Wine of the Week
Chablis – The Thinking Person's Chardonnay
It's still too hot to countenance a huge, high-alcohol white wine. This heat cries for a cold wine. The answer is Chablis, from the northernmost part of Burgundy. The cooler climate means the wines are lower in alcohol and more acidic than your standard U.S. versions. That translates into a smart summer drinking experience, especially if you throw in a delicate fish like a Gulf flounder.
There are four types of Chablis: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru. Each is progressively more expensive, but you get a more profound wine at each step. The French mostly drink the baby of the group, Petit Chablis. It costs about 5-8 Euros and is a delightful food wine. If you ever find yourself in a French bistro on a hot day, this is your best bet. The U.S. market carries a huge proportion of the other three types, and prices can run from about $15 all the way to the moon.
The Chablisiennes are firm believers in terroir, so much so that if a winery owns 10 small plots of vineyards scattered around the geographic area, they very well may make 10 separate wines. The Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée strictly limits which wine can be made from each individual plot in the area, deeming some places Grand Cru producers while a plot five feet away might be mere Chablis. And of course, since the French identify a wine by its vineyard, each wine has a different name. Consequently, with Chablis, a knowledgeable seller is a must.
Still, there are a few brands that I think are consistently outstanding. They include Jean-Marc Brocard, Roland Lavantureux, Domaine Louis Michel & Fils, Albert Bichot's Château Long-Depaquit, Domaine Laurent Tribut, and Isabelle et Denis Pommier. Not all of these are sold in Austin, but all are distributed in Texas and thus available. For each, you can basically pick your favorite price point over $15 and ask for a bottle. For more recommendations, see The Austin Chronicle's Chronolog at austinchronicle.com/chronolog.