Chablis (Shah-blee) is a Chardonnay producing appellation in northwestern France and part of the Burgundy region. Burgundy is known for its iconic Pinot Noir wines as well as phenomenal Chardonnay.In the most recent years, as we discussed when we talked about California Chardonnay, has become known as a heavy, buttery, oaky, rich textured wine. Chardonnay is a chameleon grape that prominently displays any manipulation the wine was subjected to during the winemaking process. The cool climate Chablis area, by enlarge, produces crisp, clean wines that have notes of citrus, stone and green fruit, although a few producers do utilize oak barrels in the aging process which creates a fuller bodied wine. The soil is such that it imparts a distinct minerality to the wines also.
Shopping for a Chablis wine can be a bit confusing because of the wine label designations. The order of these designations, in increasing quality (and complexity of the wines), are Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis Premier Cru, and Chablis Gran Cru. Just as with Champagne, in order for a wine to be a true Chablis, it must originate in the Chablis area. Wines made outside of France, are made in a Chablis style without using the moniker (except for Carlo Rossi jugs, which is made using California grapes but still dons the Chablis name). The bottle I selected for this week was a 2015 Louis Michel & Fils Premier Cru Chablis. The family has been making wines in Chablis since 1850 on land that was once tended to by Cistercian monks in the 11th century. The soil type in their Premier Cru and Gran Cru wines consists of Kimmeridgian, which is only also seen in the Champagne and Loire Valley regions. This soil is a mixture of limestone, clay limestone and the quintessential seashell layers, which provides the unique minerality to wines of these areas.
When we poured our glasses, the medium lemon color from the bottle aging of this wine was very evident. The family stopped using oak to age their wines in the 1960s and completely switched to stainless steel. Oak aged white wines tend to be deeper in color. This color depth was accomplished with this wine by extended aging in the bottle. White wines deepen in color as they age, while red wines lighten in color. Since I am on vacation in Sonoma, finding a food pairing that was simple to prepare, was a tiny bit of a challenge. I settled on picking up some fish ceviche from the local Mexican restaurant. Chablis is excellent with riper cheeses and fresh seafood like scallops, shrimp, crab, and white fish. The wine had notes of honeysuckle, gardenia, meyer lemon juice, wet slate, and chalk. The lemon juice accentuated the citrus juices used to cook the ceviche while the floral notes paired well with the cilantro. The high level of acidity in the wine was well balanced with the acidity in the ceviche. When the level of acidity in food is higher than that of the wine, the wine can seem thinner or flabby on the palate. The corn tortilla chips were a nice addition because the hint of sweetness in the corn matched that of the honeysuckle notes. Overall, this was a fun, and easy pairing for a warm summer afternoon snack!