By Rick Riozza

In our last article, we arrived in Paris a couple of weeks early to commence a fun wine tasting tour to famed wine destinations only hours outside of the City of Lights. There’s no better warm-up for us wine tennis fans before settling in to watch and experience the 2015 French Open at Stade Roland Garros—which begins this Monday, May 24th.

Doing the right thing, we immediately took the regularly scheduled high-speed TGV from Charles De Gaulle airport to Champagne and arrived just over a half-hour later. We toasted and had cheers for our entire stay.

Next on our tour, we travel to the famed wine region of Chablis [shab-LEE]. Only 85 miles south of Champagne as the crow flies, it’s just over a couple of hours drive time from either Paris or Champagne city of Reims [not “reems” but pronounced rance].

For you young or new wine aficionados, who may not yet know the predominant grape in the Chablis region—take heart: So many California wine lovers aren’t too sure themselves! As your wine steward in the new Haggen Store in Rancho Mirage, I’m seeing an increase interest, again, in steely fruit driven un-oaked Chardonnay. And more and more wine producers are indeed, making an “un-oaked” version of their usual “oaked” recipe; but, if I recommend a French “Chablis” to many of our customers, they insist “they’d rather have a Chardonnay!”

Well—Chablis is strictly Chardonnay country. And as we mentioned, although geographically closer to Champagne than it is to the city of Dijon in Burgundy, Chablis is still considered “White Burgundy” which means Chardonnay wine.

It could be called the “Chardonnay that came in out of the cold.” The extremely cool-climate vineyards of Chablis need exceptional conditions to succeed. The Chardonnay grape converts the cold terroir of limestone chalk, clay, and trillions of oyster fossils to a wine with sharp flavors unique to the area—even its white burgundy sisters further south can’t duplicate.

So it’s very enlightening for California Chardonnay lovers who like their stuff less oaky and more fresh fruit forward to wake up to the joys of French Chablis. The classic and delicious flavor profile of Chablis includes bright and dry textbook aromas and flavors of lemon, apple, yellow & green plums, stone fruit, melon, floral, citrus, seashore & sea breeze, flint & minerals.

Predominantly fermented in stainless steel—which keeps the wine astoundingly fresh and bright—“Grand Cru” and “Premiers Cru” wines, made from the best of the best vineyards in Chablis, often ferment for a time in French oak which provides some complexities of honey, vanilla, light butterscotch, and tropical fruit flavors (with never an overwhelming “oak” flavor like some heavy Cal Chards). And, incredibly, these wines are able to age for ten to twenty years, gathering amazing feel and intensity that make it one of the world’s most desired wines.

Because Chablis vineyards grow in a calcified ground of a prehistoric sea made up of fossilized shells and maritime skeletons, there is no better food pairing than to enjoy this flavorful and cleansing wine with a dozen or so raw oysters. It’s truly in the top ten food and wine matches of all time. So Bon Appétit! & Cheers!

The town and the region is delightful and the people amiable. The most popular Chablis wineries to visit include Francois Raveneau, William Fèvre, Domaine Larouche, Jean Marc Brocard, Joseph Drouhin, and La Chablisienne. Some of these wineries have exquisite restaurants on premise in which to enjoy the fabulous cuisine and wine.

Anyone wishing to get the feel of the town of Chablis and its surrounds simply can enjoy—along with a great glass of Chablis, no doubt—that charming and whimsical movie “Chocolate” that stars Johnny Depp, Juliette Binoche and Judi Dench. It was filmed nearby. I’m sure our own Robin Simmons would agree, it’s a film not to be missed featuring gypsies, chocolate purveyors, a wonderful musical score and all type of characters in an old French town.

An absolutely great Chablis recommendation is the 2012 Domaine William Fèvre. Around $25. Winemaker’s notes: “Very elegant bouquet, developing citrus, white-fleshed fruit and floral notes. Fresh and supple, the wine is marked by mineral notes that are typical of the appellation.”

Wine critic Antonio Galloniwrote, “Smoke, graphite and pencil shavings inform the gorgeous bouquet in Fevre’s 2012 Chablis (Domaine). Layers of rich, intense fruit hit the palate in the exuberant style of the vintage, before the minerality and high acidity of the year appear to frame the finish. This is a gorgeous wine in its class.”

And The Wine Advocatemarked, “The domaine-bottled Fevre 2012 Chablis suggests Sauvignon with its impression of lime and honeydew infused with sage and lime. Cooling and refreshing yet glossy, lush and expansive, it introduces stone, salt, iodine and lime zest.”

On our next and final wine jaunt before heading back to Paris to catch the great action of the French Open, we will enjoy the lovely wines and country side of the lovely Loire Valley.


Rick wittily titles himself the“somm-about-town”in thisVino Voicecolumn, where his beat is to eat, drink, and cover the gustatory scene of the CV. A freelance writer and contributor toTasting Panel Magazine, a wine reviewer, he is also theBrand Ambassadorfor thehistoricGalleano Winery.Rick conducts & entertains locally at wine tastings, food & wine pairing events and fun wine seminars.