Many of us grew up with gallon bottles of white wine around that said boldly on them “CHABLIS.”
But it is very unlikely that my grandparents were actually drinking “Chablis.” Instead, my relatives were drinking white wine, most likely Chardonnay blended with other white wines like Muscat, Chenin blanc, and Sauvignon blanc (which I think was called “French Colombard”!)
Today, just like if a bottle says “Champagne” it should be coming from Champagne France, if a bottle says “Chablis” on it, it is most likely to be wine made from 100% Chardonnay and coming from the Chablis region of France.
What makes Chablis special? Here are nine reasons:
- Chablis vineyards are primarily composed of ancient seabeds: limestone, clay, and fossilized oyster shells give the wines a flinty character full of minerals.
- Chablis soils are super old with most formed over 180 million years ago back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
- Chablis is one of the few French AOC to define itself in terms of its geology.
- Chablis is grown in the far north of the Burgundy region of France, which is itself one of the most northern grape growing regions along with Champagne and Alsace.
- Chablis is at times referred to as “white Burgundy.”
- Chablis is always 100% Chardonnay.
- Chablis winemakers reinforce “purity” of the varietal and rely more on terroir than oak for character.
- Chablis was first planted with grapes in 1114 by monks.
- Chablis in 2004 boasted 10k acres of vineyard plantings.
This month and next, the French Winophiles group is traveling north to south through the region of Burgundy. Because the tuna boat was coming in and Santa Barbara ridgeback shrimp are in season for only a few more weeks, and because mineral rich Chablis goes so well with seafood, we decided to focus on Chablis and the sea.
Criterion – 2014 Chablis – 12.5% alcohol – $16.99 (Whole Foods)
2011 – Chablis Grand Cru – Bougros – Domaine Roy – 13% alcohol – $49.99
(available exclusively at WineHouse)
Oysters – Wow! both of these wines were beautiful with the oysters.
Savarin Cranberry Fromi – with fresh blueberries for garnish – (my new favorite!)
Chalancey – Affine au Chablis – brings out a richness in the wine
Pate – with the 2011 – brings out lemon curd and minerality
Freshly baked french baguette
Seared Ahi Tuna
Angel hair pasta
Drizzled with Beurre Blanc Sauce
The meal was out of this world, and went so well with our wines of the evening.
At first, Sue and I felt overwhelmed by this prompt. Following a July 2016 Burgundy seminar led by Diego Meraviglia at LA’s Wine House, I had bought three bottles, two white and one red. I brought the wines up and Sue and I examined them carefully to see if they fit into the prompt, and if so, what food would pair with them?
So we worked our way through the labels and did research. looked at maps and more and we were happy to learn that both Chablis would work with the May prompt and the red had us covered for June. We learned that the wines come in four categories for quality:
1. Chablis Grand Cru is the best– composed of 7 Grand Cru vineyards: Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouille, Les Preuses, Valmur and Vadésir.
2. Premier Cru,
4. Petit Chablis
We figured out we a Grand Cru, which means it’s the best of the best, and specifically, Bougros, one of the seven smaller areas side by side. In Bougros, Domaine Roy has been a family estate for five generations.
In the morning, my husband picked up three pounds of live ridgeback prawns at the Fish Market, then he bought a whole 45# tuna off the boat in the Ventura Harbor. Local lobster was too pricy and as it was on sale at the grocery store, we went with that. The kumamoto oysters also came from Vons. I was worried about the acidity of the spinach, but the way Sue prepared it, and then with drizzling the beurre blanc over all of it tied the flavors together.
Criterion – 2014 Chablis – 12.5% alcohol – $16.99 at Whole Foods
We decided it would be nice to have two wines, with one more budget minded, so Sue picked this one up at Whole Foods when she bought the cheeses and bread. Criterion specializes in making wines from all over the world This is a great value; while predictable and pedestrian, it’s a nice wine for the price and if we didn’t have a $50 wine in reach, we would have been quite happy with this wine because this wine definitely gives a lot of bang for the buck.
Color – sunny golden full of light, sparkly but not bubbles. Sunlight glints off the wine in the glass.
Nose – subtle oak and minerals, the integrated into the wine.
Palate – lemon, lemon curd, stone, flint, If we were not comparing the two wines this evening, we would have been blown away with this wine on its own, and we were even when comparing it to a higher priced chablis.
Finish— Long and lingering and smooooooooth…
You can tell that someone is listening to marketing with this wine as there is a very informative profile on each bottle of the wines they produce. This wine was clearly labeled as a Chablis, and it taste like a very dependable Chablis should taste.
2011 – Chablis Grand Cru – Bougros – Domaine Roy – 13% alcohol – $49.99
This is not an inexpensive wine. We suspect a comparable California Chardonnay would be much more expensive. You can taste the price difference in this higher priced wine from the previous wine: similar characteristics, it’s just this one is so much more everything and more distinctly so.
Color – super yellow in the glass, buttercup, translucent, there is not residual anything in there clear an beautiful.pretty pretty yellow that catches the light, a fresh yellow, not a gold.
Nose – minerals, a whiff of the sea, fresh lemon, more LEMON, lime, and citrus flowers.
Palate – Stainless steel fermented, no oak, just pure Chablis on the palate, very clean and refreshing, but also with a lushness and round. While this wine is lovely to taste, it longs for food. Primary flavors of the wine are lemon and minerals. This wine paired so wonderfully with the meal. The beurre blanc sauce played perfectly with the meal. I could not get over how delicious everything was.
This wine can be enjoyed as a cocktail wine, but you really yearn for food and the complexity of a great pairing when tasting this wine. Richer and more complex, lending itself to richer more complex wines.
While the first bottle we tasted was a generic Chablis, with grapes coming from anywhere in Chablis, this second one is a Grand Cru, which means it’s the best of the best and you really can taste the difference.
There is so much to learn! Fortunately, we have a second bottle, a Chablis Premier Cru from Cote d’Or to look forward to, and we have next month for a “red Burgundy”!
Check out where the other #Winophiles traveled!
Jeff Burrows of foodwineclick lures us to “Northern Burgundy Served Up With Rabbit.”
Jill Barth of L’Occasion schools us on “Thomas Jefferson in Burgundy.”
Michelle Williams of Rockin Red Blog tipples towards “A Journey Through Burgundy, Part 1 Chablis and Côte d’Or.”
Lynn Gowdy of Savor the Harvest hosts “Saint-Aubin in Burgundy Invites You To Dine.”
Martin Redmond of Enofylz Wine Blog throws down “Back To Back White Burgundy; Chablis vs Côte de Beaune”
Here at Wine Predator, Sue and I serve up “Chablis and the Sea.”
L.M. Archer of binnotes mulls over “Burgundy: Wines of Intention.”
…and Jane Niemeyer of Always Ravenous ladles up “St Aubin Premier Cru paired with Corn and Lobster Chowder”