Chablis has, for a long time, been the darling of a small group of wine “Tifosis.” However, in the past 16-18 months, it has achieved huge popularity, both with wine media and individual customers. Why is that?
CHABLIS GRANDS CRUS
Louis Michel Les Clos 2014. $69.99. 2 cases available.
Louis Michel Grenouilles 2014. $69.99 2 cases available.
William Fevre Les Preuses Magnums 2013. $179.99. 2 cases available.
William Fevre Les Clos 2014. $99.99. 1 case available.
William Fevre Les Clos 2011. $94.99. 1 case available.
Droin Vaudesir 2015. $62.99. 5 cases available.
CHABLIS PREMIER CRUS
Louis Michel Vaillons 2014. $29.99. 6 cases available.
Louis Michel Fourchaume 2014. $39.99. 1 case available.
Louis Michel Butteaux Vieilles Vignes 2014. $35.99. 6 cases available.
Louis Michel Montee de Tonnerre 2013. $39.99. 3 cases available.
Louis Michel Montmains 2014. $29.99. 4 cases available.
Louis Michel Forets 2014. $29.99. 6 cases available.
William Fevre Champs Royaux 2015. $28.99. Plenty available!
Droin Montmains 2015. $39.99. 12 cases available.
Domaine Laroche Vaillon 2012. $29.99. 5 six-packs available.
Domaine Laroche Vaillon 2014. $29.99. 5 six-packs available.
Louis Jadot Fourchaume 2014. $39.99. 2 cases available.
William Fevre Chablis Domaine 2014. $29.99. 6 cases available.
Abbatiale de Fontenay 2014. $18.99. 5 cases available.
Chablis, is located on the northermost edge of Burgundy and is actually closer to Champagne than it is to Burgundy. Situated a few miles from the city of Auxerre, its appellation is only about 15 square miles. Since it lies so far north, it is easy to understand why the wines produced there are very dry, void of much fruit, and rife with acidity. Chardonnay is the only grape varietal grown there and its style diverges a lot from the Chardonnay grown in the rest of Burgundy, where it is often fruity and honeyed, with tropical notes.
In Chablis, the Chardonnay style is called: “Pierre a fusil” or gun flint. This mineral aspect comes from the particular soil of Chablis called Kimmeridgian (calcareous with soft chalk ). The best of the Premiers Crus vineyards’s soils feature fossilized oyster shells, just like their rivals in the Côte de Beaune.
In all, it is usually cold in Chablis and ripening grapes is not so easy. The disastrous 1957 vintage only produced 11 cases of wine!! Rain, frost and hail are the enemies. Frost is usally dealt with through water dispersion. Spraying water around the vines creates a natural barrier, much like an igloo protects in icy conditions. Smudge pots can also be located near the vines to provide heat. However, there is not much to do about hail and the past few vintages have seen their share of that. Indeed, just last year, a hailstorm destroyed much of the 2016 crop.
Chablis is divided into 4 areas: Petit Chablis, which includes outlying areas; Chablis and also Chablis Premier Cru, where approximately 40 vineyards have earned the higher designation; and finally, Grand Cru. The seven Grands Crus are all located on the same hillside, along the river Serein. The Grands Crus and most Premiers Crus are aged with some wood, while the Chablis and Petit Chablis are aged in steel tanks.
In terms of flavor profile, what makes Chablis so great is the mineral, steely, lean taste of its wines. I actually enjoy the good village Chablis as much as I do many Premiers Crus. That is because they feature a razor sharp, clean taste while many Premiers Crus are aged in oak and reach a nutty, spicy, round, fruity, rich profile. Grands Crus can even be more oaked, the result being wines that resemble Montrachet more than a classic Chablis. One of my concerns is that many young Chablis producers are no longer interested in making the traditional style of wine and are trying to make Pulignys in Chablis…we will see! An exception to that trend is Guillaume Michel of Domaine Louis Michel & Fils. His style follows the house tradition.
In terms of drinkability, village Chablis can be drunk from 2-5 years, while Premier Crus, with ½ percent more alcohol, need a few more years and Grands Crus can reach optimum quality from 5 to 10 years. Some Chablis can age considerably longer. Because of their leanness and muted fruit, they represent the best wines to marry with delicate, refined foods and seafood, such as Dover Sole and John Dory.
As to value, here is the second greatest quality of Chablis. Years ago, Chablis was – for us in the USA – a jug product made in California that was often of mediocre quality. As a result, the French appellation lost esteem and never fully recovered until recently. Today, the wines surrounding Puligny, Chassagne-Montrachet and Meursault are highly sought after, making Chablis incredible buys. You can find an excellent village Chablis for $20, a top Premier Cru for $45 and most Grands Crus can be had for $100 or less. Compare that with the $500 Montrachets!
The top cult brands of Chablis are Raveneau and Dauvissat. While undeniably excellent, these wines are just impossible to find and as a result, cost too much. The highest quality available brands of Chablis include Louis Michel, William Fèvre, Droin and Domaine Laroche. While these wines are getting harder to find due both to tiny vintages and huge demand, there are still some available today.
The Chablis we’re offering are available in tiny quantities and will sell out quickly. I recommend a couple of mixed cases with a few bottles of Grands Crus, a few bottles of Premiers Crus and a lot of village Chablis! Look for the Abbatiale de Fontenay, a steal at $18.99!
We also want to extend a very sincere Thank You to our friends in Louisiana who hosted Jean-Bernard Grenié of Château Angélus. We enjoyed two unforgettable evenings, the best of Louisiana cuisine paired with Bordeaux wines. Laissez les bons vins rouler!