Chablis Wine - All You Need To Know!
Chablis is possibly the world’s most famous white wine. When at its best it is incredible and packed with flavour but it can also be downright awful and extremely overpriced. As with all Burgundy, you must forget the name of the wine and look at who has made it.
The wine is named after a village in Northern Burgundy close to the town of Auxerre and just over an hundred miles from Paris. Although it is classed as a white Burgundy, in truth the northern aspect of the vineyards and the type of soils (Kimmeridgean Limestone) are more akin to the area of Champagne and the wines (all white) are fresh with a steely acidity and are underpinned by a strong, stoney minerality.
The northerly position of the vineyards also mean that winter frosts are often encountered and can devastate a harvest before it is even fully formed. In the summer months hail storms bring yet more danger of lost crops. Thus being a grower or producer in Chablis is fraught with danger and is really a hazardous business.
As for all white Burgundy, the grape variety is Chardonnay but here the wines are clean, crisp and mineral with a hint of green apple. Their bright acidity make them perfect for richer dishes when the palate needs to be refreshed and the local Andouillettes from Troyes are a stunning partner when served with a mustard sauce, but not everybody’s cup of tea!
At the heart of Chablis is a single hillside where the 7 Grand Crus can be found and these have an almost perfect exposure to the sun. In total there are less than 250 acres to feed the world. The Grand crus are Blanchots, les Clos, Valmur, Grenouilles, Vaudesir, Les Preuses and Bougros. These in general are wines of power and where the mineral undercarriage is most evident. This power makes them more suitable to barrel fermentation but this is not always done. In general these are exceptional wines but because of the small area in which they are made, they are difficult to find and also expensive.
More affordable and easier to find are the 1er cru wines. Because there are numerous owners and various soils and exposures, there are no obvious styles but suffice it to say that when well made, they have greater power and depth than village wines and in good vintages they are capable of ageing for a decade or more. Wines can be labelled as simply 1er Cru when more than one origin has been blended but it is more common that the vineyard of origin is stated on the label. Look out for wines that are made from fruit picked from older vines where the intensity will be greater.
Village wines labelled as either Chablis or Petit Chablis are quite crystalline in nature and can vary quite greatly in quality. Buyer beware! Often but certainly not always, Petit Chablis can be lacking in the Kimmeridgean soil structure that is a hallmark of pure Chablis. As well as being good food partners they also make an excellent aperitif.