Chablis: The Poor Persons Burgundy
Here’s a pro tip that some people still haven’t seemed to figure out. Chablis is Chardonnay. Chablis. Is. Chardonnay. Yes, that buttery, over-oaked vanilla bomb that your parent’s friends glug through three or four bottles of every time you see them is made of the same grape as Chablis, a complex, vibrant, acid driven, mineral laden wine that tastes of gunpowder and the ocean. And that grape is Chardonnay, one of the most ubiquitous, easiest to grow, chameleon-like grapes in the world.
Chardonnay is a fantastically interesting grape in that it is grown in almost every wine region the world over. You can find them almost anywhere, on any wine menu, in any liquor store. But most of them are merely swill, made because they sell and not because they taste any good. However, the good people of Burgundy, where most grape historians (yes, that’s a thing) believe Chardonnay came from, have taken Chardonnay to its zenith. Now, if you know anything about wine, and you’re anywhere below the 1% in terms of your socio-economic status, you know you can’t afford about 75% of white Burgundy that’s on the market, at least not more than once a decade. But there’s a strange anomaly in Burgundy, and that anomaly is Chablis.
Chablis is not even directly attached to the Burgundy region, and in fact is in a different French Department (a department is similar to a state in the good ol’ US of A). Chablis also has a very different climate, more similar to Champagne than it is to Burgundy. That climactic difference means that the Chardonnay grapes used to make Chablis do not attain nearly the level of ripeness as, say, a Mâconnais Chardonnay does (one of the few other white Burgundies that us plebes can afford).
This lack of ripeness is accentuated by the vigneron’ of Chablis, who generally forego the use of oak, do not allow their wines to go through malolactic fermentation, and age in stainless steel. This leads to the mineral, racy, and acid driven wines that are Chablis. While they do have Chardonnay character, there is much more nuance to it, with fresh green apple flavor instead of baked apple pie with caramel sauce, like many American Chardonnays. This subtlety lends to their ability to pair well with numerous dishes, to include all manner of seafood, fresh cheeses, and lighter sausage or charcuterie plates.
In this writer’s opinion, however, the best part about Chablis is the price. For the same as you can pay for a mediocre butterbomb fit only to pour over your microwave popcorn and then throw into the trash, you can get a delicious and complex Chablis. There are four levels of Chablis, and they are all worth tasting: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru Chablis, and Grand Cru Chablis. These levels, as with all wines, go higher in price as they go higher in specificity: meaning, if the area gets smaller and smaller, the price goes up. However, unlike with Montrachet in the Cote d’Or, Grand Cru Chablis won’t require you to forego your mortgage for a month. In fact, you can get Grand Cru Chablis for less than a cell phone bill. And Petit Chablis can be had for the same price as your lunch. So skip lunch, and drink a Chablis instead!