Chablis: A wine from the Chablis region of northern France. Although it’s part of the Burgundy region, Chablis is actually closer to the the area where Champagne is made. And its methods of production mean Chablis can taste similar to Champagne, without the bubbles. Like other white Burgundys, Chablis is always made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, but its relatively cool climate creates wines that are less fruity and more “steely” than other Burgundies, and warmer-climate Chardonnays.
In case you didn’t know, Chablis wine is split into four categories, depending on the location of the vineyard, with Grand Cru the most prestigious, followed by Premier Cru, then Chablis and Petit Chablis.
As the less expensive member of the family, Petit Chablis is often overlooked. But only a certain standard of wines qualify to join the Chablis family, and lower prices don’t always mean lower quality — a point the two wines I’ll be comparing here certainly prove.
With their sharp, biscuity minerality, it’s tempting to assume that all Chablis are very similar in style — until you taste them side by side. That’s why direct comparisons are so valuable. It’s like comparing subtly varied shades of blue on a paint chart. So which one of these is Electric Sky and which is the Powdered Duck Egg?
ALAIN GEOFFROY PETIT CHABLIS
Now here’s a fine example of an unoaked Chablis, where the lack of oak-barrel ageing has allowed the characteristics of the grapes, grown in limestone-rich soil, to shoot through. From a small, traditional family-run producer, this crisp, lean wine evokes images of succulent pear crumble, as well as the expected lemon citrus tang.
The tang is, however, balanced with a hint of creaminess, which is presumably a result of malolactic fermentation — a process that converts tart-tasting malic acid into milkier lactic acid.
First-class winemaking, this is unoaked Petit Chablis at its best.
Alain Geoffroy Petit Chablis 2018, 12% volume. Available for £14.99 at Oxford Wine
DOMAINE MOREAU-NAUDET PETIT CHABLIS
The Moreau-Naudet offers a comparable, but distinctly different experience, which is lucky for me, otherwise this comparison would have been tricky to pull off. While the trademark steely, high-acidity Chablis characteristics remain, there’s also a sweet lick of honey here, possibly from some time in oak barrels. On the other hand, it’s a shade sharper and lacks some of the creamy element present in the Alain Geoffroy wine.
Classy and complex, this is slightly stronger in alcohol and a touch pricier than the Alain Geoffroy, but equally outstanding. The label design is dead cool too, as you can see.
Domaine Moreau-Nadet Petit Chablis 2018, 13% volume. Available for £20.50 at Lea & Sandeman
Petit Chablis doesn’t get the credit it deserves in the UK, and I can’t fault either of these wines. They benefit from being tasted back-to-back, with the Moreau-Naudet at the sweeter/sharper end of the palate, and the Alain Geoffroy occupying the more creamy/tangy corner. These subtle variations in flavour are, of course, not easy to put into words. So the best thing you can do is… try for yourself. Let me know how you get on.
If this article butters your baguette, you should also enjoy my Chablis vs Petit Chablis comparison.