Posted by: tomciocco | December 21, 2012

CHABLIS: THE CHARDONNAY WITH 3% BODY FAT

Depending on how old you are, and where you hail from, the name “Chablis” might be associated with a cork-lined drink tray at a singles bar, a Brandy Alexander and a Harvey Wallbanger. Chablis’ justly great reputation derived from the Premier and Grande Crus from the great producers from many generations prior, along with lots of help from producers the world over stealing the name to make quaffing plonk, allowed at least the name of this wine to penetrate to the level of cocktail sipper, and from there, a good chunk of the real stuff started a 20+ year slide. I could say that Chablis is back, but truth be told, it never really went away, though a good slice of it prefers to stay in France away from all the static…

So as the title says, and if you didn’t already know, Chablis must be made from 100% Chardonnay. And though the so-called “buttered-baseball bat” styles being produced in the New World in the 90s have notably (and thankfully) retreated, the alcoholic, ultra-ripe examples – from parts of California, Australia, Chile, and Argentina – still abound. Chablis is as far as Chardonnay gets from these chubbies. Only the great bubbly called Champagne makes world-class Chardonnay-based wines under less sunny skies, at higher latitudes than Chablis.

Chablis is officially Burgundy’s northernmost outpost, and it gets quite cold there, with snow and frost being quite common. The chill from the region’s vineyards in co-operation with Chablis’ dense clay and limestone soils produce the sharpest, flintiest, highest-strung Chardonnay wines in the world. And because ultra-detailed, acid wines like these typically react poorly to heavy oaking, many Chablis are rested for less time in oak, often in only used barrels, and some producers age only in stainless steel tanks, further emphasizing this wine’s lean, “ripped” character.

This wine is nothing close to any of the single-vineyard cru wines in terms of depth or finesse, (it’s labeled simply as “Chablis”) but in every other way, this wine lives up to its racy and charmingly “lean and mean” reputation in spades. So to match this wine’s “twisted” texture, and “green” flavors, I served a Savoy cabbage, leek, celery, and herb chicken stock-based soup, and then a mix of shelled Manila clams, shrimp, and peas baked in an orange, tarragon, and shallot cream sauce, with some plain white rice on the side.

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Desvignes Aine` et Fils Chablis 2011

Bright, golden/pale straw color. Slightly austere, piercing nose of minerals, alpine cheese, toasted almonds, stewed pears, lemon zest, Hawthorne flowers, and fresh herbs. The wine is medium-bodied, but with a very taut, tart, and wiry frame, and etched flavors of wet stones, fresh-cut grass, raw quince, yellow fig, green apple, and touch of fresh pineapple. Very long and savory Kiwi and tonic water finish.

 

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