What can a girl say about Chablis? It’s kinda the middle child of Burgundy. You know, the amazing, kick a** kid who is left in the shadows of the younger and older siblings?
Chablis is in fact located in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, but it is closer to the Champagne region than its famous siblings.
Chablis is a great white wine. It is 100% chardonnay, with what’s often referred to as a ‘steely/flinty minerality’ due to the famous Kimmeridgian clay soil it grows in.*
Chablis wines are crisp and dry, with flavors of citrus, green fruit and sometimes a little toastiness when oaked. It is a popular pairing with seafood, particularly oysters. The basic Chablis and Petit Chablis wines are great with cheeses and shellfish, while the Premier Crus and Grand Crus can make a good pairing with richer, more complex dishes.
As my kids would say, let’s ‘dab it down’:
Chablis has a quality ranking that is indicated on the wine bottle’s label:
1. Grand Cru Chablis
2. Premier Crus Chablis
3. Chablis AOP
4. Petit Chablis
In France, which is (in general) a unique system, wines are classified based on what’s called ‘terroir’, a term for a specific area, soil, grape variety, climate, and exposure to sun.
Grand Cru Chablis is determined based on 7 site locations, or climats (Les Clos, Vauesir, Valmur, Preuses, Blanchot, Bougros, and Grenouilles). To get really geeky, for Chablis, this typically means wines made from chardonnay grapes grown on the region’s famed Kimmeridgian soil along southwest-facing slopes north of the town at an altitude of 130-215 meters, meeting a required minimum potential alcohol level and with a cap set on yields to help concentrate flavor. There has also been much debate on the use of oak within the Grand Cru wines because there is no law on this matter. Some have expressions of new oak, some old oak – and some have no oak at all. It is all up to the winemaker on this one. Did I say I love Chablis?
I recently went to a Grand Cru Chablis tasting held by the ‘Union des Grand Crus de Chablis’, which was created to defend and promote the quality of Grand Cru wines. It is a voluntary organization, open to all Grand Cru vineyards. It’s hard to pick a favorite because all the wines were amazing and made with care.
Chablis in terms of value is a bargain. Winemakers in this region have been turning out quality wine for a long time, yet the price has typically stayed lower than the rest of Burgundy because Chablis is overshadowed by the Cote d’Or. Grand Cru Chablis can be found at prices around $50 and above, and Premier Cru and the basic Chablis AC wines can be found from $15. Like I said, bargains. When you get to the basic Chablis and Petits Chablis, quality can vary but there are some amazing deals out there!
* (Petit Chablis reflects the price of a different soil often Portlandian limestone) As always, terroir matters.
** Also, the Wine Spirits Education Training (WSET) training that I received will cringe at the word Minerality, but it is the best way to describe Chablis.