Some people wonder why the French seem not to take to kindly to us Americans. Perhaps it's the way we mangle their language? Perhaps it is our freedom fries? Perhaps it is our faux champagne. Close, mais non!
It is our Chablis. We have stolen the name of an innocent village that makes lovely wines and slapped it on our cardboard box vintages and sports snack bar plastic cups. In France, Chablis means an elegant, mineral wine. In America Chablis means your mom's 70s dinner party, and half-time at the Rose Bowl.
Wouldn't you hate us too?
Chablis is not a grape, or a generic name for pseudo-classy wine. Chablis is a village in Burgundy, about two hours from Paris. It's the farthest north that you can grow chardonnay and still make good wines.
Chablis wines (the real ones) are made with 100% chardonnay grapes, but they are distinctive from other white burgundies, such as those of the Cote d'Or, which are warm and rich in contrast to the cool crispness of Chablis. Other white burgundies age in oak barrels; Chablis wines use stainless steel tanks for most of their wines. Chablis also has a cooler climate, which produces light-bodied, crisp wines . Finally, Chablis sits on a bed of Cretaceous limestone--the same one that lines the south of England. This means that the soil is chalky and full of minerals. In addition, it's porous so the vine roots can penetrate further into cooler depths.
For this reason, Chablis wines are often described as metallic or stony. The locals call it "pierre de fusil," or "gunflint." Chablis makes a good companion for seafood, like many white wines, especially seafood. It should be served cool, but not cold.
Chablis, like other French wines, comes at different levels, including village, Premier cru, and Grand cru.
There are seven grand cru vineyards: Les Clos, Valmur, Les Preuses, Vaudesir, Grenouilles, Bougros, and Blanchot. Wines of these vineyards are the best Chablis wines you can buy, but they will cost you $60-80, unless you can find a deal. A grand cru chablis takes time to develop will actually improve with five to ten years of aging.
Premier cru wines may be a better bargain for you, as they are very good and will only run $30-$50. There are 22 Premier cru appellations, and they will be labeled as such on the bottle.
|Wednesday, October 17, 2007|