The Sea Of Love - A Chablis Tasting (Aug. 2, 2012)

The picture I want to paint here looks better in my head than on paper.

All Chablis - the good ones, anyway - are woven from common threads. The nose should evoke sea air, moss, shells, fossils, chalk; while the palate should be stony and tense, yet with a somewhat limpid core at the same time, the fruit a cross between granny apples and citrus fruit, culminating in a saline finish. The difference between the different crus is often in how all these elements come together in different ways, creating different tapestries and textures. The village wines will show these characteristics in relatively broad strokes, while the Premier and Grand Crus will display them in ever increasing complexities, so you will get a better delineated feel of locale, even if you can't recognize a specific cru.

Thus, while a cross tasting is an educating - and tasty! - experience, I find it excruciatingly difficult to scribe the notes, limited, as I am, to a narrower vocabulary than usual. So I'm almost glad for the duds, as they help me put the highs in context. But Chablis is such a great pleasure for the senses, so just use the highlights below as a draft for your shopping list.

The Solid Performers

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis, 2010

Quasi-typical Chablis nose (fossils, citrus), but a bit mute. A good mineral finish, even if the mid-palate is too round and simple. More Chardonnay than Chablis, although it echoes all or most of the prerequisites: the saline finish, the acidity.

Giaconda, about 130 NIS.

Jean Durup, Chablis, Vieilles Vignes, 2010

Greater typicity here and better definition, on both nose and palate. Crisp, focused, with a powerful, salivating finish. Village level complexity, or even that of a young Premier, if I'm feeling generous.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 110 NIS. Worth a buy, if you want a Chablis sampler.

William Fevre, Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons, 2008

A step up in quality on the nose: minerally, wild and funky. Juicy citrus fruit. The palate is more one-dimensional. Wilder than I expected Vaillons (especially Fevre's) to be, and different than my own experiences at home. I think I will let my last bottle wait a year plus.

WineRoute, where a typical discount is about 3 bottles for 400 NIS.

The Highlights

William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses, 2008

A terrific balance and interplay of fruit and minerals. Great pedigree. Very, very tasty. Glad, so glad, to have a couple at home.

WineRoute, 339 NIS.

Christian Moreaux, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, Clos des Hospices, 2008

Elegant, with a kinky, complex note of marine minerals. At this point in time, better than the Les Preuses. Very pure citrus fruit. Another wine I'm glad to own.

Burgundy Wine Collection, 360 NIS.

Jean Paul et Benoit Droin, Chablis Grand Cru, Vaudesir, 2007

Oyster shells, iodine. Funky. Good fruit and acidity. One of the most electrifyingly marine Chablis at the table.

Giaconda, 320 NIS.

The Duds

Billaud-Simon, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2010

Pink grapefruit, white peaches, flowers - gooseberries?! The mineral bite on the finish is the only thing the discloses its origin. Needs decanting and a lot of time in glass to show minerals.

Billaud-Simon, Chablis Grand Cru, Blanchot, 2010

Like the Billard-Simon Les Clos, this is tropical and flowery (even though this wasn't decanted as the Les Clos was). The Chablis fingerprint is very faint in the background.

Simon-Billard is not imported to Israel, but I understand these cost about 40 Euros at the winery.

William Fevre, Chablis Grand Cru, Les Clos, 2004

Dried apricots, mushrooms, a faint but definite whiff of soap. Mute. Palate is okay, even though it's too sweet and round. Everyone is shocked, and although stories are told of similarly malfunctioning bottles, I recall a brilliant one from last summer. This bottle wasn't typical of Chablis at all, and in no way a Grand Cru

WineRoute, about 350 NIS.

I'll give the Fevre the benefit of a doubt, but the Billard-Simon is definitely black-listed.

The Wine Of The Night

Raveneau, Chablis Premier Cru, Butteaux, 2004

Cheesy and funky, more about shells and the sea than the fruit. Good grip and acidity. Pure, and very Chablis. Saline finish. The most complete wine of the night, and it's fascinating to see how well a Raveneau Premier Cru competes against some very fine Grand Crus. This will keep for sure, and develop - although I'm not sure whether such developments will reveal deeper Chablis characteristics, as opposed to mature Chardonnay traits.

Burgundy Wine Collection, this cost 270 NIS in the first year it was imported, by now the price has creeped up to 420 NIS (and thus, costs more than the Grand Crus it arguably overwhelmed). Yet price isn't the issue, availability is! This sells out within hours of the annual release here in Israel.