When my tech-savvy, always-on-trend editor starts raving to me about her current love-affair with Chablis, it’s easy to know what’s “white hot”, and even easier to predict where this love affair will take her. Because once you have had great Chablis, you can’t – and won’t – give it up. You’re together for life.
To best appreciate the wonders of this wine, we need some historical perspective. In years past, in addition to the real wines emanating from the Chablis region in France’s North-East, the word Chablis was also appropriated generically to describe huge amounts of very ordinary, often not-so-dry white wine which could have been made from any grape(s) and grown anywhere in the world.
Not any more. Over the last few decades, laws throughout the globe have aligned with those introduced in the Chablis region in 1938, which stipulated that only wines produced from the chardonnay grape, grown within the defined – délimite – Chablis region, are permitted to use the name/word “Chablis” on a wine label.
Now, before all you fully paid-up members of the “anything but chardonnay” club switch off, you need to know that Chablis – and it’s sub-region Petit Chablis – is a whole different glass of chardonnay to that which you are accustomed. As distinct from what you might be familiar with, the best examples of the region show no oak flavour or oak character. And indeed a lot of Chablis is bottled without ever having been kept in oak.
Chablis’ winemakers know that the influence of new oak is anathema, as it obscures and adulterates the region’s inimitable wine style, especially very dry white wines of medium body with crisp, mouth-tingling acidity and with cool, austere citrus and orchard fruit notes laid upon background characters evocative of the sea, especially that of oyster shells and the liquids contained therein. (Factoid: fossilised oyster shells are prevalent throughout the Kimmeridgian soils of the region.)
And while some Chablis are still matured in oak, the oak used is not to impart “oakiness”. Rather, the maturation – élevage – in wood is used as a controlled way of very gently adding a little “body” to the naturally lean shape, which in turn helps cloak and gently “soften” any excess of the naturally racy acidity.
The three wines below are real “steals” and a treat for both Chablis neophytes and devotees alike. In the spirit of #stayhome, why not grab a bottle of each of these wines, and a couple of dozen oysters for a great celebratory night in with your fellow cellmates. That’s a great way to make lemonade from the lemons that life has delivered us.
My Chablis recommendations:
Note: the purchase hyperlinks for the following two wines are for the 2018 vintages.
RRP $38 as part of any six bottle buy
Bright light lemon appearance. Excellent volume of bouquet with tantalising notes of lemon zest and ripe white stone fruit. The palate has plenty of classically Chablis character including racy integrated acidity that buttresses from start to finish the palate’s ripe fruit flavours, which evoke seaside references and conclude with real grippiness on the long-ish finish. A very good wine.
RRP $38 as part of any six bottle buy
Bright light lemon. The bouquet is intense, with higher-toned aromatics of lemon and oyster shell sea water. The first palate impression is of extreme vivacity as the flavours positively bounce around and throughout the palate, with notes of lime, a hint of grapefruit, and the flinty, mineral characters that are typical of Chablis. Lingering, long finish with superb retro-olfactories. Benchmark village Chablis and as good as its gets at this level.
2018 Seguinot-Bordet Petit Chablis
This family’s roots stretch way back to 1590, which must make them one of the longest continuing wine-producing families in France. The wine is vibrant, with lifted fresh notes of green apple and citrus, backed up with some classical Chablis oyster-shell salinity. The palate is impressive with superb vigour on entry with precise, intense flavours displaying excellent length and with delightful retro-aromatics. Outstanding example of Petit Chablis.
Available from leading independents including:
Prince Wine Store, Decanters on the Bay
Annandale Cellars, Vaucluse Cellars, Paddington Fine Wines
Spiro’s Bottle Shop Paddington, XO Cellars
For a wide selection of Chablis and Petit Chablis, visit Dan Murphy’s online or Vintage Cellars.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.