Chablis Wine: A Primer

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Wine Description

Chablis (“Shah – blee”) is a region in the northwest corner of Burgundy, France, that makes Chardonnay. However, in contrast to most other Chardonnay wines, Chablis does not typically use oak-aging. The result is a different style and taste, giving it popularity around the world.

A desirable characteristic of the wine is its long, tingly finish of high acidity. Its high quality is often attributed to the terroir (the soil, climate, and traditions of the region.)

The best food pairings will make use of its high acidity. The naturally high acidity can act as a palate cleanser and works well with creamy sauces (not heavy sauces but those on the lighter side.) Lighter meats such as chicken, trout, bass, and scallops work with its delicate taste profile.

Related: Sancerre: A Basic Guide

Vineyard in Chablis, a region in burgundy, that is growing grapes.

Taste

The wine has citrus flavors and is minerally with salinity. It is dry and light-bodied and rarely shows flavors of butter because it is not aged in oak. It also shows white flower aromas with hints of pear. The taste can most succinctly be explained as elegant and lean.

Color

It is a greenish-yellow color, and theclarity of color is a common description.

It is known for its green-yellow hues
Photo credits to Dominic Lockyer

Grapes

All Chablis are made from 100% chardonnay. Some believe it is Chardonnay in its purest form because of its terroir expression giving it varietal character. They also believe this because of the simplistic nature of the winemaking process. In other words, it is left alone to shine on its own.

It is made from 100% chardonnay grape that is seen growing here on the vine.

Nose

As mentioned above, Chablis is renowned for its purity of aroma and taste. This cooler climate chardonnay does not display fruit-like aromas as its warm-weather counterpart does. The aroma can be described as gunflint or steely.

Region

Chablis is often been used as an example of minerality in French wines. The region of Chablis is actually a challenging region in which to grow good grapes.

While Chablis grows exceptionally well in the Summer, Fall and Spring are treacherous to the vineyards. Rain in the fall often stops grapes from fully ripening, while spring frosts can kill the vines. Some argue that this semi-continentalclimate is what makes the surviving grapes exceptional. Grand Cru and premier cru grapes are planted on unique chalk soils that date back to the Jurassic period.

Burgundy is well known for all types of wines and here we can see a picture in the hills.
Photo credit to Peter

Food Pairings

Raw fish and sushi are perfect with the wine. The salinity in the wine means it can handle these foods beautifully. Spices you will want to incorporate when pairing are white pepper, fresh herbs and low spiciness. Some examples of great food to go with the wine are clam chowder, escargot, quail, halibut, clams, and cod. Many agree that the absolute best pairing is oysters!

Process

Since the grapes are so vulnerable to frost in Spring, many wineries employ preventative measures such as smudge pots and aspersion irrigation. Luckily, technological advances are on the side of these measures and their effectiveness.

In the last century, winemaking has come a long way in Chablis. This is mainly because of the advancement of temperature-controlled fermentation and the ability to force malolactic fermentation.

Try it out

Top Values

Domaine hamelin is the classic example of this varietal

Domaine Hamelin 2018 Beauroy Premier Cru – This Chablis has a creamy element with ripe fruit that can also be described as fresh fruit. The texture is bright and sometimes lemony. It can also be described as fresh and is a bit buttery on the nose.

Albert Bichot Domaine Long-Depaquit Vaillons Premier Cru – This Chablis is vivid. Its clarity is pure and it shows cool freshness. Flinty on the nose and lots of juiciness join with fresh mirabelle plum fruit. It is concentrated and slightly creamy on the palate.

Top Picks

Louis Jadot 2016 Blanchot Grand Cru – You will be reminded of a dense forest with abundant ripe yellow fruit. The Grand Cru vineyard is on full display, highlighting its aging potential. Experts say that you should hold and drink in 2023 to experience its full- blown intensity.

Bernard Defaix 2018 Cote de Lechet Premier Cru – Juicy pear and fresh lemon in generous and concentrated intensity gives way to nutty and wood to give the wine a perfect balance. The ripeness is counterbalanced with stone.

Ideal Stemware

These smaller glasses are ideal for it to allow its nose to be concentrated.

A white wine or universal glass is the best option for the wine. The glass must have a foot so as not to be warmed by the hand. The wine needs to breathe and be able to move around in order to be enjoyed!

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Susan Connolly

Susan is a sommelier that wears many hats. She is a wine consultant, writer, instructor, and even has her own online course! Her love for it spills out in her knowledge about in all things related to the topic!

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