Revisit chablis – with or without the brie

The fine, French white wine called chablis has an odd history in America.

In the 1980s, you knew you were in a bad restaurant if its wine list said only “burgundy, blush and chablis.” That’s because the “burgundy” and “chablis” were really inferior California gallon-jug wines, and the Kool-Aid-like rosé wine called “blush” had every reason to.

The French makers of real chablis even sent a delegation to America to plead with us to stop abusing the name of their wonderful wine.

Then real chablis became chic here, in part because America’s budding wine aficionados learned how to pronounce it, in part because of a now-passe foodie mantra about the wonderfulness of “brie and chablis.”

Chablis is a lean steely, mineral-scented version of ubiquitous chardonnay. It’s produced in the northern end of France’s famous Burgundy region, between Paris and Beaune – around the village of Chablis, population 2,700.

Its flinty character comes from the area’s limestone soil. Its crispness comes from the cold climate.

Chablis was a major player in the 1800s, with 100,000 acres planted to chardonnay in the area – until an epidemic of the root louse phylloxera decimated the vines in 1885. By 1960 there were only 1,500 acres left.

In 1968, veteran grower Robert Drouhin started replanting, and today he has 10,000 acres of vines along the Serein River, making 5,000 cases a year.

The Drouhin family has adopted a stringent version of organic farming called “biodynamics.” They strictly limit chemical treatments, use decayed vegetation and manure in place of artificial fertilizers and apply exotic nettle teas to further nourish the soil.

Drouhin’s chablis comes from several vineyards – vinified separately to fully express the differences brought about from each year’s weather and the vineyards’ individual soils.

Because of its crisp leanness, chablis is a great aperitif. It also goes well with not just brie but also goat cheese, raw shellfish, smoked fish, even lobster.

So even if you don’t wish to admit to being part of the “brie and chablis” crowd, you might want to quietly try the wine.

Highly recommended

2010 Joseph Drouhin “Drouhin-Vaudon” Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons: aromas of camellias and other flowers, rich, full flavors of minerals, lemons and honey; $39.


2010 Joseph Drouhin “Drouhin-Vaudon” Chablis Premier Cru: citrus aromas, steely, flinty, mineral-tinged lemon-lime flavor; $37.

2010 Joseph Drouhin “Drouhin-Vaudon” Montmains Chablis Premier Cru: crisp and lean and fresh, with flavors of citrus and herbs; $39.

2010 Joseph Drouhin “Drouhin-Vaudon” Chablis Premier Cru Secher: flinty and lean, with aromas and flavors of lemon and chalk; $39.

Fred Tasker writes about wine for the McClatchy News Service. Contact him at

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