One of the most mystifying aspects of wine enthusiasm, professional or amateur, is blind tasting. For me, this activity is a Mt. Everest. Sure, I know it can be done, but I’m just not the best person for the job. I love to read about it, look at pictures of it, hear tales of valiant conquest — but I don’t want to strap on my backpack every time I go for a walk.
I think part of this is my curiosity for information — I am the person that reads the back of the cereal box or shampoo bottle, simply because words are there. It’s probably the way my brain works, a tendency to doubt my senses when there’s no information to direct me. I find the blind tasting process to be so daunting to so many of us that I wrote a piece in Forbes recently. (And by the way, check out Master the World, which is mentioned in the story — the experience they offer definitely honed my blind tasting skills.)
But there are times when I just know what’s in the glass. This comes less from expertise than experience. I can tie a place to a wine thanks to some overall sense, rather than the individual parts. Often this is the scent trigger, which is actually explained by scientific research. “Smell and memory seem to be so closely linked because of the brain’s anatomy,” said Harvard’s Venkatesh Murthy, Raymond Leo Erikson Life Sciences Professor and chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
“Very dry and impeccably delicate, Chablis has a unique and readily identifiable personality,” as indicated in by book from Bourgogne Wines. “Be forewarned: there is only one Chablis, only from France.” And while it’s true that Chardonnay (Chablis is made exclusively from the Chardonnay grape) can be a real shape shifter around the world, Chablis is the standard for mineral-driven, balanced, lively Chardonnay.
Thanks to Jurassic limestone (Kimmeridgian) containing fossilized oysters, the Chablis appellations are defined in terms of geology. As Natalie Fèvre says of her Chablis Premier Cru Vaulorent: “This wine is in memory of the sea.”
The aromas of Chablis can vary, glass by glass, but there is green apple, wispy orchard flower, a whiff of hay, and a pebbly, mineral flintiness with a does of saline. This last bit, the the floral-citrus laced flinty salinity, is what stands out to me about Chablis in general, getting tighter and more precise as one moves up the appellation tiers. This is something that helps me know if I’m drinking Chablis, even if I’m not spoiled enough to see the label.
The four tiers are Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru, and Chablis Grand Cru and together vignerons and producers from this region produce nearly 40 million bottles of wine each year, sold in approximate 100 countries globally. Premier Cru includes 40 climats, 24 on the left bank of the River Serein and 16 on the right bank. Chablis Grand Cru encompasses seven climats: Blanchot, Bougros, Les Clos, Grenouilles, Preuses, Valmur, and Vaudésir.
Chablis is treasured worldwide for superb food-friendliness, significantly tied to oysters as universal pairing royalty. But Chablis is also part of the dinnertime table with many aspects, a partner for cheeses, poultry, seafood — you name it. And for apéro, Petit Chablis is an excellent choice.
For this post I got to try three bottles — if you can find these then let me know what you think. Otherwise, Chablis is not difficult to find in wine shops or online, so obtaining a bottle shouldn’t be a chore. These are going to be perfect wines for summer, and as I was working on my potted plants in the sun, I had these chilled beauties on my mind. So racy and fresh, mouthwatering and delicious.
Domaine De La Cornasse Chablis 2018 | Juicy apple florals and stony pebble on the nose with a squirt of lemon and clean mineral character. A lovely match for ceviche.
Jean-Marc Brocard 2019 Les Vieilles Vignes de Sainte Claire | A touch reductive on the nose. Elegant and textured with a bright salted lemon through line. Chiseled and ready for grilled seafood.
Domaine Bernard Defaix Petit Chablis 2019 | Fresh and pale with vibrant acidity. Subtle fruit in the form of citrus pith. Would be idea with charcuterie or a simple snack of salted nuts.
Photos from my March 2020 visit to Chablis (All photos credited to Jill Barth):
The French Winophiles
Join us on Twitter at 10am central time on 15 May 2021. Simply use the hashtags #Winophiles and #PureChablis to find the conversation and join in. There will be a Q and A and anyone is invited to pose and/or respond to the questions.
Here’s a selection of articles prepared by the talented writers of the Winophiles for this event:
- Pinny at Chinese Food and Wine Pairing gives us All Things #PureChablis with an Assortment of Seafood Snacks’ by Chinese Food and Wine Pairings.
- Camilla is Learning About Chablis, A Compelling Label, and Gougères at Culinary Adventures with Camilla.
- Deanna at Asian Test Kitchen makes A Poke Quartet Paired with a Duo of Chablis.
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! will be Remembering a Walk in Chablis over Dinner.
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass is Keeping it Simple with #PureChablis.
- Chablis and Grilled Shrimp; Summertime must be near for Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm.
- Scallops with Pesto and Chablis are in the kitchen with David at Cooking Chat.
- Jane will be Tasting Chablis: Food and Wine Pairings over at Always Ravenous.
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles is Savoring Premier Cru Chablis as We Hope for Good News for the 2021 Chablis Vintage.
- Nicole at the Somm’s Table is Cooking to the Wine: Aged Drouhin Vaudon Grand Cru Chablis with Swordfish Sandwiches.
- Rupal the Syrah Queen explores The Elegance of Chablis – Pure Terroir, Pure Joy, Pure Chablis.
- The Sea in Chablis and the Tragedy of Premox in William Fevre is the topic at Wine Predator with Gwendolyn.
- Payal at Keep the Peas discusses The Singularity of Chablis.
- Host Jill on L’Occasion, gives the scoop on Here’s How I Know It’s Chablis.
The Joys And Challenges Of Growing World-Class Chardonnay In Chablis
Today’s Chablis Has More Women Winemakers Than Ever
Partner Content: Please note that this event is sponsored by Chablis Wines and some of our participants received media samples (including me). Thank you Chablis Wines!
10 thoughts on “Here’s How I Know It’s Chablis #Winophiles”
Great post and amazing event. Thanks for hosting. You got that trip in just under the shelter-in-place order, did you?! So jealous. Looking forward to the chat.
Blind tasting can be so elusive and I look forward to reading your article on this. I am fascinated by it, but only rarely have I had a scent memory experience that allows me to pull up a location for a wine instinctively. I do find this in wines from Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara County. For some reason, there is some note in those wines that I can immediately identify and takes me to that place.
Thank you so much for this deep dive into Chablis. It’s been too long since there has been Chablis in my glass.
Thanks for hosting, Jill! Chablis is definitely very distinctive.
I loled a bit at the start of your post because I so identified with it. A) Even though I learned to do it for exams, I kind of hate blind tasting for purposes of just guessing the wine. B) I am absolutely also a person who reads the back of bottles and cereal boxes. Also, big fan of the Brocard Sainte Claire. Thanks for leading us on this journey this month.
I really identify with your unease over blind tasting! I tend to rely on my intellect more than my senses. But you know what they say: Practice makes, if not perfect, at least better!
Blind tasting is such a humbling experience. But it is all practice practice practice. Thanks for hosting this month. Fun wines and fun chat.
I look forward to reading your piece on blind tasting. Blind tasting seems like a very steep mountain to climb; at the moment, I’ll stick with the words too!
Blind tasting would be unnerving to me. I do envy your trip. I am eager to travel again.