Everyone who knows me knows about my love of Chardonnay. I like Chardonnay in almost all styles from all places, but my true crush is on Chablis. In fact, one friend of mine gave me my favorite nickname ever: Lil’ Chabs.
Now, some people might be going, “Wait …. you’re talking about your love of Chard and then wait … you’re talking about Chablis…?” That’s right Chablis is Chardonnay! I would bet big money – huge bucks – that 95 percent of normal, non-wine-nerd people do not know this simple, yet somehow secret fact! It’s the secret Chardonnay!
Yet Chardonnay is the most-planted grape in the U.S. (106,000 acres; with Cabernet Sauvignon coming in second at 101,300 acres). Chardonnay also is the most popular wine in the U.S. by consumption with the most cases sold of all varietals (with again, Cabernet Sauvignon coming in second.)
So that is why I suggested that the French Winophiles throw ourselves into this glorious wine region this month!
In France, the Chablis region is actually part of Burgundy (or Bourgogne). So if your mind is already a little blown by the whole “Chablis is Chardonnay” thing, here’s another little knowledge bomb: in Burgundy, if it’s white, its Chardonnay. (And if it’s red it’s Pinot Noir.) Buh bam!
Okay, okay – without getting overly technical, I’m going to give you the 411 on Chablis, so you can run out to your favorite wine store and try some! I was lucky to get four amazing sample bottles from my friends at H2Vino (one of Chicago’s best importers and distributors), so I’ll share my notes on those, along with a few tasty pairing ideas. Allez-y, as they say in France!
Top Five Things to Know About Chablis
- Chablis differs from Chardonnay produced in the rest of Burgundy because it is almost always unoaked (fermented and aged in stainless steel.) So, you get a more pure expression of the grape. Chablis also is known for its Kimmeridgian clay soils, which are rich with chalky, limestone material and seashells going waaaaaay back to, like, Jurassic times. This is why Chablis – or Chabs, as I like to call it – is traditionally paired with oysters and other fish and shellfish. What grows together, goes together, right?
- Chardonnay is the only grape allowed to be grown and vinified in the Chablis region.
- Smack in the center of Chablis is the town of Chablis and the Chablis Grand Cru AOC, which is made up of seven vineyards: Bougros, Les Presuses, Vaudésir, Grenouilles, Valmur, Les Clos and Blanchot. These are the tip-top wines of the region and retail for $50-$60 per bottle in the U.S (or higher for older vintages).
- Then you get to Premier Cru: 40 vineyards, with Fourchaume, Vaillons, Mont de Milieu, Montée de Tonerre and Vosgros being the most well-known. These wines range in price from $35-$40 per bottle in the U.S.
- Then you get to Chablis – which encompasses many, many vineyards throughout the area. These wines range in price from $20-$40 per bottle and are a great starting point, and represent amazing quality for the price.
But really, the best way to learn Chablis is to drink it! Check out these four amazing bottles. I got to taste two different brands, or domaines, and a Chablis and a Grand Cru Chablis from each winery – super cool!
Domaine Guy Robin was established in 1954 and the winemaker, Marie-Ange Robin represents the fourth generation of the family. Her father purchased the vineyard, parcel by parcel throughout the 1950s.
Domaine Guy Robin Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2016 ($30): My first impressions went straight to lemon yellow sunshine and citrus with a pop of sharp and racy acid that kept my tongue dancing! It’s a bright, happy white wine, and I love it because it’s crisp and juicy!
Domaine Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons Vieilles Vignes 2016 ($38): Well, you can immediately tell the difference, now that we’re in Premier Cru territory. This wine is weightier, a little more lush and round in the mouth, bursting with creamy lemon curd and a hint of white pepper. So freaking delicious! I’m trying to save some to take to Easter brunch, but I’m not sure I can hold back!
Domaine de Chantemerle was started in the 1960s and winemaker Francis Boudin keeps it old-school, staying with low-yielding, older vines (many in Chablis opted to replant their vineyards with high-yielding clones in the 1970s, which some saw as compromising quality).
Domaine de Chantemerle Chablis 2017 ($20): Holy hell, this is one of the most amazing values ever! The wine is as crisp as a spring morning and bursting with tangy Meyer lemon and orange blossoms leaning up against a casual pile of white pebbles. It’s slightly more austere than the Guy Robin but still, so, so delicious!
Domaine de Chantemerle Premier Cru Chablis Fourchaume 2017 ($34) Wow – you’ve got rich lemon curd, apricot nectar and even a little salinity poking through, with some pointy, flinty stones backing it up, scratching every itch on your tongue. It’s soft and sexy with a satiny, elegant mouthfeel.
FOOD! Well, somebody didn’t have much time to cook this week, but there is ALWAYS cheese in my house and a creamy, double- or triple-creme Brie or Camembert positively sends these wines straight into the heavens.
But then some Veal Saltimbocca, sautéed mushrooms and rapini showed up at my door, courtesy of Food Haul, a new delivery-only “restaurant” that’s about to launch in Chicago and it all worked! The smoky, salty prosciutto atop the tender, lightly breaded, sautéed veal – perfecto. The Chabs stood up well to even the bitterness of the rapini worked. And mushrooms – well – the earthy richness of them was just kind of perfect with Chablis. Lil Chabs was very happy with that entire situation!
On Saturday, April 20, we are convening on Twitter at 10 a.m. CST for a Chablis chat. If you like Chardonnay, ahem, Chablis, join in! Just use #winophiles and you’ll find us. We’ve got a fantastic group of bloggers posting about Chablis. We’ll talk about the region, the wines, food pairings and travel! Here’s a peek at all the posts you’ll be able to explore:
Cam at Culinary Adventures with Camilla Brings Us “Cracked Crab, Cheesy Ravioli, and Chablis”
Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles writes about “Mont de Milieu Premier Cru Chablis from Simonnet-Febvre and Pochouse”
Gwendolyn at Wine Predator Shares “Chablis is … Chardonnay? Comparing 2 from France, 1 from SoCal Paired with Seafood Lasagna”
Liz at What’s in That Bottle Shares Chablis: the Secret Chardonnay
Deanna at Asian Test Kitchen Writes about “Top Chablis Pairings with Japanese Food”
Jennifer at Beyond the Cork Screw Has “French Companions: Chablis and Fromage Pavé”
Payal at Keep the Peas writes about “Chablis: A Tale of Two Soils”
Jane at Always Ravenous has “Pairing Chablis with Marinated Shrimp Salad”
Jeff at Food Wine Click shares “All the Best Food Pairings with Clos Beru Chablis”
Jill at L’Occasion writes about “Metal Giants: Windfarms and the Chablis Landscape”
Susannah at Avvinare writes “Celebrating France with Chablis and Toasting Notre Dame”
David at Cooking Chat writes about “Sipping Chablis with Easter Dinner or Your Next Seafood Meal”
Pinny at Chinese Food & Wine Pairings writes about “A Delicate Pair: Jean Claude Courtault Chablis and Sichuan Peppercorn-Cured Salmon”
Nicole at Somm’s Table writes about Domaine Savary Chablis Vieilles Vignes with Scallops and Brussels Sprouts Two Ways”
Kat at Bacchus Travel & Tours shares “The Delicate Face of Chardonnay: Chablis”
Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm Brings Us “Chardonnay? White Burgundy? Chablis!”