Tasting T1.2 Chablis

Located south of Champagne and north of the rest of Burgundy, Chablis sits two hours southeast of Paris and under 5 hours from Calais. To my mind a beautiful expression of the Chardonnay grape and to Kim’s mind, well worth a weekend trip!

As I mention Chardonnay, some people will think, oh I’m not sure I like Chardonnay, too buttery, too full-bodied. That is not Chablis. Chablis wines are dry and characterised by their purity, crispness and minerality. They are often described as having ‘flinty’ or ‘steely’ notes.

Chablis is the northernmost wine district in Burgundy and its cool climate and particular soil types produce wonderful wines. They have more acidity and less fruitiness than is found in Chardonnay grapes grown in the warmer climates. Specifically further south even though the Cote de Beaune is but an hour and a half further south.

Chablis is located along the Serein River. The soil is Kimmeridge clay with outcrops of chalk.

The clay named after the village of Kimmeridge on the Dorset coast of England, is a sedimentary deposit of fossiliferous marine clay from the Late Jurassic to Cretaceous period. This occurs also in southern and eastern England and in the North Sea. It is the major source rock for North Sea Oil.

The chalk is the same layer that extends from Sancerre (2 hours southwest of Chablis) up to the white cliffs of Dover.

Chablis tends to have less oak involved in the wines than the more southerly white Burgundies. Most Chablis is unoaked and vinified in stainless steel tanks. Any barrel maturation is a choice of style and varies between producers. Many Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines receive some maturation in oak barrels, but this is typically a lesser proportion of new oak barrels and for a lesser duration than for Cote de Beaune wines.

The wines of Chablis are divided into four appellations:

Petit Chablis

Located on both sides of the Serein valley from the higher slopes or the beginning of the plateau. This is the entry level wine of Chablis and approximately 20% of the total number of bottles made (circa 7.8 million). Ideally drunk younger than the others maybe 2-3 years after harvest.


The most accessible appellation making approximately 65% of all Chablis wines (circa 25.7 million bottles). Best drunk from 3 to 7 years, but some will age for longer particularly ‘old vine’ wines.

Premier Cru

40 climats make up Chablis Premier Cru and they demonstrate their individuality often quite clearly when tasted. Located on both banks of the river Serein, 13% of all Chablis is Premier Cru (circa 5.25 million bottles).

Grand Cru

The Grand Cru’s (all 7 of them) of Chablis all lie on a single, small slope, facing southwest and located just north of the town itself. All vines have an elevation between 100 and 250m. Sadly the volume of Grand Cru wines produced represent just 1% of all Chablis wines (circa under 600,000 bottles).

The vintages can be quite important in most wine areas, particularly Chablis. We have chosen one wine from 2017, four from 2015 And the last from 2010.

2017 – the weather was described as ‘fickle’ but managed to produce gorgeous wines.

2015 – Exceptional weather delivering exceptional wines.

2010 – Astounding balance.

The wineries are:

La Chablisienne

La Chablisienne is a wine co-operative of more than 250 winegrowers. It is probably the most important wine co-operative in France and certainly one of the largest within its area. La Chablisienne produces 25% of all Chablis, even more incredibly, it does so at a consistently high-quality level. This is due in part to their requirement that their winegrowers deliver the harvest in the form of musts (unfermented juice) which gives the house total control over the winemaking process.

Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin

Situated in the heart of Chablis and managing 26 hectares spread across the four appellations, Benoit Droin represents the thirteenth generation of winemakers.

Domaine William Fevre

William Fevre declared his first crop in 1959 with 7 hectares of vineyards. Today the Domaine has 78 hectares, of which 15.9 are Premier crus and 15.2 are Grand Cru’s.

Daniel-Etienne Defaix

A very old and traditional Chablis Domaine. Winemakers for four centuries on an estate that goes back eight centuries. The Domaine has a very individual style in the winemaking and ageing. The wines are kept for longer before being available for sale. The bottle we tasted, a 2010 was purchased on release at 12 years old in 2022.

Tonight’s wines will be tasted by David, Harry, Kim and Jen.

1st up is…

La Chablisienne Venerables 2017

This is an ‘old vine’ Chablis with the vines having an average age of 50 years. Once vinified in stainless steel tanks and barrels it undergoes 12 months of maturation on fine lees again in both tanks and barrels.

Note: Citrus and stone fruits prominent on the nose. Apples and pears coming through with very zesty limes. Oak is present with hints of vanilla but not powerful. Steely minerality, with chalk and wet slates very clear on the palate. Stone fruits and citrus pushing nicely onwards. Great acidity with a good medium body, great structure and balance, drinking really well and will continue to drink well for another 3-5 years.

Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin 1er Cru Vaucopin 2015

From a west facing plot on the right bank of the Serein River. Vines have an average of 35 years and annual production is just 1,000 bottles. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks then assemblage follows after 8-10 months. A wine for keeping for 10 years plus.

Note: Again citrus and stone fruits prominent on the nose, definitely more vanilla coming through. Much more fruit forward and slightly less minerality. Full bodied and powerful with really powerful acidity. Orange blossom, hints of honey and marmalade towards the end. Really well balanced with intense fruit, mainly apples and pears. Drinking really well and has a good 5-7 years in front of it. Lovely long finish.

La Chablisienne 1er Cru L’Homme Mort 2015

Located at the far end of Les Fourchaumes, the vines have an average age of 25 years. Cold settling before fermentation in stainless steel tanks and barrels then matured for 12 months on fine lees in tanks and barrels.

Note: Extremely savoury notes, honey, marmalade and orange peel nicely coming through as well. On the palate ripe apricots, gooseberry and physalis, with a luscious and full body. Really enveloping the mouth with really good acidity. Drinking really beautifully now and will be thoroughly enjoyable for the next 7-8 years. Extremely moreish!

Domaine William Fevre 1er Cru Montée de Tonnere 2015

After vinification 40% to 50% of the must (grape juice) is run into French oak barrels (aged 6 years on average). The remainder is vinified in small stainless-steel vats. The wine is then matured for 5 to 6 months on fine lees in French oak barrels, again for 40 to 50% of the harvest. This is then followed by 8 months in small stainless-steel vats.

Note: Slate, chalky minerality immediately on the nose, this is incredibly refined. Citrus with apples coming through but ever so gently. Extremely citrusy and very linear on the palate. Stone fruits coming through more but just so clean and long. Really good acidity with a powerful body and a very long finish. This has at least a decade to continue to grow, drinking incredibly now.

Jean-Paul & Benoit Droin Grand Cru Les Clos 2015

Facing west/south-west with vines having an average age of 40 years. They produce 9,000 bottles. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks then assemblage follows after 8-10 months. A complex wine with exceptional ageing potential.

Note: Honey and marmalade very prominent with ripe stone fruits, apples and grass coming through. A very full bodied wine with strong acidity, fruit translating beautifully on the palate with particular note of apricots. Vanilla coming through really nicely to add complexity, however not overpowering at all. A great example of a Grand Cru Chablis. Drinking really well now but has a good 6-9 years ahead of it. Minerality ever present and just gorgeous.

Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix 1er Cru Les Lys 2010

The fine lees are stirred every month for 18 months in order to concentrate the aromas and richness. Ideal for long ageing. The 2010 Premier Crus were only bottled in 2022 having spent 10 years maturing on the lee’s in tanks.

Note: Floral and extremely mineral with apples and pears on the nose. Peaches and orange blossom coming through with wet slates. On the palate all fruits translating very well onto the palate with lots of orange and citrus towards the finish. Really good acidity and this wine is extremely different and enticing. Orange and stone fruits are very prominent indeed. Clearly this wine still has a really long way to go, roughly 8-12 years I think. Very powerful and drinking really well at the moment.


All of these wines have fantastically managed to capture the minerality of their region, however in very different styles. They are generally fruit forward with zippy citrus running through until wet slate and chalky minerality boldly hit the palate. All had great long finishes in the mouth and all are well worth their price. Venerables being £20-£25 a bottle with the top Grand Cru at £100.

All the other wines are within this price range and are well worth their price tag. A really great set of wines that all winemakers should be immensely proud of.

The scores:

Venerables 2017 – 91 Points

Vaucoupin 2015 – 94 Points

L’Homme Mort 2015 – 95 Points

Montée de Tonnere 2015 – 95 Points

Les Clos 2015 – 97 Points

Les Lys 2010 – 97 Points

A great tasting with beautiful wines. If you want to try Chablis for a first time or find a particular bottle that you have not had before any on this list will be perfect. Even in younger years!

Thank you for reading as always, your support means a great deal. We shall see you next week for another 60th Tasting !

David & Harry

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