When you are invited to a place named Biff’s for lunch you really don’t expect a whole lotta great high-end food; burgers, ribs, basket of fries and potato skins come to mind. So wouldn’t you be surprised at being served a fabulous Seared Arctic Char, delicious Smoked Salmon and a wonderful Classic Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee. Biff’s is a French Bistro on Front with a funny name but obviously, from my description, delicious food. It also seemed (at first) an odd place to be drinking fine French Chardonnay, though my host would correct me on that statement: “In the north of France we don’t make Chardonnay, we make Chablis.” The winery, or better yet, the co-operative to which I am referring today is “La Chablisienne”, who represents close to 300 growers and controls approximately 25% of the Chablis region; their history dates back to 1923. La Chablisienne produces some thirty different wines every year from all regions of the appellation, including 6 Grands Crus and 11 Premier Crus. You might think that’s a lot of Chablis and that many probably taste the same (after all, it is still Chardonnay), but each wine is distinctive from the next: “We are not just here to make wine. We are here to put a piece of the land into the bottle.” One of the distinct qualities of Chablis is the mineralness that comes in these bottles; and each plot of land brings something different to the wine … true terroir in action. Which brings me round to another quote from our newfound Chablisienne friend: “Chablis without minerality is not Chablis,” says our host, “it’s Chardonnay.”
In 2003, La Chablisienne turned a major corner in its evolutionary history with the purchase of Chateau Grenouilles, “a celebrated Grands Crus and the only Chateau of the Chablis appellations.” Today, we tried five of the wines released by La Chablisienne with along with a delicious Chablis-inspired lunch. All wines scored at least 4-stars (very good) but two scored a little higher and really deserve some attention here:
Stunning Chablis …
2006 Chablis 1er Cru “Vaulorents’ ($31.80 - #111666) – of the Vaulorent area, of which there are 7 hectares, La Chablisienne owns 4½. The nose of this wine is peach pit, floral and delicate with a small touch of butteryness. The palate delivers a refreshing mineral note along with peach pit and lemon drop … the mouth feel is soft, round and supple; it’s wine to enjoy with food or sip on it’s own. (****½)
2005 Chablis Grand Chateau ‘Grenouilles’ ($89.00 - #82974) – after tasting this wine there is no wondering why this is a feather in the Chablisienne cap; it is their cream of the crop wine, handmade from 2 hectares of vineyard, gravity fed, aged in 100% French oak for 12 months, while the taste is … The wine is delicate yet with a little power behind it: strong minerality, candied almonds, hazelnuts and a beautiful elegance; each sip is to be savoured, each swirl to be sniffed … lovely complexity and thoroughly enjoyable. (****½)
Thanks to Vinexx for the invite and to La Chablisienne for the chance to taste these wines.