The second white wine we sampled on April 13th in the tasting group after the Sancerre was a Chablis. The most ubiquitous white wine in the world without a doubt is Chardonnay. You might think that the popularity of this grape would make it easier to identify in a blind test but it is also one of the most simple grapes which is highly influenced by its terroir and it can be made in many different styles. It can receive partial or full malolactic fermentation or none at all and you can ferment it in stainless steel or in barrel. It can be aged without oak, in partial oak, neutral oak, new oak or a combination of old and new oak barrels. Yet, like its Burgundian neighbor Pinot Noir, it is rarely blended. So, you can have a Chardonnay that is light and crisp with notes of green apple and pear or one that has more stone fruit notes such as peach, nectarine and apricot or even a more full bodied style with cooked fruits like baked apple with cinnamon and clove with layers of butter, caramel and butterscotch. This is where understanding how the climate and soil is reflected in the wine as well as the typical styles of the most well-known regions becomes important, whether it is new world regions such as Napa California or old world regions such as the Côte de Beaune or in in this case – Chablis.
The Chablis region is the northernmost wine district of the Burgundy region in France. It is located about 10 miles east of Auxerre in the Yonne department located about halfway between Côte d'Or and Paris. It is closer to the southern Aube district of Champagne than the rest of Burgundy which is why it has similar soils. The region covers 12 miles across 27 communes located along the Serein River. The soil is Kimmeridge clay with areas that have the same chalk layer that extends from Sancerre up to the White Cliffs of Dover. The Grand Crus, the best vineyards in the area, are all located in one small southwest facing slope located just north of the town of Chablis.
Most of the vineyards are devoted to growing Chardonnay. The cool climate of this region produces wines with higher acidity and less fruitiness with more citrus and crisp apples notes than the warmer climates of California, Australia and other new world regions. The wines also tend to have a very distinct minerality often tasting of gun flint or steel as well as chalk and clam shell that makes it distinguishable from Burgundy and new world Chardonnays. They also tend to receive much less influence of oak than Côte de Beaune or new world Chardonnays. In fact, most basic Chablis wines tend to be completely unoaked and are vinified in stainless steel tanks. Producers that do use oak tend to keep it to a minimum, as heavier use of oak would tend to mask the uniqueness of wines from this terroir. But, many Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines receive some maturation in oak barrels, but typically not nearly as much as those of the Côte de Beaune.
Domaine Savary is in Maligny, a village just north of Chablis located between between Paris and Dijon. Olivier and Francine Savary have been vignerons since 1984 but many of Olivier’s family members were vignerons. Olivier attended wine school in Dijon and Olivier and Francine arranged to farm some vineyard land en métayage (share cropping) in the Chablis and Petit Chablis appellations. Initially Olivier sold off the majority of his production in bulk to a négociant. Then with the help of his longtime neighbor and childhood friend, Jean-Marie Raveneau, Olivier finally began bottling under his own label.
|Domaine Savory Wine Cellar|
The grapes from his vineyards throughout the Chablis appellation are blended into one village wine cuvée. Oliver also bottles a premier cru from Fourchaumes, as well as a separate cuvée of old-vine fruit in heavy, wax-sealed bottles after élévage in demi-muids.
Francine et Olivier Savary Chablis – 2011 vs. 2012
The 2012 Francine et Olivier Savary Chablis underwent alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and the wine was then aged on fine lees. This is a clear white wine, straw-hay in color with low concentration and medium- viscosity. On the nose it has subtle aromas of peanut shell, under cooked oatmeal, watercress, cooked cabbage water, cheese rind, and a hint of flint and chalk. On the palate it has flavors of fresh lemons, hints of green apple, apricot and chalk. It is dry with medium+ to high acidity, it is medium bodied with medium+ alcohol and medium+ to long finish. This wine retails for about $30.
In the Intensive Sommelier Training class at the International Culinary Center we tasted the 2011 Francine et Olivier Savary Chablis. Here are my notes for that wine for a comparison of the two vtinages:
The 2011 Francine Olivier Savary Chablis is clear day straw-yellow with bright intensity of medium concentration and medium viscosity. On the nose it has medium intense aromas of apples, pears, melon rind and chalk, crushed shells with subtle under-notes of peaches and apricots. On the palate it has medium+ acidity, medium body, medium alcohol and a medium+ length finish with a very distinctive mineral structure.
Hands down, I preferred the 2011 over the 2012 as I think it was more of a classic vintage with a more typical fruit and mineral profile. Many wine-writers have noted that 2012 was a more difficult vintage for both Chablis and Sancerre.