Photo Credit: BIVB / GAUDILLERE TH
LONDON - I have become totally enamoured of Chablis. When I was young (must stop saying this….), my thoughts always turned to Chablis when I saw the oyster stands outside Paris brasseries during the winter months. In fact, I envisaged a bottle of Chablis, or of Muscadet, depending on how my finances were at the time. You just want straight ‘village’ Chablis with oysters, not the fuller Premiers Crus, nor the fatter Grands Crus. The last time my husband and I had a dozen each of the molluscs with a bottle of Chablis was at the Terminus Nord, opposite the Gare du Nord – and we nearly missed our connection to Epernay over at the Gare de l’Est.
Back home at the ranch, we have been plundering our cellar for mature bottles of Premiers and Grands Crus and partnering them with whatever comes to hand – taramasalata has proved a fun option and fresh hake is a winner. Chablis, of course, is a completely different beast in comparison with the Côte de Beaune twin beauties of Chassagne and Puligny Montrachet, together with Meursault, only linked by the Chardonnay grape. Chablis lies equidistant between Paris and Dijon and is considered distinctly ‘nordic’ by the rich relations further south. The soil here is Kimmeridge clay, from the village of that name on the Dorset Jurassic coast, so we can feel quite proprietary about this wine.
Most Chablis winemakers do not use oak on their village wines, but a few partly mature their wine in barrels at Premier and, even more, Grand Cru level, where there is much more body and volume to go with the mineral, gunflint notes. Steely when young, these wines develop rich depth with bottle age. We have just unearthed a fabulous 1er Cru Vaulorent 1989 from William Fèvre, with its inimitable hay and grass bouquet and long, flavoury palate. Burrowing further into the wine bins, we found a Grand Cru Blanchot 2001 from Raveneau, quite simply one of the best Chablis ever, with hazelnuts and lavender on the nose, satin-textured and aristocratic, with apple and pomegranate tastes. Addicted to the wines of Raveneau, we followed with the lime honey and greengages 1er Cru Vaillons 1994 and its 2001 version, all seductive nutmeg and citrus - the vintage and the terroir gave the minerality, God gave the skill.