“38 huh? We can’t get more people than that to drink Chablis?” my boss Randy as we discussed the outcome from the Chablis tasting the day before. Randy, a huge fan of those wines, was unable to attend, (newsletter and late writers….me included) the event and his heartbreak for both the missing it and the hearing that it wasn’t a blockbuster as far attendees, well it was all over his sweet face. I could feel his disappointment, knew he had fingers crossed that the place would have been crammed full of eager tasters and while I nodded and tried to give him the, “Yeah, I know, I know” eyes all I could muster was my ugly mug all scrunched, eyebrows digging deep into my brow, nose crinkled and head cocked as I said, “What?! What are you talking about?”
The thing was, in order to even put on that tasting of 10 Chablis I had to order a bunch of wine. It has taken years of painstaking repetition and the ever growing tiring of hearing ourselves talk but now, now we can't keep our Chablis in stock. Seems like every freaking time I turn around I am out of everything over there. From Petit Chablis to the Premier Cru stuff and seeing as I am often shocked that we are once again looking at naked Chablis racks, (as sexy as that might sound…naked racks and all, empty racks are just sad) that means people are over there, grabbing those wines off the rack, without even needing my help. They’re on it, they’ve figured it out and they keep coming back for more. “We have loads of people drinking those wines Randy, we can’t keep our racks full. People are drinking those wines more than ever before….it’s the “tasters” we can’t get to turn out for them.”
Randy listened to my words, thought of the invoices that had arrived just days before, the ones with Chablis after Chablis listed, wines I had to reorder just so we had wines to pour and then looked at the number of those wines that sold to the smallish group that did show up Saturday afternoon and I could literally feel his sadness waning. He gave me that, “You’re right and I’m proud of you” grin the one that is so powerful for me now that it doesn’t even need words anymore and began preparing for the next event with what seemed to me a much lighter heart. I was once again reminded of the difference between wine drinkers and wine tasters, my comprehension of the former much deeper and I found myself very grateful for my merry band of wine drinkers that turned out, aren't "Oh, I only drink red" twats, get white wine and flip for the super dry wines from Chablis. Let the "tasters" drink their fluffy whites and chocolaty reds, we gots us some stony whites to drink.
The final Saturday in June had us hosting a tasting devoted completely to the crisp, mineral-rich, zingy and astoundingly regal wines from Chablis. We were delighted to discover that there were far fewer people confused about what Chablis actually is, that it is a region in Northern France where they grow Chardonnay and not some generic term for inexpensive bulk white wine. In fact I believe there were less than five people there that needed the mini lesson and the rest; they had come specifically to taste and marvel in the complexity, texture and range of flavors that the Chardonnays from Chablis have to offer. The crowd’s comments and exuberance as expressive as the wines we were pouring. Some of the most compelling white wines we stock and our wicked smart customers are gobbling them up and sharing them with their friends, turning people on to grown up, real, true Chablis and we couldn’t be more excited about that.
Started with the wee wines……
2011 Val de Mer Petit Chablis ($18.99)
Leaning more to the delicate apple flavors this light and refreshing, un-oaked, dry white is just a blast of crispness and lively freshness. Great to just sip on but is also lovely with delicate fish and chicken dishes.
2011 Herve Azo Petit Chablis ($17.99)
The wines from Azo just continue to get better with each vintage and as much as we loved the last vintage of Petit Chablis we must say that the 2011 is remarkably good for the price point. I’ve had Premier Cru Chablis that didn’t offer as much as this wine. Nice round apple up front, loads of chalky white limestone, a hint of tropical flavors and a deliciously racy snap on the finish.
2012 Patrick Piuze Petit Chablis ($19.99)
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I think this winemaker, Patrick Piuze, is one of the most exciting and must watch winemakers, not just in Chablis but in all of France. He’s a younger guy so luckily we have many years to spend learning from him. The youngest wine at a recent tasting it stood out for its vibrancy and bold, forward but very dry flavors. More citrus and flint with a big mouth feel and a super bright finish. One of my favorite $20 wines we have in the store.
On to the straight A.O.C stuffs….
2011 Roland Lavantureux Chablis ($22.99)
Such traditional and wonderfully balanced Chablis. Little more weight in the mouth than you find with many but the flavors are laser-sharp, citrus, stones, crushed nuts, a just the right amount of doughy notes. Nothing here not to love.
And here we moved on to the Premier Cru wines and the wines showed their pedigree from the very beginning. “Whoa, now this one….” I heard it starting here. The first two wines in this bracket were also my "teachery flight" as we had one vintage, one grape, one winemaker and the wines were worlds apart. “Next time someone tries to tell you terroir is bullshit, remember this flight" I urged them. They got it.....Cha-bliss
2011 Val de Mer 1er Cru Vaillons Chablis ($39.99)
Takes little more than a sniff to discover that you are dealing with a whole other level of quality when you are talking about Premier, or 1er Cru Chablis. More depth, texture, complexity and just more stuffing. This Vaillons is still showing a little tight but with some swirling the aromatics unfold revealing a wine of tremendous depth and flavor. Paired with some simple grilled seafood, think seared scallops, I sure as shit did, the wine shows off all its brilliance and stature.
2011 Val de Mer 1er Cru Les Forets Chablis ($41.99)
Explosive! Shockingly explosive aromas of lemon oil, pineapple, limestone and even a little grapefruit come bounding from the glass in full attack. Still typical enough for old world wine drinkers but there is enough curvy fruit and richness, slithery body here to win over a new world wine lover as well. I adore this wine and want a plate of crispy roast chicken to go with it!
2011 Roland Lavantureux 1er Cru Fourchaume Chablis ($31.99)
Not sure Lavantureux gets such round texture from such cool climate Chardonnay, I’m guessing there might be some neutral barrel usage but you can’t detect any oak on the palate, no the flavors are all un-cooked dough, the ocean, roasted lemon and some noticeable nuttiness as well. All that with this curvy weight and nice back bone of acidity. Such a lovely wine.
2011 Herve Azo 1er Cru Vau de Vey Chablis ($27.99)
Never better. This wine has never been better and might be my winner for most undervalued wine in the shop. A wine with this much complexity, mouth feel, concentration and lighting rods of minerality, should cost twice as much as it does. If you love Chablis you MUST try this wine. If you “like” Chablis you MUST try this wine, you’ll discover what it’s like to love Chablis.
One of my most thrilling moments behind a tasting table happened that day as every, single, person in attendance actually “got” Grand Cru. All too often the Grand Cru wines I pour are too young, slightly closed and frankly not ready to show their splendor, thus making my argument for Grand Cru seem more like wine merchant sales bullshit than truth which sucks because once you feel the difference…..well it makes all the freaking difference. This wine, this wine with all its regality and power, structure and demanding flavors, yeah people so got it and not once did I hear, “Yeah, okay but for the price”….not once. Still gives me a taco-eating grin, (sorry, shit-eating grin never fucking made sense to me…if you are eating shit, should you really be grinning?) to think about that….
2009 Brocard Grand Cru Bougros Chablis ($59.99)
As a retailer and specifically as the Burgundy buyer, there are few things that please me more or are more gratifying than when a wine proves, upon one sniff, that it is worth its price and when we poured this wine my heart lit up as each and every person that smelled it, even the ones that started with, “Why is this one so much more?” ended up letting out audible groans of pleasure. Love that more than I can express. The aromas range from roasted orange rind, spice, limestone, cold river stones, white flowers and even some un-ripe peachy layers. In the mouth the wine is just this side of being heavy, its palate staining for sure but the balancing acidity frames the wine perfectly. Ever been rendered speechless by a bottle of Chardonnay before? This wine is just that powerful.
Had a freaking blast and even now, days later….I want more.