Chablis is one of the great classic wine regions. Synonymous with one grape variety - Chardonnay - Chablis is a long-time favorite among wine enthusiast around the world, and for a good reason. Here is why you should be drinking Chablis.
Chablis is located approximately a two-hour drive from Paris, slightly northeast of the heartland of Burgundy, a wine region famous for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The region is often associated with the wines of Burgundy, and technically Chablis is a part of Burgundy, but it’s an entirely different animal. If you hear wine people talk about Burgundy, you should assume that Chablis probably isn’t included in the conversation unless separately mentioned. Like many things in wine, this too could quickly turn into an argument, but let’s not go there.
CHABLIS, MORE THAN A TOWN
First things first: Chablis is both a town in France and a wine appellation. Chablis is not a grape variety, I repeat, Chablis is not a grape variety. But let's be honest, it might as well be. The marriage of a wine region and a grape variety is on a whole new level in Chablis. If you go to a restaurant and tell the waiter that “my favorite grape is Chablis”, no reason to feel embarrassed. It just means you like Chardonnay, and I’m sure that the staff will know what to serve you. The era of bullying and wine-shaming is gone my friends, act accordingly. But now that I got your attention, Chablis is not a grape.
In Chablis, Chardonnay rules supreme. If someone pours you a glass of wine from one of the four Chablis AOCs, you can expect a dry white wine made of 100% Chardonnay, always.
Some describe Chablis as “steely,” “elegant” wine with “flinty minerality". Oak use is subtle in Chablis, and the wines tend to be laced with mouth-watering acidity. If you like your Chardonnays dense and buttery, Chablis is probably not the best place to start looking for your next drop. The appellation here is a tad cooler than the rest of Burgundy, making it ideal for producing high-quality white wines with tons of freshness.
IS IT CHABLIS LIKE OTHER CHARDONNAYS?
If you compare Chablis to other chardonnays around the world, Chablis tends to have a ripe but more restrained flavor profile. Less oomph, more kapow. Some say Chardonnay is the perfect vessel to display terroir. That’s a hard one to argue, so I’m not going to.
The wine region of Chablis is divided into four smaller appellations: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru, and Chablis Grand Cru. The wines of Petit Chablis are usually unoaked crisp white wines with a fairly straightforward flavor profile and should be drunk as soon as possible. Chablis Grand Crus, on the other hand, are more complex and age-worthy, usually with some presence of oak. Chablis has a semi-continental climate, not unlike Champagne, and fossil-rich Kimmeridgian soils which together create a vinous wonderland that is impossible to copy. Nowadays there are well over 5,000 hectares under vine in Chablis.
In short: Chablis is all about purity and expression of terroir. If you like your white wine lean, fresh and packed with jaw-dropping personality, then opt for a glass of Chablis. Also, I highly recommend you to visit Chablis personally. There’s nothing like enjoying a good glass of wine at the source.
Here are a few wines to get you started.
DOMAINE FRANÇOIS RAVENEAU - LES CLOS GRAND CRU
You don’t really know Chablis until you have tasted Raveneau’s wines. This small wine producer has almost a cult-like following in some wine circles. If you think Chardonnay is boring, well, in this case, you are just plain wrong. Herbal and slightly spicy with beautiful texture and subtle power that you would expect from this particular Grand Cru.
DOMAINE LAROCHE - LES FOURCHAUMES PREMIER CRU
Domaine Laroche is one of the big players in Chablis and an excellent place to start exploring the region. This Premier Cru is a good example of Chablis’ purity-driven and mouth-watering white wines. A lively and structured wine full of citrus and floral notes.
DOMAINE CHRISTIAN MOREAU - LES CLOS GRAND CRU
Another great from Les Clos Grand Cru. This enticing wine brings some serious deliciousness to the table. A delicate yet nicely concentrated white with a long mineral finish that will definitely make you pour yourself another glass.
SAMUEL BILLAUD - VAUDESIR GRAND CRU
In 2009 Samuel Billaud went Han Solo and started his own shop, and luckily so. Located right above the town of Chablis, Vaudesir is one of the seven Grand Crus in the region. Samuel Billaud’s Vaudesir Grand Cur is as tasty as it is classy. Peach, hints of honey, citrusy and long lingering finish. There is something about this wine that makes you sit up straight, perhaps the racy acidity. Delicious.