Chablis: Home of Great Chardonnay Value

Great wines from Chardonnay’s home, the chalk and limestone hills of Burgundy, have never been cheap. But the combination of soaring global demand (think China) and brutally short crops – most producers have averaged 30+% losses the past few years – are making it harder than ever to find white Burgundy value.

Which is why the most savvy white Burgundy drinkers have been migrating north from the Meursault, Chassagne, and Puligny-Montrachet to the little village at the top of Burgundy, Chablis.

Chablis_Grand_Cru_vineyardsMigrating North. The wines from the chalk and Kimmeridgian clay (found also in Sancerre) in this northernmost outpost of Burgundy (only Champagne and Alsace are farther North) have historically be thought of as “steely,” “flinty,” and “saline” – brisk, high-acid, wines built for shellfish and lacking the richness, depth, and power found further south.

But the combination of climate change (warmer weather) and rapid improvement in viticulture (lower yields and waiting for ripeness) mean that modern Chablis has elevated its quality to new heights even as its style has come to more closely resemble Chassagne or Puligny-Montrachet of old. And, while the quality has soared, Chablis continues to mature earlier than wines of the South – no bad thing for folks who don’t want to cellar wines for decades are who worry about premature oxidization. So, while most casual white Burgundy drinkers have stayed focused on the more famous Chardonnay villages of the Cote d’Or, more and more experienced Burgundy lovers have headed North for great white Burgundy at surprising value prices.

Your Window Is Closing. Now’s the time for you to discover the great Chardonnay values of Chablis – before they are gone forever. Because the dreadfully short Burgundy harvests of 2011, 2012 and 2013 means that almost everyone who loves white Burgundy is starting to look to Chablis.

Allen Meadows QuoteAs Antonio Galloni, former Wine Advocate Italian and Burgundy critic, explains:

“We are about to see a massive lack of supply of high-end white Burgundy that will last for at least several years. Most of that void is going to be filled by Chablis, where weather has also presented its share of challenges over the last few vintages, but nothing like we have seen in the Côte de Beaune. My advice to Chablis lovers is simple. If you see a wine you like, buy it. There are not going to be too many second chances given the global shortage of fine white Burgundy we will soon witness. This is especially true for the 2012s, the best of which are fabulous and will be in the market when the lack of top-notch white Burgundy will be at its most pronounced.”

Malandes: Wines You Need to Try.  Domaine des Malandes has been in the Tremblay family for generations and has been run by Lyne Marchive since 1972. The wines have always been “solid”, but as winemaker Guénolé Breteaudeau has asserted himself since joining the Domaine in 2006, the wines have moved up the scale to “outstanding”! As Allen Meadows, who writes as Burghound, said after tasting the Domaine’s 2011s, “Marchive and Breteaudeau continue to drive the quality of the Malandes wines to new heights and 2011 represents the best that I have ever seen from them at least when taken as a whole. Readers who are not familiar with the wines owe it to themselves to try a few bottles.”

The 2012s are better still. Owner Lyne Marchive and her winemaker/cellar master Guénolé Breteaudeau had to work hard to triumph over the extraordinarily difficult 2012 growing season. Frost in April, a long, unsettled, flowering (Marchive called it “lousy”), hail in May, and then a few baking hot weeks in August all conspired to drive down yields and deprive vineyard workers of sleep. But a moderate, sunny, September allowed the harvest to slide to September 21 when the grapes had fully ripened without losing acidity or building up too much sugar.

The results are pretty, delicious, wines with plenty of Chablis character – green fruit, mouthwatering acidity, and loads of salty stone and mineral notes – married with some of the richness normally found further South in Puligny or Chassagne-Montrachet. As Allan Meadows (Burghound”) said after tasting the Malandes 2012s, anyone “not familiar with the wines owe it to themselves to try a few bottles,” and added, “moreover the prices are reasonable and thus the wines offer excellent price/quality ratios.” We couldn’t agree more – especially at these mix/match case price savings. Get ‘em while you can!


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