One of the most memorable wines I’ve ever had was a bottle of Chablis with my Dad. I was 22, my Mom had just passed away, and he and I sat on my bedroom floor with a sleeve of saltines, a hunk of Tillamook cheddar, a bottle of Chablis and we went to town.
Oh yeah, and it was this kind of Chablis:
Note that I said this was a “memorable” wine, not one of my favorites. 🙂
I’ve obviously learned since then that this jug-juice was, in fact, NOT truly Chablis. It was a blend of various white grapes from somewhere in California. True Chablis hails from the Northern edge of the Burgundy region in France and is made with 100% Chardonnay grapes.
Unfortunately, there are still some wines on the market labeled “Chablis” that have nothing to do with the actual Chablis region in France, or even with the Chardonnay grape. Why is this??
Well . . . in 2006, an agreement between the United States and the European Community on Trade in Wine addressed the use of certain “Semi-Generic” designations on wine produced outside of the specific European country where the wine designation originated (i.e. terms such as “Chablis”, “Champagne” and “Port”). The Agreement states that while no new wines may use these geographical terms incorrectly, wine brands that already use these terms are “grandfathered in” and are allowed to continue this (IMO) misleading, butchering use of the geographical term.
Unlike the jug-juice, true Chablis has been crafted and perfected over thousands of years – since the Romans introduced vines to the region. The area has survived two major World Wars (heavy bombardment destroyed many vineyards), the phylloxera epidemic and numerous winter freezes. In fact, the entire 1957 Chablis vintage was wiped out due to frigid weather.
Chablis is grown on specific soils that exist only in certain, small pockets of Europe that were formed over 150 million years ago. It’s this soil, and the region’s northerly location and climate, that give Chablis its unique characteristics and make this Chardonnay taste unlike anything else in the world: electric and racy, full of minerality and flintiness, with citrus and salinity.
Chablis has earned its name, and the use of it by any other type of wine is complete misappropriation – even though it’s technically “legal.” I’ll get off my soapbox now, and send you to the outline on Chablis.
Oh, and I’ve made plans with my Dad to share a bottle of 2014 Montée de Tonnerre next time I see him . . . he’s 86 years old now, so every bottle with him is memorable. 🙂