Erik Neilson on January 31, 2017 0 Comments There are some grapes in the wine world that are simply too easy to love. Chardonnay falls into this category, which is why so many people get hooked on the grape and have a hard time drinking any other whites at all. Eventually, those who stick with Chardonnay long enough will encounter the world of Chablis, considered by many connoisseurs to be one of the best values in Burgundy and the most elegant representation of the Chardonnay grape. Once only produced in small amounts in the north of Burgundy, Chablis has blossomed to become produced in higher amounts and is not only easier to find than it used to be, but less expensive as well. Once you taste your first Chablis, there’s no turning back. Chablis & Terroir There are a number of different factors that can influence the taste and aroma of Chablis, but nothing is quite as prominent in the end result as terroir. The Chablis region can be found in the northernmost part of Burgundy, approximately 62 miles away from the main Burgundy-producing town, Beaune. In this way, Chablis is isolated from other winemaking regions and actually closest to Champagne geographically. This is important to bear in mind, as the region has quite a bit in common with Champagne climate-wise. At the peak of the summer growing season, sunshine can create a very hot environment. In the winter, however, cold and harsh temperatures are commonplace, and frost can last through April. Extremes do occur, and it certainly affects the quality of the wine being produced. In years when the weather is too hot, acidity dies out and the wine becomes flabby. At the same token, years when rainfall is heavy and temperatures stay cool produce wines that are far too acidic for the fruit backbone to handle. Balance is the name of the game when it comes to Chablis vintages, as moderate temperatures help to bring out the mineral, flinty tones of the calcareous clay soil in which the grapes are grown. Chardonnay, and Nothing But There are plenty of regional wines that are produced via blending to hit upon the perfect flavor profiles before bottling. Bordeaux comes to mind, and it’s no secret that these bottles can fetch exceptionally high price-tags. With Chablis, however, the idea of blending different grapes together is nothing short of heresy. Indeed, Chardonnay is the grape in question here, and one that must be used 100% in order for the wine to be called true Chablis. Many wine experts talk of Chablis as being the ultimate and purest representation of Chardonnay, due in large part to the simplicity involved in the actual production of the wine. Unlike many examples of Chardonnay, the goal in creating a bottle of Chablis is to create a true representation of terroir above all else, emphasizing elements of the soil and climate in which the grapes are grown. The soil in particular plays a huge role in the overall flavor of the wine, emphasized to bring out its limey, mineral-laden characteristics. Next comes climate, in which ideal scenarios involve enough coolness to maintain relatively high levels of acidity in the wine. While Chablis can differ from producer to producer, these aspects tend to remain constant across the board. Characteristics: Taste and Aroma For those who have never encountered Chablis in the past, the first experience can be relatively mindblowing. Anyone who is familiar with Chardonnay may think they’re drinking a different grape. First is the color of the wine, which can be anywhere from greenish to straw gold, all the while maintaining a certain clarity not found in many other examples of Chardonnay. Upon first whiff, a large green apple presence fills the nose and hints at the acidity inherent within the wine. Flinty notes are present up front when tasting, as are wet earthy aromas that call to mind crushed gravel and cool summer rain. The wine is framed by light tannins and a distinctive minerality that makes it unique to itself. The large amount of acidity found in most Chablis makes this style of white wine one of the best candidates for aging. While some Chardonnay would simply fall apart in the bottle after just a couple of years, Chablis can age gracefully for a decade or even longer. The acidity in the bottle will fade with time, and the wine will develop honeysuckle-like characteristics that make it an excellent post-dinner offering. For the most part, however, Chablis is designed to be drank fresh so as to enjoy its racy elements before they disappear. Bottles to Try If you’re new to Chablis, it can be understandably difficult to know where to start. Fortunately, there are some excellent values to be found, and you don’t need to be a wine expert to stumble upon them. Here are two bottles worth seeking out. Berry Bros. & Rudd Chablis by Domaine du Colombier 2015 Berry Bros. & Rudd Chablis by Domaine du Colombier is an excellent entry-level Chablis that won’t set you back more than $30 or so, and the 2015 vintage is stellar to say the very least. This wine has an extremely pleasing ripe fruit profile, with steely characteristics that set it apart as being a true representation of Chablis. Citrus aromas and an oyster-like minerality make it an excellent pairing for shellfish, and the acidity is just enough to carry the wine without being overpowering. Domaine Pinson Chablis 2014 Domaine Pinson Chablis is about as pure a representation of this style of wine that one can expect to find, with a good deal of concentration and firm acidity that make it feel well-structured upon each sip. Notes of lemon, saline and ripe apples carry the wine, supported by a floral backbone that makes it a true joy to drink. The 2014 vintage of Domaine Pinson Chablis is excellent, and can be found for around $32. Love Chardonnay? Chablis is the next frontier, and there are plenty of options out there to fill your cellar (or table) with.