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!