Meeting Chablis in NYC

March 30, 2013

The wines produced in the area around Chablis have a history that goes back nearly two thousand years.  In that time they have seen service to the legions of Rome, the royalty of France, and the forces of democratic revolution.  Yet within the last century the brilliance of Chablis was nearly extinguished.  In the recent five decades or so, after a painstaking resurrection, these wines, these shining examples of Chardonnay, are finding their way around the globe and into our glasses here in the Green Mountains.


Two fine ambassadors for Chablis were recently making a tour of North America to share the story of their small town and the wines that are grown there.  I was extremely fortunate to be offered the chance to sit down with Christian Moreau and Jean-Francois Bordet, to discuss a range of topics regarding the resurgence of this legendary region.  I found them extremely easy to relate to, almost as if neighbors.   They were both worldly and down to earth. They are required, by trade, to meet with folks from all points of the globe, but hail from a place with a population of about 2500, which is similar in size to our rural towns here in Vermont. My impressions: lightweight but having impact, lean yet imbued with power, angular and built for longevity.   As Christian Moreau pointed out, the name ‘Chablis’ is imbued with a certain elegance, and it is as easy to say and repeat, once spoken, as the wines are to drink and to recall, once tasted.

These gentleman have seen a very busy schedule during their mission to spread the good word about great wine.  They have met and talked with countless media people who listen attentively to their stories, and will be sharing those tales in articles which will certainly be appearing online and in print over the next several weeks.  As those articles are published, I’ll plan to include links to them in the commentary below.

Rather than repeating the efforts of writers much more talented than myself, I thought I would take the opportunity to film our discussion, and let those who are interested, hear directly from two people who can honestly and passionately represent their place of origin, and its produce.

All too often, when we have the chance to talk with winemakers, it is across a presentation table at a tasting , wine fair, or expo, where we jostle for position, and have just a few moments of their time.  Or it may be at a lunch meeting, or wine dinner, where food service takes up much of the attention that should be accorded to the honored guests.  In this particular case, we were given access to the Private Room at Rouge Tomate, with hospitality provided by the sensational Sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier, and were able to discuss in earnest, issues of the vines,  the wines, and of changing times.

Our talk and tasting lasted about an hour, and covered quite a range of topics relative to wine in Chablis.  Upon reviewing the material, I found such a richness of content, that I felt compelled to share as much of it as possible, with minimal clipping and editing.  Our conversation can be found here, in several parts, with a some additional pieces I’ve compiled to add additional context and ‘flavor’.  Caveat with regard to the low production value! Like any trip to Manhattan this was a fluid situation, and traveling light was a requirement. Once again, the handy (but obsolete ) Flip Cam and flexi tri-pod, with the help of an overturned ice bucket, managed to provide a serviceable shot and functional audio.  Enough so that I what I thought might be good for transcription and maybe a clip or two, is framed well enough to stand on its own.

While you may entertain yourselves (or cure your insomnia) with my own input, the sections of conversation with Christian Moreau and Jean-Francois Bordet are really good stuff. I could barely get a word in edgewise, and for the dedicated wine geek ( talking to you: Chardonnay, Old World, Europe, France, Burgundy, Chablis, terroir nerds ), it is a chance to get direct wine messaging from the guys on, and in, the ground, without the filter of media pens and keyboards.

I believe that the information conveyed in these pieces, should be of interest to anyone, from the seasoned sommelier to the wino newbie. who wishes to learn more about the soil, the signature, and the soul of Chablis.

Please pour yourself a glass of Chablis, slice off some pieces of nice Vermont cheese, then enjoy the conversation, and feel free to join in.


The Ground and The Grape : Meeting Chablis Part 1
Chablis is predicated on an ancient bed of limestone clay thick with the fossils of oysters called Kimmerigian soil.  I tried to break the ice, with my mention of similar post ice-age soils that are native to our zone, but melted in the face of the million year history that informs Chablis below the ground, and millennia that eventually brought Chardonnay to bear upon it.

Intention & Identity : Meeting Chablis Part 2
I fumble to formulate questions about the unique challenges of Chablis, and I am answered in a way that makes it seem as if I knew what I was asking…what is the profile of Chablis, what makes it distinct?  My nascent investigations were already preempted by a thousand years of fact, and a few dozen decades of American folly.

Cheap jug wine from California which appeared in my lifetime, served to sully the name of Chablis, while attempting to co-opt its charms…and at the very same time when TRUE Chablis was striving to rebuild itself. It is embarrassing to say, that even to this day, a dozen domestic brands may still legally employ the term “Chablis” to sell their “white wine”.
“If it is not from Chablis, it’s not Chablis”

Wine Making & Weather : Meeting Chablis Part 3

There seems to be no challenge to the idea that climate is changing…that said, the vignerons of Chablis have seen change a-plenty. These guys are ready to roll with whatever Mother Nature is planning to share with them.

Finesse & Food Friendly : Meeting Chablis Part 4
These wines are elegant and electric, setting off sparks on my palate.  How can one not become a gourmand in their proximity? For those that are already foodie-inclined, the wines are divine. We talk pairing, favorite dishs, and Jean-Francois shares some recipe secrets.

Generations & Globalization: Meeting Chablis Part 5
It becomes clear to me, that even though the soil may be the foundation of Chablis, the connections within and between generations shape the houses which tend the vines, and form the community which produces the wine. It is this tight knit amalgam of simplicity and complexity which is represented in each glass of Chablis enjoyed by a wide global market.  Chablis exports dipped during the recession but demand is again increasing. We are looking at decreased supply in the short term due to slim harvest in 2012, so “faites attention” and get shopping.

History Presentation
With all due respect to Chablis, and the annals of time, I had to put something together to help myself remember the ancient back-story, and to put into context, the great rebound that Chablis has seen in the span of one vigneron’s lifetime.

A Taste of Chablis at home in VT


La Pierelee Chablis & Domaine Oudin Chablis

Fresh mussels steamed in white wine, butter and shallots along with toast and smashed avocado,

Fresh mussels steamed in white wine, butter and shallots along with toast and smashed avocado

Fresh Ocean Perch, chicken and sushi rice stuffed grape leaves, and green beans.

Pan Fried Fresh Ocean Perch, chicken and sushi rice stuffed grape leaves, and green beans.

Chablis While in NYC - After talking with Christian and Jean-Francois, and tasting with them, these wines left my tongue energized for the entire train ride north to Albany, and the subsequent drive further north to Vermont.


Simmonet-Febvre Vaillons - Floral, creamy, leesy with bright pomme fruit and citrus.


Jean Marc Brocard Premier Cru - Vau De Vey - Light, austere, almost ethereal grounded by crispy green apple and meadow grass


Seguinot-Bordet Premier Cru Fourchaume - Highly energetic, lime peel concentrate, vivid singing beam of citrus down center palate, fresh rain on wet stone finish that hangs


Domaine Christian Moreau Pere et Fils - Grand Cru Les Clos - Clos Des Hospices Dans Les Clos - elegant and seductive aromatics, lithe fruit and wood spice. Fresh, vivacious, dancing a bright emerald line, leaving lasting footprints on the tongue

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