Chablis Always Delivers

The poster child for terroir makes a different kind of Chardonnay statement


With rumors of an impending spring abounding, I'm turning my eyes towards some white wines with which to welcome the changing of the seasons. So far it, looks like winter is leading into more winter here on the East Coast, but that won't stop me, it just may slow my pace a bit. Perhaps before diving head first into the great whites of spring, I should ease the transition by enjoying a few bottles of Chablis first! Yes, Chablis, probably the most common white wine on my table, at least by a nose. When people say they'll have “anything but Chardonnay,” a glass of Chablis can often be an eye opening experience. 
Ringing in at 100% Chardonnay, Chablis is like the poster child for terroir. These wines do not resemble what the typical wine drinker thinks of when they think of Chardonnay: big creamy textures, no way to look for snap, crispness, and juicy acids. Butter and roasted pineapple? Not quite—how about mineral, citrus and green apples, all focused and chiseled? Oaky spice, not so nice, and not a trait of the vast majority of Chablis, which see little to no oak influence obscuring the freshness here.
Chablis is what Chardonnay could be. Detailed, amazingly friendly at the table, capable of aging very well, and in most cases comfortably affordable. I'm not saying that Chablis is or tends to be inexpensive, but there is plenty of value to be had around the $20 price point. 

Chablis AOC

I recently tasted through half a case of Chablis, with more notes to follow, but for now some interesting facts worth sharing.

In 1955, before the advent of mechanization in the vineyards, there were only some 700 hectares of vineyards in Chablis. Today there are more than 5,100 hectares, about 12,500 acres from which some 38 million bottles of Chablis are produced.

Historically, the US has been an important export market for Chablis, though exports to Japan have been something on the order of 35% higher than exports to the US. In fact, Germany, the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands have all historically been more important than the USA in terms of Chablis consumption.

Chablis is the way it is primarily due to its moderate climate and the fossil-rich Kimmeridgian soil. Both influences tend to develop crispness and focus in wine. You can also find Kimmeridgian soils in Champagne, Burgundy, and Kimmeridge, England, where the soils were first discovered.

The appellation system for Chablis allows for four distinct sub-appellations: Petite Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru, and Chablis Grand Cru. Only 2% of Chablis is Grand Cru, and 15% is Premier Cru, which explains the premium they can commend, but a full 66% of Chablis is just plain old Chablis, meaning there's a lot of wine in the value category out there. 


2010 Christian Moreau Chablis Grand Cru les Clos Clos des Hospices $105

Aromatic with a little wild yeast note on top of floral and soil-driven aromas that frame a little dried fruit base note. In the mouth, this is quite nearly silky, with a lovely innate richness that shows off ripe and rather bold fruit, citrus-driven with hints of Asian pear and perhaps some white peach. There is plenty of acidity here, but today it is buffered by rather rich fruit. The finish is fabulous, tight and pure, stoney and mineral-laden with a light smoky top note. This is very young, with rich fruit affording a lovely texture that manages to be both soft and firm, but the best days are yet to come. 93 points

2011 Domaine Seguinot-Bordet Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 13% $29

A bit yeasty on the nose, with lots of fresh fruit aromas hinting at sweet peaches and pears over a base of lemon curd with dusty chalk mineral notes and an raw almond edge.

This is quite impressive in the mouth, with lots of creamy edges and leesy notes but the vibrant acidity here keeps this fresh and focused. There's a lot of almond-streaked lemon peel flavor here, touched with a hint of pear skin and laden with rocks on the back end and through the long, slightly youthful rustic finish that ends with hints of melony fruit and a little aromatic allspice. 92 points


2010 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Premier Cru Vau de Vey $30

Very floral and high-toned on the nose with super fresh fruit framed by stern notes of crushed rock. This is wonderfully taut and very finely focused in the mouth, with a fabulous texture that is sinewy and transparent. The citrus and stone flavors are clean and fresh, though they lack a smidgen of intensity that may come with time as the finish shows riper notes of apricot and pineapple creeping into the picture. This is easy to love, and a joy to drink. 91 points


2009 William Fevre Chablis Grand Cru Valmur $99

This is chalky and dusty on the nose, with rich lime oil fruit over pollen floral notes and a touch of wood spice. This enters the mouth with focus and and good acid lift, growing on the palate to deliver very rich apple fruit that has a little red fruit aspect to it. There's nice tension in the mouth, though this does come off as a bit round in the mouth, and while it finishes with lots of dusty clay and limestone notes, there’s also hint of whipped cream here that becomes a bit apparent on the palate as well. A bit of oak influence that might bother some. 91 points


2010 Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons $20

Tight nose, if a bit waxy, with perfumey hints of hint of spice and fennel over a base of low dusty chalk, dry apple peel and lime pith notes. This shows a surprising hint of spice on entry and remains nice and firm, if broad, on the palate with a tissue-thin lightness to the very lemony fruit. Notes of stones and mineral emerge on the backend and linger on the moderately long finish. 89 points

2010 Domaine des Malandes Chablis $20

Fruit driven with plenty wet stone aromas, and notes of powdery chalk on the nose. On entry this shows very fine fresh apple fruit with a subtle suggestion of sweetness. There are nice acids up front supporting lots of fresh fruit, apples with a little lemon squirt, all delivered with a fine, open knit texture that leads to a long, bright acid-driven finish. This has a great texture and mouthwatering finish, but it is a bit simple. 87 points

Slideshow View

Chablis for Spring

Domaine Christian Moreau Pere et Fils Chablis Grand Cru les Clos Clos des Hospices Dans (2010)
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Domaine Séguinot-Bordet Chablis Premier Cru "Fourchaume" Chardonnay Rhône France (2011)
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Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Premiere Cru Vau de Vey (2010)
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Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Valmur (2009)
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Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons Simonnet-Febvre (2010)
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Domaine des Malandes Chablis Premiere Cru Côte de Léchet (2010)
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  • Léchet and Vaillon without Daniel-Etienne Defaix wines... Too bad.

    Mar 26, 2013 at 7:06 PM

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