Chablis From Everyday to Special Occasion

Chablis Wines at the Dinner Table
Chablis is a wine appellation in France, in the northwest corner of the Bourgogne region. Chablis wines are always 100% Chardonnay. If your Chardonnay experience is from California or other warm places, Chablis might come as a refreshing change. This corner of Bourgogne is quite cool, so the wines will always have a refreshing acidity and they usually avoid obvious oaky flavors as are typical in many other regions. They happen to be my favorite expression of Chardonnay, bar none!

The Helpful Chablis Pyramid
Many wine appellations in France have developed classifications to indicate potential unique characteristics and quality levels. They are derived from the soil, the site aspect, slope and other unique characteristics – but not the vigneron. These qualifications are fixed, and don’t vary from year to year. For the Chablis appellation, there are several qualifications which are important and helpful to know. As wines move from the base of the pyramid toward the top, the intensity and complexity of the wine as well as the cost, goes up. Chablis enthusiasts use the pyramid to match a Chablis purchase with a corresponding dinner, whether it is a simple weeknight meal or a more involved weekend dinner with guests.

Disclosure: The wines for this post were provided as samples, no other compensation was involved. All opinions expressed are mine

Petit Chablis
Like all of Chablis, Petit Chablis vineyards are sited on clay-limestone soil. Petit Chablis vineyards have a higher proportion of clay, with the soil referred to as Portlandian. Generally, Petit Chablis wines are lighter in body with slightly less prominent fruit and more mineral character. They are excellent aperitif wines and are intended for early consumption. They are classified as Village level wines and are affordable enough to enjoy on a weeknight. Petit Chablis wines account for 19% of all Chablis production.

La Chablisienne “Pas si Petit” Petit Chablis AOC

La Chablisienne
La Chablisienne is a high quality cooperative of Chablis winegrowers, which started in 1923. They produce Chablis wines at all levels of the pyramid, from Petit Chablis to Grand Cru. If you are visiting the region, you can stop into their tasting rooms in either Chablis or Vézeley and sample their full range.

La Chablisienne “Pas si Petit” Petit Chablis AOC 2020 (sample, $22 online) 12% abv
Eye: Pale lemon
Nose: Medium intensity aromas of white blossom, lemon peel, lemon juice, grapefruit peel, flint, wet stones
Mouth: Dry, medium plus acidity, medium body with a slightly softened texture, medium alcohol, medium flavor intensity, medium minus finish. Flavors echo the nose with accentuated flinty, stony flavors.
Observations: Compared to the Chablis, this wine accents the flinty, stony character more than the lemony fruit. A very nice weeknight wine, perfect with American style weeknight tacos!

The Chablis appellation makes up the largest percentage of Chablis wines, with 65% of all Chablis wines labeled “Chablis”. The soil of these vineyards has a higher limestone content and is slightly older, from the Kimmeridgean period. Chablis wines show their cool climate origin with citrus and lemon notes along with that mineral character. These wines have enough body to show well with the main dish at the dinner table.

Jean-Marc Brocard “Sainte Claire” Chablis AOC

Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard
Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard estate consists of 144 hectares, 66 of which are certified organic.

Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis AOC “Sainte Claire” 2020 (sample, $22 online) 13% abv
Eye: Medium lemon
Nose: Medium plus intensity aromas of gardenia blossom, fresh chalky stones, lemon curd, lemon peel, green apple, fresh underripe pear, straw
Mouth: Dry, high acidity, medium body, medium alcohol, medium plus flavor intensity, medium plus finish. Flavors follow the nose with an interesting combination of ripe lemon, lemon curd and also fresh very tart lemon.
Observations: This wine paired beautifully with our dinner of pan fried walleye, homemade tartar sauce, and roasted vegetables

Domaine Louis Moreau
Domaine Louis Moreau was established in 1814, now in their sixth generation. The estate covers a total of 52 hectares. They produce the full range of Chablis wines from Petit Chablis to Grand Cru.

Domaine Louis Moreau Chablis AOC 2020 (sample, $30 online) 12.5% abv
Eye: pale lemon
Nose: Medium intensity aromas of apple blossom, green apples, lemon curd, hint of fresh tarragon, crushed gravel.
Mouth: Dry, high acidity though tempered by soft texture, medium body, medium alcohol, medium intensity flavors, medium finish. The acidity seems muted, but you’ll be smacking your lips after taking a sip.
Observations: While a bit less attention-getting when placed next to a premier cru wine, this wine is exactly what one hopes for in a nice Chablis and would be welcome at the table at our house anytime.

Chablis 1er Cru
Chablis 1er Cru vineyards sit on the same Kimmeridgean soil as the Chablis appellation. However, 1er Cru sites are typically situated on south facing slopes, improving drainage and gathering more intensity from the sun. These features result in wines with greater intensity. The special nature of these sites means they are a small percentage of the vineyard land in Chablis, so 1er Cru wines represent just 15% of Chablis wines overall. These wines command higher prices, so vignerons can afford to invest more time and effort in the winegrowing and winemaking process. Hand harvesting is more common, as is more care in the winery. Expect to pay more for a 1er Cru Chablis, but you’ll be rewarded with a special wine to accompany a special meal.

Domaine Laroche “Les Vaudevey” Chablis 1er Cru

Domaine Laroche
Domaine Laroche is committed to environment-friendly viticulture. They are Haute Valeur Environmentale (HVE3) certified, with “no weed killers, no pesticides, no anti-botrytis treatments. … We experiment natural treatments using nettle and valerian”. In the winery they pursue “minimal treatments, reduction of power consumption and use of rainfall water.” They produce all levels of Chablis wines, and they vinify and age their top wines in the cellars of the 13th century Obédiencerie monastery!

Domaine Laroche Chablis Premier Cru AOC “Les Vaudevey” 2020 (sample, $60 online) 12% abv
Eye: pale lemon, though a bit deeper color than the Louis Moreau
Nose: Medium plus intensity aromas of lemon blossom, lemon peel, lime peel, hints of fresh thyme, hints of fresh sea air.
Mouth: Dry, lively high acidity, medium minus body, medium alcohol, medium plus flavor intensity, medium plus finish.
Observations: Les Vaudevey is a cool site, and the extra liveliness and slightly lighter body show beautifully. A pleasure to enjoy at the dinner table.

Chablis Grand Cru
Chablis Grand Cru vineyards represent the pinnacle of the Chablis region, constituting only 1% of all Chablis wines. One fascinating aspect is that 100% of the Grand Cru sites are located on a single hillside just outside the village of Chablis. One can stand on the roadside next to the hill and see all the Chablis Grand Cru vines in the entire world! Not only that, there is a trail through these highly esteemed vineyards.

This is it. All the Grand Cru Chablis for the whole world.
If you visit Chablis, you should take a walk through the Grand Cru Vineyards!

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