White Wine for Whisky Lovers
I've been in Chablis for the last day and a half, which is the last real hold out for serious bang-for-your-buck quality in Burgundy, if you ask me. It's the one place where you can still buy grand cru vineyard level wines for under fifty bucks, and a plethora of premier cru options for under thirty. I drink a lot of Chablis, personally, as I drink more white wine than red wine (about 10 to 1). I love the salty, chalky, stony minerality that can vary in intensity from vineyard to vineyard and I love how refreshingly dry the wines finish. While I always knew I loved Chablis, I didn't realize how complex, nuanced, and interesting it could be from site to site. Not until I walked the vineyards yesterday morning before sunrise and began taking photos of the different locations did it finally sink in. I watched how the sun hit each one differently as it came up over the horizon and how the rocks varied from hill to hill in their make-up. Then I went over to La Chablisienne and tasted about fifteen different single vineyard selections from the same vintage, each vinified the exact same way—the only difference being their unique terroir. It was the ultimate control tasting for those interested in what makes Burgundy so fun and fascinating (assuming you like to drink Chablis like I do).
I'm often asked which wine I would recommend for a whisky drinker, someone who likes Islay malts particularly. In the past, I've answered that question with oxidized Jura whites or with fino sherry, simply from a flavor perspective, but now that I'm seeing the bigger picture I think the answer is clearly Chablis.
1) It's full of saline notes and piercing minerality at times with a nutty richness that actually does resemble some Islay whiskies (check out what we have in from our direct relationship with La Chablisienne here)
2) There's not much variation in its production methods, so it ends up being a true expression of place. Very few people use excessive oak, so the wines are always clean, focused, and literal.
3) There are a TON of different Chablis vineyards, each with its own personality. Dive in and start enjoying the unique flavors of each.
4) Chablis is still CHEAP compared to the rest of Burgundy. A bottle of grand cru Corton Charlemagne from the Côte d'Or will run you at least $150, whereas you can still snag the 2014 Valmur from La Chablisienne for $39.99 thanks to our DI pricing.
Not only are the wines delicious, expressive, complex, and affordable, there's just so much to dig into. Like I wrote in one of my OTL blog posts, I'm not a fan of talking about vineyard topography until you've already established a deep and penetrating interest in the wines themselves. But if you want to go a step further you can look at vineyard maps of Chablis and begin to understand how the sun, the soil, and the weather creates a different microclimate in each location. It's pretty damn cool.
Plus, 2014 was a GREAT vintage. 2015 is also good. 2016 is delicious as well, but frost killed about 50% of the harvest. Supplies might be a bit tight moving forward. Hence, the time is now. I'm putting in my orders from the road!