What is Chablis wine?
Chablis wine’s dry, minerally taste is popular with wine lovers around the world.
The Chablis region producing this crisp, acidic wine is located in north Burgundy, and the cool, semi-Mediterranean climate helps to produce this crisp wine.
You may recognize the Chablis wine name from the wine aisle, but you could be forgiven for not knowing that Chablis is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. If you’re wondering how the same grape can produce two wines with such different taste-profiles, then read on, as this guide has everything you need to know about Chablis.
Chablis Wine: Chardonnay’s non-identical twin
While Chablis and Chardonnay wine certainly shares the same DNA, the climate, growing method, and aging procedure are what make these two bottles totally different. The Chardonnay grape originated in Burgundy, France, but is now planted and grown all around the world, ranking as the fifth most widely planted of all wine grape varieties.
Chardonnay wine is known for its sweet-ish flavors such as vanilla, toffee, and butter, which come from the aging process in oak barrels.
Chablis, on the other hand, is aged either in tanks, or very-well used oak barrels which do not infuse these same flavors. This is one of the major factors in giving Chablis its distinct taste.
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Did You Know? Chablis Facts:
- This wine region was established in the year 1938.
- Due to its semi-continental climate, growing high-quality grapes in Chablis is particularly difficult.
- To produce Chablis the weather conditions have to be exactly right, a cool spring or fall can kill the vines and stop the grapes from ripening at all, destroying whole vintages.
- Chablis wine growers are some of the few people to benefit from climate change, the warmer weather in the region has meant that great wine has recently been produced year on year.
- The total growing area of Chablis wine measures 5,462 hectares.
Chablis wines are generally aged from 2 to 6 years, and are classified into four categories, which are as follows (ranked from lowest to highest quality and price):
- Petit Chablis AOP
- Chablis AOP
- Premier Cru Chablis AOP (40 climats or “named plots”)
- Grand Crus Chablis AOP (7 climats)
Petit Chablis AOP
The regions growing Petit Chablis AOP are found in the outer areas of the town. This classification has a higher acidity and a tarter flavor than the others, thanks to the changing landscape of the regions and north-facing vineyards.
In order to be destined for Chablis AOP, harvested grapes much have a potential alcohol level of at least 9.5%. Growing regions for this wine are located closer to the Chablis village and are influenced by more mineral rich soils in the growing region.
Premier Cru Chablis AOP
The Premier Cru classification of Chablis is grown in only 15% of all Chablis vineyards, with only 40 officially recognized plots or climats which you may spot on Chablis wine labels such as Montée de Tonnerre, Mont de Milieu, Vaillons, and Fourchaume. To be destined for Premier Cru Chablis, grapes must have a potential alcohol level of 10.5%.
Grand Cru Chablis AOP
The most premium classification of Chablis wine, Grand Cru Chablis is grown in just 7 climats, covering 104 hectares of land on one slope across the Serein River. This southern exposure provides the ideal environment for the Chardonnay grapes to ripen, as opposed to other climats which face north and receive less sun.
Just one slope (around 104 hectares) with 7 climats. The grand cru vineyards are located across the Serein River from the village of Chablis. The vineyards have a southern exposure, ideal for ripening Chardonnay and the slope has clay marl soil. The highest of all classifications, Grand Cru Chablis grapes are required to have a minimum potential alcohol level of 11%.
Chablis Taste Profile
Compared to its Chardonnay siblings, Chablis is significantly less buttery and sweet, instead of providing mineral notes and a dry, crisp and tart finish. The low level of ripeness of many of the harvested grapes gives the wine a steely and flinty taste known as “goût de pierre à fusil”, which translates as “tasting of gunflint”. It is still best from a regular white wine glass but produces several different aftertastes.
The fruit flavors that are present in Chablis are much leaner and greener than Chardonnay, a taste which is produced thanks to the traditional method of production in the region, as well as the unique qualities of the soil and cold climate of Chablis.
However, the four different classifications of Chablis can each produce a very different bottle of wine, thanks to their aging methods and the regions in which they are grown. Here is a deeper look at what you can expect from each bottle:
Petit Chablis AOP
Those north-facing vineyards and valleys that lie around the outskirts of Chablis produce a glass of wine with higher acidity and tart, citrus notes to finish.
Also with citrus notes, the Chablis AOP classification also brings fruit pear flavors and strong mineral notes which are present due to the Kimmeridgian soils of the region, which are composed of limestone, clay, and fossilized oyster shells.
Premier Cru Chablis AOP
The climats growing Premier Cru Chablis benefit from a better positioning towards the sun than some of the other plots. This means that consumers can enjoy richer fruit flavors such as starfruit and lemon, while at the same time having the strong, flinty mineral flavors that Chablis is known for, due to the large amounts of limestone in the vineyard soil.
Grand Cru Chablis
As all 7 climats growing Grand Cru Chablis have a southern exposure, these vineyards produce the ripest Chardonnay with intense fruit flavors, including apricot, passionfruit, and orange-rind. Unlike the other Chablis appellations, some producers of this fine wine prefer to use oak aging or fermentation methods, which infuses savory smoky flavors that are not found in the other bottles.
Chablis Food Pairings
The dry, crisp finish of Chablis works particularly well when paired with lighter meats and fishes, such as sushi, chicken, scallops, and bass. For seasoning, it is best to avoid spicy flavors and instead stick to fresh herbs and white pepper. Due to its natural acidity, Chablis can also work very well as a palate cleanser, so consider this wine to accompany a multi-course meal.