Burgundy

Chablis

Chablis is the northernmost region of Burgundy, and, consequently the coolest.

Mid-way between Beaune and Paris, the Chablis winegrowing region stretches over around 20 communes. Nestled among the valleys and wooded hilltops, the vineyards cover the hillsides running alongside the pretty Serein Valley. The vines sink their roots deep into the clay-limestone soil, drawing on them for their characteristic mineral aromas, to the delight of Chablis drinkers.

Here, Chardonnay reigns supreme. It is used for all Chablis wines and has made them famous around the world. The most highly prized among them is the wines classified Chablis Grand Cru, with its green-gold color and perfect balance between liveliness, dryness and acidity.

There are 3 other classifications.

Chablis Premier Cru wines. This appellation encompasses a wide range of aromas from the most mineral to the most floral.

Chablis wines are very dry, and stand out with their freshness and sophistication.

Petit Chablis are wines rich in aromas of white blossom and citrus and are light and full of life.

A Drinker’s Retro…perspective

Back in the early naughties, we were hoovering Chablis from the early 1970’s. When the Tsunami hit, wheelbarrows of Grand & 1er Cru’s were arriving from the auction houses at around $14 a bottle. By the time it receded, after everyone else had caught on, they were up at around $40 a bottle and still a bargain. Purity, complexity, amazing texture, lovely lines of acid were the hallmarks of these incredible wines. Testut et Fréres Grenouille featured! Such a great vineyard.

It’s wines like these that both inspire and excite!

While we were drinking Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines back then, today with dedicated work in the vineyard and winery we are seeing exceptional Chablis and Petit Chablis wines being produced.

Area Planted

The total area under production is 3,367 Ha

Grand Cru

Area in production (2018): 100 ha.

Chablis with seven officially delineated Grand Cru climats, covering an area of 247 acres (100 hectares), all located on one southwest facing hill overlooking the town of Chablis. There is one vineyard, La Moutonne, located on this hill between the Grand Cru vineyards of Les Preuses and Vaudésir that is considered an “unofficial” Grand Cru and it will appear on wine labels. However, the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) does not recognize La Moutonne as a Grand Cru.

The seven Grand Cru are Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, Vaudésir.

Premier Cru

Area under production (2018): 783 ha.

At the turn of the 21st century, there were 40 Premier cru vineyards in Chablis. In 2009, the official list was expanded to 89 vineyards. The names of many of these vineyards do not appear on wine labels because of an INAO allowance that permits the use of “umbrella names” – where smaller, lesser known vineyards are allowed to use the name of a nearby more famous Premier cru vineyard. Seventeen of the most well known “umbrella” vineyards are bolded below.

Chablis + Petit Chablis make up the balance of the area.

Most Common Varieties

White wines only – Chardonnay (locally known as « Beaunois »).

I suspect we will see increasing experimentation with Pinot as the climate warms.

Viticulture

Viticulture in Chablis follows similar lines to that in burgundy with close planted vines low to the ground. As in so many parts of the world we are seeing more and more growers shift to sustainable biological viticutlure with many switching to organics and biodynamics.

The region is prone to frost risk and it’s not uncommon to see smudge pots burning across the vineyards during the growing season.

Winemaking

Like every wine region of the world Chablis has been exposed to advances in modern winemaking technology, shifts in stylistic interpretations, and, preferences, and of course the impact of climate change.

The most significant areas of change have been in temperature-controlled fermentation, use of malolactic fermentation, use of oak, and, reduction in chaptalisation due to warmer riper vintages.

As you’d expect, those makers looking after their vineyards, achieving flavour ripeness early, able to pick early enough to retain natural acidity and judiciously apply use of oak are making exhilarating wines.

The devil in the detail with key elements including fruit handling to achieve the right levels of phenolic extraction, exposure to oxygen as juice, fermenting wine, and post-fermentation, use of wild yeast, lees contact, lees stirring, tank vs old vs new oak ratios, and time maturing pre-bottling.

Whilst depth, length, balance, complexity, freshness, and, development all play their part, it’s the texture of the great Chablis’ that sets them apart!

Check out the article ‘Getting Your Head Around Burgundy Part 10 – Chablis’. It covers Chablis in more detail, including videos explore the geology, geography and climate + a video 🎥 session with Bernard Raveneau!


2020 Jean-Paul et Benôit Droin Chablis Release


Jean-Paul et Benôit Droin Chablis 2020

Cooler aromas include those of mineral reduction, iodine and freshly sliced apple and lemon. The sleek, vibrant and delicious middle weight flavors exude a lovely salinity on the clean and moderately dry finale. This too is sufficiently forward to enjoy young or it could be held for a few years first. Burghound
$95
$91ea in any 3+
$87ea in any 6+

Jean-Paul et Benôit Droin 1er Cru Côte de Léchet 2020

A more restrained, more elegant and much more citrus-inflected nose grudgingly reveals its spice, floral and iodine suffused aromas. The racy, intense and markedly mineral-driven middle weight flavors possess excellent delineation while displaying plenty of oyster shell character on the dry and focused finale. Lovely. Burghound
$149
$144ea in any 3+
$139ea in any 6+

Jean-Paul et Benôit Droin 1er Cru Mont de Milieu 2020

This is the first wine to display any appreciable reduction that largely dominates the fruit. Otherwise, there is excellent volume to the mouth coating, racy and delineated bigger-bodied flavors that possess a beguiling texture thanks to the firm, dry and youthfully austere finish. This is a bigger and more powerful wine compared to the Vaulorent, but it doesn't have the same sophisticated mouthfeel. A qualitative choice. ♥ Outstanding Burghound
$156
$151ea in any 3+
$146ea in any 6+

Jean-Paul et Benôit Droin 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre 2020

A cool, pure and elegant nose freely offers up airy aromas of citrus rind, white flowers, iodine and plenty of smoky mineral reduction. Here too there is very good volume and delineation to the focused and intense middle weight flavors that are at once caressing but punchy on the saline, youthfully austere and impeccably well-balanced finale. Good stuff and worth considering. ♥ Sweet spot Outstanding Burghound
$177
$170ea in any 3+
$163ea in any 6+

Jean-Paul et Benôit Droin Grand Cru ‘Valmur’ 2020

Classic Chablis aromas of essence of pear, iodine, quinine and plenty of mineral reduction slide into succulent yet powerful broad-shouldered flavors that possess excellent muscle and intensity on the super-saline finish, indeed this is borderline salty. Excellent quality here fashioned in a built-to-age package. Burghound
$260
$250ea in any 3+
$240ea in any 6+
'Les Clos x Valmur'

Jean-Paul et Benôit Droin Grand Cru ‘Hommage à Louis’ 2020

One small change to note this year is the change in name from the Grand Cru ‘Les Clos’ to Grand Cru ‘Hommage à Louis’. This comes about because of an administrative discrepancy.  The French customs claim that this parcel is part Les Clos and part Valmur, which is at odds with the INAO, the appellation authority, which has declared it Les Clos since 1938. Apparently it will take a little time to resolve the dispute, but in the meantime Benoît refuses to split the parcel and has instead
$296
$286ea in any 3+
$276ea in any 6+

Domaine Billaud-Simon


Village

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis 2019

Fun, playful Chablis, that maple, every so slightly toasty note from a decent period in tank. I use to see this in a more intense way in reserve wines for sparkling production that I held in tanks for considerably longer, perpetual soleras. A little citrus zest carries through to the a weightless, refreshing palate and fine acid. This is extremely easy to hoover! “A little extra zip, direction to this nose but essentially the same complexion. In the mouth its more directly mineral, dire
$68
$65ea in any 3+
$62ea in any 6+

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Tête d’Or 2019

“A dollop of wood sets off a ripe mix of both white and yellow orchard fruit laced with nuances of iodine and seashore. There is fine mid-palate density to the intense and saline-suffused flavors that terminate in an agreeably clean and dry finish. This could use better depth but since it always seems to age extremely well, more should develop if giving a chance. Worth checking out.❤️ Outstanding ” Burghound
$85
$80ea in any 3+
$75ea in any 6+

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Tête d’Or 2018

“The 2018 Chablis Tête d’Or has slightly musky, nutty bouquet – much more intriguing than the Chablis Village. The palate is well balanced with lemon, lime and a touch of bitterness on the entry. I appreciate the edginess of this Chablis and the bite on the saline finish. Excellent.” Neal Martin
$72
$69ea in any 3+
$66ea in any 6+

Premier Cru

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis 1er Cru Mont de Milieu 2018

“From 4 different parcels of 35+ year old vines. There is a top note of matchstick character to the moderately exotic nose that includes whiffs of white peach and orange peel. The mouth feel of the medium-bodied flavors is also quite supple and round though there is ample punch and minerality to the well -detailed and  youthfully austere finale. This is potentially excellent, and I especially like the excellent complexity.” Allen Meadows
$115
$110ea in any 3+
$105ea in any 6+

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis 1er Cru Montée de Tonnerre 2018

“The 2018 Chablis Montée de Tonnerre 1er Cru is precise and nuanced, with all of the energy that is such a signature of this site. Lemon peel, white flowers, mint and crushed rocks all run through a finely cut Chablis that offers terrific nuance as well as class. This is one of the highlights in the range.” Antonio Galloni
$130
$125ea in any 3+
$120ea in any 6+

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons 2017

Sourced from a 3 hectare plot within Vaillons. Exposure is south/southwest with kimmeridgian (clay and limestone) soils. Manual harvesting is carried out at optimum ripeness levels (between 12 and 13°). The grapes are pressed in our pneumatic press and the musts then undergo cold maceration for a 5 to 7 day period before being settled […]
$96
$92ea in any 3+
$88ea in any 6+

Grand Cru


Domaine Bernard Defaix


Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 2020

This is very good. Defaix has given us a restrained, detailed expression of Chablis. Mineral with juicy fruit, citrus, and most importantly loads of personality. The fruit drive is impressive, balanced by lightning energy and zippy acid. The mouthfeel is superb, long and refined with great length. A cracking Chablis. Challenger for house Chardonnay! Tank fermenting and ageing Chardonnay can come through as a certain primary, unfinished rawness, particularly in the new world. Not so here. Develop
$63
$60ea in any 3+
$57ea in any 6+

A few of my favourite Petit Chablis

Domaine Thierry Laffay Petit Chablis 2019

Deceptive, restraint and sophistication at play. Here it is in the texture, line and length of acid. A little chalky with an nice layer of phenolics. As it rolls around your palate it builds with excellent mid palate weight. Here’s a hot tip for you, one of the differences between good and great Chardonnay is mid-palate weight. This has it. Looks like a long slow ferment with my winemaking hat on. Fine delicious poised and pure. A little cold on first pour as it warmed and took a gasp of air t
$48
$45ea in any 3+
$42ea in any 3+

Domaine Roland Lavantureux Petit Chablis 2019

The international press is just discovering this Domaine’s rapidly rising star!
$52
$49ea in any 3+
$46ea in any 6+

A few of my favourite Village Chablis

Domaine Roland Lavantureux Chablis Vielles Vignes 2018

The international press is just discovering this Domaine’s rapidly rising star!
$61
$58ea in any 3+
$55ea in any 6+

Domaine Roland Lavantureux Chablis Vielles Vignes 2019

The international press is just discovering this Domaine’s rapidly rising star!
$66
$63ea in any 3+
$60ea in any 6+

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Tête d’Or 2018

“The 2018 Chablis Tête d’Or has slightly musky, nutty bouquet – much more intriguing than the Chablis Village. The palate is well balanced with lemon, lime and a touch of bitterness on the entry. I appreciate the edginess of this Chablis and the bite on the saline finish. Excellent.” Neal Martin
$72
$69ea in any 3+
$66ea in any 6+

Domaine Thierry Laffay Chablis Vielles Vignes 2019

Showing exactly how important vine age is!
$62
$59ea in any 3+
$56ea in any 3+

Moreau-Naudet Chablis 2019

Moreau’s Villages Chablis is drawn mostly from 20- to 30-year-old vineyards in Préhy and Courgis, in the south of Chablis. Then, there are parcels in Chablis and Chichée (under the 1er cru Vaugiraut). All up, the Domaine has the luxury of working with 30 parcels scattered across the appellation, representing a variety of soil structures and exposures. All the fruit from the younger vines is sold off in bulk, which perennially helps Moreau deliver a Chablis greater than the sum of its parts.
$78
$75ea in any 3+
$72ea in any 6+

Moreau-Naudet Chablis ‘Vielles Vignes Les Pragues’ 2018

Les Pargues is a Chablis lieu-dit situated on a ridge between Montmains and Vosgros. It has the same exposure as the 1er Crus of Vaillons and Montmains, so it’s a very handy site. The story goes that this site was originally classified as a 1er Cru level vineyard (pre-AOC), before being largely abandoned during WWI (when there was a labour shortage). Regardless of this story, locals rightly speak very highly of this site. The vines in Moreau’s tiny parcel average 50-plus years old and 15-
$84
$81ea in any 3+
$78ea in any 6+

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Domaine Thierry Laffay Petit Chablis 2019

Deceptive, restraint and sophistication at play. Here it is in the texture, line and length of acid. A little chalky with an nice layer of phenolics. As it rolls around your palate it builds with excellent mid palate weight. Here’s a hot tip for you, one of the differences between good and great Chardonnay is mid-palate weight. This has it. Looks like a long slow ferment with my winemaking hat on. Fine delicious poised and pure. A little cold on first pour as it warmed and took a gasp of air t
$48
$45ea in any 3+
$42ea in any 3+

Domaine Roland Lavantureux Petit Chablis 2019

The international press is just discovering this Domaine’s rapidly rising star!
$52
$49ea in any 3+
$46ea in any 6+

Domaine Roland Lavantureux Chablis Vielles Vignes 2018

The international press is just discovering this Domaine’s rapidly rising star!
$61
$58ea in any 3+
$55ea in any 6+

Domaine Thierry Laffay Chablis Vielles Vignes 2019

Showing exactly how important vine age is!
$62
$59ea in any 3+
$56ea in any 3+

Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 2020

This is very good. Defaix has given us a restrained, detailed expression of Chablis. Mineral with juicy fruit, citrus, and most importantly loads of personality. The fruit drive is impressive, balanced by lightning energy and zippy acid. The mouthfeel is superb, long and refined with great length. A cracking Chablis. Challenger for house Chardonnay! Tank fermenting and ageing Chardonnay can come through as a certain primary, unfinished rawness, particularly in the new world. Not so here. Develop
$63
$60ea in any 3+
$57ea in any 6+

Domaine Roland Lavantureux Chablis Vielles Vignes 2019

The international press is just discovering this Domaine’s rapidly rising star!
$66
$63ea in any 3+
$60ea in any 6+

Domaine Testut Chablis Vielles Vignes 2019

The pedigree of this fruit at the Chablis level is pretty bloody good! It's from a 50 year old parcel adjacent to the Grand Cru, Blanchot! Bloody tasty Village. Beautifully weighted and developed. Often at this level Chablis can be thin and raw. Testut here, as with all his wines shows a deft touch in raise the wine and building generosity. A wine that can be hoovered now, it’ll drink well over the next few years. Great flow across your palate, fine, sophisticated, perfect everyday drinking
$67
$64ea in any 3+
$61ea in any 6+

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis 2019

Fun, playful Chablis, that maple, every so slightly toasty note from a decent period in tank. I use to see this in a more intense way in reserve wines for sparkling production that I held in tanks for considerably longer, perpetual soleras. A little citrus zest carries through to the a weightless, refreshing palate and fine acid. This is extremely easy to hoover! “A little extra zip, direction to this nose but essentially the same complexion. In the mouth its more directly mineral, dire
$68
$65ea in any 3+
$62ea in any 6+

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Tête d’Or 2018

“The 2018 Chablis Tête d’Or has slightly musky, nutty bouquet – much more intriguing than the Chablis Village. The palate is well balanced with lemon, lime and a touch of bitterness on the entry. I appreciate the edginess of this Chablis and the bite on the saline finish. Excellent.” Neal Martin
$72
$69ea in any 3+
$66ea in any 6+

Domaine Roland Lavantureux Chablis ‘Vau Prin’ 2018

The international press is just discovering this Domaine’s rapidly rising star!
$72
$69ea in any 3+
$66ea in any 6+

Moreau-Naudet Chablis 2019

Moreau’s Villages Chablis is drawn mostly from 20- to 30-year-old vineyards in Préhy and Courgis, in the south of Chablis. Then, there are parcels in Chablis and Chichée (under the 1er cru Vaugiraut). All up, the Domaine has the luxury of working with 30 parcels scattered across the appellation, representing a variety of soil structures and exposures. All the fruit from the younger vines is sold off in bulk, which perennially helps Moreau deliver a Chablis greater than the sum of its parts.
$78
$75ea in any 3+
$72ea in any 6+
$79
$75ea in any 3+
$71ea in any 3+

Moreau-Naudet Chablis ‘Vielles Vignes Les Pragues’ 2018

Les Pargues is a Chablis lieu-dit situated on a ridge between Montmains and Vosgros. It has the same exposure as the 1er Crus of Vaillons and Montmains, so it’s a very handy site. The story goes that this site was originally classified as a 1er Cru level vineyard (pre-AOC), before being largely abandoned during WWI (when there was a labour shortage). Regardless of this story, locals rightly speak very highly of this site. The vines in Moreau’s tiny parcel average 50-plus years old and 15-
$84
$81ea in any 3+
$78ea in any 6+

Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis Tête d’Or 2019

“A dollop of wood sets off a ripe mix of both white and yellow orchard fruit laced with nuances of iodine and seashore. There is fine mid-palate density to the intense and saline-suffused flavors that terminate in an agreeably clean and dry finish. This could use better depth but since it always seems to age extremely well, more should develop if giving a chance. Worth checking out.❤️ Outstanding ” Burghound
$85
$80ea in any 3+
$75ea in any 6+

Domaine Thierry Laffay Chablis 1er ‘Côte de Lechet’ 2019

Sitting between the Vaillons and Mont de Milieu in terms of richness and minerality
$87
$83ea in any 3+
$79ea in any 3+
$87
$83ea in any 3+
$79ea in any 3+