Years ago, a friend who loved white Burgundy said to me, “Everybody loves Chablis, but it’s nobody’s favorite.”
I knew exactly what he meant. Chablis has a special place in the hearts of white Burgundy lovers, but it’s rarely as revered as the more exalted whites of the Côte de Beaune, like Meursault les Perrières and Chevalier-Montrachet, not to mention Le Montrachet itself.
I feel as if I’ve been turning over this comment in my mind ever since. Finally, I had a revelation. Chablis is somebody’s favorite. It’s mine.
I don’t mean that I would choose it over one of those Côte de Beaune wines. I would not, because those wines are ridiculously expensive. Opportunities to drink them are rare, and often depend on the generosity of those with the means to obtain them.
Chablis, though, is still relatively accessible. Yes, the most storied producers, like François Raveneau and Vincent Dauvissat, are now costly. But dozens of other excellent domains are making terrific and distinctive wines. Their affordability is worth a lot of affection.
The biggest issue for Chablis is now climate change. For most of the 20th century, Chablis was on the knife edge in terms of climate. Every year was a gamble as to whether the chardonnay would ripen sufficiently, as the region sits in the northernmost part of Burgundy.
Now the question is whether the vintage will be so warm that Chablis will lose the qualities that make it so distinctive. The 2017 vintage was great for Chablis lovers. In 2018, it seemed as if many of the wines could be described as chardonnay rather than Chablis. They were excellent, but less distinctive.
This month I thought we’d examine the 2019 vintage of Chablis. Reports have put it in the Chablis camp rather than the chardonnay camp. This is an opportunity to examine that firsthand. Here are the three wines I recommend:
Samuel Billaud Chablis 2019 (Shiverick Imports, Los Angeles) $30
Gilbert Picq & Ses Fils Chablis En Vaudécorse 2019 (Polaner Selections, Mount Kisco, N.Y.) $33
Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir de Fyé 2019 (Bowler Wines, New York) $34
If you can’t find these particular bottles, plenty of other choices would be fine. Both Picq and Piuze offer numerous other village cuvées (I think it’s too early to drink premier cru and grand cru wines, so look for village selections). Other producers to consider are Christian Moreau, Gérard Duplessis, William Fèvre, Moreau-Naudet, Vocoret, Laurent Tribut, Alice et Olivier de Moor, Louis Michel et Fils and Jean-Paul & Benoît Droin.
The vintage is the most important thing, so make sure you are buying 2019s.
Chablis is wonderful with shellfish and other delicate seafood. Feel free to experiment with your pairings, but if in doubt, lean toward classic combinations.
Join the Discussion
Eric Asimov, The New York Times wine critic, is discussing Chablis. Sample wines, and as you sip, ask yourself these questions. Join the conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comments of this article.
What sets Chablis apart from other chardonnay wines?
Round and generous, or austere?
If you remember other vintages of Chablis, how does 2019 compare?