Hello friends. I frequently wonder what a resident of Chablis would think of the recent American movement towards “unoaked Chardonnay.” Some domestic wineries market the concept as though they had only just unearthed it, discovered it, or (worse!) invented it. Of course in Chablis, one of the northernmost winemaking regions in the world, they have been producing unoaked Chardonnay since, oh, about 1457.
I suspect the Chablisienne would only shake his or her head ruefully, since this is far from the worst atrocity Americans have perpetrated on the region. The worst atrocity Americans have perpetrated on the region is, of course, this.
It’s no wonder there remains some brand confusion about what exactly Chablis is, and while that’s sad for Les Chablisiennes, it has had the consumer-friendly impact of suppressing prices on this lovely category of Chardonnay.
So, okay, let’s clear up the confusion.
Chablis is the northernmost part of Burgundy, so far north that it is frequently left off Burgundy wine maps altogether, so far north that it is as close to the Champagne region as it is to greater Burgundy. And in fact, stylistically, Chardonnay from Chablis falls somewhere on the spectrum between Champagne and traditional white Burgundy. The fruit gets ripe enough for still wine (unlike even colder, screaming-acid Champagne), but not so ripe that it can handle the new wood that is frequently used in the Maconnais (some Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chablis does see a little new oak, but the proportion is rarely very high).
But Chablis is not just ordinary high-acid unoaked Chardonnay. Its soil is special, unique. The Kimmeridgean soil that underlays much of Chablis is a combination of clay, limestone, and marine fossil (mostly oyster). There are also chalk veins similar to what is found in Champagne. Rarely is a specific terroir more clearly expressed through its wines. In Chablis, that means the famous flinty, steely notes associated with Chardonnay from this region.
This entry-level wine from Tremblay is a fine introduction to the category, in part because the proportion of new oak here is a whopping 0%. From vines grown on Kimmeridgean soil ranging from 10 to 30 years old, this presents an unmistakable nose of flint, smoke, and apple. Medium-bodied, with a fine-tuned balance of fruit, alcohol (12%), and acid. That flinty, minerally edge continues on the palate, adding lovely complexity to a core of citrus-kissed apple fruit.
Gerard and Helene Tremblay are located in the heart of Chablis (location here), and most of their production stays in France. A small amount is allocated for export, and I’m pleased that we have access to it. The US allocation typically gets snapped up quickly, in no small part because Allen Meadows of Burghound frequently refers to this as that rare regional-level Chablis that displays honest Chablis character. I couldn’t agree more. As an introduction to one of the truly wonderful categories in wine, this is tough to beat.
First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the spring shipping window.