First it was a vast sea. Then the water receded exposing layers of limestone clay embedded with countless fossilized oyster shells…That was 180 million years ago
Chablis on the eastern edge of the Paris Basin, is called the northernmost extension of Burgundy. But Chablis is so different from the rest of Burgundy. it is probably better to recognize it as a unique wine region of its own.
Chablis has a long history. The original neolithic settlement became a fortified village with some vines in the Iron Age but it was the Romans who in the first century AD established Chablis village with four villas and vineyards. In the 9th century Charles the Bald built a church in Chablis and the Benedictine monks from Tours took refuge in Auxerre to escape Vikings who were sailing up the Loire. In 1114, Cistercian monks founded the nearby Abbey of Potigny and initiated the development of the Chablis wine region. By 1537, Chablis wines were renowned throughout France. Phylloxera decimated the vineyards at the end of 19th century and after the Second World War, Chablis vineyards were reduced to only 550 ha. Today Chablis has 5400 ha under vine.
The key to Chablis is the terroir – Kimmeridgian and Portlandian chalk with millions of fossilized crustatins from the regions Jurassic beginnings. The seven Grand Cru vineyards (2% of total) occupy the older and richer Kimmeridgian soil.
The evening started with a glass 2017 Saint-Bris from William Fevre and goats cheese. The village of Saint- Bris west of Chablis has 133 ha vineyards planted with Sauvignon Blanc. It is the only white Burgundy AOC made from this varietal. The wine is aromatic and soft and makes a delightful aperitif. (15)
The following wines were tasted and discussed:
- Petit Chablis 2017, William Fevre: Fruit hand-harvested from vineyards with Portlandian soil, naturally fermented and aged for nine months in stainless steel tanks. (15)
- Chablis 2017, William Fevre: Fruit from vineyards with Kimmeridgian soil. Vinification similar to Petit Chablis. Soft and pleasing. (15.5)
- Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2010, Domaine Long-Depaquit: Hand harvested fruit from 4.8 ha. vineyards with vines with an average age of 36 years on the left bank of the Serein River. 90% of the fruit is vinified in stainless steel tanks and the rest in 1 to 5 years old oak barrels. 10% of the wine is aged on fine lees for 10 months in oak barrels. 100% is then aged for 2 months in stainless steel tanks. Drinking well now. (16)
- Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2010, Domaine Long-Depaquit: Hand-harvested fruit comes from 2 plots totaling 1.5 ha.with an average vine age of 30 years. 65% is fermented in stainless steel tanks and 35% in 1 to 5 year old oak barrels. 35% of the wine is aged on lees in oak barrels and 100% remain in stainless steel tanks for a further 6 months before bottling. The first bottle opened was corked and the second oxidized! The third was great. (16.5)
- Chablis Grand Cru Moutonne Monopole 2010, Domaine Long-Depaquit: The 2.35 ha. vineyard is 95% in Grand Cru “Vaudésir” & 5% in Grand Cru “Les Preuses” (formerly owned by the Pontigny monks). Average vine age is 46 years. 75% of the fruit is vinified in stainless steel tanks and the rest in 1-5 year old oak barrels. Lees aging is 25% in oak for 10 months followed by 6 months in stainless steel for 100% of the wine. Wonderful mature Grand Cru Chablis. (16.5)
- Chablis Clos Beru Monopole 2010, Chateau de Beru: Biodynamic wine from Chateau de Beru Monopole. The first bottle showed slight oxidation but second was delightful. Rich and creamy rather than ‘mineral.’ (16.5)
The tasting was followed by a two course supper. Torres Gran Coronas 2013 (15.5) – an oak aged blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo was poured with the Roast Leg of Lamb with Celeriac Mash, Green Beans and Ratatouille. One member brought with him a bottle of Torres Mas la Plana 2005 to drink with the lamb. Chocolate Cheesecake and coffee with mints followed.
30 members of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society attended the tasting on Tuesday 7 January 2020 at the Harrogate Masonic Hall. It was presented by Dr. Bernard Dias.
This was sent to the tasters to help them prepare for the tasting:
- To what wine region does Chablis belong?
- What is special about the Chablis terroir?
- What are Kimmeridgian and Portlandian soils?
- How is Chablis classified?
- How many 1er Crus and Grands Crus are there in Chablis?
- What is the aging potential of Chablis?
- What are the grapes of Chablis?
- What is special about Saint-Bris
- What is Premature Oxidation?
- Name 3 top Chablis producers
Harrogate Medical Wine Society in Chablis:
- “I was very sorry not to be able to attend yesterday’s tasting, due to the date change. I’d be very interested to hear or see tasting notes from the evening. I’m especially interested in the Clos Béru. My 2009 Clos Béru (bought on our 2013 tour, I think) seemed to be past its best by the end of last year, but has now acquired new life, and now reminds me slightly of a Hunter Valley Sémillon, and is enjoyable once more.” – Jane Trewhella, Otley
- “Thank you for the excellent presentation of Chablis wines last night, which we both enjoyed very much and found very educational.
The wines tasted turned out to be a very good cross section of what Chablis has to offer, none the least for demonstrating it’s susceptibility to oxidation.” – Simon Pratt, Leeds
- “Thank you for another interesting and informative evening which certainly increased our knowledge of Chablis. It was wonderful to see so many members there which made us wonder if Tuesday was a better meeting day for members rather than Thursday’s. The wines were excellent with the Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2010 Long Depaquit just taking the edge for us over the Chablis Grand Cru Mouton 2010 Lon-Depaq. Sadly our bottles 4 and 6 were slightly oxidised. We felt the meal on this occasion was not one of Chris best . Thank you once again for your generosity in providing a pre dinner drink and a drink with the meal which was appreciated. Maybe we would all take a turn in providing the occasional bottles of wine.” – John & Pat Shore, Harrogate
- “Thank you for the considerable time and care you obviously took in creating such an encompassing and informative presentation. I learned a great deal about Chablis wines and was particularly delighted by the opportunity to taste the Grand Crus.
I have to say, though, that it’s disconcerting when people are having private conversations at the same time as you are explaining or responding to individual questions, at times difficult to hear when there are independent commentaries going on.” – Gail Bent, Harrogate
- “Chablis a unique wine thanks to the terroir This was a special introduction to all the classes of Chablis, and an opportunity to taste what all the fuss is about. Brilliant tasting Bernard.” – Steven Goldsmith, Harrogate. Via Facebook
- “Thanks for a very interesting and enjoyable Chablis tasting.” – Dr. Peter Goulding, Harrogate