22 December 2014

A morning in Chablis

There weren't really any vineyards around the village of Môlay, where we were staying. Luckily, the wine town of Chablis (pop. 2,300) was just a dozen miles north. One of the reasons we wanted to go to this part of Burgundy was Chablis and its wines.

I've said this before but I'll say it again. The name Chablis for white wines was grossly misused in California 40 or 50 years ago. Back then, California red wines were pretty much all called Burgundy wine, and California white wines carried the name Chablis, no matter what grapes they were made with or how poor the quality compared to real Chablis. Fortunately, California has cleaned up its act now.

A vineyard on the west side of Chablis

The vineyards of Chablis are planted in Chardonnay. Chardonnay too has earned a bad reputation with many because so much of the Chardonnay wine made in California was not very good. It was over-oaked and made in a stlye called "buttery" — sweet and kind of oily. Real Chablis — and remember, Chablis is a town, not a grape — is very dry and crisp. It's not aged in oak, as far as I know.

Chablis wines for sale at the Chablisienne cooperative

I'm a big fan of Burgundy white wines. That means I'm a fan of Chardonnay made the way it's made in northern France. My favorite Champagnes are the ones called Blanc de Blancs, which means they are sparkling wines made from a single grape variety: Chardonnay. Other Champagne wines are made from a combination or assemblage of juices from red and white wine grapes (including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay).

Flowers and a black cat at the Domaine Gérard Tremblay winery

Last spring, Walt had attended a wine event in a village (Angé) just down the road from Saint-Aignan, toward Montrichard. It was an open house held annually by a winery over there. He was surprised to find wines from other regions, including Burgundy, offered for tasting and sale at a local event. He knows I like Chardonnay, and he tasted a Chablis from the Domaine Gérard Tremblay that day. He ended up buying six bottles. This year, he wanted to go see the winery in Chablis where that particular wine is made.

Chablis grapes carved in stone

So that's what we did. We went there and tasted wines that first morning, thinking we'd better do it right away lest it get lost in the shuffle of the very busy days we had ahead of us. It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. We didn't plan to buy and take home a lot of wine, but just a few bottles, including some from Gérard Tremblay's winery. It was fun to go see the winery and do a tasting.

The very modern facility of the Chablis wine cooperative

We also stopped in at the Chablis wine cooperative, a large-scale operation called La Chablisienne. We tasted some wines there too, and bought a couple of bottles to have back at the gite in the evening with our evening meals. Chablis comes in several styles, depending on which plot of land the different grapes are grown on, meaning the kind of soil they are planted in and whether the vines are on a hillside with full exposure to the sun or on flatter land. The styles are Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru, and Chablis Grand Cru. All are good and all are distinctive.

Earlier posts about Chablis are here and here.


  1. I just learned more about wine than I ever have reading this post. now I'm wondering if the wine we drink here is grossly mis-labeled.

  2. I used to detest Chardonnay because of that oily taste. Thanks Ken - now I know it isn't characteristic of good Chardonnay I'll try some next time it's offered.
    That wine co-op is pretty swanky, they must be doing all right. It looks very professional and business-like.

  3. I always drink Chablis with oysters. Sometimes I drink Gewurztraminer ( Alsace).

    1. That sounds good to me, but we often have Muscadet with oysters here.

  4. Ken, Ken, Ken... DAMN! You are such a fountain of good, clear information. I have learned so much from you.

    I remember, like you, growing up with the stores here in the U.S. selling American wines that were just pretty much labeled Chablis and Burgundy. If it was white, it was called Chablis. If it was red, it was called Burgundy.

    When I was an au pair, on a trip at Christmastime, we (avec ma famille au pair) drove through Chablis, and they pointed out the vineyards to me, and I started to learn the basic concept of there really being a distinction among white wines, and that if it was French, and it said, Chablis, this is where the grapes came from, and that only THOSE wines could legitimately be called Chablis. Just as you're explaining here. I knew nothing about Pinot Noir and all of the Burgundy wines, nor anything about Chardonnay. I do, now, thanks to you. (I don't know much else about wine, but I really "get" this info, now, thanks to you.)

    I think it's great that you two picked a vacation get-away based on a fact-finding/specific wine-tasting /vineyard-seeing/wine-buying mission. So cool.


    1. It's interesting, Judy, that most people in France don't know what grapes are used in which wines. They know Chablis, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Côtes du Rhône, Bourgueil, Chinon, etc. — wines by where they are made.


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