As summer is officially ended and cold weather is setting in (at least here) I was reminiscing about some of my most pleasurable wines from the summer. The wines that kept popping up in my mind were several bottles of Louis Michel Chablis in various forms. I love Chablis; it is without a doubt my favorite form of chardonnay. I keep trying to branch out and find other chardonnay based wines that can compete and I can certainly find pleasure in several other forms, but each time when I come back to Chablis it reaffirms my preference for this region. So with that thought in mind I thought I’d introduce or remind you a bit about the region and one of my personal favorite producers.
Chablis is part of Burgundy. It is located quite a bit north of the Cote d’Or and is actually not that far from Champagne. Chablis is 100% chardonnay. Given the northern location, the climate is cool and generally produces chardonnay with citrus and mineral flavors that are very precise. The wines are almost always driven by acidity and are on the lower alcohol side for chardonnay based wines. This makes them crisp and juicy on warm sunny days. The soils here are made up of a combination of Kimmeridgian marl (limestone) intermixed with chalk and tons of fossilized shellfish from an ancient seabed. This often lends a classic saline, iodine, sea breeze type note to the wines that I have never found in other wines. As with all of Burgundy there are several levels of Chablis. Similar to the Cote d’Or there are 4 levels: Petit Chablis, Chablis, Chablis 1er cru, and Chablis grand cru. In comparison to the whites of the Cote d’Or the wines of Chablis remain very reasonably priced for the most part. A couple of the famous producers (Raveneau and Dauvissat primarily) are priced into the realm that most people can’t taste them. However, there are a number of delicious examples available outside of these producers.
Louis Michel is one of my personal favorite producers. The wine making here is done 100% in stainless steel. While this used to be the norm in Chablis, plenty of people now use some type of wood. There is still not a lot of toasty new oak used, but more and more producers use oak in some fashion. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad or a good thing as there are plenty of producers that make wine using wood and still produce excellent results. However, with no wood at all the Louis Michel wines tend to be a bit racier and edgier given that wood aging often rounds the wines out a bit. The wines in general are still quite reasonably priced and you can often pick up 1er crus for prices in the $28-35 range and the village level is generally around $20-25 and is killer value. A couple of the standouts I had this summer include:
Louis Michel Chablis 1er cru Butteaux Vielles Vignes 2014: The nose here is beautiful with citrus and green apple, orchard blossoms, iodine, crushed seashell, and just a hint of lemon zest. The palate is crisp and fresh with excellent concentration and driving acidity; a lovely lingering finish is simply superb. This should drink well for several more years.
Louis Michel Chablis grand cru Vaudesir 2014: Wow this was a great bottle. In fact I’d put it in the top 3 Chablis wines I’ve had; the nose is simply textbook, but also incredibly intense; saline, oyster shell, lime zest, baked lemon, crushed limestone, ripe green apple, and acacia blossom. The palate on the first sip was notable for an extra level of depth and concentration. Fabulous density yet with such energy and lift that it barely seemed noticeable. And the finish lasted for over a minute. Really stellar Chablis.
I would highly recommend that you put some of the wines from Louis Michel on your radar. They age well, are very reasonably priced for the quality of the wine, a great representations of a classic region, and most importantly are delicious to drink and perfect at the dinner table. They often have a beautiful purity of flavor that is just a pleasure to sip! Herb crusted halibut spritzed with a bit of lemon with a couple glasses of Louis Michel is not a bad way to spend an evening…
Hope you are all enjoying a bit of fall (or early winter here…) and have a warm day or two left to enjoy some delicious Chablis. Until next time.
J. Newman, CSW