What's the deal with Chablis?

I feel like I’ve mentioned Chablis a lot recently, so I thought it’d be nice to go into a little more depth about the region.

Chablis (pronounced shah-blee) is the northernmost region in Burgundy and Cote d’Or. Here is a map that helps you get an idea of where Chablis is in relation to the rest of France.

This region produces white wines from 100% Chardonnay grape and the wines are known for their dry, mineral, steely, chalky flavors.

There are four “levels” of Chablis:

  • Petit Chablis - These use basic quality Chardonnay from outlying land. The least expensive.
  • Chablis - "Generic" village wines. These wines have the most variability between producers and vintages.
  • Chablis Premier Cru - 40 high quality sites.
  • Chablis Grand Cru - There are 7 Grand Cru vineyards located on a single hillside near the town of Chablis.

These wines, especially the basic ones, are typically aged in stainless steel as opposed to oak which provides for the crisper flavor and lighter body than the New World expressions of Chardonnay. There are some producers that will age in oak, but these are mainly found with the Premier Cru and Grand Cru levels. Also, because Chablis is in the northern part of France, the climate is cooler which produces wines with more acidity.  The chalk and mineral notes come from the Kimmeridgean soil in the area which is composed of limestone, clay, and fossilized oyster shells. Other Chablis aromas to note are citrus, honeysuckle, and green apple. Premier Cru and Grand Cru are known to have a different set of aromas such as mushroom, honeycomb, dried apricot, gingerbread, almonds, and candied ginger.

If you think you do not like Chardonnay because you find them too buttery and oaky, I recommend you try out a Chablis! I’d stick with the Petit Chablis or Chablis levels at this point because they tend to have the least amount of oak. If you're intimidated by Old World (i.e. European) labels, here is a good post from none other than the trusty Wine Folly that will help guide you. Otherwise, always be open to asking recommendations from the employees of wherever you buy your wine! Recommended food pairings include the more obvious oysters, shellfish and white fish, but they also include southern fried chicken, sushi, and fish and chips. I hope you enjoy this new found region (for me) as much as I do!

A Blind Tasting: Two Whites

This past Friday, K surprised me with a blind tasting! It was actually only "half blind" because I knew he bought a Chablis, but I had no idea what the other wine was. It was going to be fun to (1) try to pick out which was the Chablis and (2) identify the other wine type.

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I picked out what I thought was the Chablis based almost solely on color. Keep in mind that a Chablis is a Chardonnay from the northernmost part of Burgundy, France, and they are unoaked. It's difficult to tell in this photo, but the one on the left was much lighter in color or less "golden", and since oak gives white wine that deeper yellow or golden color, I guessed that the clearer one had to be Chablis. I was right! What I didn't expect was that the second one was also Chablis. I was tricked! The wines had such different aromas to them, so it surprised me to learn that they were both from Chablis. Here are what the two wines were:

Wine 1: Petit Chablis, Domaine L. Chatelain; $19.99 from Total Wine. This wine was lighter in body and more crisp than the second. I identified notes of apple and citrus on the nose. I would say that once I tasted the wine, the citrus flavor was definitely of lemon. There was a tartness to it, which was due to the higher acidity level. I actually considered that this may be a Sauvignon Blanc because of the lemon taste, but because of the apple and pear notes, I concluded this was the Chablis. Click here if you'd like to see the winery's website.

Rating:

Wine 2: Chablis, Domaine Chenevieres, 2013, $19.99 from Total Wine. This wine was medium bodied and a more golden color. It had a weird nose to it... something I could not identify. When I tried the wine, there was definitely a creaminess to it compared to the tartness of the first wine, so I was really thrown off as to what it was. Once I turned over the post-its of what each one was, I saw that the tasting notes of the wine were "apricot, peaches, flowers, and spices". I knew immediately that the aroma and flavor I could not identify was apricot. This combined with the peaches is what gave the wine the "creaminess" I tasted. 

Rating:

I personally preferred the first Chablis, despite it being the lowest rung of the Chablis totem pole, since I like crisp, fresh whites. Regardless, I look forward to trying more wines from the region and learning more about the nuances of Chablis!

Pairing Wine with Thanksgiving Dinner

This past Friday, the husband and I went to Whole Foods for a wine pairing class for Thanksgiving dinner. I don't know if your local Whole Foods has cooking classes, but I have really enjoyed the few I've been to.

As I said, the event focused on pairing wines with Thanksgiving dinner. They had a chef that would prepare a Thanksgiving dish for us to try and then their beverage buyer paired it with a wine. We learned some good and interesting facts about the varietals and got to taste some yummy food, and now I get to share all of the knowledge with you!

Sweet Potato Biscuits with Madame Liberte Brut Sparkling Wine

I was excited to see that the evening was starting out with a sparkling wine. They are my favorite! I love the bubbles. Anyway, we were given Madame Liberte, an American sparkling wine made in New Mexico. It was a brut, so it was drier. The WF wine buyer was unable to find what grapes made up this sparkling wine, but his guess was pinot grigio, pinot noir, and chardonnay. It sold for $17.99.

The wine smelled of apples and it was a little biscuit-y for my taste, as I prefer the fresher and crisper sparkling wines, but I still enjoyed it. It paired very well with the hearty biscuits as the bubbles cleansed your palate after every bite! I highly recommend with appetizers since it doesn't leave a lingering flavor in your mouth. 

Haricots Verts with La Pierrlee Chablis

First, these sauteed haricots verts with shallots were amazing. A great way to cook green beans! Now back to the wine, the vegetables were paired with La Pierrlee Chablis, which is a Chardonnay from Northern Burgundy. It goes for $21.99.

This Chablis was very good. I tend to not like the buttery and oaked Chardonnays, so a Chablis was perfect since they are unoaked and have a more mineral flavor profile to them. There was a slight buttery characteristic which is common to the Chardonnay grape due to malolactic fermentation which changes the bitter malic acid to softer lactic acid. The minerality comes from the dead oyster shells that make up the clay ground in Burgundy, which is a great example of terroir. The lightness of the wine made you really taste the flavor of the green beans, so it'd be great with any other light foods (e.g. seafood). 

Turkey and Gravy with The Stash Pinot Noir

For the main attraction of Thanksgiving, they actually gave us two options, a white and a red. For those who prefer white, the choice was Miner's Voignier. It was a very aromatic white that paired well with the turkey and gravy since it was a much weightier and more viscous white wine. 

I'm a red person, so I focused on The Stash Pinot Noir. It is from the Santa Rita Hills AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Santa Barbara, California. This area is great to grow Pinot Noir, which is known to be a fickle grape, because the hills run east to west and grapes are cooled from the ocean breeze. This Pinot Noir had more heft to it than others with a nice dark red fruit flavor. I really enjoyed this wine, and we ended up buying two bottles for our early Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday. The Stash was being sold for $14.99.

Apple Cheesecake with NxNW Reisling

This dessert was delicious. It was a cheesecake topped with apple slices on a gingersnap crust. It was paired with a Riesling from the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington state. This is an off-dry Riesling, which means it is less sweet than most people expect of a Riesling. There were notes of apple, pinapple, and peach. It was the perfect pair to the rich cheesecake! It goes for $17.99.

Overall, I was very impressed with the wine selections. While I wouldn't necessarily buy them all on a regular basis (at least not the whites), they were all fun to try and paired very well with their dishes. If you're going to Thanksgiving dinner and want to bring a bottle, I would definitely suggest any of the ones mentioned above! I also think The Stash may be making a regular appearance at our dinner table when we want a lighter red!