Founded by the late Daniel Rogov, focusing primarily on wines that are either kosher or Israeli.
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Daniel Rogov

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Chablis: The Ultimate Chardonnay

by Daniel Rogov » Wed Jul 13, 2011 3:12 pm

Note: As is known, I am now writing two wine columns weekly in the Hebrew edition of HaAretz. Because only one of those appears in the English edition, I shall be posting my second weekly article on the forum shortly after the column appears in the newspaper. The following piece was printed in HaAretz on 8 July 2011




Chablis - The Ultimate Chardonnay


Daniel Rogov

Because of their increasing world-wide popularity, wine stores around the world now maintain a regular supply of Chardonnay wines from places as diverse in character as Australia, Chile, California, South Africa and Italy. Some stores in New York, California and London even carry a regular supply of the best Israeli Chardonnays. Regular readers of these pages know that I have nothing whatever against those wines, many of which I find delightful and sophisticated, but when it comes to identifying my personal favorite Chardonnay, I have no choice but to turn to the wines produced in the region of the sleepy, rural French village of Chablis.

Most oenologists are convinced that it is the peculiar and highly individual mixture of chalky limestone and clay of the area that accounts for the fact that the Chardonnay wines produced in
Chablis are quite different than those produced anywhere else in the world. Located 160 kilometers north of the main portion of the Burgundy region of France, Chablis which is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes, is regarded as the most perfect example of a dry white table wine. Unlike most Chardonnay wines, the traditional terms for describing the taste of Chablis are "flinty" and "steely". This does not mean that the wine actually has metallic qualities. Rather, these terms refer to the wine's dryness, a fresh, crisp, almost tart but clean dryness that serves almost as a surface coating through which one can easily perceive the underlying fruit of the Chardonnay grape. At the same time, the very best Chablis has a bigness and richness that make it a virtual king among the world's foremost white wines. With a bouquet of freshly cut hay, apples and an underlying mineral note, the best Chablis wines are light gold in color, with glints of green when they are young. As they age, they become darker and more glossy.

More than many of the other white wines from Burgundy, Chablis benefits from bottle age. Even though this does not mean that all Chablis should be stored for twenty years (heaven forbid!), three year-five in the bottle is the minimum for good Chablis and the best will age well for at least a decade. Chablis that is too young may make for good drinking but it tends to be a bit harsh, and by drinking only young Chablis one will miss the complex scents, flavors and strength which rounds them out with age.

There are four general categories of Chablis: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. All can be excellent but those wines labeled Petit Chablis or Chablis should be bought only if they come from France. Some California and New York wineries continue in the somewhat doubtful and only quasi-legal practice of calling their wines "Chablis" but these are merely inferior copies, some of which do not even contain Chardonnay grapes. One should never lose track of the fact that the only wines truly entitled to that label come from the Chablis district. Among the very best Chablis wines are those from Joseph Drouhin, William Fevre, Moreau, Raveneau, Verget, Dauvissat, Alain Geoffroy, Michel Laroche, Robert Vocoret and La Chablissienne.

Wines labeled "Premier Cru" (first growth) and "Grand Cru" (great growth) are distinct steps upward in body, flavor and individuality and their costs show it although they are not as expensive as wines of comparable quality from other parts of Burgundy. Some find that the Premier Cru wines are the most typical and satisfying, with plenty of flavor and a distinctive amount of acid. Grands crus, on the other hand, have a richness and strength which rounds them out and sets them above all of the other wines in their class. My favorite Premier Cru producers are Fourchame, Les Forets and Vaillon. There are seven grand cru vineyards, Blanchots, Bougros, Les Clos, Grennouilles, Les Preuses, Valmur and Vaudesir, and even though all produce superb wines, my personal choice is for the wines of Les Clos.

Some, including this critic, say that Chablis was born especially to be drunk when feasting on raw oysters. So firmly do I believe this that I recall once offending several readers by writing that “the best marriage ever made in Heaven was that between Chablis and oysters. The wine is also considered ideal with other shellfish and goes very well with fish and poultry, especially when they are served cold. The wine itself should always be drunk well chilled and among the best relatively recent vintage years for any of these wines are 2004-2008 each of which year earned a vintage score of between 92-95.

Following are my tasting notes for a collection of the recently arrived Chablis wines of William Fevre

Domaine William Fèvre, Chablis, Valmur, Grand Cru, 2008: Medium- to full-bodied, on first attack lemon curd, that yielding to apples, flinty minerals and tempting hints of spicy oak. On the long finish notes of spices and oyster shells. Approachable now but best from mid-2012-2022. NIS 360. Score 94.

Domaine William Fèvre, Chablis, Les Preuses, Grand Cru, 2008: Medium- to full-bodied, deep gold in color with notes of crushed oyster shells on first attack. Opens in the glass to reveal green gage plums, crisply acidic apples on a background of tantalizingly salty minerals. Give this one the time it needs. Best from 2013-2025. NIS 360. Score 94.

Domaine William Fèvre, Chablis, Les Clos, Grand Cru, 2008: Full-bodied, with chalky and flinty minerals supported by fine balancing acidity. Opens with a distinct citrus note, that yielding to apples, green gage plums and spices all on a distinct power-base and lingering nicely with hints of apple and lemon blossoms. Long and generous. Needs time. Best from 2013-2025. NIS 400. Score 94.

Domaine William Fèvre, Chablis, Vaulorent, 1er Cru, 2008: Medium- to full-bodied, opening with notes of lemon and lime, those going on to reveal green apples and both flinty and stony minerals. Clean, rich and long. Best from mid-2012-2020. NIS 260. Score 93.

Domaine William Fèvre, Chablis, Vaudésir, Grand Cru, 2008: Medium- to full-bodied opens with notes of oyster shells and stony minerals, those parting in the glass to reveal lively acidity and fine balance. On the nose and palate green apples and lime, those supported by aromas and flavors of citrus and apple flowers. Remarkbly long and refreshing. Drink now-2023. NIS 360. Score 93.

Domaine William Fèvre, Chablis, Bougros, Grand Cru, 2008: Full-bodied but seems to float on the palate to balance the lemon pie, green gage plums and pink grapefruit flavors. From mid-palate on notes of flintyand chalky minerals. Long and generous. Best from 2012-2023. NIS 360. NIS 93.

Domaine William Fèvre, Chablis, Vaillons, 1er Cru, 2008: Medium-bodied, light golden straw with a green tint and flinty minerals on the background from first attack to the long finish. On the nose and palate pink grapefruit, lemon curd and apples all coming together in a long and refreshing finish. Drink now-2020. NIS 200. Score 92.

Domaine William Fèvre, Chablis, Chablis, Monté de Tonnerre, 2008: Plenty of oak here but that coming together nicel with fresh acidity and flinty minerals to support aromas and flavors of citrus, green apples and lemon curd. Best from 2012-2018. NIS 210. Score 90.

Domaine William Fèvre, Chablis, 2008: Light but bright golden straw in color, medium-bodied with finely balancecd acidity and flinty minerals supporting aromas and flavors of citrus, green apples and, on the long finish a note of lemon pie. Drink now-2018. NIS 125. Score 90.




The 11 Best Places to Dine on Oysters and Drink Chablis


Because I write so often and so lovingly about raw oysters, many
people have asked me to identify the places at which I most enjoy
eating these lovely creatures of the sea. By far the very best
place in the world to eat oysters is at any of the open-air stands
in the Rialto Market of Venice. On the other hand, I also know
that I can rely on any of the following for oysters that will be
plump, fresh, just salty-creamy enough, and never so expensive
that I cannot feast on at least a dozen.

Grand Central Oyster Bar and Restaurant: on the lower level of
Grand Central Railroad Station.

The Union Oyster House: 41 Union Street, Boston.

La Chope d'Alsace: 4 Carrefour de l'Odeon, Paris 6.

Cafe de Paris: Place du Casino, Monaco.

Trattoria Madonna: calle della Madonna 954, Venice.

Pescheria Spadari: via Spadari 18, Milan.

La Ribaudiere: in the port at Bourg-Charente (about 8 km. from
Cognac).

Hiely-Lucullus: 4 rue de la Republic, Avignon.

Oysters Bar at Wilton: 65 Jermyn Street, London, SW1.

Legal Sea Foods: many locations in Boston, including at Logan
Airport, Terminal C. To locate other branches phone 800-477-LEGAL.
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Joel D Parker

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Re: Chablis: The Ultimate Chardonnay

by Joel D Parker » Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:37 am

Couldn't agree more on the absolute beauty of a good Chablis. They're addictive really, as after one good one, the craving for another returns approximately fortnightly. I also couldn't agree more about the dangers of drinking too early. Not dangerous per se, but unfortunate, since they just get so much better with age, and sometimes with air if you have patience.

As for the 2008 Fèvre, Vaillons Premier Cru, I find it to be still very tightly wound at the moment, but the slightly less intense vintage, 2007, is drinking wonderfully as of a couple of months ago. The 2008 could, perhaps, in my opinion, be enjoyed with some decanting, though. If someone wants to try it, they will probably find that it's much better on day 2. So personally, as a rule of thumb I would add an extra year or two to the start of each drinking window, unless I was planning to decant.

Best and glad your doing a bit better--hoping for good reports.

Joel
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YoelA

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Re: Chablis: The Ultimate Chardonnay

by YoelA » Thu Jul 14, 2011 2:42 pm

I'm 1000 % with you on this, Daniel. Generally speaking, with a few exceptions here and there, I don't really care for chardonnays. Chablis is the only major exception (OK, I won't turn down a Grand Cru white burgundy if someone offers me some). And they're relatively affordable.

Years ago, when I belonged to a wine-tasting group, I ran a Chablis tasting. Picking from what was then available locally (this is in pre-Internet wine sales days) I included five or six of the best commune wines (all relatively young) and one older Grand Cru (I forget which). For many of the members, who drank mainly California wines, this was their first exposure. Comments on the younger commune wines were fairly unanimous - too lemony/acidic, not enough other flavors. But the Grand Cru, which was complex and smoky, bowled them over.
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Alexander F

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Re: Chablis: The Ultimate Chardonnay

by Alexander F » Fri Jul 15, 2011 8:01 pm

Daniel,
Excellent post, glad you're back. Unfortunately, my local WR store ran out of Vaillons. :(
So, today with a glass of the regular Fevre Chablis 2009, To Your Health!
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Craig Winchell

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Re: Chablis: The Ultimate Chardonnay

by Craig Winchell » Fri Jul 15, 2011 9:07 pm

I'm sure that there's an application in there somewhere for raw oysters, although one might as well go the cheap route with Muscadet (of course, I go the even cheaper route without raw oysters in the first place), but Chablis, and particularly Premier Cru and Grand Cru, were some of the first Chards I had ever loved. Although Laroche P & F makes excellent Chablis (I used to guzzle their Blanchot '75), even occasionally kosher, the unfortunate fact is that decent Chablis is difficult, if not impossible, to find kosher. And for these riper, more alcoholic iterations, there are plenty of excellent applications- anything for which one would use a White Burgundy or other Chardonnay can be appealingly complemented by Chablis.

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