Connoisseurs and professionals for decades have been debating whether Chablis is an integral part of Burgundy or whether it should be considered a region in its own right. Geographically, at least, it is nearer to the southern stretches of Champagne than it is to Burgundy’s Cote d’Or.
Chablis’ vineyards stretch west of the city of Auxerre in the department of Yonne.
The heart of the appellation is the Chablis, which includes the precious grand cru vineyards. There are seven grand cru vineyards: Blanchot, Valmure, Les Clos, Le Grenouille, Bougros, Preuses, and Vaudesir. All seven grand cru, which constitute approximately 100 hectares, are located on southeast facing slopes and benefit from maximum sunshine.
Next up are premiere cru Chablis. There are forty premiere cru vineyards, followed by Chablis and Petit Chablis designations.
The simple Chablis appellations account for by far the largest share of the delimited viticultural area and have been expanding at a very rapid rate in the last two decades.
Approximately 95 percent of the potential Chablis is now under vines. Here only one grape variety may be used – Chardonnay.
was formed 180 million years ago and consists mostly of Kimmeridgian soil (the French call it argilo-calcaire) composed of tiny oyster shells and pebbles. Kimmeridgian soil is named after the town in England, whose soils are composed of limestone and clay. Grand cru vineyard soils contain millions of oyster shells. The region was once a sea.
In the 19th century 6000 hectares were under vines, now 5000 produce fruit for Chablis wines.
The climate is inland continental with cold winters, occasionally cool springs, and often warm to hot summers. However, some growing seasons can be cool, resulting in under ripe and acidic grapes, requiring capitalization.
used to be such a popular white wine that in North America and elsewhere it had become synonymous with white wine. Many California wineries used to market “Chablis” which contained not one drop of Chardonnay, and had absolutely no resemblance to the original. France objected, and today this fraudulent practice is extinct.
Chablis styles vary surprisingly widely from one vigneron, winery or negociant to the next for what is, in essence, a relatively simple unpretentious wine of high acidity and pleasant fruitiness. In good vintages Chablis may be of medium to full body.
Grapes are harvested mechanically (95 percent), but handpicked in grand cru vineyards to ensure that only sound bunches reach the winery. Caring winemakers use one or two sorting tables that only fully ripe grapes are pressed.
In most cases cultured yeasts are used for fermentation, but natural yeasts for grand cru wines.
Chablis always undergoes malolactic fermentation to reduce harsh malic acids. Some winemakers employ barrel aging, albeit for shorts periods, fro grand cru wines, other quality level wines are simply clarified and/or filtered and bottled.
Generally, it is light and may age for a few years, exceptions not withstanding, and depending on vintage conditions. In the past three vintages in each decade were of superior quality. Now, global warming yields six or more good vintages in every decade.
The question of whether Chablis should be barrel aged or not is more important. Traditionally, Chablis wines were not aged in oak. Most old-style winemakers try to preserve the “flinty” flavour and thus prefer bottling without oak aging. Some negociants barrel-age their brands albeit for a few months to impart a subtle flavour mouth feel many people seem to associate wrongly with quality.
Petit Chablis and Chablis are generally not oak aged, reflecting the true characteristics of the wine.
La Chablisienne, a co-operative and also the largest producer, makes and markets fine Chablis and Petit Chablis.
They are sound, well made, flavourful wines preferred over negociant products.
On the other hand Chablis Grand Cru and premiere cru wines may benefit from a short barrel aging treatment. The tannins contribute towards long cellaring qualities, depending on vintage. Such wines can be cellared eight to ten years for premier cru, and 12 – 15 years for Grand cru although North American palates might be more geared for fruitier and less oak-aged wines. Barrel aging applies only in successful vintages.
Recently, more and more chefs and less experienced sommeliers are recommending barrel-aged Chardonnays from California, Australia and Ontario, with a variety of delicate seafood dishes. This is patently wrong and flies in the face of basic wine and food matching principles. Oak and delicate seafood are simply not compatible. On the other hand, a un-oaked Chardonnay or Chablis does wonders in complementing delicate foods.
Can you imagine a fresh, freshly shucked, plump oyster with a drop of lemon juice and a barrel-aged Chardonnay?
William Fevre is one of the hundreds of wineries in Chablis, but enjoys a very good reputation due to its superior management of vineyards and policy of keeping yields low.
Officially, 54 hectolitres per hectare are allowed, but William fever rarely exceeds 50 hectolitres/hectare to ensure flavourful wines.
Recently, the winemaker Didier Seguier was in Toronto and conducted a tasting of some of the winery’s wines:
Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses, 2008 fine apple/pear aromas. The wine is smooth, dry, medium-bodied, balanced with a good finish. Pair with seafood in cream sauces.
Chablis Champs Royaux, 2009 fruity, acid-driven, full-bodied with a long finish. Pair with seafood pastas, sautéed or stir-fried chicken with vegetables, calamari.
Chablis, 2009 aromas of white-fleshed fruit waft out of the glass. Supple, marked with typical minerality of Chablis. Serve with grilled salmon, freshly shucked oysters, seafood pastas, paella.
Chablis Premier Cru, 2009 floral aromas, well balanced, lively, vigorous with a satisfying finish
Chablis Premier Cru Montmains, 2009 well structured, complex, brimming with typical minerality.
Pair with poultry, pork in cream sauce, seafood pastas, breaded and deep fried calamari
Chablis Premier Cru Montee de Tonerre, 2009 Complex floral and fruity aromas dominate. An elegant wine with a full-body and long, satisfying finish.
Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons, 2009 Apple/pear aromas. Subtle minerality, good depth, balanced.
Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorant, 2009 aromas of citrus and white peaches with underlying mineral notes. Concentrated and intense flavour. Very refreshing. Long aftertaste.
Chablis Grand Cru Bougros, 2009 Powerful aromas of apples and pears. Typical minerality, rich and intense. A refreshing and elegant wine. Pair confidently with sole Colbert, breaded goujon of Dover sole, scampi in cream sauce, grilled lobster with drawn butter.
Chablis grand Cru Bougros Cote Bougerot, 2009 Grapes were harvested from the most favourable parcel of the greater Bougros vineyard. Golden colour, citrus and white peach aromas. Good minerality. Fine mouth feel.
Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses, 2009 Floral aromas greet the nose. Intense flavour. Subtle cinnamon detectable. Smooth. Full-bodied, and refined.
Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir, 2009 Soft and lively mouth feel. Rich in vanilla flavours and subtle spices. Good length, intensity and complexity.
Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, 2009 Les Clos is considered the best of all grand cru vineyards.
This wine offers complexity, fruit, spicy notes with mineral touches. On the palate it is rich, with depth of flavours. Long satisfying finish. Pair with Dover sole Meuniere, sole fillets Colbert, breaded goujon of Dover sole, scampi in cream sauce, breaded and deep fried calamari.
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416 767 5114