09 June 2014


People often ask why I don't review more French wines. I love French wines, particularly from the obscure regions. But I mostly taste and write about the wines that I receive as samples, and not that many French bottles arrive on my door step.

Recently I got a chance to participate in an online tasting of three great bottles from Chablis. The white wines from this region are made from Chardonnay, the world's most popular white wine grape. Sure, I can grab a Chard from Australia or California or South Africa or even Italy, but why is Chablis special? Why does that region have a unique character? It all comes down to terroir.

Sample kits often arrive with bits and bobs of collateral material--pamphlets and maps and corkscrews. But I was really excited by this keychain attached to a chunk of rock from Chablis. This is Kimmeridgian clay, limestone, and lots of shells from the tiny Exogyra virgula oyster that lived 150 million years ago.

I have no idea what creature ate those oysters, or if they merely lived and died on the ocean floor. I wonder if any of my leftover oyster shells will end up on some keychain 150 million years from now, when alien geologists are digging around the remnants of what used to be Memphis.

This type of soil is used for the Premier and Grand Crus, which are the second and third wines listed. The first is an AOC Chablis, and we didn't taste the lower tier Petit Chablis, though those wines can be fantastic bargains.

2011 Chablis La Chablisienne La Pierrelée
100% Chardonnay
$20, 12.5% abv.

The first wine we opened was light and mild with a recognizable Chardonnay aroma. On the palate there is a touch of lemon and a slightly mineral finish. Great for salads and appetizers.

2011 Chablis 1er Cru Montmains, William Fèvre
100% Chardonnay
$45, 12.5% abv.

This bottle showed a floral nose with touches of earth. The oak is more pronounced, with a little vanilla and a firmer body. I found myself with a strong craving for crêpes filled with béchamel sauce and mushrooms.

2011 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos, Domaine Christian Moreau
100% Chardonnay
$80, 13% abv.

This remarkable wine had a mild honey aroma with a little wet stone. Despite the sweet smell, the wine was bone dry and had the strongest minerality of the three. It was delightful and one that should be enjoyed when you have the time to properly appreciate it. And in honor of the soil, I'd suggest breaking out the oysters.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

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