Do you like Chardonnay or Chablis – Is there a difference?
Chardonnay or Chablis – I know a great deal of people who will turn down a glass of Chardonnay but never a glass of Chablis. The funny thing is that Chablis is made from entirely Chardonnay!!. So what is going on here?. Outside Burgundy, Chardonnay could have a tendency to taste homogeneous alike no matter where is grown from California to Italy and passing through Australia. This is a reason that is putting wine lovers off to taste chardonnay. To get the essence of this grape you must drink Chablis
In the spirit of getting to know more Chablis, I accepted the invitation of Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne ( BIVB) for an informal tasting this past September 11th at the Restaurant Magdalena in Montreal. “ Les Instants Chablis” event was a great opportunity to get acquainted with this Burgundy wine region.
Chablis is a wine region situated around 130 km northwest of Dijon, France and is considered a part of the Burgundy region. The white wines of Chablis are made entirely from the Chardonnay grape, much like the other great white wines of Burgundy. However, the wines vary greatly in style and flavour from their southern neighbors, mainly as a result of the district’s cooler climate and unique Kimmeridgian soil. Chablis has a particular bouquet that recalls wet chalk, lemons, and green apple, with a higher acidity than most Chardonnay. There are four Chablis “ appellations”. These are Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru and Chablis Grand Cru.
Petit Chablis come from plateaux in hillside vineyards. It is fresh and aromatic with subtle floral nuances. The area of the production is 1010 h and its vineyards are located on either side of the river Serein. This AOP was established in 1944. It is one of the jewels in the crown of the Chablis region which forms the “golden gate” to Bourgogne.
In contrast, Chablis is the largest of the 4 appellations in terms of planted surface area. The area under production covers 3560 ha and their wines are more structured and longer in mouth than Petit Chablis. Chablis vineyards are located near Auxerre in the department of Yonne along the Serein river as well. Winemaking goes back to the 12th century when the Cistercian monks from the abbey of Pontigny developed vine cultivation. The area of production is 3560 ha.
The appellation of Chablis Premier Cru is reserved for single vineyard wines or climats. The term “climat” is a Burgundy concept. These are plots of land with precisely defined borders with specific geological and climatic conditions. There are 40 different climats, each with their own style. Some yields mineral wines such as Montéé de Tonnerre and Côte de Léchet while others are fruity such as Beauroy and Montmains.
The distinctive factor of Chablis Premier cru lies in their soil geology. The important soil substrate is Jurassic limestone (specifically, Kimmeridgian limestone) which was formed some 150 million years ago. The base layer has deposits of tiny fossilised oyster shells which brings to mind that Burgundy was under a warm ocean.The most famous Climats are those on the right bank of the Serein river surrounding the Grand Cru.
At the top level of the hierarchy we find the Chablis Grand Cru appellation and its seven climats Blanchot, Bougros, les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur and Vaudésir. Situated just over the village of Chablis, each terroir has its own set of qualities. Blanchot is floral, supple and charming. Les Clos is mineral driven with great power. Valmur is mineral but fruity as well with a well defined elegance. Grenouilles is rich fruity and decadent. Vaudésir is bright floral and curvy. Preuses is long and aristocratic with a famous aging capacity and finally Bougros is round, mineral and supple
The austere, mineral character of Chablis makes it perfect for simple, clean flavors such as sautéed white fish, and can serve as an excellent counterbalance to rich dishes or cream-based sauces. Petit Chablis should be great with raw oysters or other shellfish. For not too expensive Chablis and Premier Cru, pasta alla vongole or fried fish should be great too.
For Grand Cru Chablis definitely I would go for a rich and sumptuous plate. Egg based pastas with mushrooms such as porcini or black truffle, salmon in pastry or veal in a cream based sauce. Hard cheeses are great as well. Try it with washed French rind cheeses such as Epoisses and Soumaintrain.
Note: The information from this article was sourced from the Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne ( BIVB). Photos of the event are a courtesy of Johanna Raynaud, founder of 4 Épices Communications.
Tasting Notes from the event:
Clotilde Davenne Petit Chablis 2015 SAQ # 11639441 $25.80
Very aromatic, in a floral style. Aromas as well of lemon curd and vanilla bean. Round and aromatic. Balanced and very harmonious with a spicy finale.
J Moreau & Fils. Chablis 1er Cru, Vaucoupin 2014 SAQ # 13192021 $29.75
Lovely nose. Ripe pear evolving toward a bright floral side. In addition, nuances of hay with delicate notes of chanterelle mushrooms. A nice gripping acidity with tones of menthol. A rather austere finale.
Julien Brocard-Les 7 Lieux Chablis
Domaine de la Boissonneuse 2014 ( Private Import, Agence Roucet, $37.80)
Hay and mint with notes of green apple and a outstanding complex minerality. Rich yet very harmonious. Notes of tasty halzenut, almonds and a very smoky round palate. At the end remindings me of green coffee and mustard seed.
Isabelle et Denis Pommier. Chablis 1er Cru, Côte de Léchet 2014 ( Private Import, Rezin $47.56)
Lovely nose bringing to mind pear sorbet with green mint leaves as well as jasmine tea. On the mouth, tight and austere. Fleshy with an elegant woody aftertaste. One of my favorite wines from the tasting
William Fevre Chablis 1er Cru, Fourchaume 2014 SAQ # 518498. $53.50
On the nose, lime with ripe peach and apricot notes and a brooding minerality. Fleshy with a nice gripping acidity. Powerful finale A smoke-flint aftertaste.
Caves Jean et Sébastien Dauvissat. Chablis 1er Cru, Vaillons 2012 ( SAQ # 895011 $38.50)
Flint with nuances of green apple and quince. On the mouth, ripe and charming, very broad and long in the mouth. Harmonious and very zen like.
Maison Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2013 SAQ # 12139747 $89.75
Young and austere. Needs time to open up. Baked earth and roasted herbs. With time in the glass, notes of grilled hazelnuts and wood. On the mouth, rigorous with lots of concentration and great amplitude. Flavors of pineapple and marzipan. Very long finale.