Chablis is something of a miracle - it is not easy to make wine this far north in France in a damp and chilly river valley.
All wines from Chablis share similar characteristics - they are white and made from the Chardonnay grape with high acidity, lemony-mineral flavours and a nervy, cool-climate precision.
Better sites in better years produce wines with flavours of honeysuckle and blossom that take five or ten years to become ready. Simpler wines are ready for early drinking and do not improve with extensive aging.
Like many Old World areas, Chablis has its own, idiosyncratic classification:
- Petit Chablis; grown on different (inferior) soils, this is a "junior Chablis", an easy drinker with the character of Chablis in a lighter, simpler form
- Chablis; must be grown on fossil-rich kimmeridgian soils
- Premier Cru; incongruously, the second rank of Chablis, better sites with more favourable aspects to produce riper fruit
- Grand Cru; a cluster of the top seven vineyards, a small amphitheatre facing due south with just the right angle of incline, undulation and shelter to produce grapes for the top wines
Chablis is expensive to produce, but does not command the trophy pricing of investment-grade wines, so the best value is to be found at the top of the range rather than at the bottom.
Start with Petit Chablis if you want to see what all the fuss is about, then continue to work your way up if you like what you find.
Here are four wines to try - drink the lighter Petits Chablis as an aperitif; match the richer Premiers Crus with fish or chicken starters.
- Petit Chablis 2017 (12-, Marks & Spencer)
- Petit Chablis, Louis Moreau, 2016 (12.99, Waitrose)
- Chablis Premier Cru Secher, 2015 (20-, Justerini & Brooks)
- Chablis Premier Cru, Montmains 2016 (24.50, Frazier's Wine Merchants)