Chablis…So Misunderstood….

Chablis…So Misunderstood….
A few years ago as I was opening my steakhouse in Charleston, SC (a supremely groovy city), I took my chef and his wife, Cathy, out to my competition for dinner. As we sat at the bar Cathy ordered a glass of Chablis from the very pompous bartender, who looked at Cathy as if she just got off the farm. Nothing frosts my wine glass more then someone who thinks they have superior wine knowledge but would not know a tannic sip from white zin. But I have to admit, I also am of the generation that equated Chablis with that jug white wine with the cute handle. So, a whole generation of wine drinkers discounted Chablis, but how wrong we are. Chablis is a town and a région in the northernmost wine area of Burgundy. Almost all the vines planted around the town of Chablis are chardonnay. The cool climate produces chardonnay with more acidity, and they are much less fruity. They also convey a “flinty” nose, tasting of gunflint and described as “steely”; this descriptive is called “goût de pierre à fusil“. Chablis has limestone soil rich with fossils and oysters that were from a time when the sea covered Burgundy and Chablis. Hints of green apple and lemon on the taste with aromas of vanilla, lemon and linden (similar to lime) make this juice so special. Chardonnay from Chablis is almost completely unoaked and vinified in stainless steel tanks. Although many Grand Crus and Premier Crus from Chablis spend some time in oak, they typically are in stainless maturation. This is what separates Chablis chardonnay from those from Côte de Beaune. Some locals call chardonnay from Chablis Beaunois. The classifications of Chablis wine start with “Appellation Chablis”. Petit Chablis Contrôlée: drink now, should be drunk young Chablis Contrôlée: 2 to 5 years aging Chablis Premier Cru Contrôlée: 3 to 7 years aging Chablis Grand Cru Contrôlée: 5 to 12 years aging Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne (BIVB) recognizes seven Grand Cru vineyards in Chablis: Bougros, Les Preuses, Vaudésir, Grenouilled, Valmur, Les Clos and Blanchot. Highly prized, these vineyards account for only 3% of Chablis annual production. Most wine writers label Les Clos as having some of the best wine in Chablis. Much like the “Black Rooster”, which designates a consortium of top Chianti producers in Italy, the Union des Grand Crus de Chablis (UGCC) is a syndicate to defend and promote the quality of Chablis Grand Cru wines. This is a very far cry from that $6.99 bottle of generic “Chablis” found in your local supermarket. History has left its mark by the use of “Chablis” to describe most white wine, regardless of where it is from. Chablis producers have been fighting the good fight to take back the true meaning of chardonnay from the Chablis region of Burgundy, France. So, take that bottle of generic Chablis that you keep in the back of the refrigerator and liberate it by dumping it in your bed of roses; I hear the acid makes for a better rose. If you’re coming to France (or for that matter anywhere) you can reserve your hotel here. To rent a car, Bonjour Paris recommends Auto Europe.

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