Why Chablis Wine Is a Must-Try Chardonnay

Published December 29, 2021
Chablis glasses with grapes on old wooden table

Chablis is an incredibly unique expression of chardonnay, one that highlights its terroir like none other. Named after the town of Chablis, France, within the northern region of Burgundy, it is not that rich and buttery boisterous chardonnay you are likely familiar with. Rather, it's a lean, dry, and sophisticated articulation of the grape with racing acidity and a clean minerality.

Chablis profile infographic

Flavor Profile & Characteristics

While each wine offers tastings notes unique to the vineyard within the region of Chablis, typical notes of Chablis are dominated by green apple, flint, and saline. They are dry, lean, acid-driven wines that hold more tension than chardonnay grown in warmer climates. With aromas of citrus peel and white flower, they are bright and sharp with long finishes.

How to Drink Chablis

The clean, crisp character of the majority of Chablis is intended to be enjoyed when it is released. Premier cru and grand cru Chablis, on the other hand, have more complex notes that benefit from some aging. Premier cru can be aged from two to four years, while grand cru is best aged a minimum of five years. All should be chilled and served at around 45-52 °F (7-11 °C).

What to Drink It With

Chablis' dry, acidic, and flinty nature is a perfect match for slightly more delicate flavored foods. Think grilled lingcod with parsley, dill, and cilantro, seared scallops in butter, chilean sea bass, or crispy-skinned chicken with pink peppercorns and chèvre.

Getting to Know Chablis

Made from the most popular grape in the world, this distinctive wine expresses the unique soils of the town of Chablis, situated in the northeastern corner of Burgundy, France.

Grape

Chablis is made from 100% chardonnay grapes. Grown around the world, chardonnay is known for capturing its terroir and expressing the artisanry of a winemaker.

Terroir

While the chardonnay varietal is grown all over Old World and New World regions, it varies drastically based on the soil, climate, and terrain. The terroir of Chablis is so distinct it cannot be confused with any other chardonnay. In this northern corner of Burgundy, France, the limestone and clay soils have a substantial impact on the expression of the grape. The geology tells the story of an ancient sea bed, infusing a briny minerality into the grapes. The northerly positioning of the town of Chablis can make for challenging growing conditions, but it also gives the wine its cool-climate characteristics. This means higher levels of acidity and a leaner, lighter body.

Winemaking

Working with chardonnay in Chablis is about letting the grape and place speak for themselves. A light hand in the cellar is required in order to showcase its finesse. This means new oak is not used, as it overpowers the grape with toasty vanilla notes. Instead, the grapes go through maturation in steel tanks, which don't overwhelm the natural aromas and flavors.

Chablis Wine Map

Classification

The vineyards here are classified into four different appellations labelled accordingly by Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC).

  • Peitit Chablis AOC - Situated on the outer edges of the town of Chablis, this is the least prestigious of the appellations. Here, the vineyards are on varied landscape and the wines tend to express bright citrus flavors and have higher acidity.
  • Chablis AOC - This is the primary production of Chablis, with vineyards located much closer to town. These wines tend to express more of the light limestone soil with strong notes of salinity and flint. They also have notes of citrus and pear.
  • Chablis Premier Cru AOC - Vineyards in this appellation are planted on even more mineral rich soils where broken sea shell remnants fleck the earth. There are only 70 vineyards with premier cru status. The grapes see a bit more sunlight on these aspects and the wine reveals slightly more saturated fruit notes of lemon and starfruit along with briny ocean and steely mineral.
  • Chablis Grand Cru AOC - This tier is the highest quality, consisting of only seven vineyards situated on a single slope. This is the only appellation where some winemakers opt to use neutral oak to age their Chablis. This imparts a slightly rounder texture to the wine. The grapes naturally express aromas of white flower and notes of passion fruit, apricot, citrus rind and apple.

Falling for Chablis

Chablis transports you to a time and culture that is truly unique. You'll taste the swirling tide pools and tart green orchard fruit across your palate, and your perception of chardonnay will forever be expanded.

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Why Chablis Wine Is a Must-Try Chardonnay