographically (and viticulturally) closer to Champagne. This region is the northernmost wine growing region for still (meaning still wine, and not sparkling) Chardonnay in the world. It’s cold and damp – so the soil and the weather mean everything to the growers.
Two incredibly knowledgeable authors, Jordan Mackay and Rajat Paar, state that Chablis is “one of the greatest demonstrations of terroir on the planet” because it is “the only place where Chardonnay needs nothing — no bubbles, no lees stirring, no new oak… to be captivating” (The Sommeliers Atlas of Taste). Chablis truly is distinctive when tasted alongside Chardonnays from other regions. Not only that, but you can taste a difference between the varying qualities of Chablis. Grapes from certain areas do taste different than grapes from others.
Chablis produces wines made only from the Chardonnay grape. Confusingly, for us in America, none of these wines are called “Chardonnay” and rarely do they ever list “Chardonnay” on the bottle. Instead, the label will say, Chablis, Petit Chablis, or Chablis Grand Cru. These are called, AOPs (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) which is a specially demarcated region that has standards for the quality of the products that carry the region name.
Chablis Grand Cru is the highest quality region with the strictest standards for wine growing and making. Chablis is comprised of 40 premier cru vineyards, further divided into 17 major vineyards. Petit Chablis is the least regulated and lowest quality product – this does not mean it is bad! Simply that it is a different product from different soils than the grand or premier vineyards.
How did they decide what qualities to give these areas? Soil. The 7 Grand Cru vineyards are located on Kimmeridgian marl, which is a mixture of limestone, clay and oyster fossils. There’s a lot of reasons why this soil is important, some being drainage and the level of minerality imparted by oyster shells and limestone. The Petit Chablis vineyards are located on elevated hillsides where this Kimmeridgian marl is not as accessible to the vines because it lays under Portland limestone – a limestone less diverse than the Kimmeridgian.
The Names To Know
Amongst the 7 Grand Crus – Bougros, Presuses, Vaudesir, Grenouilles, Valmur, Les Clos and Blanchots – Les Clos is the most prestigious. It encompasses a huge area of land that faces south and southwest with those great soils we talked about earlier. Presuses is the most south facing and low sloped which causes the resulting wines to consist of riper fruits and a bit less minerality than what Les Clos and other Grand Crus would have. Les Clos can take a while to reach it’s prime drinking stage, but Blanchots is filled with tart lively fruits that can be drunk without further aging.
Premier Crus of note often come from Fourchaume, Montee de Tonnerre, Vaillons and Montmains. The latter two are split from the former two by the Serein river.
Some great, affordable, producers from Chablis are William Fevre, Alice and Olivier de Moore, and Patrick Piuze. Check these guys out if you want to see what Chablis all is about without spending a Grand Cru price on a bottle.
Curious to find out more about Chablis and how the wines pair with food? Send me an e-mail with any questions or schedule a dinner! These wines are versatile and fun to drink with a full dinner or even a refreshing bite for happy hour with appetizers and friends.
Now on to the review!
Drouhin Vaudon Chablis Premier Cru 2018
Premier Cru. You already know what that’s all about – if you skipped to this section see above (it’s essentially the middle tier, not the least but not the greatest of wines from the Chablis region).
You also know that Chablis is 100% Chardonnay – no guesses on grapes here!
Sight: This wine has a pale and clear lemon-green hue. Implying a cooler climate and minimum oxidation and aging techniques.
Nose: This wine has notes of green and yellow apple, tart pear, with chalky minerality and and a hint of brioche. This wine is youthful.
Palate: This is a dry wine. This wine has medium + flavor intensity, medium + acidity, medium – body (due to aging on the lees), medium – alcohol, and a medium finish. There are notes of ripe green apple, yellow apple and pear. There are also notes of pastry dough, and chalky minerality.
Assessment: This wine is a very good wine. The acidity, body and alcohol all balance each other, and the flavors of fruit, minerality and lees create a more complex drinking experience than a non-premier cru or lower would. It’s not the highest of qualities (not grand cru status by any means) but it’s also a welcome candidate as an option for a happy hour or even pairing with a lighter main course.
Conclusion: This wine is suitable to drink now, but could be fit for further aging.
Serving Temperature: 7-10 C / 45-50 F, as this is a light-medium bodied unoaked white wine.
Curious about any other particular wines from Chablis? Or how about your favorite wine from Chablis?