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SWA 2011: FRANCE - CHABLIS

France: Chablis
With the pricier wines often still a little on the austere side, our tasters contented themselves this year with an affordable yet typical example for the Gold List

Arguably the most important white wine staple after house white, and shorthand for
‘dry white wine’ for a gazillion drinkers all over the planet, Chablis is always something
of a tricky category for our tasters. Not least because it leads them to muse on awkward philosophical issues such as: ‘what is value for money?’; ‘what should Chablis do on
a wine list?’; and even ‘what is Chablis?’.

So, even though there was general enthusiasm for the wines they were trying, the debates were long, loud and not always conclusive.

In general, the tasters liked what they were seeing throughout the flights, but there
were major question-marks over whether you actually got enough extra for your money
as you moved up the price scale.

‘The more expensive the wines became, the less they delivered, and I preferred the
wines at the beginning of the flight. They may have been simpler wines, but they were textbook Chablis, which I could sell,’ said Coq d'Argent's Olivier Marie. Putting typicity to one side, most of the tasters also had an issue with drinkability.

‘There were some great Chablis premiers crus and even grand cru-style character, but
if the wines are not ready for five years then they are not for the list now,’ said Team  
Leader Jamie Goode firmly.

So, while our tasters were fully aware of the business benefits of offering Chablis listings
at a variety of prices, they restricted themselves to just the one for the Gold List. ‘There is room on the list for an entry-level Chablis and also a wine which people can trade up to. However, the more expensive wines were difficult, as some were austere,’ agreed The Glasshouse’s Sara Bachiorri. ‘The [William Fèvre Chablis] had freshness and a creamy complexity. It would go on the list at £45 and sell extremely well.’

“This was a broad category, with many differing styles, divided by those wines that needed ageing and those that were drinking now. Justifying the cost and time to age a wine can be a problem for a sommelier. ” Nigel Lister, Royal Thames Yacht Club

“I was looking for character that says Chablis, some evolution and complexity, also with some minerality. I thought [the Fèvre] shows this, at a fair price, and on the list it would sell.” Laurent Chaniac, The Cinnamon Club


GOLD LIST  

William Fevre Chablis 2009, Chablis, France
£10.08 @ John E Fells & Sons
  Universal approval from the judges for this zesty, benchmark Chablis. A deftly woven tapestry of ripe apple, white peach and apricot flavours, and aromas of pear flowers and white hawthorn. ‘It has a lovely acidity and mouthwatering minerality,’ said wine consultant Nicola Thomson, ‘with long length and great balance.’ ‘There’s a nice, gentle blossom with flinty minerality,’ said Sara Bachiorri. 

SILVER

Louis Moreau Petit Chablis 2009, Chablis, France
£8.45 @ Louis Moreau UK
Bracing, lively and vivid, this is classic in style with some herbal notes, a fresh, clean palate and a bone-dry, flinty, lengthy finish. ‘There’s a mineral nose of wet stones with a pinch of richness,’ said Sara Bachiorri.

Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2008, Chablis, France
£13.80 @ Louis Latour Agencies
Rich, peachy edge to the citrus nose, with a powerful, rich palate with citrus flavour, herbs, and a hint of toast. ‘This is a great food wine,’ said the Royal Thames Yacht Club's Nigel Lister.

BRONZE

Simonnet-Febvre Chablis 2009, Chablis, France
£8.96 @ Louis Latour Agencies
Wonderful expression of Chablis, with fresh honeysuckle and apple blossom notes alongside ripe, white-fleshed pear and yellow plum on the nose. ‘With a Mediterranean character to the fruit, the medium-bodied, well-made palate also shows a high minerality with flinty character,’ said Olivier Marie.

Charles Gruber Chablis 2008, Chablis, France
£9.95 @ Sommelier’s Friend
Lovely and bright with crisp, green apple fruit and a streak of minerality. ‘Very persistent
on the palate,’ said Roberto Loppi. ‘Elegant and complex.’

Domaine du Colombier Chablis 2009, Chablis, France
£10.68 @ Fine Wines Direct UK
'Textbook Chablis,’ said Olivier Marie, noting its oyster shell, gun-flint flavours, and intense minerality. The dry, lemony, medium-bodied palate shows a good acid balance and medium
length. ‘Well balanced,’ said Xavier Chapelou.

Louis Moreau Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2009, Chablis, France
£12.45 @ Louis Moreau UK
This shows fine, ripe citrus notes alongside floral aromas and a touch of wax and oak, with
hints of white pepper. ‘The palate is well balanced although it is very young,’ noted wine consultant Angus Macnab. ‘Good minerality, acidity and length.’


Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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