What is Chablis?

There was a time when ordering a glass of Chablis meant that you wanted a glass of white wine. No specific wine, just a white wine. But there is so much more to Chablis than just a white wine.

Chablis is a region located in the northwest corner of the province of Burgundy in France.  It produces light, dry white wines known for their minerality and crisp acidity. And all white wines produced in Chablis are made exclusively from the Chardonnay grape.  They tend to be dry and fresh in flavor with distinct minerality. Chablis is usually un-oaked to retain its bright, crisp flavors. A few Chablis producers do use oak barrels in their wine making but these are restricted to the higher-quality wines and does not lead to overpowering oak flavors.

The vineyards of Chablis are classified into four tiers of quality, all precisely regulated by the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC), and noted on the bottles' label:

  • Chablis Grand Cru AOC- Highest quality wines from seven vineyards on one slope
    • Only region where some oak aging is done. These wines have flavors of passion fruit, apricot, apple and orange rind.
  • Chablis Premier Cru AOC - Seventy vineyards in some of the better locations
    • The limestone soils produce richer fruit with flavors of lemon, starfruit and flint minerality
  • Chablis AOC - Comprised of the vineyards mostly closer in to the town of Chablis
    • These wines have nice flavors of citrus, pear and minerals
  • Petit Chablis AOC - Vineyard areas in the outer areas from the town of Chablis
    • These tend to have higher acidity, tart citrus flavors, and are best enjoyed young

So when shopping for white wines from France, remember that a white Burgundy from Chablis is a Chardonnay. And, don't just order a glass of white wine, order a French Chablis and enjoy some of the finest white wine the world has to offer.

Next time I'll discuss the other famous wine from Burgundy, the red one. Cheers!

Behind the Cork™ Wine of the Week - Jacques Bourguignon Chablis ($13)

It's Chardonnay, but if you've become accustomed to California Chardonnays, this is a different wine.  It's a lot more subtle in its flavors, a bit tart and has definite hints of minerality.  Give a French Burgundy from Chablis a try!