By Rose Murray Brown MW     Published in The Scotsman  27 February 2016

Chablis is a well-known name, but it is strangely often overlooked by lovers of white Burgundy. 

Quite why drinkers seem willing to pay higher prices from more southerly appellations in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, when you can get such good value in Chablis – particularly its better Premier Crus – is hard to understand.  Perhaps it is Chablis’ remote northerly location from the rest of Burgundy that means it gets forgotten or, more likely, there is a lot of dilute poor Chablis on the market so you have to choose your bottles with great care.

Chablis soil Chablis reviewed by Rose Murray Brown MWOur tasting showed a fascinating range of different styles of Chablis from vines grown on the rich Kimmeridgian soils of the appellation (pictured right).  The wines fell into two diverse groups: some Chablis were very taut steely minerally stony and smoky, whilst others were richer and fatter from sunnier vineyards and richer soils.  Some were great value, whilst others were just a little dull and dilute.

Currently you will mainly find two vintages of Chablis on the shelves: 2013 and 2014.  2013 was a difficult year for growers with protracted flowering time, shot and shattered berries, rain in September, the best Chablis from this vintage are soft low acid for early drinking – a style which would suit those who like their Chablis juicy and soft.  The cool 2014 vintage had healthier grapes, good acid levels without too much malic acid and naturally concentrated fruits, creating a steelier tauter minerally style. 


(£13.04 / £14.49 Laithwaites
Plenty of Chablis benchmark characteristics here with white flowers, creamy, rounded, hints of elderflower and a good minerality: just overall a touch disappointing in depth of fruit and length compared to others in our tasting.  Vieilles Vignes indicates older vines – in this case the three Dampt brothers, Eric, Herve and Emmanuel have used grapes from their 50-70 yr old vines.  Alcohol 12.5%

(£12.95 The Wine Society
A very high scorer.  For those who love their Chablis briskly dry, taut with a thrilling tightrope balance between crisp acidity and pure poised fruit; this is beautifully made, fresh steely unoaked Chablis at a pretty good price.  Samuel Billaud are an old family domaine which has recently been partly sold off, but Samuel is still making wines with his 4.2 hectare vineyard share.  Alcohol 12.5%  STAR VALUE BUY
CHABLIS 2014 Cave des Vignerons de Chablis
(£11.99 Waitrose)
Subtle minerality, just a little dilute in terms of aroma, depth and flavour in comparison to others in the tasting.  Made by the very reputable local Chablis co-operative, but I would rather pay just a little more for Billaud’s Chablis les Grands Terroirs.  Alcohol 12.5%

CHABLIS 2014 Jules Billaud
(£16.75 Oddbins)
Samuel Billaud is certainly a name to watch in Chablis – this is made by Samuel under his new Chablis brand using his son’s Jules name.  Samuel worked for Domaine Billaud-Simon for many years and has now branched out on his own.  Another very true Chablis with minerality, a rich leesy well-rounded palate, very impressive.  Alcohol 12.5%  STAR BUY

CHABLIS 2013 Domaine de Chaude Ecuelle
(£15.99 Raeburn Fine Wines, Edinburgh)
For those who like softer Chablis with soft acid, honeyed undertones and rounded texture.  A delicious Chablis, even if it is not in the typical steely and taut mould; tasted blind it could pass as a Maconnais white Burgundy.  The domaine name, Chaude Ecuelle translates as ‘hot bowl’, referring to the terracotta bowls workers used to heat up their meals when working in the vineyards.  Today the domaine is run by Gerald Vilain and family.  Alcohol 12.5%  STAR BUY

DEFINITION CHABLIS 2014 Louis Moreau        
(£11.99 Majestic Wine Scotland; £13.99 Majestic Wine England)
Floral, vibrant with citric fruits: an attractive steely Chablis which ticks the box requirements for under £12 – just not quite as thrillingly taut and vibrant as others in the tasting.  Alcohol 12.5%

(£18.95 Berry Bros & Rudd)
Typical of the 2013 vintage; soft rich fleshy, without any taut minerality.  This oaked Chablis comes from a large Chablis domaine run by the new generation Edouard Vocoret who trained in New Zealand; he clearly picked his grapes before the rains in this vintage.  Alcohol 13%


(£17 The Wine Society
Wines from the ‘left bank’ Premier Cru Montmains vineyard usually have an open style with rich white peach and citric fruits; but this is still a bit youthful with restrained elderflower aroma, a tight corset of citric fruit with whistle-sharp acidity; needs a little time to mature in bottle to open out.  Brocard are a very reputable producer; this should age well for another couple of years.   Alcohol 12.5%

CHABLIS PREMIER CRU FOURCHAUME 2013 Domaine de Chantemerle
(£18.99 Raeburn Fine Wine, Edinburgh)              
The Premier Cru Fourchaume vineyard to the north of Chablis town gives rounded rich lemony styles with tropical fruit notes and good ageing potential.  Chantemerle’s style is atypical of Chablis giving a richer rounded fatter style demonstrated here alongside the soft acid and roundness of 2013 vintage, a very pretty Premier Cru with good length of finish.  Alcohol 12.5%  

CHABLIS PREMIER CRU FOURCHAUME 2014 Boudin                                  
(£14.99 Majestic Wine Scotland; £16.99 Majestic Wine England)
Note that this is from the same Domaine de Chantemerle, but the more youthful 2014 vintage.  A little tighter than the 2013, but still a very attractive example for those who like their Chablis rich, broad and full flavoured; certainly the best Chablis sold by Majestic – and it shows good potential for ageing another few years in bottle.  Very popular with tasters particularly for its price.  Alcohol 12.5%    STAR VALUE BUY

(£33 Berry Bros & Rudd
This is my first taste of wines from this domaine – and I am really impressed.  This was also the only 2012 vintage in our tasting – a small but good quality vintage with well-balanced acidity and fruit.  This wine is quite delightful with citric and floral aromas, vivid, vibrant, steely mid-palate with rounded texture, complexity and fine long length.  Although one fifth of the wine was barrel fermented, the oak is very subtle.  A really fine Fourchaume from old vines planted back in 1970.  Alcohol 13%   STAR BUY

Join Rose’s ‘Down the Danube’ wine tasting at The Scores Hotel, St Andrews Sat 5 March £32

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