Peacocks Along the Ionian Sea
Dining with charming winemakers from Alsace and Peloponnese and a lesson in Chablis Grand Cru
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I’ve always loved Chablis for its delightful minerally (unoaked) Chardonnay flavors and its wonderful silky texture. In the summer I drink it as often as I can. I recently learned that the Grands Crus of Chablis are very different from regular Chablis. These are the top Chablis wines of Burgundy from the best vineyard sites, which are known as climats within the appellation of Chablis Grand Cru. I talked with Didier Seguier, for 12 years winemaker at Domaine William Fevre, a venerable winery that own 15 hectares of Grand Cru vineyards, four of which are in the vaunted Les Clos climat.
In a priceless succinct summary, Seguier explained Grand Cru Chablis’s top climats to me and what characteristics one can expect in those wines. (What follows here is for wine geeks only. Everyone else please skip to the next Alsace item.)
Chablis Grand Cru Bougros is a good introduction to Chablis. It comes from an area which is flat with SW exposure and clay soil and is known particularly for its richness.
From a south-facing steep slope but not clay soil, Chablis Grand Cru Bougros “Cote Bouguerots,” which is part of Bougros, has a strong minerality. It’s masculine, rich and powerfully mineral and very different from the other Bougros.
Again from a south-facing steep slope with vines that are known to mature early, Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir is full flavored, though less so than Bougros. When it is young, it’s fruity and after a few years shows nice minerality.
From the very top slope with SE and SW exposure and a cooler climate, Chablis Grand Cru Valmur displays freshness and a high level of acidity yet has a silkiness and beautiful body. This is the terror for aging (from 5-10 years) but you can start drinking it happily after two or three years.
Chablis Grand Cru Les Preuses has two parts: One, on a SE steep slope, results in wines with elegance and minerality; and the SW part is flat with clay soil, yielding richness and a feminine elegance. Often the wine is a blend of one third SE and two thirds SW, which makes for nuanced elegance.
Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos is considered the greatest Grand Cru in Chablis and commands higher prices than the rest. The wine has a full body and all the characteristics of the others—power, aging potential and minerality. The 250-year-old William Fevre family is the largest producer of Les Clos. The region of Chablis has around 5,000 hectares, one hundred of which are Chablis Grand Cru, which was classified in 1935. (End of lesson for the advanced wine enthusiasts.)