I love a good Chablis. Problem is it doesn’t come cheap and even worse, the name doesn’t guarantee quality, as many supermarkets examples will show. So on that basis I don’t often take the risk to buy a bottle.
A bit of basics, Chablis is the northernmost region of Burgundy, pretty much in between Paris and Dijon. So we’re talking cool climate where the aspect, slope and orientation of the vineyard is key so that the vine can make the best of the available sunshine and heat.
The soil in which the grapes for this wine (and most of the best Chablis) grow is called Kimmeridgian, after the name of the village of the same name in Dorset. It’s limestone-based which is ideal for white wines and Chardonnay in particular but its sub-layer is rich in pre-historic tropical marine fossils like oysters and the like. When it comes to Chablis “minerality” is key. But minerality is still a bit of a strange nebula for all winemakers and possibly even more for wine writers across the world. Jamie Goode recently started a series of posts on his blog on this subject and I can only recommend you have a read, it’s very well written in layman’s term, nothing too technical there.
Whatever you mean or understand by minerality, Sebastien Christophe’s Chablis Vieilles Vignes has got plenty of it. The 52 year old vines used to make this “Vieilles Vignes” come from prime locations just above 1er cru and grand cru plots and that is evident in the glass. In the winery, Sebastien only uses a bit of oak for his 1er Cru wines so this one was fermented and raised in stainless steel to keep all the crisp characteristics of the terroir.
The colour is beautiful, bright and clear pale gold; it reflects the ambient light almost with sparkle. It smells mildly creamy with light, green fresh fruits; more white pear than apple actually. There is also the “minerality” coming through: not easy to get more specific but knowing a bit about the soil definitely brings some marine images to mind although this is in no way objective; I would probably not get this in a blind tasting.
It’s dry and a bright and fresh lemony acidity kicks the tastebuds into place, there is tension and focus in the structure. The good maturity of the fruit makes this a medium bodied white with a clear intensity of flavours. Light pear and some stone fruits with a lovely creamy, smooth almost stoney (flint?) finish. It doesn’t have the greatest length but considering the amount of acidity and the concentration of flavours going on, it will keep for a few years; something like 3 to 5 years should bring more complexity and I would expect the length to follow. I am now dying to try their 1er Crus.
This wine is sold in the UK by Naked Wines and goes for £15.99 which I think is a decent price. I recently have a perfectly good Chablis from Costco for £18 and it didn’t provide the same pleasure. However, as an Angel I paid £11.49 and at this price point I don’t believe you can get much better Chablis. But shhh….it’s a secret 😉