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Chablis is Bliss: What’s in a Cru?

Chablis is Bliss: What's in a Cru?

What does Chablis have in common with a set of Russian nesting dolls? The French appellation, located within Burgundy is world-famous for its elegant white wines made exclusively with Chardonnay and its land is divided by a classification system that evokes a Matryoshka’s doll-inside-a-doll structure.

Let’s say France is the biggest doll and once you open it, there is a smaller one called Burgundy. Open that one and you’ll encounter Petit Chablis, and enclosed on this one, there is Chablis AOP. As the figurines go closer to the centre, the level of artistry in them becomes more intricate and only superior craftmanship will be up to the challenge. Open once more and you’ll find Premier (1er) Cru Chablis AOP and open it one last time to find an exquisite miniature smiling at you, the most especial and exclusive of them all, Grand Cru Chablis.

Chablis is Bliss: What's in a Cru?

While the Russian dolls are normally made of wood, oak is unusual in Chablis wines with the exception of some Premier and Grand Crus. And despite the example being useful to give an idea of how the system works, Chablis AOP has actually a larger planted area than Petit Chablis so, more than being about size, the relation focuses on the wine’s quality and finesse.

Among the Premier Crus, there are 40 different climats or plots allowed to label under their own name. Only seven climats are recognised as Grand Cru Chablis. Although all the regions share limestone-rich soils and a cool weather comparable to that of Champagne (just to its North), the smaller the “doll”, the more elegance, character and structure the wine will show. The price of a bottle reflects the part of the appellation it comes from, so Petit Chablis will be the least expensive and Grand Crus the pricier.

To illustrate the proportion of terroir dedicated to each appellation of Chablis, the following maps (courtesy of chablis-wines.com) highlight each region at a time.

Chablis is Bliss: What's in a Cru?

This short educational video about Chablis, by Vins de Bourgogne will guide you through the wine’s history, characteristics and climats.

Now that we’ve gone through some facts, it’s time to get our hands on some Chablis… Here are some lovely bottles to try:

 

Chablis is Bliss: What's in a Cru?William Fèvre Petit Chablis 2014
Available at Searsons – €22.95
13% ABV – 100% Chardonnay
A minimalistic approach to winemaing leaves the terroir and the fruit do all the talking. This delicate straw coloured Petit Chablis is refreshing and subtle, with aromas of citrus fruits and a soft mineral note that’s closer to the sea than to the river.

This wine would be ideal for a summer get together and it works by itself as an aperitif , but it’s also a fine match to natural oysters or lightly seasoned white fish dishes.

 

Chablis is Bliss: What's in a Cru?Louis Latour Chablis 2014
Available at O’Briens Wines – €24.95
13% ABV – 100% Chardonnay
Over two centuries of history, a name that resonates even outside connossieur circles and global praise create high expectations for this Chablis AOC. Pale and bright, with green gleams against the light, it is surprisingly aromatic and shows a pleasant balance of citric fruit and white flowers.

Malolactic fermentation is used to add complexity and the result is a superior richness, compared to its peers as well as a slightly stronger body. A versatile wine that will go well with a wide array of fishes and shellfish.

 

Chablis is Bliss: What's in a Cru?Chanson Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2013
Available at O’Briens Wines – €33
13% ABV – 100% Chardonnay
Sun exposure and limestone are two of the elements that make Chablis great and on the 1re Cru area, there’s more of both. Grapes come from two selected plots in Montmains, one of the most famous climats from the appellation, located in the left bank (if you go back to the map you’ll see 1er Cru climats on both sides of the river).

Difficult weather conditions challenged the makers but you’ll taste how they succeeded. Eight months of partial ageing in oak casks add spicyness to this crispy white wine that is rich in lime and mineral, and which flavour lingers for long in the palate.

 

Chablis is Bliss: What's in a Cru?Domaine Laroche Grand Cru Les Blanchots 2009
Available at selected restaurants 
13% ABV – 100% Chardonnay
The Southernmost Grand Cru climat and one of the only seven outstanding areas honoured with this appellation. A dry cold winter and a very warm spring encouraged the vine to grow healthy as the fruit ripen just to the right point. With an organic approach to agriculture, they were harvested and the resulting wine was partially aged (20 per cent in French oak, only a quarter of it new).

Pungent and mineral, very long lasting and aromatic. The classic citric note of Chablis feels deeper and balanced beautifully with the delicate toastiness of well administered oak. A wine reserved for special occasions, meant to be less chilled (12 to 15°) than its cousins from the bigger appellations and wonderful with lobster.

ARTICLE BY GABY GUEDEZ

Gaby ProfileGabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.

Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.

Gabriela Guédez Gabriela Guédez

 

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