Chablis is one of my favorite wine villages in France. Ok, it doesn't have the medieval walls of St. Emilion or Beaune, nor the household names of First Growths or the Cote d'Or's Grands Crus. What Chablis does have is beautiful scenery, a humble but fun-loving attitude and some classic wines that can't be duplicated anywhere else in the world.
Chablis has always been a poor region, and winemakers could never afford to buy new oak barrels. The wine was aged in old used vats purchased from Cognac, Portugal or wherever was cheapest. Only the top wines got to see small barriques.
The oceans of generic "Chablis" produced in this country almost destroyed this sleepy little village. This is the only place I have been in France which is still a little upset about how New World wines affected their lifestyles, and with good reason. It's almost impossible to make wine given the climate in Chablis, and low-quality bulk wines using their name didn't help!
Many winemakers here found the only way to get back into a market weaned on oak was to follow suit. Thus developed today's two distinct schools of Chablis winemaking: traditional and "oaked". Both have their merits, and equally their better and lesser champions
Personally I am grateful to the stalwarts in Chablis who stuck with it to keep the traditional style which brings out the terroir of the land. The chalk, flint and mineral acidity that stamps a true Chablis with it's goegraphical origins will in 8 or 10 years produce a lasting deep richness so much more profound than just oak. But as we say in France chacun a son gout (each to his own taste) and variety is the spice of life etc. etc. ...
Anyway, if you want to see what I'm rambling on about, come to Chablis with us in May this year. We'll spend a couple of days here, with a gourmet night of revelry as we dine with the Winemakers in the cellars of the Abbey of Pontigny during the Spring Fete.
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