Beginner’s Guide to Chablis

Posted by admin | April 12, 2021 | Blog

There are many reasons to search out true Chablis. Perhaps you love Chardonnay?  Chablis is a unique expression of the grape, and will teach you something new about it. Perhaps you dislike Chardonnay? Then Chablis could well change your mind about, and prove that not all Chardonnays are the same. Perhaps you’re looking for a sure-fire accompaniment to many seafood dishes? Then look no further. Maybe you dislike oak in wines? For sure, there are many over-oaked Chardonnays in the world, however oak is rarely used in Chablis. Or maybe you live in a land-locked part of the world, but want to feel like you’re on the beach on a breezy coast? Chablis could be the solution – its lean, saline flavors can transport you there. 

The point is, Chablis has a lot to offer. Let’s look at where it comes from, and why it’s so beloved. Chablis is a semi-continental region angled off to the north west of Burgundy (with the village of Chablis at its center). This is the northernmost location where still wine grapes can come to maturity, and this is the reason for the lean, dry, acidic nature of Chablis wine. You might also hear it described as ‘nervy’, ‘fresh’, or ‘energetic’, or even with ‘gun-flint minerality’. None of these terms are exaggerations, as anyone who has tasted a world-class Chablis can tell you. The fact they have less sun and more frost than other regions means that it is difficult to make a great Chablis. Often in the  Spring, the winemakers have to warm the vines with burners and keep a close early-morning eye on them to stop the tender buds from freezing.

You can’t describe Chablis without a word about the soil – otherwise known as terroir. Chablis is about the land, the soil, the rock and the weather – as well as the grape and the person who makes the wine. For pure expression of place, they don’t come much purer than this. Chablis grows on rock, kimmeridgian clay as it’s known, that formed 150 million years ago, shoals, rich in tiny oyster shells, from when the region was covered by a great inland sea.  To say that Chablis ‘tastes of the sea’ is to capture the essence of the wine.

There are four tiers of appellations to be aware of when shopping for Chablis:

  • Petit Chablis – the ‘regional appellation’ Chablis, equivalent to appellation ‘bourgogne’ elsewhere in Burgundy. With little if any kimmeridgian in the soils, the wines are refreshing, less mineral and great value when made by a good producer. 
  • Chablis – this is the ‘village’ level appellation.  Appellation Chablis accounts for about two thirds of the wine produced in the region
  • Premier Cru Chablis – these are wines from vineyards with superior soils and excellent exposure to the sun. There are about 40 premier cru categories in Chablis. 
  • Grand Cru Chablis – only 7 plots (known as climats) produce Grand Cru Chablis. From an amphitheater-shaped basin on the eastern bank of the Serein river, the Grand Cru vineyards are a heat trap in a region traditionally cool and wet.  So you regularly get that extra half degree of ripeness that produces a cornucopia of flavors and aromas 

As ever, the best way to understand and appreciate is to try. Elden Selections works with some of the finest producers whose wines embody everything that’s good about Chablis. Jean Dauvissat offers an incredible seven Premier Cru Chablis wines. Fabien Dauvissant (Jean’s son) has taken the domain organic, producing precise, mouthwatering, vivacious wines. 

The Domain Oudin offers a pair of excellent Premier Cru Chablis – Vaugiraut using vines over 70 years old, and Vaucoupins, from a warmer slope and with a more powerful flavor. Also available are two fine ‘tout-court’ Chablis (as the locals call the ‘village’ appellation).

And so to food pairings. To be really French, you’ve got to try Chablis with escargot (snails) – the ‘gravelly’ flavor of this pairing is simply delicious. Try sautéing them in tomato and parsley, or perhaps making a nice ravioli in a white wine, garlic and herb sauce. There are a multitude of other dishes worth trying too – tarragon chicken, clam chowder, to name but a few. 

Why not check out the rest of our blog, including this article [INSERT LINK] which explores how long you can keep a Chablis for. And you can now join our Burgundy Wine Club – as a member you’ll receive special hand-selected wines, recipes, tasting notes, invites to virtual events and have the chance to win unique wine-related prizes!